I can hardly believe that it’s that time of the year again – Burns Night that is. I’ll spare you the sight of my dinner this year, we’ll be having the less traditional vegetarian haggis, neeps (turnip) and tatties tonight. Not because we’re vegetarian but because it’s tastier than the offal/awful! version.
I thought it would be nicer to let you see some very old Scottish pottery, the sort which would have been recognised by Robert Burns when he was around and imbibing a fair quantity of whisky, which he seems to have been quite fond of.
As you can see, it’s fairly chunky stuff, the large bowls are called toddy bowls and they measure about 10 inches across the top of them so they can hold a lot of toddy in them. Toddy is of course a mixture of whisky, sugar and hot water, for me it’s the only possible way of enjoying whisky, but I haven’t had it since I was a child when my dad used to make it for me if I had a bad cold or toothache.
I took this photo to try to show you that they are also decorated inside. The jugs are actually two different designs but they’re quite similar as you can see. One design is for wine and it has vine leaves on it, whilst the beer jug is decorated with hop leaves and flowers. The pottery is at least 150 years old but this sort of pottery was made for a long time, it could be a lot older, and the bowls would originally have been sold in pairs, people used to have one at each end of a long table or sideboard. The small two handled pewter drinking vessel is a quaich, the ‘ch’ pronounced the same as in the word ‘loch’. It’s a reproduction one.
The top left hand toddy bowl has very large pine cones in it which make the bowl seem really small. My favourite bowl is the bottom left hand one, I love the design but it has been in the family since it was new which makes it more precious to me.
Have a listen if you want to hear David Rintoul reciting the Burns poem: -
Well, are you any the wiser? Burns didn’t write many short poems, I know that because I looked for one when I had to choose one to memorise for reciting at a Burns competition when I was at primary school. The town’s Burns Society held a competition every year and all schoolchildren had to take part in it. I ended up reciting this one.
“John Anderson my jo, John”
By Robert Burns
John Anderson my jo, John,
When we were first acquent,
Your locks were like the raven,
Your bonie brow was brent;
But now your brow is beld, John,
Your locks are like the snaw,
but blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson, my jo!
John Anderson my jo, John,
We clamb the hill thegither,
And monie a cantie day, John,
We’ve had wi’ ane anither;
Now we maun totter down, John,
And hand in hand we’ll go,
And sleep thegither at the foot,
John Anderson, my jo!
I didn’t win. Jack did win though, but he was in a different year from me and he recited To A Mouse. What did he win ? I hear you ask. A volume of the complete works of Robert Burns of course – he still has it.
At the moment I’m reading The Three Clerks by Anthony Trollope and he had a habit, in common with Dickens and other Victorian writers, of giving some of his characters comical or descriptive names, like Mr Gitemthruit. But it was the name Lord Gaberlunzie which struck me, because I realised from previous Trollope books which I’ve read that he had a good knowledge of Scotland and things Scottish and I’m wondering where he got all his information from, he must have had close Scottish friends of relatives.
A gaberlunzie was originally a licensed beggar but became used to mean just a beggar or even a vagrant. It’s one of those Scottish words which has a ‘z’ in it when it should really be a ‘yogh‘. So the correct pronunciation should probably be gaberlunyie.
If only poor Alaric Tudor in The Three Clerks had realised what Undy Scott’s family title meant then he would have been on his guard against him but then – there wouldn’t have been a story!
In the 1970s there was a folk group called Gaberlunzie. I found this clip of them on You Tube but I don’t know when it was filmed.
Joan and Peggy Ann were both wondering about the phrase ‘dree my own weird’ which appeared in the previous blogpost. It’s more likely to be pronounced ‘dree ma ain weird’ really but anyway, if you look up the word dree in the Oxford dictionary it’ll tell you that it’s a verb which is either archaic or Scottish and it means – to endure.
Weird is also in that dictionary and its meaning is – destiny or fate. So the whole thing means to submit to your destiny.
Nowadays people tend to use that phrase to mean that they will plough their own furrow, in other words – do their own thing, which is a slightly different meaning altogether.
It’s a very fatalistic view of things which could be peculiarly Scottish for all I know. We’re also very fond of saying – What’s for you will no’ go by ye. In other words – if it’s meant to be, it will be.
It stems from the belief that when you are born your whole future is already mapped out and nothing can change your destiny. For some people it’s a religious thing – it is a form of Calvinist predestination really; in Scotland it’s difficult to escape Calvinism – but people who follow astrology must have a similar outlook.
Have you ever wondered why so many Scottish names are pronounced entirely differently from how they look? Well in the case of words with a Y or a Z in them it’s quite simply because the letter of the alphabet which was originally used to spell it is now no longer in use because it’s archaic.
Think of the names Dalziel, Dalyell (both of which are pronounced Dee-ell).
Then there’s Culzean (Cull-ane)
The name MacKenzie comes originally from MacConnachie/MacKennie/MacKinney …
Then of course there’s Menzies which should be Ming-iss.
There are a lot more I’m sure but I can’t think of them at the moment. Anyway, you get the idea.
The letter of the alphabet which is no longer in use, and causes the confusion is yogh and you can read about it here in an article about Scottish handwriting.
Yogh looked like the letter z with an extra loop on the bottom, or sometimes like a 3 slightly below the line. I’m sure you’ll probably remember seeing it on old documents if you like perusing things like that.
I’m mentioning it because when we went to visit Culzean Castle recently the guide told us that he had no idea why it was pronounced Cull-ane, I suppose it was originally Cull-yane. Anyway, we enlightened him after the tour and he was going to add it to his explanations. I thought it was something which was commonly known, but maybe not.
It’s a frequently asked question – Where are you going for your holidays? – and the answer is quite often Hameldaeme. No it isn’t a picturesque village or a scenic area, it translates as home will do me – and it means that there’s no travelling involved in this year’s holiday as you’re staying at home.
Hameldaeme is a great place if you get some good weather too but I don’t think anywhere is enjoying that this year.
Hameldaeme – hame rhymes with tame, then there’s a short ‘l’ sound, dae rhymes with say, and the sound dae is where you put the emphasis, then finish it off with a quick me sound, more like mi really. Does that make sense?
Clype is a word which is often used by schoolchildren in quite a menacing way. At other times it’s used teasingly.
If you are accused of being a clype (it rhymes with type) it simply means that you’re being called a tell-tale, a grass, a sneak, that most despised of things – an informer.
At primary school every class seemed to have one of them, always a goody goody girl for some reason, who would shout: You’re aa-ported. Why did they always say aa-ported, when what they meant was – I’m going to report you to the teacher, for whatever small misdemeanour you had committed.
I well remember being aa-ported to the teacher for having my eyes open during the Lord’s Prayer!! Thankfully, Mrs Wilson told Jackie that she must have had her eyes open too.
Jackie of course was a clype, and we all told her so. No other words are required, just that one wee word which you can put plenty of feeling into as you say it.
Evee mentioned recently that she loved the Scottish word widdershins and I agreed with her, but I realised that I didn’t explain what it means, so here goes.
Widdershins or as it is sometimes written withershins is Scottish for anti-clockwise or counter-clockwise as some people say it. It’s sometimes used in astronomy as it literally means against the course of the sun.
Anything widdershins is deemed to be bad luck as witches were supposed to walk round their cauldrons that way, but we always go widdershins round the local park because it just doesn’t feel right going clockwise.
It was once used if you wanted to say that something is the opposite way of what is deemed to be normal, or as people tend to say nowadays – something which is counter-intuitive.
I had intended doing a book post tonight but if I want to get any actual reading done – which I do – it’ll just have to be a quick Scottish words post.
While I was painting the other day I had the TV on in the background, just for the company, if you can call it that. It was an old episode of the original Upstairs Downstairs and World War I was just about to be declared. Young men were worried that they might miss the whole ‘show’ if they didn’t join up.
Good old Mr Hudson, the Scottish butler was exasperated by everything and he said “Everything’s tapsalteerie today,” meaning everything’s upside down. I don’t know if it was because I was just listening to it but it came to me that the word must derive from topsail and so it originally meant that the topsail was at the bottom or certainly not where it should be on a ship if all is well.
Nobody else seems to have put this forward as a possibility of the derivation. What do you think? Do you have any other theories?
I was watching TV a couple of weeks ago and there was a programme on about Scottish words. They asked Jackie Stewart the 1960s/70s Formula 1 racing driver – and several times World Champion – what his favourite word was and he said jiggered. It’s a good long while since I heard anyone using the word and I have to say that it isn’t really one that you look forward to using. It describes something that is broken and an online dictionary says that jiggered is used in the place of a profanity or something rude.
I remember though that we used to say that we were jiggered when we were exhausted and for some reason I had it in my mind that it was used because jigging (dancing) was always so tiring. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever been to a Scottish country dance!
Anyway I had a look on You Tube to see if there was anyone using the word jiggered but couldn’t find anything, I did however see this video of women (and a man who shouldn’t have been there) ‘waulking’ tweed and singing in Gaelic. Do you remember way back in the 1960s BBC Scotland used things like this as fillers, except the women were wearing ordinary clothes? It passed for entertainment then. Then there’s a ceilidh band called Jiggered tacked onto it, they’re not bad though. They seem to have been at the Viking Festival in Largs.