Document 638

Dipper: 26 - The Technicality

Author(s): Dr James A Begg

Copyright holder(s): Dr James A Begg


Maistly, the Laird didnae mind twa or three daffin, yellochin laddies swingin back an forrit on ropes ower the Dam Puil on het simmer days, whan the watter wis bath-warm, an the saumon were lyin in the deepest holes weel oot o the glare o the sun. The laddies wad be enjoyin themsels takin heiders aff the rope intae the deep watter or soumin aff the bank, an twa or three times as I gaed by, I cuid weel hae dune wi a douk mysel.

Whit he did mind tho, wis whan some o the wee buggers, or their big brithers, tuik it intae their heids tae hae a go at the diseased saumon that lay oot o the main current an ticht in by the heich bank on oor side o the watter. While healthy fish lie deep, an are gey near invisible in only fower feet o watter, diseased saumon are markit aboot the heid, back an tail like lepers, wi a white fungus that stauns oot a mile, an whit wi them bein hauf blin, waik, an slow-movin as weel, they're no ill tae catch wi a gaff, snare, or treble heuks, or even by guddlin if yer grup’s guid eneuch.

Nou an again, while walkin the watter, I'd come across a plastic poke, drappt in a hurry, fou o heuks, nylon gut an leid wechts, an ance even ane o thae wee square widden frames o the kind the laddies uised tae fish for codlin an coalies aff Ayr Pier, convertit for rakin saumon across the back, wi a big treble heuk an leid wecht insteid o the paternoster.

Sometimes it wad be the guff, an the bizzin o bluebottles, that wad draw me neb-furst tae a muckle fifteen pun corps, lowpin wi mawks an lyin under a buss whaur it had been plankt by laddies ower wabbit tae cairry it further, or haein saicont thochts aboot the sellin price! No that there wisnae a mairket for scabby fish, for we aa kent o twa or three hotels that werenae sweirt tae scrape aff the fungus an serve up the fish!

The McGinty brithers cut their eye teeth at this gemm afore they moved on tae the nettin, an odd times I wad see them walkin hame throu the toun, wat up tae the hochs, shune an aa, an ken damn fine whit they had been up tae, but cuid dae nocht aboot it, for their rods were aye weel stashd awa back at the watterside.

Nanetheless, ae August Sunday mornin, whan aa daicent saumon fishers were at the kirk, or at least haein a statutory day aff the fishin, I answert a chap at the door tae fin Neil, ane o the new byllies, pechin on the doorstep.’

‘Andra! Ah've juist come up frae the Dam Puil. Jimpy McGinty's there, fishin juist ablow the big tree stump. Ah don't think he saw me, but he moved awa doun the bank an the last Ah saw o him, he wisnae cairryin his rod. Ah cuidnae dae ocht for lack o a witness, sae Ah cam ower for you.'

'Haud on till Ah get my jaiket an Ah'll come oot wi ye, Neil! They're as fly as jylers, thae McGintys…. Guidness knows, they've had eneuch experience o them! As like as no, he's gaed doun tae the Laundry Puil, an we micht nab him there.'

Five meenits later, an we were on the riverbank.

'Whaur wis he fishin, Neil?' Neil pyntit tae a bit juist dounstream o the big stump left efter a twa-hunner year auld beech tree had been cowpt intae the puil aboot five year back, by the tail-en o a hurricane. It had aye been a guid lie for saumon, an by the wey the gress wis flattened an brunt dry wi the sun, it wis no the furst time oor freen had been there!

‘Juist there! An by the time he had reached the laddies' swing tree, Ah cuidnae see his rod.'

'If Ah ken the McGintys, Ah'd sweir he's stashd it aboot here someplace, for the forester fand yin last year hidden in the bramble-busses by the auld stump. They've got een in the back o their heids, an can smell a byllie five miles doun-wind, sae the chances are he spied you afore you spied him!'

We raked throu the bankside busses, an the lang gress an ferns, richt tae the tail o the dam wi nae luck, but then, on the wey back, my een lit on a wee scliff o fresh dirt atween twa haw-trees.

'Haud on, he's gaed in here!' I cried tae Neil, an steppt intae the gap, whaur there were mair fresh scliff-merks but naethin else.

Neil cam in ahint me. 'There it is, Andra!'

'Whit?' says I, turnin roun tae see him pyntin abune my heid.

'His rod!' An there, juist twa feet abune me wis the butt-en o a spinnin rod pokin oot frae the branches o an auld yew tree.

'The slee bugger!' I gasped. 'An here's us pokin aboot on the grun - it must hae taken him juist saiconts tae slip it up there oot o sicht!'

I raxt up an brocht it doun. It wis nae carbon fibre beauty, but an auld fibre-gless thing wi the rod rings held on wi sticky-plaister, an the reel haunle mendit we sellotape. The nylon gut wis forty-pun brekkin strain at least – strang eneuch tae tow the “Waverley” – an the McGinty-style treble-an-leid danglt frae the end.

‘That rod-tip disnae luik strang eneuch tae haunle a wee troot, faur less pou a saumon oot sideweys!' I said tae Neil. 'I think we'll dae him a favour by takin it awa. He wad be awfy pit oot if it broke, wi him intae a big fish, an he lost his beer-money!'

A fortnicht later the drought showed nae sign o waikenin, an the puils atween the dam an the mill were gey near dried oot, for 85% o whit watter wis left wis rinnin doun the mill lade, an no doun the river itsel! A wee pickle tricklt ower the saunstane ledges at the tap-en o the Laundry Puil, but no eneuch tae lae the odd saumon daft eneuch tae try an rin the river get ony faurer, makin them easy pickins for poachers.

Early ae efternuin, I wis cannily makin my wey up the lade-side pad frae the mill, weel hidden by the owerhang o elm trees, whan I heard a splash, then anither. 'That's no a saumon,' I thocht, 'Mair like a stane!' An shuir eneuch, staunin on the saunstane ledge were twa young lads, chuckin stanes intae the heid o the puil tae fricht the fish doun tae the shallas, whaur Jimpy McGinty stuid up tae his hochs in the watter wi his rod an heuks at the ready.

'This is ower much for me tae haunle! ' I decided. 'I'd best get the Polis!'

It wis a het day, an the twa young polis wha arrived at the mill had nae jaikets on – no even in their caur. 'The Super says we've no tae cairry jaikets in the Panda caurs in case they get nicked' - wis their explanation!

Wi their white sarks on, they were juist aboot as conspeecuous as bluidy pandas themsels as they stertit oot alang the pad, sae I cried them back. 'Luik, thae buggers'll see ye a mile awa! Yin o ye pit on my fishin jaiket, an the ither keep weel ahint oot o sicht.'

Frae a distance, I pyntit oot the three lads an said I wad gae ower tae the faur bank an chase them back across the saunstane ledge tae whaur the polis cuid nab them, for I jaloused they had crossed frae oor side in the furst place. I wis feart they wad hae skedaddled by the time I had gaen doun ower the Auld Brig an back up the faur side, but up the faur side, but whan I reached the auld laundry ruin McGinty wis still there, wi his back tae me, courit deid-still in the watter like a jenny heron aboot tae grup a big troot. But he wis aboot fifty yairds upstream, wi juist three or fower scrunty slae busses an a fence atween me an the puil.

‘Weel Hiawatha, here we go again!’ I said tae myself as I gat doun on my hunkers an stertit tae crawl alang the fence on my belly towards him. Aa went weel for the furst thirty yairds, till I fand mysel sprauchlt in a muckle open space atween twa busses, an my hert near stoppt as I saw Jimpy stalkin a fish doun the puil, still luikin the ither wey, till he wis staunin in the watter nae mair nor fower yairds anent me!

‘Bluidy Hell!' I thocht, in a swither - 'Whit a bluidy eejit I'll luik if that bugger turns roun the nou an sees me lyin here like a Setterday-nicht drunk!' Sae up I jumpt, an lowpin the fence bowffd at him - 'Whit the hell dae ye think ye're daein wi that big treble heuk on yer rod!’

McGinty tuik yae luik at me an wis aff up that puil like a whuppet, an splairgin ower the saunstane ledge afore his twa cronies kent whit wis happenin! They stertit tae mak for the fence an the open field, but I made for that airt mysel, an like a collie-dug gaun 'awa-bye' tae kep sheep brekkin frae the flock, I heidit them aff till they turnt an ran back ower the watter efter Jimpy, an straucht intae the airms o the polis!

As the polis mairched them back tae their caur, I thocht I wad hae a wee luik tae see if they had left ocht, for I kent they wadnae steyd there sae lang withoot'n they'd had the chance o a saumon. Shuir eneuch, on the grevel by the watterside were twa or three siller scales straucht aff a fish, an efter a bit o searchin, stashd awa aneath some ferns up the bankin wis a fresh clean six-pun grilse wi big heuk-merks in its belly. Of coorse, whan I tuik the fish doun tae the polis caur, they'd ‘niver seen it afore’!

Sax months later cam the trial afore the Sheriff - the furst ever involvin the byllies - an we were luikin forrit tae a 'result', as fitba managers say! The twa young lads were in the dock, but McGinty wis naewhere tae be seen, whan I steppt up intae the witness-box tae gie my evidence. As the wee Depute Fiscal - nae mair nor a laddie himself - wis speirin at me wi his questions, an makin a richt hash o it, oot o the corner o my ee I saw the Sheriff thoumin throu some papers.

‘Mr. McBean!' says he, luikin ower his hauf-mune glesses at the fiscal, 'Could we please have a short adjournment?'

‘Certainly, My Lord,' says McBean, no kennin juist whit wis in store, an aff they aa trouped tae the Sheriff's Chambers, laein me sittin up there in the witness-box like a big stookie, luikin doun on thae twa glowerin in the dock, an ane o their mithers glowerin frae the public gallery.

Oors later, (it wis only ten meenits) an they aa trouped back in again. The Sheriff tuik his sait, an luikin at me this time ower his glesses, said, ‘Mr. Bell, would you please step down, and listen to some esoteric legal argument.’

‘Whit the Hell’s aa this aboot!’ I thocht as I sat doun aside the saumon laid oot on a table by the witness-box.

‘The problem, Mr. McBean,’ said the Sheriff, ‘is that this charge-sheet does not seem to have been signed by the Procurator Fiscal. Is that so?’

‘Yes, My Lord!’ gulped McBean, luikin mair nor a wee bit pit oot.

‘And how does that leave your case?’

‘Well, My Lord, in the case of Procurator Fiscal versus McTavish in 1847, the Fiscal omitted to sign the charge-sheet, and the case was consequently dismissed.’

‘Precisely, Mr. McBean! And I find therefore I have no option but to dismiss the charges laid against both these accused!’

Wis I hearin richt…… I cuidnae believe my lugs! An warse wis tae come, for anither chiel in a bleck goun jumpt tae his feet an cried:

‘My Lord! How does this leave my client McGinty, who has pled guilty to four charges?’

‘Well, Mr. Morrison, since the charge-sheet has not been signed, there can be no charge, and therefore your client cannot possibly plead guilty to no charges, and so must therefore go free from this court! Case dismissed!’

Legal technicality! …… I cuid hae gret!

Still, the saumon at least didnae gae free frae the coort, but wis gied back tae us, an sellt tae buy mair torches for the byllies – tae catch mair poachers. McGintys tak tent, yer day’ll come!

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APA Style:

Dipper: 26 - The Technicality. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 30 May 2024, from

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"Dipper: 26 - The Technicality." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2024. Web. 30 May 2024.

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


Information about Document 638

Dipper: 26 - The Technicality


Text audience

General public
Audience size 1000+

Text details

Method of composition Handwritten
Year of composition 1991
Word count 2217
General description Anthology of prizewinning and other Scots poems, and short stories in Ayrshire Scots.

Text medium

Other Audiocassette

Text publication details

Publisher Luath Press
Publication year 1991
Place of publication Barr, Ayrshire
ISBN/ISSN 0946487227
Edition First
Part of larger text
Contained in The Dipper an the Three Wee Deils: Tales and Poems in Ayrshire Scots
Editor Authors: Dr. J. A. Begg and J. Reid
Page numbers 59-63

Text setting


Text type

Short story


Author details

Author id 623
Title Dr
Forenames James
Initials A
Surname Begg
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1940
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Medical Practitioner
Place of birth New Cumnock
Region of birth S Ayr
Birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Ayr
Region of residence S Ayr
Residence CSD dialect area Ayr
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Clerical Officer, NCB
Father's place of birth Sandbank
Father's region of birth Argyll
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Arg
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Primary Teacher
Mother's place of birth New Cumnock
Mother's region of birth S Ayr
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
Danish No No No No A little
English Yes Yes Yes Yes Home, socially, at work
French Yes Yes Yes Yes Holidaying in France
Norwegian No No No No A little
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes Home, socially, at work