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Elphinstone Kist   Folk-History, Work

Confessions o a Poacher     by: Munro, Mary

Willie eesed tae be a gey fly deevil. He wis swack an young, wi the native savvie o the North East an forby he wis real partial tae a gweed bit o salmon, better still if he didna hae tae pey fur it! Airmed wi his faither's auld cane rod an a jam jar o clorty reed worms, him an his quine wid heid up the Gairn tae thon deep peel he kent o, far doon aff the road.

It wis a deep, dark keppin peel wi a rush o waater ower the steen abeen. The fish likit tae takk a lie there on their wey up tae spawn, an wi his dark glaisses on Willie could fyles makk oot raws o the fishy billies, lyin nose tae tail i the murky waater. There wis the thrill o the hunt gettin a salmon, bit he wisna coorse like the fowk that wid dynamite a peel. He widna 'foul-hook' a fish. It hid tae be a clean catch for him. It wis him an the wirm agin the wily auld fish!

The quine maun hae been gey taen up wi Willie, fur they hid tae trauchle ower barbed wire fences, throw nettles an weet grass, an then slide doon slimy grass banks tae get at the salmon peel, weel tuckit awa frae the roadies o human fowk. Willie sattled his quine wi a poke o sweeties an a wifie's book at the tap o the brae. She wis the 'look-oot'.
'Jist hoot like an oolet if ye see onybody! I dinna wint thon girny auld waater baillie on ma tap.'

He kittled his quine roon her brosy waist an slippit aff doon the bank.The simmer licht wid dee in the West, an a saft gloamin darkened the hills lyin quate an still, bit he fished on, castin an recastin. He wis a thrawn chiel, bit thon dark shapes didna seem tae care a docken fur the juicy, reed bait. Then, jist as he wis ready tae pack up for the nicht, his waggelly worm maun hae kittled a fish's nose, for it gied a snap an his line tichtened an his rod booed. His hert gied a loup as he braced for the struggle, for he kent fine that a hooked salmon is aye a bonnie fechter!

He played thon fish like a fiddle, dippin an weavin as the fish ran back an fore, tryin tae throw aff the coorse hook in its jaws. Fan he felt the strength dwinnlin, he kent the fish wis his. Jist then, the burr o a motor in the park across frae the peel catched his lugs.
'The bloody waater baillie, I'll bet!'

Quick as a flash he wis oot wi his knife an one slice cut his line. The fish wis doon an awa, a hook an line still in its moo, bit alive tae fecht anither day. Willie, sair made at lossin the big breet, lookit ower the bank. It wis only the fairmer up the brae, takkin doon his park wi his tractor noise.
'Damn an blast!' Willie hid a gweed sweir till himsel for he'd lost thon bonnie fish for naethin. Niver mind, it wis better than a nicht in the jyle!

Willie hid ane or twa fish that simmer...he wisna greedy, jist 'ane for the pot'. Aince he got his salmon oot on the steen slab, his wellie beet wis teen aff an the fish stappit in heid-first. He wid oxter the beet an hirple up tae his quine. She wid be bored tae tears, bit wid squalloch an keckle aifter a keek o his 'silver darlin'. Then it wis doon the road, his hert in his moo. He niver felt richt safe till he wis hame in the hoose wi the door barred an steekit.

His mither wid cover the table wi newspaper for the ceremonial cleanin an slicin o the prize. Willie wid hae jist chucked the heid an tail in the ash bin, bit his faither kent fine that Jimmy fa drove the ash-cairt aye hid a raik in yer rubbish. He wis a pal o the bobby's, so his faither made Willie dig a hole at the bottom o the gairden tae beery the remains.A neighbour micht get a keek o Willie diggin in the half-dark an wid jist think tae himsel, 'Thon's a richt gweed loon dellin his faither's grun even at this late oor!'

Ane or twa fowk micht get a cut o his salmon, bit only if he kent they could keep their moo shut. Ony blabbermooth in the village niver wid be considered, for if the bobby hid ye doon as a marked man, or even the suspicion o poachin, he made sure that he were catched, seener or later!

Willie disna fish the Gairn much noo, for there's hardly a salmon comes up the bonnie clear waater. The lack o salmon is jist ane o the mysteries o Nature, wrocht by this modern age we live in. So, until the salmon come back, Willie's auld rod sits end up in the gairden shed.

Onywye, Willie hid tae merry his deem, an is saddled wi a bairn an ither half-made. So his poachin bachelor days are laid by fur the noo, sair-trauchled as he is wi faitherhood. Maybe fan the fish come again, an he's gled tae get away frae the hectorin o his soored auld wife, he'll try his haun again. Bit I sweir he'll niver get back that feelin o his youth, wi a fish hidden in his beet unner his oxter!



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