March 28, 2013

Poem by Billy Bell - Redesdale roadman, Border bard

 Comment by Clive Dalton
This is my favourite poem by Billy Bell in the publication below:

Billy Bell, Redesdale Roadman, Border Bard, his  life, times and poetry
By Susan Ellingham and Johnny Handle.

Published by The Heritage Centre, Bellingham, NE48 2DF
Printed by Robson Print, Hexham, NE46 3PU
Print book Edition 2013
ISBN 978-0-9575426-0-0

This poem tells the story of two shepherds meeting on the top of Carter Bar - one of them from the Scottish side and the other from the English side.  The dialect words span both sides and would have been commonly used by Billy whose stretch of road he cared for went from the top of Carter Bar down to Rochester.

The conversation is typical of when farming folk meet, and especially shepherds.  As anyone who has worked with sheep will know, sheep are always keen to add to their long list of afflictions - so well described in the poem, along with some classical cattle ailments as well.

After Billy's version below, my 'Daft Laddie' book co-author Don Clegg (who was born and bred in the Rede valley), has translated Billy's poem into more of our old Northumbrian dialect, which may (or may not! ) improve the understanding of folk who know and love the Border hills of Northumberland.

May 1906
  By Billy Bell

Upon a morn in early May
A cauld and sleety shoory day
Twa herds wie faces lang and sad
Each rowed up in a weel worn pla'd 

Met on the stormy Cairter Fell
And sat them doon ahint a stell
Tae smoke their pipes and hae a blether 

Aboot the lambing time and weather 
And gie each other consolation
Amid sic awfa desolation.

The first that spak’ his name was Bookie

 He swore his verra tongue was yookie 
Tae hae a lang and friendly talk
And unto Amos thus he spak’.

This weather man is most infernal
It bleeds ma heart right tae its kernal

 There’s no a blade o’ gerse can growe 
Tae bring the milk tae ony yowe
Jist cauld and slaistery sleety shoors 

And frosty through the midnight oors 
There's no a blink o’ welcome sun 
And sic a cauldrife biting wun'
How's your things daeing man ava 

We've oft been happit up wie snaw.

Then Wollie Amos grew quite talky

 As he cut off a pipe o’ baccy
He drew his plaid oot ower his heid 

And says O verra bad indeed
Ma guid auld frien’ and neebor Bookie 

I’ll bet wie you a Jethert Cookie
And your chance man's as sma' tae win it

 As there'll be straggling curnies in it.

There's no a herd hed sic a time
In Coquet water Reed or Tyne
As aw hev hed this last fortnight
Od bliss us man aw'm nearly gite
What wie ae thing and another
Ma mind hes oft been in a swother 

Whether life was worth the leevin 
When its sae filled wie strife and grievin 
Nae fether gane than yester morn
Od man but aw could fairly sworn
Ma best pack yowe was lying awled 

Wie louping ill anither sprawled
Six bonnie lambs that weel aw cherished 

War lying lifeless cauld and perished

The gimmer wie the shed ram tippit
Twa rotten lambs tae me hed slippit
And yon nice hogg that weel ye worded 

Was reeling roond aboot and sturdied
Ma auld bitch Queen had gane and whelpit 

Ma young dog wie distemper yelpit
Od man ma life is waur than hell
Aw hae tae rin and bark masel'.

Ye maybe think that this is plenty 

But aw’m no dune sae neebor tent ye
 At denner time aw gaed the byre
A cow was smitten wie a clyre
Ower at the stye the pig was screaming

 Thinks aw the beast is mad a breeming
 But when aw lookit ower the door
Aw plainly saw ‘twas something wor’ 

It stood and snorkit blew and wheezled 
Thinks aw the beast is shairly measled 
Wie Castor Oil aw weel did doose her 
But naething seemed ava tae roose her 
This morning (here he shook his heid) 
The puir bit beast was lying deid.
And noo ma verra heart is breakin
Tae think aw've lost sae muckle bacon.

Lord bliss us man cried bookie Bill
 For thirty year a've climbed this hill 
And neebor them that's been a fore ye 
Ne'er telt me sic a mournful story
But ma auld cock lot me you tell
 There's mae hes trouble than yoursel’
 In this world we a’ get oor share
And faith there's some gets even mair. 

Ye mind yon guild show vow o’ mine 
The best in Coquet Reed or Tyne
Her that aw hed at Elliot's ram
Aw thought she hae a bonnie lamb
But man aw hae been sair mistean
Aw never frien' saw sic weean’
Nae bigger than a full grown stoat
And just as hairy as a goat
Ma auldest son (ye ken oor Willie)

 Says its been gotten wie a billy.

And man ye'll mind yon bonnie gimmer 

Ye saw when ye war' o’er a simmer 
The best sheep aw hed on ma hill
Od Sir but she hes paid me ill.
Then Bookie seized his lambing nibby

 And waved aloft its weel turned gibby
 And doon it cam’ on his sho' nebs
The clairty beast hes cussen kebs
And O ma heart has got a stoond
This morning she was lying drooned

Away ayont the Colliers pike
In a deep hole in Drumlie Syke.
And now a've naething left tae lick

 The sheep o’ Watty o’ the Nick.
The ither morn we'd sic a rowdy
The wife cried oot send for the howdy

 And rin yersel’ like ony negger
And hurry on the wee McGregor
Man wad’en ye hae thought the hizzie

‘Ood hed mair sence and us sae buisy 
However on ma job aw went
And soon wie rinning was fair spent

 But Fortune favours aye the brave
 Between the cradle and the grave.
Aw met oor mutual frien’ auld Robbie

 Wha munted on his mear sae nobby 
And doon the Jed did quickly gallop
 His legs and airms gan wallop wallop

Ye’re speiring what the youngster be

 Lord bliss ye man but there are three
 Twa bonnie lassies and a laddie
A’ to be rowed up in ma pladdie.

Says Amos frien’ we’ll hae tae gang

 Oor time is short oor journeys lang
 Aw'll see ye on the great occasion
 Ye’re comin' tae the valuation.

Withoot a doot cries oot brave Bookie
There's waur things than cauld roasted chookie

 And to cure care and mak’ us frisky
 Commend me tae a wee drap whiskey.

Then cam’ a great black sleety shoor
At which they baith looked grin and dour

 And each his plaid aboot aim rowes
And spanks away across the knowes.

(A howdy is a midwife) 

A Crack Between Two Border Shepherds  by Billy Bell  !906
Translation by Don Clegg into old Northumbrian 2013

Upon a morn in orly May, a cowld an’ sleety, shoory day

Twa herds wi’ faces lang and sad, each rowed up in a weel worn pla’d

Met on the stormy Carter Fell and sat them doon ahint a stell

Tae smoke thor pipes an’ hae a blether aboot the lambin’ time and weather

And gie each other consolation amid sic aaful desolation.

The forst that spak his name was Bookie.  He swore his varra tongue was yookie

Tae hae a lang an’ friendly talk, and unto Amos thus he spaak.

“This weather, man, is most infornal it bleeds me heart right to its kornel

There’s no’ a blade o’ gerse can grow tae bring the milk to ony yowe.

Just cauld and slaistery, sleety shoors and frosty through the midnight hoors

There’s no’ a blink of welcome sun – an’ sic a cauldrife, bitin’ wund.

“How’s yor things daein’ man, ava?  We’ve oft been happit up wi’ snaa.”

Then Wollie Amos grew quite taalky as he cut off a pipe o’ baccy

He drew his plaid oot ower his heid an’ says, “Oh, varra bad indeed

Me guid auld friend and neebor Bookie. Aa’ll bet wi’ you a Jethard cookie.

And yor chance man’s, as sma’ tae win it as there’ll be stragglin’ curnies in it.    (currants)

There’s no’ a herd’s hed sic a time in Coquet Wattor , Rede or Tyne

As Aa hev hed this last fortnight.  God bless us man, Aa’m nearly gite.

What wi’ ae thing and another me mind hes oft been in a swother

Whether life was worth the leevin’ when it’s sae filled wi’ strife and grievin’.

Nae forther gaen than yester morn, God man! Aa could fairly sworn!

Ma best pack yowe was lyin’ awled, wi’ loupin’ ill anither sprawled.                (on her back)

Six bonny lambs that weel Aa cherished war lyin’ lifeless, cauld and perished.

The gimmer wi’ the shed ram tippit, twa rotten lambs to me hed slippit

An’ yon nice hogg that weel ye worded was reelin’ roond aboot and sturdied.

Me owld bitch Queen hed gone and whelpit, me young dog wi’ distemper yelpit.

God man! Me life is warse than Hell, Aa hev to run an’ bark mesell.

“Ye mebbe think that this is plenty, but Aa’m no’ done, so neebor, tent ye.    (pay attention)

At dinner time Aa gaed the byre, a cow was smitten wi’ a clyre

Ower at the sty the pig was screamin’.  Thinks Aa, the beast is mad abreemin’.

But when Aa lookit ower the door Aa plainly saa ‘twas somethin’ war’.

It stood an’ snorkit, blew an’ wheezled thinks Aa, the beast is shairly measled.

Wi’ Castor Oil Aa weel did doose hor but naethin’ seemed ava tae roose hor.

This mornin’ (here he shook his heid) the puir bit beast was lyin’ deid.

And now me verry heart is breakin’ tae think Aa’ve lost sae muckle bacon.”

“Lord bliss us man!” cried Bookie Bill. “For thorty yeors Aa’ve climbed this hill

And, neebor, them that’s been afore ye, ne’er tellt me sic a mournful story.

But, me auld Cock, let me you tell, there’s mair hes trouble than yoursell

In this world we aall get our share, an’ faith! There’s some gets even mair.

Ye mind yon gud show yowe of mine, the best in Coquet Rede or Tyne,

Hor that Aa hed at Elliott’s ram, Aa thowt she’d hae a bonny lamb

But man! Aa hae been sair mistaen, Aa nivvor, friend, saa sic a weean

Nae biggor than a full grown stoat an’ just as hairy as a goat.

Me ouldest son,( ye ken oor Willie), says it’s been gotten wi’ a billy.

And man, ye’ll mind yon bonny gimmer ye saa when ye wor ower in Simmer

The best sheep Aa hed on me hill, God Sir! She hes paid me ill.”

Then Bookie seized his lambing nibby and waved aloft its weel turned gibby

An’ doon it cam on his shoe nebs. “The clairty beast hes cussen kebs!    (cursed, still born)

And, oh! me heart hes got a stoond, this mornin’ she was lyin’ droond

Away ayont the Colliers Pike in a deep hole in Drumlie Syke.

And now Aa’ve nothin’ left to lick the sheep o’ Wattie o’ The Nick.

The other morn we’d sic a rowdy the wife cried oot, “Send for the rowdy!   (midwife)

And run yoursell like ony neggar and hurry on the wee McGregor!”

Man! Wadn’t ye hae thought the hizzie would hae mair sense and us sae busy.

However, on me job Aa went and soon wi’ runnin’ was fair spent.

But Fortune favours aye the brave between the cradle and the grave.

Aa met oor mutual friend aad Robbie wha mounted on his mare sae nobby  (classy)

And doon the Jed did quickly gallop, his legs and airms ga’n wallop wallop.

Ye’re speirin’ what the youngster be?  Lord bless ye man, but there are three!  (enquiring)

Twa bonny lassies and a laddie a’ to be rowed up in me pladdie.”

Says Amos, “Friend, we’ll hev tae gan.  Oor time is short, oor journey lang.

Aa’ll see ye on the great occasion.  Yo’re comin’ to the valuation?”

“Withoot a doot”, cries oot brave Bookie. There’s warse things than cauld roasted chookie

And to cure care and mek us frisky, commend me to a wee drap whisky”

The came a great black, sleety shoor at which the’ baith looked grim an’ dour

And each his plaid aboot him rowes and spanks away across the knowes.

No comments:

Post a Comment