Monday, 5 December 2016

Sixteen Old Scottish Anecdotes from St. Andrews

Sixteen Old Scottish Anecdotes from St. Andrews

Collected from family, friends & the great and the good of St. Andrews
Mabel Margaret Boase (born 1871)

The Pedigree

A Fife farmer required a very good cow for breeding and went up to one of the Perth sales and bought a cow he thought would do — in any case, he paid a hefty price for it.

The cow arrived at his farm at night, and in the dark he was unable to confirm his opinion of her. He got up very early in the morning thinking, like most farmers, that if he saw her in his own byre he would know exactly how good she was.

When he arrived there he found his cattleman, straw in mouth, leaning on the stall regarding the cow.

“Mornin’ John, what do you think of the coo?” he asked.

No reply. He tried again:

“I paid a long price for that coo in Perth yesterday.”

Still no reply. A third time he tried:

“I think she should do, John, as she has a long pedigree.”

John spoke:

“I’m glad, sir, to hear about that pedigree — I’ve never seen a poor beast that needed it mair.”
Dr. McC

Rorie the Dog

Donald belonged to Salen in Mull and had never been out of the island. At last he made a momentous journey — he travelled as far as Glasgow.

On his return his friends gathered round him to hear of his adventures, and one asked him:

“And what might be the most wonderful thing you saw, Donal’?”

After a pause Donald said:

“It would be the telegraph.”

“And what might the telegraph be?”

“Well, you see Rorie the dog there?”

“We do.”

“Supposing then that Rorie was stretched out and stretched out, until she was three yards long…”

“But that would be a very long dog Donal’.”

“Ah, but that would not be a long enough dog. Supposing now that Rorie the dog was stretched out, and stretched out, until her tail was here, and her head at the top of the Hill…”

“But that would be a terrible long dog, Donal’.”

“Ah, but that would not be the right length of dog. Now supposing that Rorie the dog was stretched out, and stretched out, until her tail was here and her head was in Tobermory…”

“But that would be a preposterous long dog, Donal’.”

“Ah! but that would be the right length of dog, and if I was to tread on her tail here, and she was to bark in Tobermory, that would be the telegraph!”[1]
Dr. McC

The Spoilt Subaltern

A young subaltern[2] was walking down Bond Street one day with the late Captain Wilson when it suddenly began to rain and he had no umbrella.

He went into a very smart shop, chose a most expensive umbrella, unfurled it, and quietly walked out.

An agitated shopman rushed after him down the street and said, “Pardon me, sir, is this on account?”

“Yes,” replied the subaltern, “it’s on account of the weather.”

The Epicure

A Scotsman came across some men on the Solway packing large quantities of eels into wooden boxes. He asked where they were being sent and was told “England”.

“Whatever for? is it oil or manure?”

“Oh! No. They eat them down there.”

“Good gracious!”

“The Epicures you know.”

“And whatever is an Epicure?”

“Oh! an Epicure is a body that will eat anything.”

Hard Work

A cousin of mine and I were fishing in a loch among the Border hills, his forester acting as boatman.

The forester was a big red bearded man and an elder in the Kirk.

We had drifted down to the bottom of the loch and told him to row us up to the top again. There was a strong wind blowing against us and it was hard for the forester to pull against it in the clumsy old cobble. This he soon found out, and spoke as follows:

“If the Disciples,” tug, tug, “fishing in the sea of Gallilee” tug, tug “found it as hard work as this,” tug, tug, tug, “it’s a little wonder tae me,” tug, tug “that they droppit the fishin’ ” tug, tug, “and took tae the preachin’.”

The Careful Woman

My Brother was travelling up on the line to Crieff to fish the Earn, and at one of the little stations beyond Perth a big farmer got into the carriage, and said if my Brother had no objections he would eat his lunch.

He produced some neatly made-up sandwiches, remarking: “A very careful woman, my wife.”

A few minutes later he took out from his waistcoat pocket a tiny flask, again remarking: “A careful woman, my wife, she aye minds to gie me this,” holding it up.

Some two or three minutes later he delved into his hip pocket, and produced an enormous flask holding fully a bottle — remarking, “But I aye mind to bring this mysel’.” —

The Shepherd

On a day of wet driving misty rain on the hills up the Ettrick Valley in Selkirkshire, I met an old Shepherd and stopped to have a crack with him.

On parting, he remarked: “A see Sir, ye dinna heed the weet, oot on a day like this wi’ nothing but yer jaiket on.”

I replied, “These mackintosh coats make one so hot, I’d rather get wet and change when I get in.”

“A jist think the same Sir,” he said, “For ma pairt a’d raither get weet wi’ weet than weet wi’ sweet.”
Dr. A

The Recruit

A new recruit joined up at Perth. A few days later he was looking very poorly, and his “pals” persuaded him to report to the Medical Officer. He did so reluctantly and the following conversation took place:

“You don’t look too good my man — what is it?”

“I’m feeling just rotten, Sir.”

“Well, let us begin at the beginning,” offered the medical officer wearily, “what about your bowels?”

“My bowels, Sir? I’m just new joined up and they havna been issued to me yet.”

“Oh my goodness! Well, let us try it another way — are you constipated?”

“No Sir — I’m a volunteer, I came of my own free will.”

“Good gracious man! Do you not know the King’s English?”

“Is he, Sir?”
Col. W

Fife Stories

That future generations may know what manner of men we were —

A cynic has said: it is not necessary to build any mental asylums in Fife, all you have to do is to build a wall around it.

Old Tom

Drawing: Old Tom Morris by Allan MacFie
No book on St. Andrews would be complete without some allusion to Tom Morris.[3]

‘Old Tom’ was a great Churchman, a great gentleman and a great golfer. An Englishman once came all the way up to St Andrews to play golf and complained to Old Tom that the courses were closed and he could not play on Sunday.

Tom gravely addressed him: “I don’t hold with[4] golf on the Sabbath mysel’, and I don’t know if you, Sir, need a rest on the Sabbath, but I’m very sure the old course does.”

Mr. MacFie

Photo: Allan MacFie
Mr. MacFie when young had a bad fall from a horse in Australia, and was ever afterwards stone deaf. He became a great expert at lip-reading, but often naughtily took advantage of his deafness.

There was one fellow-member of the Golf Club who, while dressing well, invariably wore loudish tweeds. On one occasion, he appeared in a new suit of a quite startling pattern.

Mr. MacFie waited until there were several members present and then went up to him, and in his attractive staccato stammer, said — pointing to the coat —

“Where-where-where did you get that?”

“Mason & Searle,” said the self-conscious man —

“Where, do you say?”

“Mason & Searle” he replied, still louder.

“Oh! Made it yourself — did you — I thought so,” said MacFie.

The Nurse

A nurse was wheeling a very bonny child in a pram along the Scores in St. Andrews.[5]

A lady met her and duly admired the child, and then said, “I wonder what he will be when he grows up? ….. possibly a Professor”.

In her indignation, the nurse lapsed into the broadest vernacular:

“A Professor!!

Nae fear

Ane o’ thae fousty Professors!![6]

No likely —

Forbye, oor Johnnie has got brains.”
Mrs. P

The Governess

A St. Andrews Governess was most anxious that her little charges should turn out perfect little Ladies and Gentlemen.

One very hot day a small girl was out on a walk with her and complained that she “felt very sweaty”. The horrified Governess reproved her, saying:

“My dear, you must never use a word like that; always remember that Horses sweat, Gentlemen perspire, but Ladies are all of a glow.”

A St. Andrews Tailor

A lady ventured to criticise mildly a coat and skirt made by the local tailor.

The reply came with withering scorn:

“It goes in where it should, and it comes out where it should, what more would you have!”

Hallowed be thy Name

Two children named Harold and Muriel were in the habit of saying their prayers at their Mother’s knee. One night Muriel prayed:

Our Father who art in Heaven, Muriel be Thy name.”

Her Mother stopped her and asked what she meant by putting her name in the Lord’s Prayer.

“I am just tired Mother of saying ‘Harold’ every night.”

Yearning for Learning

Late on a Saturday evening a parishioner was ushered into the Manse study where the Minister was preparing his discourse for the following day. A glance sufficed to show the clergyman that his visitor had been ‘celebrating’. Nonetheless, he asked:

“Well, John, what can I do for you?”

“I was terrible interested in yon sermon of yours last Sabbath about Pretidestination, but I didn’t quite get the hang of it, and I lookit in for you to explain it.”

“Well, John” the Minister replied, “Predestination is a very difficult thing to explain, but if you come back some night when you’re sober, then I’ll tell you a bit about it.”

The man retorted, “Man, Minister, when I’m sober I dinna give a damn aboot it.”

[1] It is phenomenal to think how the telegraph encircled the whole globe by 1902.
[2] A subaltern is a junior officer.
[3] Old Tom Morris (1821-1908) was a famous Scottish golfer from St. Andrews, and father of Young Tom Morris, four times Open Champion and youngest winner of a major in golf history who died at 24.
[4] To “hold with” means to believe in.
[5] The Scores is a street in St. Andrews along the seafront.
[6] Like the English “fusty”, from the Old French for “wood”, this means musty, stuffy or old-fashioned.

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