Friday, 23 December 2011

Flooer o the mountain...

So here we are then, it's Hogmanay again, an we've made it through anither year. Maist o us made it onyhow, tho many didnae. Hogmanay's aye been a guid time tae stop an mind them that nivver made it through, a sad wee epilogue tae the year, afore we pick oorsels up an face the New Year wi a smile oan oor face...

Here, ah'm feelin a bit darin th'day, why dae ah no chuck caution tae the winds an break oot the Black Bun a bit early, eh? Ah'll nivver eat it aw masel onyhow, ah'm no ower-fond o the stuff tae tell the truth, an Mr Pangloss jist turns his nose up at it. Ah really dinnae ken why ah still buy it, but ye ken how it is, some things ye jist hae tae dae, it's Hogmanay! Ah'll pit the kettle oan...


Right then, here's yer tea. an here's yer Black Bun. Are ye settled then? Guid...

Noo, this bein Hogmanay of course, ah couldnae tak ye onywhaur else except up the High Street tae the Tron Kirk. This is whaur fowk in Embra hae gaithered fer hunners o years tae see in the New Year, tae stand an tae huddle th'gither in the cauld an the wet tae worship the great god o Passin Time, afore gaun first-footin, intae the warm an the dry, tae worship ither, gey cheerier gods...

Of course, if ye gang up tae the Tron th'nicht ye'll no find many fowk, they've aw been shepherded doon tae Princes Street tae listen tae some pop band daein turns at the bandstand an watch fireworks gaun aff fae the castle, an they'll clap their hands an tak lots o photies afore gaun hame, aw weel-behaved. But if ye'd gone up the Tron up until say the 1980s, ony Hogmanay, ye wid've been met wi a different sort o beast. Hunners, thoosans o fowk, aw dressed up in their best, aw jostlin an bargin, aw half-cut, aw singin, aw dancin, aw pals th'gither. Fowk wid be bletherin awa in the run up tae the bells, catchin up wi aw the news. There wis aye somethin worth passin comment oan, somebody that had shown thersels up, got thersels hung or left their man. An ye met fowk ye hadnae seen fae the last Hogmanay, which aye pit me oot a bit back when we aw bided in the same street...

Then some wag wi a watch wid start up a coontdoon tae the actual bells, 10... 9... 8... doon tae twelve o'clock, an then it wis Hurray! Happy New Year! an ye had tae wish it tae aw yer pals, an their pals, an their pals' pals, an so oan an so forth. There were times up at the Tron ah've felt like the hale world wis ma pal, ah wid jist swing fae crowd tae crowd, gaitherin kisses like they were flooers, an ah wis some daft young thing in a dress made fae drapes runnin aboot in a field, bendin ower tae grab a haunfu o edelweiss, the wee flooer o the mountain, er... ... ...where wis ah?

Oh aye, ah wis gettin ye a bit Black Bun. There ye go... Naw, take it, ah've got plenty! Onywys... ah wis tellin ye how guid up at the Tron yaist tae be, except fer when it wisnae...

Ah mind this time, 200 years ago this very nicht, the 31st o December 1811, when ye widnae hae wanted tae be up the Tron. We were aw in a fowl mood. Times were hard, the Tories were in power (again), we'd fell oot wi France (again), there were riots (in England (again))... ye get the picture... no a guid year... Onyhow, fer whitever reason, or fer nae reason at aw, this gang o lads, ca'ed thersels the Keelie Gang, that hung aboot doon the fit o Niddry Street doon fae the Tron, had decided that they fancied some new hats, an that Hogmanay up the Tron wid be jist the very place tae get their hands oan some. So they ganged up wi anither er, gang fae doon the Canongate, an arranged tae meet up at the Fleshmarket Close, jist up fae North Bridge Street, at 11 o'clock...

Their first target wis the polis, who were few in number in thae days, an whit there were werenae awfy weel trained in riot control. Yin o the polis watchmen, Dugald Campbell, wis attacked jist up fae the Fleshmarket Close at the heid o the Stamp-office Close, an beaten tae the groond wi big sticks.  The ither polis jist fled the scene an fae then oan, till aboot 3 o'clock oan New Year's mornin, the gang had the run o the street an rampaged aboot the Tron, attackin onybody that looked like they may hae somethin o value oan them, stealin watches, purses, money, an of course, hats...

Ah wisnae actually aware o ony o this at the time, ah jist thocht it wis a particularly noisy an rumbustious Hogmanay. Me an ma pal Jessie Knox were late in comin oot fae the Gropin-hoose up Parliament Close ye see, oan accoont o her gettin intae a rammie wi some caddie fae up the Castlehill ower whit ah cannae mind noo. She wis aye pickin fechts wi fowk wis Jessie, she had a face made fer arguments. Suffice tae say we were a bit, er oblivious, an we nivver got much past the Mercat Cross that year, an no long efter the Bells wi heided back tae the Gropin-hoose cos Jessie wanted tae hae anither go at the wee caddie...

Dugald Campbell, the polisman, an James Campbell, a clerk, baith died that nicht, an many mair were left wi serious injuries. Though the gang tried tae flee the toun, some o them gettin as far awa as Glesca, they were soon enough roonded up an sent fer trial in March o 1812. Three o them, Hugh McIntosh, Hugh McDonald an Nicol Sutherland were sentenced tae hing, tho only Hugh McIntosh fer murder, the ither twa laddies, an they were laddies, aw atween sixteen an nineteen, got the sentence o death fer stealin watches. Aye, fer stealin watches...

Ah mind their hingin in the April, whit a turnoot, ye couldnae bare move in the High Street. They built a gibbet specially at the top o the Stamp Office Close, jist at the spot whaur the polisman died, an had fower hunner sodjers linin the path fae the Tolbooth tae the gibbet. The laddies had been hard worked at by the meenisters while they were in the Tolbooth an they stood prayin fer near three-quarters o an hour afore the drop. Ah'll tell ye it felt like an eternity, cos their wis a cauld wind blawin up fae the sea an ah'd come oot withoot ma coat, thinkin it wis warmer than it wis cos it hadnae been a bad mornin ye see an the sun had been oot. That's April fer ye ah suppose...

But look, this is January, or it will be efter th'nicht, an we've got a hale New Year tae look forrit tae noo. We shouldnae dwell oan whit's past, but sometimes it's nice tae hae a wee peek at whit we've left ahint us, like hingin weans fer stealin watches, an pay a thocht tae them that huvnae made it this far. But then we hae tae turn an look aheid o us, paint oan a smile, stick a stupit hat oan oor heid an charge oor glesses. Ah hae a guid feelin aboot the future, tho when ah look at the news ah think ah must be gaun doolally, but ah dae, ah really dae, ah've got a feelin in ma waters, an in a guid way. Ah wish ye aw the best o health an happiness in the comin year fer yersel, an ah hope 2012 brings ye aw ye could wish fer. Happy New Year, an lang may yer lum reek!



Wid ye like some Black Bun tae tak awa wi ye...?