Document 642

Dipper: 30 - 'Puggie'

Author(s): Dr James A Begg

Copyright holder(s): Dr James A Begg


Puggie wis a poacher, a pest, an a thorn in the flesh o the byllies for near on five year. He wis whit they caad a howker, or snigger o fish wha, in a season, cuid kill forty or fifty saumon wi his big rod an bareheuks - as mony or mair nor some o the netters. There wis nae place free frae his attentions whan the saumon were rinnin, on oor river or elsewhere, but he wis as fly as a bag o monkeys an wad aye buy a ticket, for it was worth a couple o pun tae mak twinty! Nor wis he blate aboot lettin on tae the byllies o a guid killin, whan he wad gae hame an lay hauf a dizzen fish oot on the front green for aa the neebors tae see!

On the watter, howkers fished in pairs wi yin aither bank watchin the tither's back, an they aye had a fag lichtit, ready tae burn aff the big bare heuks if the byllies cam near. They kent maist o the lads by sicht a mile aff, but didnae bother their heids wi ordinar fishers, an were gey ready-haundit at heukin a saumon by the 'jaiket' an pouin it oot sidie-weys in front o strangers that were aye too feart tae dae ocht aboot it.

But amang the byllies were twa or three frae the toun, mysel includit, that didnae drink in the up-kintra howffs, an were no sae weel kent by the likes o Puggie. Sae yae Setterday in July, efter a week o teepical Glesca Fair wather, whan the bush telegraph brocht word that Puggie an his brither had bocht tickets for the Auld Mill watter, three o us hatched oot a wee ploy tae nab at it! Eck the Heid Byllie wis too weel kent and wad stay oot o sicht while Big John and mysel fished the watter, keepin as near Puggie as we cuid till he'd foul-heukt a fish, then we'd grup him.

It wis aboot hauf-yin whan we parked the caur anent the Auld Mill an daunert doun tae the watter. Tae luik the pairt, we were dressed like scruff, Big John wi an auld torn watter-proof an jeans, an me wi an N.C.B. dunkie-jaiket, bunnet, an turnt-doun wellies. Cairryin auld fishin rods an purns, we cam roun the corner tae fin Puggie an his brither fishin blithely awa at the Corner Puil, while twa ither chiels, fishin the faur bank, pit their rods up agin a tree as shuin as we got nearhaun.

'When in Rome….'..I thocht tae myself…. 'they're a crowd o coorse-luikin buggers... I'd better act coorse mysel..!

'Hou's it gaun, pal?' I speirt, as I cam up on Puggie. 'Ocht daein?'

'Naethin yet, freen,' cam the reply, 'but there's twa or three rinnin.'

'Is that a guid puil tae fish?' I continued, tae keep the crack gaun. 'Ah don't ken this bit o watter'.

'No bad,' said Puggie, luikin up curiously. 'Hae ye niver fished here afore'?'

'Naw! It's ma furst time at the saumon. Ah'm mair o a troot man mysel, but John here wantit a wee go afore he went back hame tae Glesca. 'S that richt, John?'

Big John, wha wis a retired dominie, an too weel spoken tae act coorse, said nocht, but juist gied a nod o his heid.

'Whaur's the best chance o a fish?' I went on. 'Ah've got Devon Minnons an worms wi me.'

'Ach, ony bit frae here doun,' said Puggie smertly, keen tae get us awa oot the road. 'There's twa or three guid puils roun the corner, an Ah don't think they've been touched the day.'

'Thanks, freen!' I replied, an set aff doun the pad wi Big John tae the bottom puil, whaur we plowtert aboot for twinty meenits afore cannily makin oor wey back up the waiter till we were fishin a hole amang alder trees no faur frae Puggie's puil. Aa o a sudden we heard bawlin an sweirin.

'Ah think he's intae a fish, John!' I cried. 'Ah'll gae up an see, an you follow ahint me in a couple o meenits.

Tryin no tae hurry, I got there juist in time tae see Puggie, up tae his wader-taps in the watter, wi the big rod bent dooble, layin intae a fish that wis threshin up an doun the puil. There wis nae playin o the fish, nae finesse at aa, as he poued it intae the bank, smertly gaffed it, an turnt tae come oot o the watter wi a wee six-pun baur o siller flappin on the gaff-pynt.

'This is it!' I thocht, as I ran forrit, 'We've got the bugger nou...!'

By this time he had the grilse on the grun wi his back tae me, sae I drew oot the wee leid-heidit 'priest' that I aye cairry wi me an cried: 'Here, ye can yaise this tae skelp it ower the heid!'

As he turnt roun tae tak haud o it, I wis able tae get a guid luik at whaur the fish had been heukt, an wis sair dumfounert for, by the maist awfy straik o ill-chance he had managed tae heuk this yin, the furst saumon we'd ever seen him catch, by the side o the mooth! Sae aa that wis left for puir John an mysel tae dae wis tae congratulate the bugger insteid o arrestin him!

Juist then Eck, wha had been watchin us frae ahint the Auld Mill, cam ower an flashed his Bailiff's Caird, giein no a flicker that he kent us.

'Aye, Puggie, is that you et it again?' he gruntit accusingly. 'Hae ye a ticket?'

Whit dae ye mean "et it again"?' cried Puggie, near lossin the heid. 'Ah heukt that fish fair an square, fishin the worm. Thae fellas there'll tell ye! Didn't Ah, freen? …..An there's ma bluidy ticket!' An he poued a grubby bit o paper oot his hip pooch wi a flourish o triumph.

'Aye, he heukt it by the mooth, we seen him,' I tellt Eck, giein a wee shrug o disappyntment ahint Puggie's back.

'An whae are youse?' Eck turnt on us. 'Ah've niver seen youse on the watter afore... hae ye got tickets?' We baith flasht oor bits o paper an Eck made a great play o examinin them.

'Aw, ye're frae Cumnock,' he grumpht. 'Weel, ye're no on the River Ayr nou, sae juist watch hou ye fish - an don't tak ony lessons frae that yin there!' Wi that he glowert at Puggie, turnt his back on us, an left.

'Ye've got tae watch that yin,' said Puggie, jerkin his thoum at the depairtin Eck. 'He's a byllie, an a bad bugger. He's had me pit aff hauf the streitches on the watter...say's Ah'm a howker!'

'Hou dae ye howk?' I speirt, kinda glaikit-like, an wi great protestations o his innocence in sic maitters, Puggie proceedit tae gie us chapter an verse on hou it wis dune, where it wis dune, an that the warst howkers on the watter were the byllies themsels, an that we suid luik oot for this yin an that yin.

But efter hauf-an-oor o these an ither revelations, he drappt his gaird an confided 'Mind ye, if there wis a big twal-pun saumon lyin in that hole the nou, Ah micht hae a wee go mysel at drawin thae heuks across its back! Wee heuks grup juist as weel as the big trebles but luik legal, an ye can aye say the worm has juist drappt aff if the byllies come alang!'

Wi that wee gem o information we pairtit the best o freens efter agreein that nane o the byllies kent their faithers!

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APA Style:

Dipper: 30 - 'Puggie'. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 21 May 2024, from

MLA Style:

"Dipper: 30 - 'Puggie'." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2024. Web. 21 May 2024.

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The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "Dipper: 30 - 'Puggie'," accessed 21 May 2024,

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


Information about Document 642

Dipper: 30 - 'Puggie'


Text audience

General public
Audience size 1000+

Text details

Method of composition Handwritten
Year of composition 1991
Word count 1346
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 75-77

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