Document 535

Craiters: 11 - E Widdie

Author(s): Alexander Fenton

Copyright holder(s): Alexander Fenton


Fin ye speert aboot ma early days, I’d tae scrat ma heid a filie tae win at far back. Ma early days is lang seen noo. Bit naebody can fail tae be shapit a bittie be e wye ey were brocht up, an maybe e question is fither ye hing on tae fit ye get or fither ye wint tae rejeck it. I aften think at aathing ye iver learn can be o eese till ye, though ye mith be puzzled files tae ken foo. Hooiver, fit at philosophical thocht his tae dee wi fit I hiv tae tell ye, I dinna ken.

E first thing I iver think I can min on, I must a been lyin on e fleer an ere’s nae doot it wis afore I cd walk. Fit I wis awaar o wis something a kinna like a photograph teen inside a kitchen wi an aal-farrant camera, wi lichts an shaddas an ootlines. In front o’s wis fit I later kent tae be e widden boord at e front o e bun-in bed in e kitchen. In ablow wis darkness, haad awa fae a strippy o licht, likely fae e gale windae, at lit up a bittie o e fleer, an ower e fleer wis e grey streaks an whorls o e caddis at comes fae makin e bed an at ye hiv tae get e brush an dust-pan till noo an aan. E room I wis in wis kitchen, livin-room an bedroom tee, an es is faar I must a spent a gweed lot o time. Bit caddis is ma only memory o’t, an e front byeurd o a bun-in bed.

E neesht think I min wis in es same aal hoosie in Drumblade, bit it his tae dee wi fit wis caad e best room. Weel, ere wis jist e twa. Bit fit wis in’t must a been a winner tae me. It wis jist a big side o a pig, hung fae a hyeuk in e riggin, an nae doot it disappeared at last in e wye at side o pig dis.

Sae I dinna ken fit ye’d mak o aa es – dust anaith a bed, a ham slung fae e ceilin. At wis ma first memories; o ma mither an ma faither I min naething at at time

E hoosie lay aff e main road, at e side o a fairm track wi a deep ditch at ae side an a bank wi a gran growth o breem an funs wi eir bonny yalla floorish, an in due time ye cd hear e black seed-pods o e breem cryin crack fin ye got a gweed spell o sin. A girsy roadie led aff es, throwe a gairden at hid a palin o widden slats roon aboot it. E hoose an gairden an a fyow scrubby treeickies for shelter wis stuck on e side o a park like a postage stamp jist a bittie doon fae e edge o an envelope. Es wis faar I first startit tae be awaar o e world, in a sea o parks faar horses pulled e ploo an e harra, faar corn an girse, tatties an neeps, grew an turned intae ripe craps, faar men an files weemen scythet an stooket an pooed neeps, an nowt an horse fattened on a green girse.

Eence in Edinburgh we got a kittlin in a present. Fin it cam, wir freen brocht a fine bit o beef tae feed it an maybe mak it feel mair at hame, an iv coorse it ay lookit for e same treatment foriver aifter. Neen o yer feedin on kitchen orrals, like a lot o e fairm cats I kent. Ah weel, though it wis a tom, it wis timid. I min fine on it comin. It wis liftit oot o e basket an set on e fleer. It steed as still’s a carved cat for a file, lookin aa wyes, syne ae paa geed oot, syne a step, an sae it meeved a paa at a time, aye raxin farrer oot an niver stoppin, e same’s e rings in e dam fin ye throw a steen intill’t. As time geed on, it learnet ilky nyeuk o e room, syne e hale hoose, e saftest beds, e warmest spots at catched e sin, e best windaes tae glower at e birds ootside wi its teeth chitterin an e dream o feathers roon its chowks. Syne ere wis e door till e gairden, a fykie passage at first, oot gey cannie an in quick. Ilky day e world got bigger, till at e hinner eyn e young tom’s range was farrer’n I cd see an it hid carved oot its territory. Bit Rupert wis aye a timid cat. It jist hatit e car, an kent fine if ye wis gaan tae be takin im. Ye’d load up, bit nae cat. Faar wis e? Withoot fail, plaistert against e waa at e back o e bed in e quines’ room, an ye’d tak im oot an he’d bide streekit oot in yer airms like a corp, niver a myout comin oot o im. I min ae day, tee, ere wis an aafa squallachin in e gairden an I lowpit till e windae tae see fit it wis. I doot Rupert hid shoved eez nose ower near till a baby blaikie, for mither wis chasin e cat doon e flooer beds an him at full streek tae win awa. A big, bonny craiter. E ay held for e youngest dother’s bed at nicht an got cuddled doon ere. I think e thocht she wis eez mither.

Tae come back tae ma pint, I suppose I wis some like e cat. E twa rooms o e hoosie, e yard an e trees, e berry busses an e birds at rypit em, e beds o kail an cabbage, parsley, leeks, tree ingins an rhubarb, e fite sweet smell o e flooerin boortree, e fairm track an e ditch wi its fool water an e breem an e funs on e bank, faar e wee birds biggit eir nests – aa at wis e limits o e world for me afore I got e linth o gaan till e skweel. Bit I kent ilky nyeuk o’t, an it wis ma ain kingdom.

A filie afore I wis five, e discipline o education struck. I’d kent nae rules afore, haad awa fae e odd skelp fae ma faither, bit noo cam e skweel an I fun oot ere wis an aafa lot mair fowk aboot e place’n masel. Aa e same, I made a graan start. A freen o ma faither hid a tricycle, full man’s size. In fact, I’m nae sure if ere wis sic a thing as bairns’ trykies at at time. Es lad cam for’s in e mornin tae gie’s a hurl e mile doon e road, by e fairm o Weetwards faar ma faither hid eez green painted, widden souter’s shop in a corner o a park, syne on be a War Memorial an e aal kirkie till we won till e playgreen gate. I winna say bit fit I wis a bittie excitit, wi ma new skweelbag on ma back (fit wye is’t at new skweelbags are ay ower big?), clean sark, short breekies, an wee tacketie beets abeen knitted woolly socks. Ere I steed on a back aixle o e tricycle, hingin on like grim death till e back o e saiddle as e win hummed by ma lugs, teeth gleamin in a mixter o pleesher an a bit o wirry as e hard road skippit by in anaith. Nae at first day, bit later, I learnet tae let a beet doon an watch e great fat sparks flee fae e tackets in e sole, till retribution cam fae ma faithee’s han an I fun oot at some wyes o behavin didna jist lie inside e acceptet order o things in e big fowks’ world.

Ere wis nae skweel meals at at time, though e world wis takin big strides forrit. Ere wis aafa fyow wirelesses aboot either, bit e heidmaister hid een. It was a tremendous day fin e hale skweel gaitheret in eez gairden tae hear e broadcast o e laanch o e Queen Mary. Bit it wis e occasion raither’n e laanch at made its mark, for fitna een o’s kent onything aboot a big boat an fit it mint tae world communications or e prestige o Britain at at time? Ere’s nae doot things tae dee wi masel hid far mair wecht, like e piece ma mither hid put intae ma bag for ma denner. It wis in a paper pyockie, twa thick shaves o breid an butter wi a gweed coatin o fite sugar. Maybe ma mither, at niver did things withoot some intention, hid thocht tae gie’s a fine piece tae keep ma fae thinkin lang. I’d heen pieces like es afore an ey hid a taste like half-made candy, maybe even better’n e cakes o coo-candy ma faither sellt in eez shop. E grainies crunchet atween teeth at nae dentist hid iver lookit at. The piece wis a secret thocht in ma heid faar it lay in ma bag.

Es wis foo I first lost faith in ma fella men. Fin denner time cam, an we got oot, I pit ma han intill ma bag for ma piece an it jist wisna ere. It hid been nabbit. Hungry an hairt-broken, I wannert e playgreen, nae kennin fit tae dee. E grun lay on a slope, an aa roon’t wis a steen dyke wi square openins for drainage at e boddem eyn. I fun ma piece in een o es holies, fool, weet, an nae aitable. Nae doot it wis deen for fun, wi little thocht, a smaa maitter at brook e eggshall o ma trustin world.

Ere wis twa classrooms side be side, wi mixed classes in ilky een. E fleers wis o widden byeurds wi gweed sized cracks in atween, graan for keppin e chaaky dust at flees aboot sic places, nae tae spik o e dried dubs aff fool feet an e antrin mummifeet flee or bottler. In es class we werena makin eese o ink, though e double desks hid inkwell holes aside e ledge in front o e lids. Ey hid faalin seats tee. We wrote on wid-framed slates, using skylies, an fither ye did it be accident or intention, ey cd set up a scraicht at garrt ye shudder an draa yer lips back fae yer teeth. Later on, fin skweel pens come tae be allooet, e sharp nibs wid dig intill e side o yer finger as ye vrocht awa wi em like a sculptor wi a chisel; e ootcome’s an iverlaistin lump on the left side o e middle finger o ma richt haan. Bit I some doot it widna coont as a mark o identity, for thoosans o scholars mn hae fingers e same.

In e wye o e times, e teacher kept control be a lot o ploys, e warst o em – for loons oor age – bein e sheer torture o haein tae sit loon aside quine at ilky desk. At wis bad enyeuch. Bit ae day ma neeper got mair an mair fidgetty, couldna keep still, I felt er teetin at’s bit I didna look back. In e eyn she snappit er fingers tae speer fit e teacher ay tried nae tae hae’s speerin –

‘Please sir, I wint tae leave the room’.

‘Certainly not. Sit still’.

E teacher geed on wi e wark at eez desk. I took a sidewyes teet at e quine. She’d shut er e’en. Syne, alang e V-shapit jinins o e planks on e seat cam a licht yalla burnie, creepin slow at e start an syne comin faister. I hid tae get aff e eyn, an reed in e face I muttert –

‘Please sir’

‘What’s the matter with you, boy?’

‘Please sir, something’s wrang’.

Three little waterfaas wis be es time takin aff e seat alang e groovies, spillin ontill e fleer, gaitherin an flowin doon e passage, leavin a dark streak in e general fiteness o chack an styoo. E maister’s shout o ‘Silence!’ didna quairten e lachin an disturbance, nor e fusperin –

‘Hey boys, she’s pished er breeks’.

Weel, e maitter wis hannlet, I dinna min foo, bit I’ve aye winnert fit kinna thochts geed throwe e teacher mannie’s min, for he wis e een at e reet o’t.

Fit else can I tell ye? Are ye nae scunnert yet? No? Aa richt, I’ll cairry on.

In e young classes, e loons wore lang stockins up till e knee, wi faalt doon taps an elastic gartens tae haad em up. At least, at’s fit ey were supposed tae dee, bit e elastic stretchet faist, mair sae fin ye got intill e wye o usin em as catapults, haadin em atween e thoom an first finger o e left han an draain em back wi e fingers o e idder, an pirkin dabbies o weet blottin paper at yer neepers. Ink did fine tae sype e ammunition. Bit aimin wis niver jist exact, an files e garten wid flee aff yer fingers an sure’s death, at’s fit happent tae mine. It skidded in anaith e blackboord, faar it sat on an easel in e middle o e fleer, a bittie ower fae e teacher’s desk. Nae wintin tae tyne’t, an haein a kinna one track min, I thocht if I creepit doon e passage like a snake an raxed oot, I micht manage tae get it back an nae be noticet.

‘Boy, what are you doing?’

E vice stooned throwe’s. Black terror keepit ma fae spikkin. E grabbit a lug an haaled.

‘Stand ... up!.

I steed. E slappit ma face wi eez fngers, flickin em back an fore. Ma chowks got reed an ma een got weet.

‘You ... get ... on ... my ... nerves. Come ... with ... me’.

I geed, fither I wintit or no. Ower e room wis a press, full o aal blackboords, boxes o chack, dusters, a step-ledder, styoo, spinners. Spikkin nae wird mair, e shoved me in an keyed e door. It wis deedly quairt, an little tae see in e dim licht at cam throwe e glaiss panel o e door, bit at least it wisna jist pick dark. Eence e storm hid sattlet in ma heid, I began tae hake aboot a bittie. E press wis a gey hicht, aafa dark at e tap an a bittie frichenin. I couldna see e tap o e ledder.

Wid e teacher come back? Maybe better if e didna, my chowks were aye stingin. Time geed by. I pickit up a bit o courage an geed up e steps, bit fun nae holie tae win oot. An e door wis steekit ticht. Aifter a file, I jist sat still, trummlin bit tholin, wytin. Aathing wis aafa quairt, though. I tried tae teet throwe e frosted glaiss, an God what a fleg – ere wis naebody ere, e room wis teem. Teacher an class hid geen aff an I wis forgotten.

Are ye sorry for’s noo? Can ye feel e dark terror at I wis feelin, hear e roar o e terrible quairtness? I pressed ma face tee till e glaiss, nose an cheek a flat fite blob ... an en ... ere cam a soon, an I cd jist mak oot at a class o aaler quines hid come intill e room wi eir shooin teacher, hazy kins o ootlines at jumpit an flickeret as ey meeved in e bumps o e frostin. A sharp ee spottit my meevement –

‘Miss, miss, there’s something in the press’.

I won oot. I tellt naebody at hame.

E wye back fae e skweel took’s by a fir wid, a fower-sidit block o trees, an I ay geed throwe’t, haad awa fae fin aathing wis sypit wi rain. Eence inside it, it swallat ye up intill a quairt world, a bittie scary. Yer beets didna clink on e thick layer o needles, some aal an broon, some dark-green an new doon, e same as past an present wis mixin an ye wis seein baith anaith yer feet. It wis at deep ye cd dig in e tae o yer beet an mak a fine holie tae be lookit at, though it wis a kinna sterile layer as far as wee beasties wis concerned. Wi ilky breath ye got e heidy smell o rosit, for gey near ilky trunk hid its ration o sticky lumps an bubbles an dribbles o e stuff. I wid powk at em wi sticks bit I aye tried nae tae let ma fingers tee till em, for naething on earth wid get e rosit aff an if ye rubbit yer finger on something else it jist got fooler an fooler. Bit whot a fine stink it hid.

It wis a weetichtie kinna widdie, sae a wee bit inside it, on e same line’s e road, ey’d howkit an open ditch tae kep an drain e water, aboot three feet wide bit nae fully sae deep. It wis jist far enyeuch in for e ootside world tae be oot o sicht. Ye cd see nae parks nor hooses, e picter o e sky wis less, an withoot gaan farrer, e quairtness o e widdie hummed in yer heid, till, wi nae warnin sae ye geed a lowp, a grey doo on its nest o wee branchies wid brak oot wi its rookitycoo, -coo, rookitycoo. E soon wid echo throwe e wid an throwe yer heid, at lood ye wintit tae pat it doon wi yer han, like paicifeein a bairn. Ye hid tae tune in again, fin e soon stoppit.

Anaith e nest on e grun, half a shall. In e nest, nae ill tae win up till, fower gorblins, warm, wi flat yalla beaks, een wi fite skinnies ower em, e appearance o black spikes at wid be fedders, blueichtie veins far ye cd see e bleed pulsin, nyaakit bellies stappit wi mait fae eir midder, ilky een at e powkin o ma finger raxin eir bare necks, heids up, beaks gapin like shofels, jist blin instinct, thinkin mait wis on its wye. Oh Lord, we stretch out our necks and mouths to Thee, grant us corn and seeds that we may swell our stomachs further in Thy service, amen! Ey wid try tae swalla ma very finger-tips, a funny kittly feelin. I winner if it hurt em fin e black spikes o e fedders cam throwe e skin?

I wisna aye ma leen in e widdie. I played an ran wi ither loons tee. Eence, I canna min foo aal I wis at e time, maybe sax or seyven, I geed intill e trees wi anither lad, an a quine cam tee, wintin tae play. Shortly we won as far as e ditch, an we stoppit at e side, lookin at e trailin bits o fern, a water at wis meevin slow and black an reflectin like a mirror. We saa wirsels upsides doon, makin faces an lachin. E loon thocht tae spit. E fite blob floatit, slow, little ringies comin oot fae’t. We watchet its progress. E quine gied a giggle, spak till’s –

‘Pee in ere’.

‘Fit wye?’


‘I’m nae needin’.

‘I am’-

said e ither lad, an at eence made a waterfaa, prood o imsel, leanin a bittie back for a better bow. E clear water brook e slow darkness o e ditch, fite foam spread oot roon e sides. It wis a fine picter, if I’d heen a camera. Framed amon e trees, wi glinties o e sky, loon an quine watchin e performance, e laddie leanin aye farrer back tae better e curve. E wallie dried up, e action cam till an eyn.

‘Noo you’.

‘I’m nae needin’.

‘Disna mak- try onywye’.



E loon made a flist at e spaiver buttons o ma breeks, missed an I ran for e road. I heard e twa o em laachin. Bit naebody asket e quine tae dee’t.

Ye’ve seen e widdie, hivn’t ye? Bit at wis lang aifter. Fin I lookit at it again, it didna mairch wi fit I min’t. It wis ay ere, but e trees wis spruce an nae fir, an spinnly birks an orra scrub. E ditch wis ere, bit though it wis damp, it wis aa chokit up.

I checkit up wi ma uncle-

‘The wid, ma dear sir, wis cut doon lang seen. A fermer bocht it, a firm cut e trees. Fit ye see noo grew be emsels’.

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Information about Document 535

Craiters: 11 - E Widdie


Text audience

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

Text details

Method of composition Wordprocessed
Year of composition 1994
Word count 3526

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