My brither Willie wis cliver ye ken, a bonnie loon wi black curly hair an broon een. Ma mither wis terrible fond o Willie. Aabody wis. Weel, the wye o't wis this. Fin ye war 13 year aul, ye cud bike frae Tarlan tae Abyne if ye wintit mair learnin. Bit Willie didna hae a bike. He wis wirkin wi a cousin o wir faithers, Alex Middleton frae Abyne, fin the war broke oot. Weel, this ae day, Alex wis cairtin coal tae a fairm wife's sheddie, an Willie wis staunin quate-like haudin the horse's heed, fin the wummin comes oot o the fairm hoose an richt up tae Willie an she says 'What are you doing here? A fit young boy like you should be fighting to save your country!'
Weel Willie jyned up neist day. Ma ither brither John signed up ana. Willie wis 18 year auld fin he jyned up. Aa the Tarland loons that enlisted, war in the 6th Gordon Highlanders, an the Donside loons war in the 7th. Weel, they wauked aa the wye frae Tarland tae Abyne, the enlisted loons, an they got a bit cheer fin they reached Abyne, an then doon the Dee they wauked tae Banchory, bit they got as hurl frae Banchory tae the toun. Efter a while, Willie wun hame on leave. He come hame wi holes in his legs frae his sodjer's puttees, the dubs an the chaffin o plowterin in the trenches hid brocht his legs oot in sairs, an his hauns wis covered wi impetigo..an Willie hid bonnie hauns, ye ken, he wis a tidy loon...
I mind the day the letter come. It wis in a big lang envelope.'I'm very sorry,Mrs Middleton,' the man said fa brocht it. 'I'm very sorry.' I watched my ma open the envelope. She read fit wis inside it. She wis staunin afore the fire, facin the mantlepiece. Her face gid white. Pure white. Nae a pikk o colour in't ava. An then, she jist gid doon, clean doon an strukk the fleer.
Grannie wis bidin wi's an she wis hard as nails, nae greet in her. She niver grat ava. Grannie gied ower tae the box bed an turned doon the bedclaes. Then she liftit my ma frae the fleer an beddit her wi aa her claes on, an happit her up wi the sheets, and an auld tartan rug that wis mither's quilt. Then ma grannie gied ower tae the press an took oot a pyntie o whisky, an screwed aff the tap. She liftit up a feather an dippit it inno the whisky, an dichtit the feather roon ma mither's lips till she come roon.
Willie wis 19 year auld fin he wis killed...he deed on the 9th April at the battle o Arras. They beeriet Willie at Passchendaele.A wee while efter, the Tarland minister come tae the hoose. The war office sent a bit paper askin ma fowk tae write doon fit they winted tae say on Willie's grave. Weel, ma mither cudna think fit tae say...she wisna jist richt fur a lang time efter Willie deed..bit the minister said 'Good night beloved, not farewell, that's a good thing to put.' And that's fit it says, jist that. My fowk traivelled doon tae London, and gid ower tae Passchendaele tae see the place far Willie wis lyin, an it helpit ma mither, ye ken, tae see thon, Willie lyin wi aa the ither young loons, a hale generation. An they say the graves are weel keepit, ye ken, weel keepit. She wis mair at peace wi hersel fin she come hame.
They cudna beery ma brither John, tho. John wis sittin at the side o the road newsin wi ither Tarlan loons an twa laddies frae Logie Coldstone, jist sittin newsin, fin they war shelled. There wis naethin left tae beery o peer John. It wis a sair time, a sair time. I sometimes wish I'd geen tae Passchendaele tae say cheerio tae Willie. I miss that noo, nae haein that in my memory. It's like there's somethin missin, somethin missin.