After a road trip over 1,000 miles in distance which took over three days, including ventures to two UK airports, the voyages three protagonists arrived at their final destination. the diminutive (or wee as the locals would label it) village of Strachan in the north east of Scotland. Journey’s end location bestowing a cathartic peace, quiet and aesthetically beautiful rolling landscapes rarely witnessed in the travellers normal day to day existences.
Those protagonists, an Englishman, American woman and Canadian woman bearing the same surname who, along with a further ninety or so clan members, collectively answered a poetic calling from the ‘motherland’. Their aim to meet, greet and seek genealogical links; not to mention, seeking to unearth the meaning of words like teuchter, puckled and skelpit.
The latter unlikely to be utilised back home in Leeds, South Carolina or Toronto on their returns. However, for the trinity, still a sought after lesson into linguistic locutions employed by forefathers from east of the Grampian hills.
Rich and oft whimsical terms of Celt, Viking, Pict, Anglo influence, adopted into highland and lowland dialects through centuries of ever changing colloquialisms. Sayings and words clans/tribes utilised and updated to communicate among themselves and, perhaps deliberately, baffle outsiders. These terms/adages including:-
I’ll gie ye a skelpit lug! – I’ll give you a slap on the ear.
Whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye! – What’s meant to happen will happen.
Skinny Malinky Longlegs! – A tall thin person.
Lang may yer lum reek! – May you live long and stay well.
Black as the Earl of Hell’s Waistcoat! – Pitch black.
Mony a mickle maks a muckle! – Saving a small amount soon builds up to a large amount.
Keep the heid! – Stay calm, don’t get upset.
We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns! – We’re all God’s children, nobody is better than anybody else – we’re all equal.
Is the cat deid? – Has the cat died? Means your trousers are a bit short – like a flag flying at half mast.
The baw’s on the slates – Game over. In our younger days we played football in the street. If the ball landed on a roof, the game was over.
Haud yer wheesht! – Be quiet.
Noo jist haud on! – Now just hold it, slow down, take your time.
Hell slap it intae ye! – Means it’s your own fault.
I’m fair puckled! – I’m short of breath.
Gie it laldy. – Do something with gusto.
Ah dinnae ken. – I don’t know.
Haste Ye Back! – Farewell saying meaning “return soon”.
It’s a dreich day! – Said in reference to the weather, when it’s cold, damp and miserable.
Bearing a great fondness for these maxims of Scottish folklore, it’s with slight disappointment that thus far they’ve been conspicuous by the absence. Although this mild disenchantment has been tempered by having my photograph taken with a statue of Sunday Post cartoon strip character Oor Wullie outside Glasgow Botanical Gardens.
The wee bucket sitting scamp, credited with inspiring Leeds United manager Marcello Bielsa’s matchday seating experience, a childhood ‘hero’ of mine. Joining the likes of Plug, Dennis the Menace and Roy of the Rovers as cartoon role models…. Well maybe not Plug!
If we’d have had a car companion who’d utilised the above colloquialisms, they’d have no doubt described the weather on the final leg of the road trip as dreich.
At yesterday evening’s opening reception, with quite a few clan members towering over 6’5″ in height, you could also say the brood bore a number of malinky longlegs. Not that I’d call them that to their faces for fear of receiving a skelpit lug.
Anyhow, with the sky outside being as ‘Black as the Earl of Hell’s Waistcoat!’, the second day of Strachan clan gathering events (out of six) is coming to a conclusion. As I’m jeeked from all the driving I’m going to bring my first clan gathering narrative to a close.
Roll oan day three!