My mother Anne is, and always has been, a great collector of minutiae, an enthusiastic photo taker and an exceptional note taker (oh yes, and a fine artist too) and I am particularly thankful that she’s always been that way. She has photos - old and new, newspaper cuttings from years gone by, copies of drawings and illustrations, and a list of handwritten notes about every subject under the sun. Amongst these great collections it’s always possible, and sometimes very likely, that there’s an occasional gem waiting to be discovered.
The following poem is one of those gems, and although she is unsure of where this came from it is something that has been stashed away in the family archives for many, many years. The poem was written by a Mr. R.A. Mackie in 1929 and is about the house at 43 Portlethen Village, where he used to stay at that time. This is also the house where I was brought up and where my parents still stay today. I should quickly add that the house has seen some changes over the intervening eighty years.
Ye Christian, savage, saint or hathen,
If fate should blaw you to Portlethen.
Tak my advice wha e’re you are,
And keek in at the auld Neuk Bar.
Poor Bisset’s in an unca plisky,
He daurna sell you wine or whisky.
But he can slake your drooth nae doot,
Wi sparkling ale or foaming stoot.
And when your guts is well expanded,
And reckoning paid, just what’s demanded.
Just step alang the toon tae view,
For toons like this there are but few.
And as ye stagger doon the street,
Lord sake be mindfu’ o’ yer feet.
Sharp stanes stick up like Satan’s horns
That fair play hell wi segs and corns.
The first hoose, fan ye’ve passed the well,
That stands sae proudly by itsell.
A wee peat stack behind it hidden,
And near this end the mussel midden.
A garden jist fornint the door,
Aince sic a pleasure to explore.
For ilka flo’or that could ye name,
Ye’d find it there baith wild and tame.
But lately a’ the different breeds,
Are smothered in a mass o’ weeds.
To gardener’s joints, now stiff and sair
To pooin weeds, will bend nae mair.
Seaton Cottage, it’s been named,
For which it needna be ashamed.
The south end has a timmer lum,
Doon which the wind does howel and hum.
The plings sit roon’t, a clamouring lot,
And shit doon in the porrage pot.
A Wooden shed, some like a stable,
Abuts against the northern gable.
There’s twa room in’t, as ye can see,
A coal house and a W.C.
Ye pick your way through lumps o’ coal,
Up to the seat wi the squar roon hole.
A pot lid stretched across its brink,
Keeps out the flees and in the stink.
Ye summon up y’er self control,
And stick y’er doup into the hole.
Then thole the tortures o’ the rack,
Wi forkies drappin’ doon y’er back.
Ye’ve nae protection frae the weather,
Much better ouside a’ the gither.
The hoosie merely claims the richt,
To keep y’er bare arse oot o’ sicht.
Some folk may think it rattlin sport,
But I’m aye glad to keep it short.
If you’ve got half an hour to spen,
The door’s aye open, just step ben.
Ye’ll find the cheerful wife nae doot,
Well smeeriched oer wi streaks o’ soot.
For ilka spot that you’ll see there,
Be sure she hasna said a prayer.
But vera soon y’er sicht will tell,
The soot is only on hersell.
For athing in the hoose is clean,
And shinin like a new made preen.
But since ye’ve got her crackin croose,
Just cast y’er eye aroon the hoose.
Ye’ll wonder if you’ve chanced to drop,
Into an Antiquarian shop.
Sic rows o’ bowls in colours bricht,
As ne’er before enriched your sicht.
Arranged in raws packed closs the gither,
One raw propped up apon anither.
And ilka bowl, she’ll proudly tell,
Is muckle aulder than hersell.
That bowl she uses for her meal,
Was purchased frae Terrence O’Neil,
It is the youngest bowl that’s there,
Fifty years old, or little mair.
This was bought frae drunken Peggy,
While that belonged to Auntie Meggie.
But this one here, I’m prood to say,
My grannie got her wedding day.
Now here’s a jug, shaped like an urn,
That Bruce drank frae at Bannockburn.
There’s one dish here I’d maist forgot,
The Witch o’ Endor’s chanty pot.
Nae matter foo I scrub and screeve it,
The fushty stink will never leave it.
That Mutchkin stoup now unca frail,
Peer Jonah found inside his whale.
That cup that’s noo sae drab and dark,
Was used by Noah in the ark.
They’ve a’ come doon in true succession,
To each succeeding generation.
Ye’ll scarce get in, I’ll bet a bob,
Fan Crookit-nibbie’s on the hob.
A crook let doon a line or twa,
A foggie peat broke down sae sma.
A planted roon the fire in stile,
To cox the kettle to the bile.
And then some little knots of coal,
Pushed into ilka lowin hole.
While during a’ this firey fussin,
The soot gets aye the ither cursin.
But now the table’s dictet doon,
And dishes planted roon and roon.
Oat cakes, loaf bread, bannocks, scones,
Till the auld table creeks and groans.
And still the crater tramps aboot,
Aye bringin mair provisions oot.
At length she stops in blank despair,
The table winna haud nae mair.
The fifth jam pot she canna pack,
So she’s compelled to put it back.
Still no ill-pleased she’s done so well,
She presses you to help yersell.
And if you would reward her care,
Be sure and sample a’ that’s there.
If you’re a kindly-hearted man,
And wish to bear a helping haun.
Be careful foo ye play y’er tricks,
In fetching peat or hackin sticks.
Or bringing water from the well,
Just mind foo ye conduct yersell.
Ye maun employ some artfull jookin,
An slip awas fan she’s nae lookin.
To help her always wounds her pride,
For help she never could abide.
Though more than four score years she’s seen,
And hard worked a’ her life has been.
She’s aye as lively mang her freens,
As though she’d only left her teens.
Her teeth are gane, that’s little maiter,
Her tongue gets room to wag the better.
Like her ye’ll never see anither,
My loved and much respeckit mither.