Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Runnin up that hill

We hae, or at least we used tae hae, afore the smokin ban cam alang tae kill them aff, mony a great auld pub in Embra. Yin that some o ye may be familiar wi is the Guildford Arms, up ahint the auld Woolworth's shop on Princes Street. Aye awricht, ah ken, there's nae Woolies there noo, jist a shop that says it sells aipples an disnae, but ye ken whaur ah am, up aside the Register Hoose. It's a braw drinkin palace inside, weel worth a visit if ye've no been in, but the reason ah bring it up is the path at the side, oan the right as ye look at the photie. Ye see that wee path? It goes at an angle up the side tae the Cafe Royal, ye wi me? Weel, that wee bit path, that's aw that's left o an ancient auld road ah yaist tae ken weel. Let me tell ye aboot Gabriel's Road...

Ma tale affsets lang syne in 1607, when yin o King Jamie Saxt's pals, Tam o the Coogate, found siller ore oan his property oot by Linlithgow. Bein the guid pal that he wis, the king relieved Tam o his discovery pronto, fer a sma fee of course, opened a mine, an sent the ore tae be refined doon at a new mill he built oan the Water o Leith. Sadly the silvermine wisnae the goldmine the king hoped it wid be, an soon enough the ore ran oot an the venture foondert, but fer a few year it gave up ample tae pay its way.

Bein as ah am the whelp o a Black Bitch (an proud o it!) ah grew up no far fae this mine. Ah mynd as a wee bairn playin in the auld abandoned mine-workins, practisin ma yodellin skills an scarin the livin daylights oot o aw ma pals. This great daurk gash in the earth, hunkert awa doon at the bottom o a wee glen, we thocht wis the very gates o Hell itsel, an hid aw manner o beasties an monsters, dragons an trolls, daemons an deils. No that there were ony, but ah had some awfy gullible pals...

The Silvermills that King James sent the ore tae are aw built ower noo wi posh single-ends, but they yaist tae staun doon near Stockbridge, jist ahint St Stephen's kirk. The path fae the toun doon tae the mills wis kent as Gabriel's Road, we cryed it that efter the auld man Gabriel that kept a drinkin-howf doon by the mills. Nane o us kent his real name but he blew a mean trumpet an had sic an angelic wee face. Ah baptised him efter a heavy session yin Friday nicht an the name, weel it kinda stuck... The baptism wis an accident by the way, ah wis a lot younger then an ah couldnae haud ma drink as easy as ah dae now, ah went tits-ower-erse an the drink went tits-ower-Gabriel, but that's anither story...

Gabriel's Road struck aff fae the end o the dam that held back the Nor Loch, across fae the fit o Halkerston's Wynd, near tae whaur we dooked Betty Trot that day. The dam stood roughly whaur the North Brig stauns noo, an the path climbed up the steep slope whaur they built the North British Hotel tae Moultrey's Hill, afore descendin doon the ither side taewards Silvermills. Oan a warm summer's day there wis nothin nicer than takin a daunder ower tae Moultrey's, tae a wee fermhoose inn by the road cryed 'Peace an Plenty', it wis whaur the Royal Bank Heid Office is noo, fer some lovely curds an whey. Nane o yer Mr Whippy or Jerry'n'Ben's rubbish fer us. Aw naw, we had curds an whey! Ah wid get a wee bowl o the stuff, find masel a wee tuffet tae sit doon oan, an ooooh... scrumptious... mmm...

Moultrey's Hill itsel stood at the end o a wee ridge, alang the line o which George Street wis laid oot. This wis anither braw bit fer a walk oan a fine summer's day, alang the ridge tae the bit field that went by the name o Barefit's Park. Noo, ah ken whit ye're thinkin, "Whit wis it cryed Barefit's Park fer?" an ah wid dearly love tae tell ye it wis oan account o aw us young hippy lassies skippin merrily through the gress wi nae shoes nor stockins oan oor pretty feet, runnin up that hill singin hippy songs, spreadin hippy free love an gettin up tae awsorts. Ah ken at least a couple o ye that wid prefer that onyroads, pyntin nae fingers...

Sadly tho, it wisnae. It wis cryed that efter the owner, a Mr Bearford fae oot East Lothian an got corrupted intae Barefit ower the years. Sad ah ken, but true. Dinnae let that tak onythin awa fae the place tho, it wis a bonnie field. Ah spent mony a summer's day wanderin through the whins, pickin flooers or catchin butterflees, strollin doon the hill an across the Lang Dykes path tae the banks o the Nor Loch. It wis bonnie jist sae lang as the wind wisnae blawin ower fae the Auld Toun, fer it could get a bit smelly in the summer. If ye lay oan yer back an shut yer een ye could imagine ye were awa oot in the country, while in fact ye were ony a hauf-mile fae yer hoose. Ye had tae keep in mynd that onythin ye did in Barefit's Park could be seen fae the back windaes o the High Street, which brings me tae Robert Irvine an his terrible deed.

Noo this widnae be Embra, an it widnae be Shootinfaetheshin, if there wisnae a terrible deed lurkin there amangst the bushes, wid it?

Robert Irvine wis a probationary meenister that had taken up a job tutorin twa young laddies, the sons o a Mr Gordon o Ellon, that bidit doon in Broughton village. Noo like a lot o young gentlemen he enjoyed a wee bit o dallyin oan the side, an he wis dallyin this day wi the Gordon's scullerymaid, when he wis seen by the twa young laddies. This compromisin scene they happened, in aw innocence, tae mention tae their mither at tea-time.

Of course this upset the young Casanova, thinkin that if word got oot he wid get barred fae the meenistry. He broodit oan this, turnin his anger at the laddies intae a monster inside hissel. Oan the follaein Sunday, efter kirk, he took the twa laddies fer a walk up tae Barefit's Park, an there, in broad daylicht, an in fu view o the back windaes o the toun, he attacked an murdered the laddies wi a clasp-knife...

It didnae tak lang tae chase the brute doon, seein as how he wis seen by sae mony witnesses oan the toun side o the loch, an when he wis chasit doon, he wis still coverit in blood fae the terrible deed. He wis caught, as we yaist tae cry it, 'ridd-haundit', that is tae say, wi the blood still fresh oan his hauns. This meant that there wis nae need fer a trial, an first thing oan the Wednesday mornin, the 1st o May 1717, the beast had baith his hauns cut aff, an wis strung up oan the gibbet doon by Broughton toll-hoose...

There's a wee somethin fer ye tae think aboot next time ye're doon Princes Street Gairdens lickin yer Mr Whippy. Oan second thochts mibbe naw. Tell ye whit, jist think oan me dancin barefit through the whins wi ma butterflee net an endin up flat oan ma back in Barefit's Park. That'll dae ye noo, awa ye go, ah'm aff tae mak masel some yummy curds an whey. Cheerio!


  1. Even back then meenisters wur dodgy, talkin aboot Lithgae brings memories o us trudging hame ower the flints to Bonyuks efter a guid swally along the high street. Fae the westport tae the star.

  2. Eh mind the Guildford Arms. Used tae be a haunt o mine back in the late 60s. We'd a' meet up there 'n' then set aff roon the toon fur a dander. Noo eh'm aff tae git a recipe fur curds. Ma granny aye used tae gie us that when we hid a sair throat. Braw indeed.

  3. Aye Ryan, nivver trust a man wi a book in his haun. Nivver.

    Aye ye're richt, the flints wis a gey lang road so it wis, ye wonder why they built it sae lang?

  4. Aye but ye need guid proper creamy milk hen, no this homobicurious stuff ye get noo, an 'filterit', whit's 'filterit'? Aw this hauf-the-fat an nane-o-the-fat malarky, ah jist want plain ornery milk dammit!

    Ye're as weel jist buyin yoghurt.

  5. I'm just dreaming here with my eyes wide opening, thinking about you dancing barefoot through these whins... and then...

    ......Oh well I'll leave the dodgy stuff for your frined Mr Bownlie. He's more that kind of guy... or so I'm led to believe. (Then again he's older than me!)

  6. "frined Mr Bownlie" - whatever can he mean? "older than me" - what can he mean? I'll have to ask him Mum if he's been at the caffeine again?

    Strangely enough I drink in the Guildford on Saturdays to meet up with my Hertz supporting pals. I can sit upstairs with my "spritzer" and watch their sad disappointed wee faces as they come in the door!

    "dallyin" does not ring a bell in my innocent little mind. Can you enlarge on that?

  7. "his Mum", even..... This lack of edification is contagious.

  8. Ah'll thank you twa tae be mair carefu when ye come in here, trippin ower yer words an leavin mistakes lyin aw ower the shop...

    'dallyin' wis somethin yer granny wid've been familiar wi Mr Brownlie. It wis like 'baggin off' but ye kept yer hat oan...

    Weel ah hope ah've gien ye somethin tae think on th'morn if ye're up in the Guildford then. If ye screw yer een an look oot the windae ye micht even see me skippin by up Gabriel's Road oan ma way tae the 'Peace an Plenty'...

  9. Him mum she say no.

    But he been sniffing at da sherry.

    Sorry about the mistakes Sophia. My fingers don't do what I tell them.

  10. That's awricht tris, ah hae the same problem masel sometimes, say if ah tell them no tae pick ma nose...

  11. Mr Brownlie tells me you're about again Ms Pangloss. I'll pop round with some sherry and a nice box of Milk Tray... and maybe you'll tell me another story in the glow of the firelight?

  12. I love your blog!! Randomly found it of all things, via @TheQueenofScots on twitter. Have followed you there too!

    Keep up the good work, I really really want to go and visit your fair country (scotland)!!!

  13. tris, hullo there! Ah'm aboot again, ah aye wis, it's jist that ah fell intae a dwam. Again. It's yin o thon cyclical things we go through. Happy. Scunnert. Happy, That sortae thing. Ah've spent the time layin flooers oan graves, wanderin doon back closes in search o auld memories, an scrubbin stairs. Aye the stairs...

    Oh aye! an ah Twitter. A lot. Ower much some wid say...

    Ah'm workin masel up tae screivin some mair. Hing tight there...

  14. Thank ye maist kindly Snipergirl, an welcome tae ma wee corner. Ah'm no yin tae cast aspersions ower easy, but watch that MaryQueenoScots yin, she can be a minx. She's got it richt in fer me an ah dinnae ken why. Aw jist cos ah pynted oot tae her that she nivver waved tae me when she got aff the boat in Leith that dreich day in 1560. Some fowk can be awfy touchy...

    Anyroads, ah hope ye enjoy ma stories, an get yersel ower here pronto, it's a braw braw toun an nae mistake! x

  15. Ah Sophia. I'm mighty relieved to hear it. I thought you'd maybe fallen into a dram... but then I remembered it would be more likely to be a scooner...

    Mr Brownlie, my mum and me, we were all worried about you.

    Don't you ever go off like that again without telling us.

    We were knocking on the door and shouting through the letter box, .... and well, we'd got to the end of our collective tether.

    So anyway, you're back and I haven't wasted that Christams card I wrote... thank goodness (they're not cheap now you know, especially the ones with glitter).

    Let me know when you're up to a visit and I'll be round with a bottle of the best Bristol Cream and a packet of hobnobs.


  16. Ye're awfy kind tris, watch oot or ye'll hae ma een blearin up. Ah'm sorry aboot the door, ye've got a knock awfy like oor bailiffs, so ah wid likely hae jist turnit up the volume oan 'Coontdoon' tae droon it oot, tho come tae think oan it ye probably noticed that yersel...

    Make them chocolate hobnobs...

  17. I'm about deafened with bloody Countdown... I make them chocolate hobnobs and I'll knock differently... OK...?

  18. Whit a smashin wy tae tak. Yer hanl o the Scots patter is jist the wy it wis ment tae be.

  19. Thanks Stevie, that's awfy nice o ye tae say that. Ah cannae lay claim tae nae special powers tho, ah jist type it how it comes oot ma mooth an trust tae luck. Ah hope it comes ower richt...

  20. It soons richt tae me a cudny hae put it better ma sel..Fae whar a stan ye deserve a wee medal. ...Bless ye lassie :-)

  21. Yin mare thing if a diny mind?
    A hae bid in the sooth neer Stranraer an noo am bidin in Aberdeen an last year a hid tae spend a month or so livin in the holy toon o Edinburgh, whit a place a loved it.
    Oniwy far aboots dis this wordy "barrie" come fae?
    A hae never ever heard ocht like it a ma life before..It really is barrie, a love it.

  22. Weel it soonds tae me like ye've been aw ower the shop Stevie, fae yin end o the earth tae the ither. Ah'll bet ye've heard some gey queer words in yer traivels, but fer pure class ye cannae dae nae better than 'barrie'. It's a barrie word richt enough an comes in haundy at ony hoor o the day or nicht. Ah yaise it aw the time, whether ah'm daein ma messages, wringin oot ma nets or beatin ma auld rug. "Oh my, that's a barrie stoor ah'm kickin up" ah'll say tae masel...

    Whaur it comes fae tho ah'm no certain, but then, neither are maist fowk in Embra! Ah've heard it said that it comes fae the Hindustani 'burra' meanin guid or great (as ye wid expect) an ah suppose it micht hae come ower wi aw the sodjers we sent oot there. Mibbes aye mibbes naw, ah widnae want tae pit ma last jam piece oan it, but it's a guid an explanation as ah've heard so ah'll go wi that. Hope it maks sense...

  23. Makes sense to me... and that's a novelty!

  24. Hello Sophia. Mr Brownlie and I were wondering if you were well... and if you'd like to come out to play, if Mr P will let you...

    Let us know soon. I think Mr B has some bootleg sherry he's been making up in the islands....