A Wee Scotch Grannie’s Story
It was a warm summer day in Greenock and neighbouring Gourock along the banks of the River Clyde. Something that wasn’t totally unusual but then again Greenock was known more for its rainy days than for its sunny days. Grannie Coupar looked for days like this to take her two younger grandchildren, Ewan and his younger sister Heather, down to the riverside in Gourock on Sundays where she had a favourite spot to sit and watch the children as they played among the rocks and shells. Grannie had a friend among those rocks, one in particular, Victoria who was a Rockkin, a female druid priestess who been given the form of a spirit in the distant past and so now existed in the form of a kind of Faerie. Grannie Coupar always took a jeelie piece for each of the children and usually a bottle or two of Barr’s Iron Bru in case they were thirsty. When the time came for them to take a break from rock throwing and shell collecting they sat down around Grannie ready to eat when suddenly Ewan said “Gran I have a question.”
“Well I’ll see if I can answer it for ye so ask away.”
“Well every time I say aye instead of yes Aunt Betty, (Aunt Betty was Gran’s sister), always corrects me and tells me to say yes instead of aye. She says it’s not proper to talk that way. Yet I told her sailors say aye aye captain, not yes yes captain.”
“Let me give you a wee history lesson.” said Gran. “But first of all it's better not to argue with your Aunt Betty. Just let her have her ways. You see a long long time ago Scotland and England were two separate countries. And way up in the Highlands of Scotland people spoke a language known as Gaelic but in some of the lowland areas we spoke what was referred to as Northern English. And the people that spoke northern English were known as Scotch. The people in the Highlands were more often referred to as Scots. Now the Scotch people for the most part were poor hard-working and honest folk. They had little money and not always were there many schools that they could go to so they would be thought of as being illiterate. Och there was farmers, shepherds, weavers, fishermen and fishermen's wives and all sorts of hard-working lowly folks. Some of the richer and more elite folks that lived in the bigger cities like Edinburgh and Dundee and so forth looked down their noses at the lower working-class and so it got to be that being Scotch was a station in life that was undesirable. Now this northern English they were speaking was called Scotch or Lallans which meant lowland Scotch, sometimes called Doric. To tell the truth when a lot of them were sent to Northern Ireland by King James VI they were given farms with low rents and a lot more freedom to prosper which they did. But for a long time it was still just not right to be Scotch and to speak the way they did. So to say aye instead of yes was one example and they tried to get away from being called Scotch. But you know some of the very famous authors and poets in Scotland constantly used the word Scotch in their writing. Authors like Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, James Barry and even Robert Burns continue to use the word. Even the famous Harry Lauder called himself a Scotch comedian. He wrote one of my favourite songs called Mary Ma Scotch Bluebell. So you see it was fine to be Scotch and to speak the Scotch tongue. But folks like your aunt Betty are a bit too prudent to admit that. You see your Grannie’s side of the family actually comes from a very Scotch area over to the east in Edzell and Loch Lee.”
“I see.” said Ewan. “So it’s OK to say aye?”
“Aye.” said Gran, “Just not in front of your Aunt Betty.