by: Creighton, Elma
She wid hae bin christened Margaret Anne Murray, bit tull her neebors doon the stairs an ben the lobby, an maist fowk in Peterheid, except the minister an the kirk fowk, she wis kent as Muggie Anne. I believe if a letter arrived addressed tull Muggie Anne, Peterheid, the postie wid hae kent fa tae deliver it tull. At wis the kind o body she wis, respeckit bi aabody.
Her hame wis twa little roomies an a cubbie hole in an attic in Marischal Street across frae Whyte the Saiddler an Davidson the undertaker, which meant she didna hae the liveliest o ootlooks. She didna hae muckle in the wye o conveniences, in fact she didna hae ony.
Every drap o watter she used hid tae be cairried up first a steen stair an then an inside widden stair that wisna very wide an inclined tae be awkward. There wis a black, uninvitin sink wi a tap at the heid o the steen stair, bit she niver used it, niver liked the look o it, thocht the watter wis better at the tappie in the horse troch. Takk yer pick! As she'd nae sink, aa her slops or dirty watter hid tae be cairriet doon the stairs as weel. Then of coorse she hid tae cairry her pail o coal up frae a little sheddie aneth the steen stairs, an next mornin doon hid tae come the ashes. She hid tae dee aa her cookin an heatin o her watter on her open, black leadit grate, an ae gas ring, on a tin lid on the fleer. Bit wi yon primitive conditions she could turn oot a rare plate o broth or a stew.
Her roomies war sparsely furnished. There wis lino on the fleer wi a dark coloured clickit bassie in front o the fire. There wis a beauty o a mahogany chest o draaers that stood nearly 5 feet high, an jist fitted under the slopin reef towards the door, on which hung a heavy wine coloured curtain tae keep oot the dracht on a caal nicht. Her ither furniture wis a horsehair deece an high backed button backit black cheer, wi mahogany trims an Queen Ann legs. Baith war inclined tae be jobby ahin the knees if ye sat far back. Ye cudna, wi ony degree o honesty, say they war comfortable, bit ye warna meant tae sit comfortably in yon days, ye sat up straicht an didna slouch. That wisna considered dignifeed. Comfort didna maitter.
In the middle o the fleer wis her table wi nerra drop leaves, an tucked under wis a couple o dinin cheers and an odd een that the back wis saan aff. She caad it her steelie, an it wis shoved richt under the table ooto sicht, except fan it wis nocht as an extra seat. Lastly there wis a little tablie wi a shelf below, that stood bi the door. It wis covered wi an embroidered linen cloot, an on the table stood various biscuit an sweetie tins, an a few ornaments. On tap o the chest o draaers stood an antique clock wi a glaiss front that ye could see the brass pendulum waggin tae ye throwe. It chimed, I think, tae keep her company. On the mantlepiece there wis an array o china ornaments spread alang the hale length. On the left haun corner wis faistened her source o licht, a gas lamp wi a glaiss shade an mantle that swung oot frae the mantlepiece. It gaed oot a rare licht an a fair bit o heat, as weel as a soothin hiss that wid jist aboot pit ye tae sleep.
The bedroom wis smaaer than the roomie. It hid a box bed built aneth the slopin reef which supported a buxom feather bed draped aa roon wi white drapes gaithered intil fullness.
In the windae facin oot the back, wis a marble wash stand wi a white wash basin ure an soap dish. Ahin the door opposite the bed she hid anither smaaer chest o draaers, bit a much plainer een that the mahogany chest ben in the roomie. Her apparel hung on the back o the bedroom door, aneth a white cotton cover. That, tae Muggie Anne, wis hame.
I dinna mind much aboot ma first meetin wi Miss Murray, as I'd only hae bin a few wikks aal at the time. She cam tae bide in oor hoose tae look efter me, as ma mither wisna weel efter my arrival. As it happened, Miss Murray's stay proved tae be a lengthy een as she mair or less looked efter me tull I gaed tae the school shortly afore I wis five. Ye could say she saw me roadit. Oor mutual affection for each ither continued till the day she deed. She caad me her bairn, though I caad her respectfully, Miss Murray. Only recently, I realised her initials war M.A.M., an that's fit she wis tae me, an nae a draps bleed atweeen us.
Afore we met aa thon years ago, Muggie Anne wis a fisher lassie that followed the herrin. She wid hae started in Stornaway, on tae Sheetlan, back tae Peterheid, an then on tae Yarmouth, an hame wi a kist fu o fishie claes in time fur Christmas. Guttin an packin herrin intil barrels wis a hard life, bit I believe the fisher lassies were a happy lot, aye singin an often workin in lamplicht, lang intae the nicht.
Fin I gaed tae schule first, I gaed tae ma granny fur ma denner. Bit efter a few years she took a stroke, an efter a fyle even wi help, she cudna bide in her ain hoose, sae she cam tae bide wi us till she deed twa year efter. In the meantime, I gaed tae Miss Murray an got ma denner frae her. At wid hae bin aboot 1937-38, fin I wis at the Central School. I wis some ill fur wanderin aboot on ma wye tae Marischal Street, an aften laundit in Woolies. Doon the richt haun side tae the coonters war toy lead animals fur sale at a fyew pennies apiece. A wee bit farrer doon tae the coonter, they hid laid oot baby claes. It wis the little eens I wis interestit in, jaikets, bonnets, bootees an the like fur ma dalls. I niver mind on buyin onything, I jist looked in anticipation. Even though they war chaip, a penny an tippence pocket money didna ging very far.
Mony's the time Miss Murray wid hae come tae look fur me, an asked fowk if they hid seen her bairn. It wisna that she thocht I wid get lost, bit she didna wint me tae gulp ma denner or be late gaun back tae school... she hid that protective instinct aboot her. Me gettin ma denner fae Miss Murray wis beneficial tull baith o's, as ma dad brocht in tatties, carrots, a big savoy cubbage an a swede neep, fresh grown on the fairm at hame. Then, every time ony o the fowks wis in the toon, they brocht in a big bottle o milk. Mair than ae bottle widna keep in her hett hoosie, as there wisna fridges in yon days, she didna even hae a cubby hole, she wid jist hae tae set the bottle inno a bowl o caal watter.
Fin we hid a new calved coo we made butter, an she aye got a bittie o butter. I canna mine foo much, bit it wid hae bin weel walloped bi butter clappers tae knock aa the watter oot an knock it inno shape afore bein rowed in greaseproof paper. It wis ay a bonnie rich colour fin the coos wis oot tae grass. If we hid mair than we could use in the summer time, some wad hae bin satted for use in the winter, usually wi toast fur wir tea on Sunday.
Fin Miss Murray bedd in her twa roomed attic, she wis supposed tae live on her pension o ten shillins...fifty pence in the day's money. Ooto that she hid tae pye twa pounds ten shillins twice a year, at May an November term. That wis ten wikks pension ower a year. Then she bocht a bag o coal, gas fur her licht, an evenin paper, an the Sunday Post. Fin onybody gaed tae see her, she aye managed a cuppy o tea an a piece, or if it wis tea time, breid an butter. A loofie as she caad it in thon days wisna sliced, bit that wisna a problem. She jist took it in her bosie an wi a wapper o a breid knife she saaed awa towards hersel, sometimes a bittie square, bit it ay tasted the same as if it hid bin straicht!
At the wikkeyn she gaed tae Willie the butcher, complete wi a plate an a clean dishtoolie tae hap up her bittie o beef. There wisna plastic bags in yon days. Likewise she gid doon the street wi a juggie, a squat boddomed dumpy white joog wi roses on ae side, an the milkman measured oot her pint or hauf pint, fitiver she wis needin that mornin. He hid a twa wheeled little larrie wi twa milk milk cans sittin on the back. The larrie wis pulled bi a broon sheltie that niver nott tae be telt fan tae stop, it kist kent. I think it could hae gaen hame itsel, it wis that cannie.
Lastly, Miss Murray aye hid a sweetie tae offer aabody fin they gaed awa. Usually, they war sookin byled sweeties, or pandrops. She gaed tae the kirk every Sunday fin she wis at hame. She wis aye turned oot weel in her navy blue coat an frock, her black stockins an black leather lacin sheen, aye shinin like a new preen. Tae tap that ootfit wis of coorse a felt hat wi a ribbon roon the croon, an she aye cairriet her bible wi her. She didna hae muckle. She envied naebody, an wis affa happy wi her lot.