University of Aberdeen Takes you to the main page for this section
Elphinstone Kist   Doric Verse

Castell-hill     by: Souter, Geordie

Sir David Lindsay, King of Arms,
challenged the Royal will
by playing out the country’s woes
“upone the Castell-hill”.
They trace the castle tae McDuff
in legend Thane o’ Fife
whaur ilka loun o’ Cupar toun
served sax years o’ his life.

When I think back on Castell-hill
the memory is bricht
o’ dreich days in the courtyaird
bathed in a northern licht.
The bairns came up frae dungeons
pale tae the summer sun
an’ wintertimes it aye was dark
afore the day was run.

The progeny o’ rich an’ poor
were sat doun side by side
regardless o’ their ancestry
or whaur they micht abide.
The lassies sat neat in their rows
an’ bowed tae the regime
We laddies were mair sairly pressed
tae gi’e or get esteem!

We came wi’ monie accents
o’ district an’ degree
a’ bairns o’ a mither tongue
that we could barely see.
Our common foe was English
a language never used
at hame or in the playground
an’ left us a’ confused.

They taught us The King’s English
an’ yet we always found
that when we spoke an English word
out came a Scottish sound.
Attempts tae substitute a tongue
will aye meet wi’ resistance
an’ no because the folk are thrawn
the problem’s the insistence!

We wore out monie cobbles
aneath the twisted spire
as we, unwilling, went tae kirk
in Sunday-best attire.
We got up in the pews tae sing
the reverential sangs
but severed heids an’ haund outby
spake mair o’ richts and wrangs!

”Fail nocht tae be upone the Castell-hill”
The poet’s words resound
but there was added time tae place
as a’ late-comers found.
The tawse is awesome tae behold
when in determined hands
an shairply painfu’ I well mind
whaur tassled leather lands.

Tae see us through the winter months
The Government decreed
that daily milk would be dispensed
wi’ nae regard tae need.
When haar lay thick upon the ground
an’ ice lay at the gate
the daily penitent was sent
tae fetch the frozen crate.

On icy winter mornings
we slid our way tae school
in Balaclava helmets
an’ monie layers o’ wool.
The pampered offspring o’ the rich
dressed in their braw tweed suits
would envy poorer brethren
wi’ tackets in their buits.

We a’ got braw wee Bibles
frae Elizabeth “the Twa”
(tho’ England’s Bess was never Queen
north o’ the Roman wa’!).
They marched us doun tae Carthaugh park
tae dae our loyal turn
an’ monie a bonny Bible dropped
intae the Eden burn.

We’d as monie years o’ learning
as gi’en tae Blake or Pope
in reading, writing, ‘rithmetic
the curriculum o’ hope.
The fortunate went on tae learn
amo, amas, amat
an’ the romance o’ “bonny France”
an’ a’ that!

© University of Aberdeen   Return to Home page