A Peep Into an Orkney Township in the Olden Time (Part II)

By John Spence

Old Lore Miscellany volume 5, 1912, page 67-72

Bit I’se tell de aboot some more o’ tha Hillside fok. Georgie Mouat, at baed i Evrabist lang syne – he was a sun o’ Tam Mouat at deed oot alonks da Harray hill dyke coman fae the ald toon o Kirkwa (mony a ane deed oot i that daes!) he was a naful strong man tue, he hed a heather casie at wad haud a half-barrel o’ tattas, an dat casie never gaed in fu’ bit apae Geordie’s back! Aince he was at da shop o’ Helyascart i da parisan o’ Evie. He was buyan iran girds, an’ Helyascart was luikan for his hammer an’ anval tae cut aff his piece o’ gird, when Geordie juist said, “Shaw me see hid!” An’ he juist crammood hid taegither wi his teeth, an’ than rave hid sindry wae his nieves! Bit, wi’ a’ his strent, Geordie’s tings aboot da hoose gaed avildroo apae him. Auld Minnie, at was his wife, wad set da peerie cheelders doon wi’ tha butter at sud ha gaen tae pay tha butter-debt. Geordie wad say tae her, “Lass, lass, that’ll no do ava,” bit shu wad say tae him, “Pity thee wit, Bruicie (at was da factor) ‘ill never fash thee for a ting.” Bit bruice buist hae his rent, sae Geordie was rooped oot, and dey a’ gaed tae a peece dey caed Nova Scotia. Geordie was aboot auchty year ald; an’ da sailers on da ship he gaed wae said “What’s da ald man coman wae his for; if he dees wi’ his we’ll heave him owerboard.” Bit he lived a hantle o’ years efter dat. Hid was no a’ misguiding aither at bruk him, for hid was puir yearin’ an’ cauld snawy winter at meed his kye geong apae liftin’, and hape o’ them deed o’ want i tha vore-time. An’, thu sees, ap amang tha hills is aye caulder or laigher doon, an’ dere’s snaw i tha Hillside whin thu’ll see hid in nae ither peece sep on da tap o’ tha Hoy hills. I kinna if hid was i tha Hillside or no at hid happened ae terrible winter at dae cat was fund ae morning freezed tae the raking peats. If dats no a lee hids vera lee like! Dere may be some more truith i anither story da ald folk dere uised tae tell. Hid was aboot a man at ferly lost huip at da snaw was ever tae geong awa ae year ava. So he pat da kill-trees an’ strae apae da killace, an’ was tae dry his seed-aits. Whin lo an’ behowld he saw tree draps fain’ fae da oder or da easins so he pat no a ingle tae her. An dan da tow cam an’ a bonnie brail o sun, an he haed a faigh crap efter a’. Efter Geordie Mouat was rouped out, a sib freend o’ his ain got da hoose an’ ferm. He was Spence tae name; an’ ald Jeemie Millar said at da time, “Da Spences ar gaun tae Evrabist again; hid never dood guid fae they left hid!” Thu sees dey haed been i hid hunders o’ years afore. Hooanever dey war no i hid juist afore Geodie Mouat; dey caed him at was i hid afore Geordie, Mansie Johnston. Dere’s been a hantle o’ Johnstons i Birsay ato’ there war no sae mony o’ that neem as Spence. Hid’s da commonest name bae far i Birsay, bit da Johnstons an’ da Sinclairs coont maist i’ tha haill o’ Ortna. Weel dis Mansie Johnston was a vera lightsome bodie, an’ he aye gaed stravaigan aboot wharever hid was a rant or anything o’ that kind, an’ left sarvants tae luik efter da ferm. An’ so, lak him at cam efter him, he gaed tae wirrack i hid, an’ a’ his gear was sowld. Efter dat he lived i a chammer at Evrabist. An’ he wad still travel aboot as he was wint tae do. An’ he wad come back wi’ a lok o’ wheer stories at he haed heard. Aince he cam fae Rendall or Firt-side wi’ a droll story aboot a man at deed i Horraldshay i Firt. Bit he buist tae been i a kind o’ dwam, for whin ae dae folk war sittan round da fire keepan his leek-waak, ap he got wi’ a gouster apae them, sain, “There’s been mony a black night aboot da hoose o’ Horraldshay, an’ dere’s be wan dis night!”

Mansie haed ae dowter, an’ shu was as bonnie a lass as could luk tae tha sun. Shu was no tae ca’ hallity, but ae Lammas Market shu was dancin’ on da Market Green wi’ ithers. A’m no shure if dey war no bare-feeted, for dere war warmer summers dan or nooadays. Min, auld Willy Flett telt me at whin he was a peerie boy, he was aince gaun by dae fairm o’ Stanger an’ he saw a man wirkan wae his baes’ at da bere tilt wi’ naething on bit his drawers, for da heat! Bit aboot Mansie Johnston’s lass. Shu owerhaeted hersel dancin’ an dan shu tuik da long road fae Kirkwa on a horse ahaint her Lammas brither. Weel, puir lass, da cauld gaed ap trow her on da road hame i tha e’enin’. Shu was never weel again, an’ shu deed short efter o’ a gallopan decline.

Shu was a sair loss tae puir Mansie. An’ a body wad towt at her brither, for shu juist haed ae brither — Mansie haed bit de twa o’ them – if he haed been spared to help his faither i his aeld daes hid wad been weel. Bit da weys o’ Providence is past findin’ oot. Weel dan, tae mak a lang story short, Mansie’s son was a geskaful’ bit a boy, an’ he turned oot a grand scholard. An’ efter a bit he was dar skulemester i the Hillside.

Da peece whar his skool was was at da gue benaith Lobaday – I ken da bit yet ato’ hid’s a’ plew’d oot noo. He was presenter i tha ald Kirk i Evie tae. Shu stude i tha kirk-yaird than, an’ shu was tekkid wi’ heather. An’ he dood weel for a while. Bit, belyve, fok noticed at he was no his uswal; an’ dere seem’d tae be a graet longer on him, an’ he begood tae wander aboot. Till da dae cam at he gaed oot an’ never cam back. Dey serched for him heigh an’ leigh. Till ae night his faither haed a wunnerfil drame. In his drame he saw him lyin’ faddoms deep oot aff da Evie shoar. Da ither morning his faither saw his twa aunties comin’ alonks da hill-dyke for da wast gue o’ Evrabist. An atween dem baith he saw his son coman’ wi’ them for da house as perquier as dae. Hid was his gonfer, for when he met dem dere was juist de twa weeman. When he cam tae them he axed dem if he wasna fund yet. An da weeman said “No.” “Never will dan,” he said. So he telt dem aboot his drame, an’ dey a’ whet seekin’ him. And he was never seen again.

Bit bide you! Hid wasna his faither at haed da drame, bit a neebor man, Manse Spence o’ Skelday. An’ in his drame he saw Johnston, an’ quallefeed him why he was bidin’ awa fae his faither an’ haadan a tha folk luikan for him. Johnston said naething tae tat, bit telt him at dey wad find his body aff da Evie shoar. Manse telt his drame, an’ da folk whet seekin. Lang efter a antawheerian chield, I tink he was Farrer tae name, was gaen a’ trow Ortna hakkan i tha knowes, an’ he tried tha Knowe o’ Burgar i tha parison o’ Evie tue. An’ he fand a man’s body at he was shure cudna be ane o’ the auncient Picks for hid was sae fresh. Yet naebody aroond kent o’ anybody bean buried dere i tha memory o’ man. Bit some minded on aboot a story o’ a Rousay man at was on his deithbed, and cudna dee till he had confessed something he haed done lang afore. He haed been i Evie an’ was gaen alonks da shoar whin he cam apae a man’s body i tha ebb. He searched da pooches an’ he fand a watch an’ five pounds o’ money. Sae he towt at he wad cunjer da money an’ da watch an’ naebody wad ever be tha wiser. An’ he buried the body at da Knowe o’ Burgar. An’ that’s da story o’ young Johnston, da Hillside skulemester.

Mebbe thu wad like tae hear o’ anither Johnston, at baed, no i the Hillside bit i Waskra i tha toon o Swanna? Bit hids latt an’ time tae stick da rakin’ peats i tha aamers. Tha night’s mother’d tue, tha wind’s doon, an’ tha wather’s dillan, if fok was fae hooses day wad travel. Guid track dee wey, gude fallow! Ta-ta.