Sacred Texts  Legends and Sagas  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 21



OYS seem to fight at times for the fun of fighting, and it is not at all difficult to got up a fight at any time. One will say to his companion, "Jock, will ye faicht Tam?" "Aye, will a," is at once the answer. Away the fighter, with a few companions, sets out in search of Tam. Tam is soon found. "Eh, Jock says he'll try a faicht wee ye, Tam," cries out one of Jock's companions. "Will ye dee’t?" Another shouts out, "Eh, Tam, man, ye're fairt at Jock." "A'm nae fairt at Jock, nor at him an you athegither," is the indignant answer. "Come on, Jock," shout two or three voices. Jock and his opponent meet, and look each other in the face. A third steps in between the two, holds out his arm between them and says, "The best man spit our that." 1 Jock spits. Then all cry, "Follow yir spittle," and Jock rushes on his opponent, and the two fight till they are tired. Sometimes, when one wishes to get up a fight with a companion who does not wish to fight, he challenges him by striking him a blow, which is called the "coordie blow." If he does not accept the challenge he is set down as a coward, and all who see the blow struck cry out, "coordie, coordie."

It was always accounted cowardly for two boys to attack one, hence the saying:--

"Ane for ane may compare,
Bit twa for ane is raither sehr."

In starting on a race, or in doing anything that required a little space to do it, when the onlookers were pressing too near, the cry was, "Gie ’im Scots room," which seemed to mean

p. 22

about as much space as enabled him to toss both his -arms at full length around him.

In parts of Banffshire boys, on concluding a bargain, linked the little fingers of their right hands together, shook the hands with an up-and-down motion, and repeated the words:--

"Ring, ring the pottle bell;
Gehn ye brak the bargain,
Ye'll gang t’ hell."

This ceremony was called "ringing the pottle-bell," and to break a bargain, after being sealed in this fashion, was regarded as the height of wickedness.

The following was current about Fraserburgh:--

"Ring a bottle, ring a bell,
The first brae it ye cum till,
Ye'll fa’ doon an brack yer neck,
An that ’ill the bargain brack."

Here is another solemn formula of bargain-making. When the bargain was struck the one said to the other, "Will ye brak the bargain?" "No," was the answer. "Swear, than," said the first. Then came this oath:--

"As sure's death
Cut ma breath
Ten mile aneth the earth,
Fite man, black man
Burn me t’ death."

[paragraph continues] If the bargain was broken, the doom of the breaker was looked upon as sure, and with awe.

Here is a shorter formula:--

"As sure's death
Cut ma breath."

[paragraph continues] With these words the buyer and seller drew the forefinger across the throat.

It was a maxim in the code of honour that if one made a gift of anything to a companion it was not to be asked back. If such a thing was done the taunt was thrown at him--"Gie a thing, tack a thing, the ill-man's bonnie thing."

p. 23

The following are more explicit:--

"Tack a thing an gee a thing,
The aul’ man's goud ring.
Lie but, lie ben,
Lie amo’ the bleedy men."

[paragraph continues] And:--

"Tack a thing an gee a thing
Is the aul’ man's byename,
Row but, row ben,
Row amo’ the bleedy men."

Here is a shorter version:--

"Lie but, lie ben,
Lie amo’ the bleedy men."

To act the informer was and still is looked upon as something very mean and cowardly, and one who was guilty of such all action led no pleasant life among his companions. Whenever he appeared for a time after giving the information he was hailed with the words:--

"Clash-pyot, clash-pyot,
Sits in the tree.
Ding doon aipples
Ane, twa, three;
Ane for the lady,
An ane for the laird,
An ane for the clash-pyot
It sits in the tree."

One convicted of lying was received among his fellows with the words of welcome:--

"Leearie, leearie, licht the lamps,
Lang legs and crookit shanks;
Hang the leearie o’er a tree,
That ’ill gar the leearie never lee."

[paragraph continues] This shorter form was repeated again and again:--

"Leearie, leearie, lick stick."

If a boy or girl wished to get a share of any bit of sweetmeat or fruit from a companion, the eyes were shut, the hand was held out, and the words were repeated:

p. 24

"Fill a pottie, fill a pannie,
Fill a blin’ man's hannie.

When one boy or girl made a present of "sweeties," lozenges, or such like, to another, if only one or two were given, the following words were repeated:--

"Ane ’s nane,
Twa ’s some,
Three's a birn,
Four's a horse laid."

A boy, when he finds anything that has been lost, cries out, "The thing it's fun's free," and, if he has a companion, he cries out "Halfs." It is considered that, unless the two cries are uttered almost at once, the boy who first speaks is entitled to the whole of the found property.


21:1 Cf. Henderson, p. 32.

Next: Chapter VI. About the Human Body