Friday, 18 May 2018
#52 Ancestors in 52 Days. Week 20: Another Language.
Week 20: Another Language
The first time I heard my father on the telephone - I thought he was speaking a different language. I would have been about 11 years old so Dad would have been about 53. He had been in Australia for 45 years, having come out from Scotland with his family in 1912, however he sounded as if he had just stepped off the ship.
Talking to him person to person I didn’t notice his accent (although others did comment on it). But when I answered the phone to his call - I didn’t know who this man was.
The ship the Pearce family travelled on - ‘SS Demosthenes’.
Her maiden voyage from London to Melbourne via Cape of Good Hope in 1912 was made in 36 days. (photo in family possession)
Dad kept his accent all his days and he died in 1982, aged 78.
He had many little Scottish phrases that we children still remember.
When we were little he called us ‘Bonnie wee lassies” and he used to get us to say: ’t’s a braw bricht minlicht nicht the nicht, Mrs Wricht’ meaning: It’s a brilliant bright moonlight night tonight, Mrs Wright. Then he would laugh at our efforts. Another saying I remember was:
“Ah dinnae ken, Ah’m sure” meaning I really don’t know.
And he loved to say Rabbie Burn’s Selkirk Grace before dinner:
‘Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be Thankit!’
My father holding me when I was about 3yo, and Dad about 45yo in 1949, at our extended family picnic spot, Keadys Bridge near Euroa, Vic. (Family photo)
Dad also recited the poem: ’To a Mouse’ at family gatherings and: 'Address to a Haggis' on Burns Night.
‘To a Mouse’
(On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough,
Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murdering pattle!
I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave
'S a sma' requet;
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't!
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
Its silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's win's ensuing,
Baith snell an' keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste,
An' weary Winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.
That wee bit heap o' leaves and stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the Winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld!
But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o' Mice an' Men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I cannot see,
I guess an' fear!
'Address to a Haggis'
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang 's my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see Rustic-labour dight,
An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whissle;
An’ legs, an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o' thrissle.
Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!
(from The Canongate Burns: the complete poems and songs of Robert Burns (Canongate, 2001). First printed in The Caledonian Mercury in 1786)