Document 533

Craiters: 09 - Watter Rats

Author(s): Alexander Fenton

Copyright holder(s): Alexander Fenton


‘Look up!’,

e fairmer roaret fae e tap o e ruck. If ye hid deen at, ye’d a gotten a clew o coir yarn in yer face. Ye niver jist kent if e wis playin a joke on ye ir no, an if e wis, e wid niver admit it, bit likely e wis, an it wis jist eez wye o testin experience. Es job wis rapin thack on e rucks. Ye steed on a grun at ae side o e ruck an pitched e clew up till e thacker, makin sure at e lowse eyn wis weel tied in aboot e easins. Syne ye ran roon till e ither side tae nab it as e fairmer bunged it doon at ye again, an at’s faar e ay tried tae catch a young lad oot. E thacker steed on a laidder, an e laid e rapes rale canny ower e shooders o e ruck in e richt places, ir aan e thack wid get aa kerfufflet at e first puffie o win an sair nae purpose tae man nor beast.

Afore es e corn hid been led an e rucks biggit in e cornyard at e eyn o e park abeen e road. A post caad intill e middle o ilky foon ay helpit tae keep e hairts weel up, an if ye’d biggit richt, e shanks wid staan fower-squaar, nae need for oxter staffs, in twa raas wide enyeuch apairt tae let e traivellin mullie in, in season due. Be e time o thackin, e craps wis weel in, aff e parks, an ye’d got winter. It’s a fine wye o pitten’t, ‘tae get winter’, for fit ye mean is at ye’re jist ready for winter, mair ir less, an it’s maybe got e sense in’t tee o breathin a sigh o relief noo at e main eyn o e fairmin ear’s bein richt seen till. Let e caal rain an snaa come, we’re ready for’t, wir craps is in.

Ere wis rucks in e cornyard aboot e hooses tee, at e back o e barn, bit ye didna need tae tak jist as much care wi e thackin o em, for ey were teen intill e barn bit be bit aifter e beas wis in e byres. E corn wis thrashen oot an teen up in e cups o e traivellin belt till e corn laft, an allooed tae heap up on e fleer as a licht styoo raise aff o’t, till ere wis enyeuch for pittin throwe e winnister in due coorse. At e same time, e strae cam aff e shaakers an intill e strae eyn o e barn, faar it wis forkit ower till e back an weel trampit doon tae mak room for a full thresh. Trampin wis a job e look aften got tae dee, bit it wis a richt styooie job at garrt yer een nip an e stuff wid gang up yer nose. Yer spittins wis black for a filie aifter. It wis an eident jobbie. Ye’d be wishin e shakkers o e mullie wid cry wo, jist for a meenitie, bit e monster roart on, a hard maister.

Bit eence e mull wis on, it wis on. Ere wis a lot o labour in e startin o er an ye widna hae wintit tae dee’t twice. It wirkit aff an ile ingine, an Allan, made in Aiberdeen, wi a great big tank tae be fullt o pails o water, an a smaaer tank for paraffin. Tae get er up tae ignition heat ye’d fair tae hae yer blowlamps roarin intill e sides o e iron holes e flames geed throwe, till e metal wis gey near at fite heat. Fin e time cam, a buddy wid stan ilky een ahin een o e twa fly wheels, tak a gweed grip o e ootside edges, an pull e wheels till em. It wis jist breet force. Ye held on wi es, ay gaan e faister, till e ingine took an e fly-wheel spokes wis blurrin roon an a fair blast o win cam aff e spinnin surfaces ontill yer face, an e ballies o e governor wis careerin roon tee. Stoppin’t wis nae less fykie. Aifter ye’d turnt aff e paraffin valve, ye took a saick apiece, held em in front o ye, an leant yer wecht tee till e fly wheels till ye’d slowed em doon till a stop jist wi e friction. I doot ye widna get awa wi sic wyes noo. It did yer hairt gweed, e roar o a weel-iled ingine, bit wi es palaver tae get it goin, ye daardna let it stop ir e job wis deen. As ye vrocht inside e barn, ye’d aye tae tak a teet at e ingine tae mak sure it wis behavin itsel. Ye’d te gang doon e barn steps an intill e ingine hoose tae check, for ye couldna see e ingine fae e barn. Ere wis a big aixle geed throwe e barn waa tae drive e mull, an inside wis e pulley wheels an e drivin belts for e different bits o e mull, bit though e ingine wis lood e roar o e drums wis even looder an ye cd hear em fae hyne awa. Thrashin’s nae a quairt job.

Es geed on aa e time fin e beas wis in e byre, in e coo eyn or e feeders’ eyn. E byre door opent intill e barn, meevin straacht up an doon on a system o wechts an pulleys, an throwe it e strae wis graipit or forkit till e beas. Some wis for beddin, some geed intill e hecks at e fronts o e staas, an e beas chaaed intill e fresh strae fine, gettin eir tongues roon wispies an tittin em oot wi a sidewyes pull o e heid.

Bit e ruckies in e park werena tae be broken intill ir e traivellin mull cam, an nott tae be weel proteckit for e months o winter. At wis e wye ey’d tae be weel thackit an rapit. I maan tell ye ere wis twa wyes o deein, swappin an edderin. It wis swappin we wis deein, bit in aaler days e fairmer hid eddert em tee. At took a filie tae get things ready. On a weetichtie day, ey wid twine rapes in e shafe eyn o e barn fin it wis teem, ae lad turnin e tweezelick or thraahyeuk (baith were for twinin rapes, bit e tweezelick wis a bent branch wi ae eyn tied back tae mak a hyeuk, an e thraahyeuk wis mair in e shape o a car startin hannle, wi twa revolvin widden hangrips an an iron body at eynt in a hyeuk), an e idder lattin oot. E latter oot hid tae be skeely. E sat be e heap o strae, an linkit a tuftie ontill e hyeuk o e twister. Syne e lad startin tae twine, meevin backlins aa e time, as e latter oot vrocht awa wi eez fingers tae feed e strae in smooth an steady. It wis said if ye wis a gweed fiddler ye’d be a gweed latter oot, bein weel eest tae fingerin e strings.

Fin ye’d twinet a lang enyeuch linth, en wis e time for anither richt nacky job tae be deen. Ae eyn o e rape, aboot a nivfae braid, wis turnt back on itsel, an e same thing deen again. Syne ye startit tae wip e rape roon es core, figure-o-acht fashion, till ye’d made a ballie aboot e size an shape o a rugby baa. Ye nott tae be gey gweed tae dee’t richt, in fact it wis een o e skeeliest kinna jobbies ye cd try, an nae muckle winner ere eest tae be edderin makkin competeetions at Agricultural Shows, bit at’s aa by lang seen. Es museums at fowk sets up nooadays, maybe ye’d get een ir twa samples o edderins in em, bit fit wye div ye keep e skill in e makkin o em? Ye learnt it fae yer faither, an hid till for ere wis naething else for’t. Force is a gran teacher. Onywye, eence made, e edderins wis keepit on e couples o e reef o e corn laft till e time cam for rapin e rucks.

Change maan come, iv coorse. Fin it dis, ere’s nae upplin or divallin, an it disna help a lot tae greet aboot it. Even in e wye o makkin clews ere wis change. Fin e knottin binder cam in aboot e 1870s, e shafes cam tae be tied wi binder twine. At mint, fin ye threesh, at e lad feedin e mull hid tae cut e tows an lay em aside, nae lettin a tied shafe gang throwe e drum ir if e did be mistaak ere’d be e maist aafa whoosh! an ye’d pit a lot of strain on e mull’s intimmers, forbye nae gettin a e corn oot. Ae lad I kent used a reaper blade fittit intill a widden hannle for a knife, bit e’d a loopie o towe roon eez wrist tee for fear o lettin’t faa in. Ye jist hid tae be maist aafa partickler. E tows wis cut close till e knot. Gin ye wintit tae be bathert, ye cd a coontit e number o shafes put throwe e mull be coontin e number o tows.

Aifter e thrash, es tows wis tied egidder intae lang ropes an wun intae baaies. Syne ye cd use e baas, twa ir three depennin on e size o rape ye wintit, tae feed ontill e thraahyeuk. At wye fowk stoppit makkin strae rapes an took tae twistin binder twine. I cd sweer at wid be aboot e time e thraahyeuk took ower fae e tweezelick tee. It mint ye didna need e abeelity o e latter-oot ony mair, an nae mair did ye need tae mak edderins, for e tow rapes wis wun intae roon clews. Ir if ye wis ower sweer tae twine yer ain rapes, ye cd get baas o coir-yarn an ey were roon onywye, an if ye wisna far fae yer fishin freens aboot e coast, ye micht mak eese o aal nets tae haad doon e thack, though I canna say nets wis aa at common wi hiz. Aa e same, it’s jist a maitter o iverlaistin curiosity tae see foo ae thing affecks anidder, an foo e comin o e binder wi its binder twine shortly did awa wi strae rapes an edderins, an wi em jist a bittie mair o e aal wyes o deein.

Aye, I ken ere’s maybe nae muckle eese kennin aboot es aal trock, an ye’ll be winnerin aboot e watter rats, bit thole awa boys, we’ll win till em. An ere’s mair aboot rapin yet. E shuttle shape o e edderins wis mint for a speecial wye o wirkin, fither on e taps o rucks or – in e aal days – on e reefs o hooses. First e pit on yer upricht rapes, clean ower e tap o e ruck wi its coverin o thack, an ilky rape-eyn weel bun in. Syne ye took yer edderin wi its fine pintit shuttle-shape an startit tae shoo in below an roon ilky up-an-doon rape, haadin roon an roon e croon o e ruck till ye’d got aathing ticht an snod. E ootcome wis a pattren o squaries as ye lookit at e croon fae a bittie awa, jist like e squaar meshes o a big net. At wis e wye ye kent an eddert ruck jist be lookin at it.

Bit wi roon clews, ye’d tae wirk in anither kinna wye. Ye hidna e shape for shooin in anaith an roon a set o verticals, sae fit ye did wis swappin, an es wis fit we wis at fin e fairmer roart ‘Look up’. Ye’d tae haiv up e roon clew, tak e rapes roon e shooders, een at ae side een at e ither, till ye’d wirkit yer wye roon e heid o e ruck. Es time, ye got e ropes intill a criss-crossin arreengement o dyment shapes, an es wis far an awa e maist common system in my time. Ere’s little doot it cam in tee ahin binder twine an coir yarn.

I doot I’m pittin e cairt afore e horse again, as I’m ill for deein, for I hinna telt ye yet fit kinna thack wis bein rapet. A filie afore e wark wis due tae be deen, e fairmer’d get haad o e scythe an e steen an haad throwe e close, doon e slope till e burn side an ben e burn, passin e wider bit faar e beas hid eir watterins. At wis faar ey cd wyde richt intill e burn tae get a drink an fin e widder wis lang weet ey’d plyter aboot ere fither ey nott a drink or no, sae e park wis aye richt poacht at es pint.

A bittie farrer doon wis fit wis caad e bog, nestlin at e fit o a slope covert wi trees. Es wis e plantin, rale thick, an graan for shelter. Ere wis even some fancy kins o trees wi big cones, yowies, fine for loons tae play wi an ey’d files mak a decoration for a time on e sill o e kitchen windae. It wis es bog e fairmer wis heidin for, an here e scythed eez sprots, watchin as e vrocht nae tae plype intae dubby holes. E shafed e cut sprots an stookit em an left em till e wintit em for thackin e rucks. It wis tyeuch wark an ye nott tae keep e steen on e blade. E hard stalkies didna tak lang tae connach a new edge.

Snails an puddocks an aa kins o oddities cam tae licht, sae I likit fine tae be aboot fin is job wis on. Fit I min maist, though, wis noticin e holies in e bank o e burn at e bog side. Ere wis a lot o em. It wis faar e water rats bade, though ye niver got much o a glimpse o em fin ye wis gaan aboot. I took a thocht tae masel at ey were spylin e bank an richt enyeuch ere wis erodet bits at different places, bit noo’t I think aboot it, e rats hid likely naething tae dee wi at. Mair likely it was e pammerin o e feet o a cattle beasts et hid won in an wis tryin tae get oot, ir aan e caase wis a sidewyes rush o water aff a steen in e bed, at a time fin e burn wis big. Bit e rats couldna a howkit oot sic big half meens in e bank. It wis a weet an files slimy place at e best o times, nae at ull for e bank tae be upset.

Onywye, I up till e gig-shed, an got a haad o twa ir three o es iron traps wi e plates an e zig-zag teeth, coorse things bit es wis afore e days o e Cruelty. I set em aside some o e rats’ holies, wi widden pegs throwe e rings at e eyns o e chynes tae mak aa siccar. I’d a gotten ma kail throwe e reek gin I’d tint em. Neesht mornin doon till e fairm on ma byke an rinnin till e howe tae see fit success. Aye, twa. I keepit at it for a gweed wik, catchin a fair puckly o e bonny black craiturs. Syne I took a richt scunner at masel, an stoppit. Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis. I widna dee’t noo.

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Information about Document 533

Craiters: 09 - Watter Rats


Text audience

Adults (18+)
General public
Informed lay people
Audience size 1000+

Text details

Method of composition Wordprocessed
Year of composition 1994
Word count 2693

Text medium


Text publication details

Publisher Tuckwell Press
Publication year 1995
Place of publication East Linton
ISBN/ISSN 1898410739
Edition First
Part of larger text
Contained in Craiters. Or Twenty Buchan Tales

Text setting

Other Putting the dialect on record, Aberdeenshire

Text type

Prose: fiction
Prose: nonfiction
Short story


Author details

Author id 27
Forenames Alexander
Surname Fenton
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1920
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Academic/Writer/Editor
Place of birth Shotts
Region of birth Lanark
Birthplace CSD dialect area Lnk
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Edinburgh
Region of residence Edinburgh
Residence CSD dialect area Edb
Father's occupation Shoemaker
Father's place of birth Aberdeen
Father's region of birth Aberdeen
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Housewife\Crofter
Mother's place of birth Keith
Mother's region of birth Banff
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Bnf
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes At work
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes At home and wherever possible