THE MERMAID

Frae: R. De Bruce Trotter, Galloway Gossip (1901), pp. 427-429

O A’ QUEER craiters, mermaids is the queerest.

There use’t tae be plenty o’ baith Mermaids an Morroughs aboot the shores o’ Gallawa, an A’m no sayin but there’s maybe an odd yin thereawa yet. Deed! A hae ken’t mair nor yae falla yt declare’t he had seen them, aye! an maist gruppit them forbye.

A never saw ony myself, nor my sons aither, an they use’t tae stravaig a gey deal aboot the shore.

There wus yin o’ thae Mermaids use’t tae frequent the shore atween the Aibbey Heid an Raeberry, an some man gruppit it in a net an took it hame wi him, an wantit it tae mairry him, but it wudna hae him. It said it had a far better-lookin man o’ it’s ain at hame fornent the Mullock, an it didna need twa men.

They ca’t him Sandy McKerra, an he leeve’t at McGhirrston; an in thae days a’ that districk wus fu o’ wee farms, an mae folk by a lang wey nor there’s noo. There’s nae McGhirrston noo, aither; that wusna genteel aneuch; sae they shorten’t it tae Girrston. Than they made a plantin at it, an they ca’t Girston-wood, an whun a gran new farm hoose wus biggit naur the wud, they ca’t the hoose by the name o’ the wud. Than it took the Gentility, an ye wud never jaloose yt the McGhirrs had ever haen ocht ‘a’ do wi’t, for it rejoices noo in the gran Fine-English appellation o’ Girdstingwood. There’s Gentility an Fine-English for ye, wi a vengeance! A believe there’s a tradition aboot it somegate.

Hooever, there wus an awfu lot o’ burials gaed fae thereawa tae Dundrennan; for ye see, consumption use’t tae be unca rife in Gallawa at yae time, though it’s no that noo; an the Mermaid had notice’t it, though it didna let on.

Weel, ye see! it ey wantit back tae the sea tae it’s ain man, an fleech’t uncoly wi Sandy tae tak it back, but he wudna; for he had an unca notion o’t, an wus keen tae mairry’t, an he thocht if he keepit it, it wud get tae like him, an forget aboot the man wi the fish-tail a’thegither.

Hooever, there wus yae nicht there wus an awfu doonpour, an there wus quite a spate in the bit burn; an the Mermaid notice’t it in the mornin, an the time Sandy wus gettin his breakfast an sortin hissel, it slippit oot, an wachel’t doon tae the burn an lap in, an yince it wus in the water it wusna lang or it wun tae the tide.

Whun Sandy miss’t it he wus fair dementit, an doon the burnside like a grue, but hooever yaul he wus, the Mermaid wus yauler whun it had the water aneath’t, an it wus intae the tide lang or he wun up on’t.

He beggit an pray’t it tae come back tae him, but it wudna; but it set itsel up on a craig, an said, — “Sandy, my man! ye wur verra gude tae me; if A hadna haen a man o’ my ain A wud ‘a’ bidden wi ye, for A wud sune ‘a’ likit ye; but ye ken yersel A couldna be a wife tae baith o’ ye. But A’ll tell ye a secret ‘ll mak a man o’ ye, an dinna ye forget the words o’t: —

‘Mugwort in Mairch, an Nettles in Mey,
An sae mony fair maids wudna gan tae the cley,’”

an than it lap intae the water an oot o’ sicht. Sandy try’t for lang tae catch’t again, but he never could; but he took her advice an turn’t a man o’ yerbs, an gied oot he could cure a’ kins o’ dwinin lasses, an mak them fair an red-cheekit again; an they cam tae him fae a’ pairts o’ the country, an he ram’t them fu o’ mugwort an nettle broo, till they wur scunner’t wi them; but there wus gey wheens o’ them gat better, an he made a lot o’ siller, an retire’t tae Kirkcubrie on a sma fortin; an he forgat a’ aboot the Mermaid an mairry’t a lass wi legs, an A wudna wunner but there’s some o’ his descendants thereawa yet.

Notes

Girdstingwood is merked on the 1st ed OS as Gristenwood [NX 745 462], next tae the Abbey Burn. A wee bit further up, the Girstenwood Burn faas intae the Abbey Burn. In the Land Tax Rolls frae 1753 tae 1819 the bit is caa’d Girdstingwood. Roy’s Military Map frae the 1750s has it as Garstonwood an Blaue’s cairt o the eastren pairt o the Stewartry frae 1654 haes Girsten park.

As for mermaids frequentin the shore “atween the Aibbey Heid an Raeberry”, the OS cairt haes Mermaid’s Chair [NX 707 435] jist aff Litte Raeberry naur the fit o the Dundrennan Burn. The Name Book entry says this aboot it: “A considerable rock on the west side of Mullock Bay, and is traditionally handed down as being once the resort of a mermaid, hence the name.” [OS1/20/159/47]

JOCK MACTAGGART

BYNAMES

Partial Glossar

Definitions frae DSL (links are tae the relevant entries).

  • Morrough ‘A mythical sea-being.’ [MORROUGH] This is the DSL’s ainly citation for this wurd. It notes Irish murbhachmurdhuach ‘mermaid’ in the entry.
  • Thereawa ‘Of place: away to or in that district, over there, in that general direction.’ [THERE]
  • Grup ‘To seize, catch, lay hold of.’ [GRIP]
  • Forbye ‘Besides, in addition, as well, what is more.’ [FORBY]
  • Stravaig ‘To roam, wander idly, gad about in an aimless casual manner.’ [STRAVAIG]
  • Gey ‘Of quantity or amount: considerable, good, great, good-sized.’ [GEY]
  • Fornent ‘Opposite (to), in front of, over against, facing.’ [FORENENT]
  • Mae ‘More in number.’ [MAE]
  • Aneuch ‘Enough.’ [ANEUCH]
  • Plantin ‘a small wood or grove of trees, a plantation.’ [PLANT]
  • Big ‘To build, construct (in gen.).’ [BIG(G)]
  • Jaloose ‘To suspect, be suspicious of, to have doubts or suspicions about, guess, surmise.’ [JALOUSE]
  • Ocht ‘Anything.’ [OCHT]
  • Somegate ‘Somewhere.’ [SOME]
  • Unca ‘Very, exceedingly, extremely, to a marked degree.’ [UNCO]
  • Fleech ‘To coax, wheedle, flatter; to beseech, entreat, importune.’ [FLEECH]
  • Uncoly ‘Very much, to a great or remarkable degree’. [UNCO]
  • Wachle ‘To walk or make one’s way laboriously or with difficulty, to shamble, to walk in a clumsy, ungainly way, to waddle, stagger, stumble with fatigue, etc.’ [WAUCHLE]
  • Or ‘Before.’ [OR]
  • Grue ‘Half-liquid snow or ice formed in early spring floating on the surface of a river and commonly thought to have risen from the river bed; a thin coating of newly-formed ice on water.’ [GRUE]
  • Yaul ‘Active, sprightly, alert, vigorous, strong, healthy.’ [YAULD]
  • Wun ‘To reach (a place), gain, arrive at.’ [WIN]
  • Bide ‘To stay.’ [BIDE]
  • Yerbs ‘Herbs’ [YERB]
  • Dwine ‘Of persons or animals: to pine, to waste away, to fall into a decline.’ [DWINE]
  • Broo ‘Soup, gravy, the liquid in which any kind of food has been boiled.’ [BROO]
  • Scunner ‘To feel disgust for, to be sickened by, turn in aversion from, be bored or repelled by.’ [SCUNNER]
  • Gey ‘Of quantity or amount: considerable, good, great, good-sized.’ [GEY]
  • Wheens ‘ A separate or distinct number (of persons, etc.), a party, group, bunch, some as opposed to others.’ [WHEEN]