Document 564

The Fower Quarters: 19 - Ceevic Duty

Author(s): Sheena Blackhall

Copyright holder(s): Sheena Blackhall


Miss Emily Gray bedd in the eyn hoose in the raw o semi-detached brikk biggins that wis Wellington Wauk. The street wisna caad efter the Iron Duke as a body micht suppose, bit wis tagged bi a toon cooncillor wi a fey sense o humour. The grun that the street wis biggit on hid bin at ae time a bog. Nae seener did the builders drain the bog, than the heivens opened up an a doonpish held the wirkers up fur wikks. The cement mixers war laired in dubs, the double-glazed windaes stackit in the yaird grew clortier an clortier, an the surveyors war up tae their oxters in clag - tyaach! A herd o hippopotamus cud hae wallowed up tae the snoot in the hoose founs, or even disappeared aathegither. Wikk in, wikk oot, naavies, brikkies, sparkies, plumbers an jyners plytered aboot in thir wellingtons: syne the name o the new street, Wellington Wauk.

The cooncillor fa' d named the street wis Miss Emily Gray's brither, Bulldug Gray, a bowdie-leggit, barrel-briested, kenspeckle chiel in the toon's chequered history - cooncillor bi day an heavywecht boxer bi nicht. Bulldug Gray hid a jaw o granite, een o flint, an a daud o grey hair that luikit fell like a auld Brillo pad atap his heid. His teeth filling glimmered like steel, his backbeen wis iron, his hairt wis gowd, an he wis (wi'oot twa-facin a body in the tellin o't) as roch a daud o Torry rock as iver wis chippit ooto the side o yon steeny seaside toon.

Tae see Bulldug wis tae see Emily, fur they war like as twins, doon tae the wee grey mowser on tap o their upper lips. The faither o these twa wirthies wis Erchie Gray, fa'd served on the cooncil fur forty year. Wi their mither's milk, they'd sookit in the knowledge that man's chief eyn wis daein yer ceevic duty. Chief o this ceevic duty wis takkin pride in yer ain muneecipal bittie. Litter belanged i the bin an nae on the grun. Trees sud be clippit back sair an nae allooed the frivolity o raxxin oot aawyes an drappin thir leaves an berries oor aathin. Flooers sud be free o weeds, an plantit in lines or circles unless furnishin colour in the toon's coat o airms in a smairt wee horticultural display.

Ootsiders, Mr Erchie Gray aye telt his bairns, judged the fowk o a toon bi the look o the place, an a body wis anely daein his ceevic duty bi keepin aa the roads an pathies trig an braw. This micht caa fur a press campaign, or chappin on doors tae draa up a petition, or makkin phone calls tae the polis, or pesterin the scaffies' heid yins doon at the cooncil offices. Some fowk micht caa this interferin, bit nae Mr Gray. He saw himsel as a vigilante against sin an stoor. Efter he wis deid, an the obituary clippit ooto the P. & J. an laid by in the faimly scrap buik, his bairns tuik up the guid fecht that he'd stairted, baith in their different wyes.

Bulldug got himsel electit tae office, an cairriet on the faimly crusade in the capacity o toon cooncillor. Emily tho, frae the day she flitted inno the hoosin scheme that her brither hid christened, waged a guerilla war agin the orra, the bluidy-mindit, the coarse, an the hallierackit o this warld frae ahin her lace curtains. Fitiver chorin or vandalism she spied frae thae windaes wis reportit straight tae the cooncil or the polis.

Nat McEwen, the lang-sufferin cooncillor fur Emily's ward, hid gotten tae the stage that he winced ilkie time the phone rang.

"It'll be her again, I ken it will," he'd hubber.

"Nat, dear, ye'll hae tae answer it," quo his wife. "Ye ken fine ye will, or her brither Bulldug'll be doon yer throat like an electrifeed rat."

Disjaskit, Mr McEwen wad lift the phone, an his lugs wad dirl wi a lang langamachie o wae. Fyles Emily phoned tae girn aboot blockit drains or dug keech; fyles it wis on mair important maitters, like an assault on the unsuspectin Aiberdeen public frae a low-growin tree.

"I hope yer takkin tent o aa the particulars, Mr McEwen," she'd skreich. "I hae measured the branch this verra efterneen, an its anely sax fit fower aff the grun. I realise maist Aiberdonians are smaaer than sax fit rower bit durin this year's Youth Festival we hae a veesitin pairty o Masai warriors and I hae read in the National Geographic that Masai warriors can reach a heicht o sax an a hauf fit! Will you sleep easy in yer bed the nicht, Mr McEwen, kennin that a Masai warrior micht inoo be steppin aff the bus at Wellington Wauk tae get his ee powked oot bi an Aiberdeen tree? Think on the international stooshie that wid cause, Mr McEwen."

Luggin intae these lamentations doon the phone, wis Solomon Pooch, Miss Gray's Angora pussy cat, a huddrie-luikin breet wi a muckle fite ruff that mindit ye on a Spanish grandee. Solomon Pooch watched his mistress through sea-green, slitty een. He wis weel kent the length an braidth o Wellington Wauk. At the first hint o a flech, aabody fa ained a kittlin wid be deaved wi leaflets stappit throwe their letter-boxes threatenin legal action if they didna atten tae their ceevic duty, rush doon tae ASDA an teem tinnies o insecticide ower their pets tae stem the tide o flechs ettlin tae smore the law-aabidin moggies o the toon, like the Reid Sea cowpin ower the Egyptians lang syne. Solomon Pooch scrattit his dowp, thoughtfu-like, mair o a Sphinx than a feline. Richt at the tither eyn o the hoosin scheme frae Emily Gray bedd
Danny Stubbs, a ten year auld loon, smairt as paint an fu o ceevic duty as Emily an Bulldug Gray clappit thegither. He wis skateboordin doon the brae, fin o a suddenty he spied it - a muckle fite powser - a bosker o a powser, the mither an faither o powsers - streekit oat on the cassies. Danny Stubbs wisna fond o fowk in the main, bit he did hae a saftness fur breets. He sliddered tae a stop, lowpit affhis skateboord an wannert ower tae news wi the fite powser.

"Bonnie pussie! Fine pussie," quo he. The loon Danny wisna the sherpest tool in the kist. His sister eesed tae say o him that the lichts war on bit the hoose wig teem. Syne it wis some wee time afore he jaloused the kittlin wis deid. Tae Danny, ae fite kittlin luikit much like any ither. An the anely body he kent that ained a fite kittlin wis Miss Emily Gray.

Mebbe she wid gie him a reward fur haunin it back. He pickit up the powser, stiff as a boord, its een glazed an glaissy, an nippit ben the road on his skateboord wi the deid cat in his bogie, tae ring the bell.

Emily Gray didna hear the bell fur she wis ower busy gibberin doon the phone tae Cooncillor McEwen. Solomon Pooch didna hear it either; He'd jist suppit an enormous tea o sardines an cream, an wis sleepin aff the feast atap the sofa. His mistress hid spent thirty paull on a braw fleecy hammock slung ower her radiator tae heat his wee bihoochie fin he clickit in throwe the cat flap efter a nicht on the tiles - bit the sofa wis mair tae his likin. Hauf o him kent he wis human russel, an nae human he'd iver seen kippit doon on a hammock slung ower a radiator. Danny Stubbs wyted a twa-three meenits, grew scunnered, laid the deid powser on the doorstep an skyted aff on his boord, hame tae his ain hoose.

A fylie efter, Billy McAfferty frae nummer 23 cam wydin doon the street. Miss Gray wis aff the phone (an tryin tae read her papers tae see if onybody she kent wig deid, or jylit, or waur) fin she heard him kickin a beer can doon the road. Dunt! Dunt! Dunt! gaed the beer can. Syne, his fit steps stoppit near her door. She jinkit back frae the curtains, feart he'd catch her spyin. Billy McAfferty michtna ken it, bit Emily Gray keepit the bobbies weel informed o aa his unneeboorly, coorse ploys. A violent chiel sober, he wis certifiable fin bleezin. She hunkit doon in a neuk, wytin fur the steps tae cairry on up the road.

Ootside, Billy McAfferty lowsed his flies tae relieve hissel. He cud easily hae wyted till he won hame, bit the thocht o drookin Emily Gray's peony roses in recycled Special Brew wis ower much fun tae pass ower. In the quate o the hoose, aa Emily Gray cud hear wis silence, a lang pause, an the steps styterin aff again doon the road, kickin the can afore them.

It wis turnin cauld noo. She'd need tae takk in her potted geranium frae the front step an pit it in the porch fur fear o a nippick o frost. She opened the door an near fell ower the stiff, streekit body o the deid, fite powser. Her twa thin hauns creepit up tae smore the skirl that wis risin in her thrapple. It wis a wamin, a sign, an omen. Billy McAfferty hid fand oot at last fa keepit the polis sae well acquant wi his ongauns. Tae show her fit he cud dee, he hid killed a peer hairmless kittlin an drappit it at her verra doorstep. He hid thrapplit a kittlin the day - it micht weel be hersel the morn! Her haun raxxed fur the phone, liftit it, syne drappit it.

Fur eence, Emily Gray negleckit tae dee fit wis plainly her Ceevic Duty.

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The Fower Quarters: 19 - Ceevic Duty. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 21 May 2024, from

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The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2024. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Information about Document 564

The Fower Quarters: 19 - Ceevic Duty


Text audience

General public
Audience size 100+

Text details

Method of composition Handwritten
Word count 1672

Text medium


Text publication details

Publisher GKB Enterprises
Publication year 2002
Place of publication Aberdeen
ISBN/ISSN 0952655462
Part of larger text
Contained in The Fower Quarters: Tales by Sheena Blackhall

Text type

Prose: fiction
Short story


Author details

Author id 112
Forenames Sheena
Surname Blackhall
Gender Female
Decade of birth 1940
Educational attainment University
Age left school 16
Upbringing/religious beliefs Brought up Protestant, now Buddhist
Occupation Writer and supply teacher
Place of birth Aberdeen
Region of birth Aberdeen
Birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Aberdeen
Region of residence Aberdeen
Residence CSD dialect area Abd
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Manager of Deeside Omnibus Service
Father's place of birth Aboyne
Father's region of birth Aberdeen
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Private Secretary
Mother's place of birth Aberdeen
Mother's region of birth Aberdeen
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes
Gaelic; Scottish Gaelic Yes Yes Yes Yes Elementary. Gaelic choir. Poetry.
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes