By Gone Days in Auld Kirkcoobrie – By John Graham.
Galloway News, Nov. 1962
These old verses were found among the papers of the late Thomas Palmer, Linnbank, Tongland, who died about a year ago. The author is unknown., but it is assumed he was a male. In nostalgic mood he has recalled the names of persons – of all classes – known to him, and the period covered is the last three decades of the nineteenth century, and probably the first decade of the twentieth century. Two clues the author has given us – (1) that he spent his boyhood days in the Milnburn part of the old Burgh of Kirkcoobrie, and (2) that the verses were composed after the year 1917, for it was in that year that Ex-Provost McEwan – mentioned in one of the verses – died.
The writer of this introductory paragraph, and the notes, considers that the verses aught to be preserved, and the best way to do so is to have them printed in the local Press. Their merit lies mainly in the author’s description of the individuals recalled to mind. Some of these persons were known to the writer, others he had heard about, and others again were identified by natives of the burgh still living in the town. In the case of each known person, notes have been compiled, and it is hoped that readers will be able to follow these notes, and find them interesting. – John Graham.
In retrospective reverie my thochts are backward cast,
I fin’ mysel’ a dreamin’ o’ the memories o’ the past,
In panoramic order I see passin’ to and fro,
Events, and scenes and people o’ days o’ long ago.
I see as in a cinema, projected on a screen,
A wheen auld timers that I ken’d wha leeved in Whiskey Jean,
I’ll name them a’ as they appear in fancy to my gaze,
And introduce to you some worthies o’ the by-gone days.
There’s auld Tamson (the Bellman) who’d cry ocht ye had to sell,
And there’s auld Peter Haffie, Wullie Graham , and Lattie Bell ,
And this auld Man aye made me flyed, when I was but a wean,
Joe Summers in his lang crooned hat, Joe liked a duddie bane.
And there’s auld Betty Falress born in Ireland near the bogs,
Possessor o’ a Cuddy that (’twas said) wore wooden clogs,
The cuddy pined awa an de’ed, Bet’s grief was sad tae see,
They buried it deep in the sand, beside the River Dee.
There’s Barney Graham, a wee shop kept doon in St Mary’s Street,
Sell’d Tea and Sugar, Bread and Cheese, and ither things tae eat,
He had a Horse, a Coo as weel, his sicht was bad and so,
Instead o’ harnessin’ the Horse he saddled up the Coo.
In fastenin’ the bellyban’ which seemed a trifle ticht,
He felt the auld coo’s euder and jaloosed things werena’ richt,
He then took up the collar, that the horse’s neck adorns,
And tried tae pit it on the Coo, but culdna’ for the horns.
And there’s auld Margaret Douglas, I hae min’ she used to sell,
Rope, soda scones and sweeties, and a mangle kept as well,
A candle on the coonter burned, each nicht, and for a lark,
Us boys slipped in and blaw’d it oot, and left her in the dark.
And there is auld Wull Jolly, I hae min’ o’ him richt weel,
He used tae hae a Butcher’s shop, sell’d Mutton, Beef and Veal,
The very finest quality was a’ he had for sale,
Besides he kept a dram-shop, sellin’ spirits, wine and ale.
Hello! There’s fat Dick Tyson, he is very guid tae tell,
He was the portly landlord o’ the Commercial Hotel,
When he cam roon a corner, I’m tellin’ what’s true,
His kite was seen lang ere the rest o’ him appeared in view.
And there’s auld John McKenzie, very learn’d I suppose,
He wrote lang letters tae the press, and signed them “Corny Toes”
And whiles (through Hypochondria) he suffered mair or less,
And darna’ sit, because he thoucht his hinder pairt was gless.
The next I see is Dr Shand, who leeved in Oakley Hoose,
He doctored every ailment frae Lumbago tae The Blues,
His coachman (Andrew Phillips) used to drive him up an’ doon,
Tae patients in the country, whiles a lang road oot o’ toon.
He held the Queen’s Commission in the local Volunteers,
And creditably did up-haud its dignity for years,
When mounted on his Charger, in full uniform sae grand,
The Volunteer Artillery were prood o’ Captain Shand.
And there’s Geordie Conchie, a queer auld stick was he,
He leev’d wi’ a’ his family, doon in the Tanneree,
He used tae licht the lamps at nicht, as weel as pit them oot,
Dug graves, and buried a’ the deid; a handy man nae doot.
There’s auld John Seggie, I declare, a Blacksmith bold was he,
He wanna like George Washington (wha couldnae tell a lee)
‘Twas said he did exaggerate, the yairns he used tae spin,
A bigger leear (it was said) wad be gie hard tae fin’.
And there’s auld Mrs Cairns wha in the Millburn kept a shop,
When we were weans, and ha’apneys got, for sweeties in we’d pop,
And there’s Bell Black wha’ served us aye, when we went in tae buy,
Some Bull’s Eyes or some Alocreash, in happy days gone by.
And also Donald Macgreggor kept a shop and used tae sell,
some lovely tasted toffee, made by Mrs Mac hersel’.
There’s Wullie Broon (the Baker), near the Cross in auld High Street,
Wha sell’d the finest cookies ony yin could wish to eat.
And there’s auld Broon (the cooper), though a cripple a’ his days,
Made wash-tubs oot o’ barrels, for tae wash folks dirty claes,
There’s auld Coul, the wood-turner, he’d his workshop doon a close,
And ‘mang the things he turned oot there was moosetraps by the gross.
There’s Father D McCartney, the Venerable beid,
O’ the R.C. persuasion, they’d their chaple near Craik Heid.
And there’s Miss Whitlock, the first schule mistress they had and she
Turned oot some clever scholars frae the schule o’ the R.C.
There’s auld Claw Halliday, who leeved retired in the Millburn,
And John Turner of the rope-walk, wha’s wheel I oft did turn,
There’s Johnie Coltart tae, wha managed the Ferry Boat
And auld John Beattie (fisherman) who salmon catched a lot.
And there is Wullie Neillie wha broke stanes tae mend the road,
And Logan, the heid gamekeeper, Great Cross was his abode.
There’s John Wilson (the turnkey) who locked prisoners in the jile,
And served them wi’ their skilley in a grim despotic style.
And there’s a maister tiler o’ St Mary Street named Brew,
And Johnny Grant o’ High Millburn; wha French could parlevoo,
And there’s McLaren, the schulemaister o’ Johnstone’s auld Free Scule,
Wha lads and lassies did attend frae January to Yule.
There’s Williamson o’ Mansefield (like Lord Nelson) had ae ‘ee,
There’s Johnstone tae, o’ Lansdoon, and McKie o’ Anchorlee,
And there’s auld Wullie Guthrie, a joiner guid was he,
Wha leeved in his ain cottage, close beside the Tanneree.
And there is Fergie Cochrane, and his buxom sister Jean,
They tried tae sell us berries that were ripe (baith red and green),
And aiples, plooms and pears they’d sell tae every passer-by,
Or ither fruit in season that their orchards did suppy.
There’s David Craig, the draper, dressed in Frock-coat and Lum-hat,
He aye had an umbrella, be the weather dry or wat,
He was the noble Captain o’ the Rifle Volunteers,
As Baillie and as Councillor he served the town for years.
There’s auld Basil McKenzie, wha brocht vessels up the Dee,
He piloted them till they were safely berthed within the quay.
A better skipper never on board tae sail the seas,
Than Basil in command o’ the auld life-boat Helen Lees.
There’s also William Barr wha kept a shop for mony a year,
Supplying guid provisions tae the public far and near,
His shop was in St Mary St mair years than I can tell,
And no far frae the corner o’ the Commercial Hotel.
There’s Finlayson (the grocer) he’d the post office combined,
Received and dispatched letters and sell’d stamps o’ every kind,
And there is Mr Hooliston wha leeved in the same street,
Made Men’s and Women’s buits and shoon tae fit a’ kinds o’ feet.
An there’s John Bell o’ High Street, he’d a versatile career,
A’ time he was a grocer, ither times an auctioneer,
There’s Thomas Whitewright (druggist) quite at hame among the pills,
And auld Doggie McKenziewho supplied baith pints and gills.
And there’s John Clacherty, a sailor bold, when in his prime,
Declared he’d often visited some distant foreign clime,
When cruisin’ in the foreign north, a bear louped on the deck,
And John declared he killed it wi’ ae bat wi’ a wat sock.
And there’s auld Baggie Hannahwi’ a belly like a drum,
The puir folks o’ the pairish for relief tae him did come,
And mony a guid fat rabbit he gaed oot tae folks in need,
And served frae the soup kitchen halesome broth and loaves o’ bread.
He had a shop in High Street near the Selkirk Airms Hotel,
And traded as a saddler, weel made harness he did sell,
He’d aye a kindly heart for a’ by poverty opprest,
I’m sure Hannah the saddler was ane o’ the very best.
And Nicholsonthe printer a gey literary chiel,
His shop it was in High Street, I remember it quite weel,
A paper wi’ the local news, adverts, crisp jokes and rymes,
He printed there and published, it was ca’ed the Stewartry Times.
And there is Mr Underwood, a reverend divine,
His sermons and discourses were considered very fine,
He preached the gospel never seeking flattery or fame,
Atkinson Place Alms Hooses, stand in memory of his name.
And there’s as nice a gentleman as ane could wish tae see,
The Reverend Macmillan – a venerable D.D.
A gentle shepherd o’ his flock, wha did nae duty shirk,
Was he, Dr Macmillan o’ Kirkcudbrie’s Auld Free Kirk.
And there is Peter Broom (a micht as weel juist mention here)
He was the Sheriff’s officer, forbye an Auctioneer,
By public roup he’d sell yer chattels auld or up to date,
And if ye didna pay yer debts he wad Hypothecate.
There’s Samuel Caven Esquire of aristocratic rank,
The chief o’ the Kirkbubrie Branch o’ the Commercial Bank,
A weel respected gentleman and magistrate was he,
And provost when they opened the auld brig across the Dee.
And there’s two ironmongers Adam Muirand Wullie Payne,
Tam Middleton, the dyker o’ Millburn and Adam Rain,
And there is auld Mick Tosney, wha leeved up the Shillin’ Hill
And auld Miller Braidfit tae, wha worked the Auld Corn Mill.
And auld Robin Gray wha was in Ayrshire born and bred,
The lads oft basked beside his fire doon in the engine shed,
There’s Stewart the gaird, wha travelled Glasgow and South Western Line,
And Hunter tae, his man at the coal staith – I kent him fine.
There’s auld John Gibb, the shoemaker, guid buitshe used tae sell,
And Johnny Craith (his journeyman) wha rang the Tolbooth Bell,
And John Ritchie the tiler wha leev’d further doon the street,
And Tam Dickie (the grocer) wha sell’d ocht ye’d want tae eat.
There was auld Peter Comeline, a man we a’ did ken,
He had a horse and lorry, and leev’d at the Toon En’,
The goods that cam’ by railway, he delivered up and doon,
A decenter auld chap ye couldna’ fin’ in a’ the toon.
And there’s an honoured gentleman, wha’s memory I revere,
The principles that he did preach, he practiced without fear,
His influence still leeves wi’ us, although his spirit’s flown,
I raise my hat in reverence to yer memory Will McEwan.
And there’s Jamie Keilan (the toon’s scavenger I mean)
Alang wi’ auld deaf Palmer, kept our streets and places clean,
And there’s Tam Shairp, the fiddler, wha oft fiddled a’ nicht through,
At kirns and country waddins where they danced till a’ was blue.
And there’s a puir auld cratur gey ill-clad wi’ worn-out shoon,
She wi’ her basket used to hawk – Unfortunate Jean King,
And there’s auld Johnny Sinclair, a non-compos frien’ o’ a’,
He’d for a penny say a prayer, or scraigh just like a craw.
There’s Geddes the Coo-doctor and Tam Campbell tae (the Vet),
And Jamie Farrel, who soopit lums and leev’d in auld High Street,
And there’s Hugh Walker wha possessed a cabinet makers shop,
The shop it was in Castle Street, right at the very top.
And Archie Millar wha was schulemaister in the Toon-end,
A first rate teacher, but he lost his temper noo and then,
If scholars, werena’ diligent, then Archie he got riled,
Believed in the auld sayin’ Spare the rod and spoil the child.
And noo the last but no’ the least permit me here to tell,
That this auld honoured gentleman is Lord Selkirk himsel’,
He married very late in life and issue he had nane,
An’ so at his decease, the honoured title it has gane.
Mair auld Kirkcoobrie worthies could be shown had I the time,
But here maun end the show, and I will noo conclude my rhyme,
These worthies a’ noo peacefully sleep beneath the clay,
Hae nae doot dune their bit tae benefit posterity.
So it behoves us ane and a’ tae dae oor very best
Tae make the world better, e’er we take out our final rest,
Though Fate’s decreed my lot tae be in ither regions cast,
My thochts are o’ Kirkcubrie, and the memories o’ the past.