This poem appeared on the Scotlands People Discussion Group on 26 October 2003. Just in time for Halloween.

(With due credit and apologies to Rabbie Burns)


Tam the Chancer

Auld Glesca late in the eighteen hundreds,
tenements, satanic mills and shipyards.
Hard drinkin men, wifes sittin at hame,
nursin their wrath tae keep it warm.

And so Halloween night finds oor Tam the Chancer,
at Garngad Road in Middleton's boozer.
Swallyin Guinness and Johnny Walker,
come chuckin oot time, he's the last tae stagger.

The streets are dark, empty and still,
alang the pavement, up the hill.
The full moon above casts light so dim,
he watches it, it watches him.

As he climbs up Tharsis Street it's gettin eerie,
nae sound, nor soul tae make him cheery.
At Rhymer Street he fumbles in his jaikit,
a swig fae his hauf-boatle, then intae his back poackit.

Oan Garngadhill he stoaps fur breath,
thinks of his ancestors who, before their death,
like him stared up at that same moon thinkin,
"Ah really need tae gie up the drinkin."

He suddenly needs tae take a leak,
a secluded place he must urgently seek...
Toonheid Church all gothic and holy,
it's tall spire beckonin - aw holy moley!

Tam, seldom wan tae visit the kirk,
climbs ower the gate and roon the back.
He relieves himsel as nature intendit
then goes tae leave quite contentit.

But a noise he hears, an his attention's drawn,
tae a windae nearby that seems tae be glowin!
A sober man wid up and beat it,
but the whisky makes him act the eejit.

He staggers ouwer tae the church's gable,
and through the windae he can discern a table.
A group of figures, faint, ethereal,
sit in a circle, faces invisible.

They're focused oan wee boaxes afore them,
each wan flickering wae information.
They're tappin keys - piano? telegraphy?
Tam cannae recognise the technology.

He disnae know it, but he's stumbled ye see,
intae a cyber-seance from 2003!
For under the towering Townheid steeple,
there's a Time Team visiting from Scotland's People.

These folk fae the future track doon the deid,
tappin intae the past, they're a pretty strange breed.
There's wan wae an accent that's distinctly American,
wan wae a shamrock, another wearin a sporran!

There's a man that comes ouwer as being quite honest,
an a wummin wae an apple, she's no like the rest!
The others Tam struggles tae make oot in the gloom,
but then the Guinness geez him away wae a boom!

They aw look up, startled an that!
the searchin's ouwer, they huv a hit.
"Look ther - at the windae!" They see Tam lurkin,
except for the apple wummin, who cannae see nuthin!

"Whits yer name? Tell us aw!" they cry,
"when wir ye boarn an when will ye die?
Dae ye hiv any weans? Hiv ye been merrit afore?
whit did ye work at? Come oan, tell us more!"

Tam remembers his faither, Tam the Loon,
"Never say nuthin son, an never write nuthin doon.
Fur thers people oot ther who'll use it against ye,
they'll pester the hell oot ye, even efter ye dee."

Tam leaps fae the windae, makes a breenge fur the gate,
but the cyber crew follow in hot pursuit.
They float through the air aw ghostly and chill,
as he takes aff like the clappers doon Garngadhill.

As he passes the convent of the wee Sisters of the Poor,
he glimpses the statue and cries "Will ye help me fur sure?"
But the holy-lady just smiles, and wae a shrug she cant hide,
says "Ah'm sorry Tam, but yer oan the wrang side!"

In Rosemount's back coort he remains briefly hidden,
the team fae the future cannae see him in the midden.
Fish bones an peelins, boatles an ash,
when Tam thinks it's aw clear he leaps oot fae the trash.

But they're oan him in seconds, right oan his heels,
as he runs through a close, trippin ouwer pram wheels.
He stauns oan a cat, it gives the screamin haw maws,
attackin Tam's bahookie wae paws, jaws and claws.

Doon Millburn Street Tam's beginin tae tire,
a quick glance behind him confirms the situation's dire.
His pursuers are screamin, dangerously near,
hell bent oan catchin him, they're intentions unclear.

Hands grab at his jaikit, but he pulls hisell free,
but he knows his times up unless a solution has he.
He remembers a tale of witches and watter,
details escape him but that doesnae matter.

The canal's doon the hill, that's wher he must head
It's a race against time, the apple wummin takes the lead.
She screams at him "Stoap! We jist want tae be friends."
but Tam isnae hivin it as he avoids the deid ends.

As the White Brig approaches ouwer the Monkland Canal,
he makes one final surge an geezit his all.
The wee wummin breenges, seeing his plan,
she grasps his back poakit, grips something cauld in her haun.

Tam clears the Brig ouwer the oozin canal,
but is stunned by a loss - His hauf-boatle! His pal!
He stoaps an turns beelin, facin his foes,
"Geeze mah boatle, ye fiendish so an so's!"

They smile in defiance as they start tae move near,
then in a flash - they aw disappear!
The boatle it smashes, glass shattering aroon,
Tam looks doon at the wreckage in the light of the moon.

He believes his plan worked. "The running watter it did it."
But he disnae realise - that they jist ran oot of credit!
And in the glass lying broken, glintin sadly in the dark,
he sees that the label reads - Cutty Sark!

Happy Halloween to all cyber-seancers!

Glesca Patter 6 First posted SPDG 2 November 2003 ----------------------------------------------------------------------

I'm starting off this week with responses to some of your recent comments...

Glessky? GLESSKY! Ah, a Fifer, that explains it There are many areas in Scotland, particularly along the central belt, where local dialects sound strangely Glaswegian. But don't be fooled, true Glaswegian Patter stands alone - often imitated but never bettered. Davesloan writes of the expression 'seesapiece' as being the Methillian version of the Glasgwegian 'geezapiece'. Not much difference really, except perhaps that the Glasgow version lacks the hint of politeness contained in it's Methil equivalent. But what would really give him away is his use of Glessky! No native Glaswegian would use that term for his home city. Glasgow', Glesca and Glesga are all acceptable but not 'Glessky'. Having said that, how about some more Methilisms Dave?

As for the use of ' for the glottal thingy. I always knew this would be a problem and agree that the wee ' is probably the prefered method but I'm conscious that not everybody understands it's significance so I've tended towards expressing things by sounds and spelling where I can and hope people can pick it up as we go along. I'm still experimenting on this so comments are useful. I reckon the only way to really solve the problem would be to hold a Saturday afternoon session in Glasgow's 'Sorry Heid' followed by a field trip around the 'Barras'. People would soon pick it up then!

Thanks everybody for the comments on Tam the Chancer, much appreciated. Who knows, we may hear more of him in the future. Wullie, nice one - but don't gie up the day joab R - You a schoolteacher? (Bane ah mah life when ah wiz wee wir you schoolteachers. Glesca Patter tae a schoolteacher's lik singin the 'Sash' tae the Pope Ann - Yer dead right aboot the caurs. Tram Caurs were the original (no many of them aroon noo!) I seem to recall the term Motor Caur but that seems to have all but died out as well.


The Patter : D this time

father, dad
"Whit diz yer Da work it?" "What does your father do for a living?"
"Eez a deck haun oan a submarine." "He holds a prominent position in the Royal Navy."

"Pit a daud a coal oan eh fire wullye? Ah'm freezin." "Kindly stoke up the fire. I feel a trifle cold."

walk, stroll
Husband: "Ahm gonnae take a wee dauner doon the road." "I shall be talking a stroll for some light exercise."
Wife: "Aye, well make sure ye don't dauner intae the pub." "An excellent idea, my dearest. Take care not to get lost."

Not so much the word but the way it's used.
"Wher urr ye gaun eh day?" "Whither goest thou?" or "Quo Vadis" if you want to sound intellectual."
"Eh day's eh day eh teddy boys hiv ther picnic." "This is a social gathering of like-minded individuals."

"Whit ah'll be if 'R' I fear that I will suffer a terrible fate if 'R' finds out! (identity suppressed for survival reasons) ever gets hurr hauns oan me efter whit ah sed earlier aboot teachers!" "I regret denigrating the Educational Profession!"

dearie me
dearie me
Used by those few Glaswegians who are averse to swearing.
"Aw dearie me, ah've jist blootered mah thumb wae a hammer!" "Would you credit that? I have accidentally crushed my thumb whilst attempting to drive in a nail!"
Roughly translated, this would appear as an assortment of asterisks.

Just to prove that Glaswegian is a living, growing dialect that keeps up with the times;
Guy at the Barras: "Get yer didgy watches ere, two furr a pound!" "Digital watches on sale. Two for a pound"
Glesca Punter: "Dae ye get batteries wae em?" "Are batteries included?"
Guy: "Jist the wan hen, ye strap it oantae yer back!" "Only one required, my dear. It has a convenient fitting arrangement."
Glesca Punter: "Geemmae four. An dae ye sell chargers?" "I will purchase four, please. Do you also sell suitable chargers for said batteries?"

very angry
Rhymes with ringer.
"When thae telt hurr she wisnae eligible - she dun err dinger!" "She was upset when her Social Security Benefit was withdrawn."

"Heh maw, this didgy watch disnae work!" "I am unable to tell the time on this recently purchased digital watch."
"Urr ye werrin the battery?" "Are you certain that the battery is connected properly?"

Not to be confused with dog as in animal.
"Hiv you bin doggin school again?" "Is your School Attendance Record satisfactory?"
"Aye Ma, Ahm sorry, ah don't want tae be a dogger but that schoolteacher's really daein mah heid in!" "Mother. I would be keen to attend school but am concerned about interpersonal conflict with the teacher."
Sorry 'R' (identity suppressed yet again!) "Ahm gonnae end up getting eh belt so ahm urr!" "Retribution will surely follow!"


dovecote, pigeon loft
"Sumdy's half-inched a doo oot mah dooket!" "Someone has stolen (pinched) a pidgeon out of my dovecote!"

cigarette end
Father to his son: "If ah catch ye smokin again ah'll wallop ye!" "If I catch you smoking again, I will chastise you!"
Son: "But the minister said it's awright tae smoke Da because Jesus smokes." "But dad! The Minister says that it is alright to smoke because Jesus smokes!"
Father: "Eh?" "I beg your pardon!"
Son: "He said tae take aw mah doubts tae Jesus!" "He said to take all my doubts to Jesus!"

lowering yourself down from a height by hanging by your hands at full stretch, facing the wall and dropping the remaining distance
This was an essential skill for those living in the early tenement environment (and later housing schemes).
"Ah dreeped doon fae the wa' an landed oan mah erse!" "I dropped down from the wall, and landed on my bottom."
"Eh wiz that drunk eh hid tae dreep the front step!" "He was so drunk, he struggled to negotiate the front step."
a derogatory term for someone
"He jist stood ther lik a big dreep." "He stood there, looking like a big drip of water."

The Drum
The Drumchapel housing scheme on the west of the city
"Ah'm meetin a lassie fae the Drum." "I have a date with a girl from Drumchapel." It was also the name of a local gang from that area.

the ritual carried out at school on your birthday
If the word gets out - and the teachers usually made sure it did!.
Every "wean" "child" (pronounced 'wane') in the school had a licence to thump you on the back the number of times corresponding to the years of your age. Could be pretty barbaric!
"Ther eh iz! Get im! Cim ere ya wee sod tae wae gie ye yer dumps!" "There he is! Come here, you rapscallion. We wish to celebrate your birthday."

Anyone ever actually see the Bogeyman who was supposed to lurk in the dunny?

"Will ye pay attention instead of jist sittin in a dwam!" "Will you pay attention instead of just sitting there daydreaming!"

An afore ah go... The Sorry Heid is a play on 'Sarry Heid' which in turn is a play on The Saracen Head public house that sits across the road (Gallowgate) from the Barras. A haven of modest charm and reputed to be Glasgows oldest pub.

The next wan is gaun tae be the tricky wan ...

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Original postings on Scotlands People Discussion Group © 2003, 2004 Bob Wilson
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