My father died in 1975. I dreamt about him last night. Hence the blog.
‘Spring is here – the grass is ris – I wonder where the boidies is – The boids are on the wing – but that’s absoid – from what I’ve hoid – the wing is on the boid!’
This is just one of the many ‘classical’ verses taught to me by my father. This one heralded this exact time of year when nature was doing the opposite of ‘the nights are fair drawin’ in’! He seemed to have a saying or verse for every occasion ….. He could be so funny and yet often so morose. He came into his own, in company, when singing and when his horses won! He was a very clever and talented man who had been denied opportunities to have his talents recognised. Things just never seemed to go his way. Fortunately music was his passion and he had a beautiful tenor voice…… and oh how he could sing!
I remember as a young child, sitting on his knee and hoping against hope that he wouldn’t launch into ‘Pair Wee Johnnie Clark’ – a song that made me sob and sob no matter how many times he sang it. He would sing lustily as he washed himself at the scullery sink after a shift at Colvilles Steelworks. He came from a long line of iron and steelworkers and like many youngsters of his day he had to follow, not his dream but (in) his father’s footsteps. So he joined choirs and sung locally – sometimes with his brother- at charitable events and concerts and was a much valued soloist with the Shieldmuir Light Operatic Society. We ‘teethed’ on songs from Gilbert and Sullivan and on all his concert pieces like ‘The Lark in the Clear Air’, ‘The Snowy Breasted Pearl’, ‘Macushla’, ‘The Last Rose of Summer’, ‘Afton Water’…….. There was no piano then but I’m sure we all inherited his ‘good ear’. Now, the things we had to work out for ourselves were the true lyrics, for very often he would sing his own words (to make us laugh) or treat us to ‘gobbledegook’ which we later learned was actually ‘spoonerism’. These stick in my mind:
‘Bome cack, bome cack, your froach is key and foose the chairest sone you wee’…… (‘Come back, come back, your coach is free and choose the fairest one you see’…..)
‘Away, away! My feart’s on hire!’…… (‘Away, away! My heart’s on fire!’……)
He asked me one night about my homework. ‘What’s that you’re doing, Moreen?’ ‘I’m learning a poem, Daddy.’ ‘Hmm. Do you know the difference between poetry and prose?’…no answer from me…’ Well….. listen carefully to this ….. I knew a girl whose name was Nellie – she had a pimple on her chin. That’s prose……. but if that pimple had been about two feet lower ……. that would have been poetry!’ I had to work this out for my young self but I’ve never forgotten it.
‘ Daddy, what’s an epitaph?
‘Let me see.…Here lies the body of John Bun – Who was shot with a gun – His name was not Bun but Wood – But Wood would not rhyme with gun – But Bun would. That’s an epitaph.’
‘Daddy I’ll never learn that!’
‘Where there’s a will,’ ‘ I know Daddy.…..there’s a lotta relatives!’ (He taught me that when I was doing proverbs, along with‘You can take a horse to water but a pencil must be lead’..!
My own children thankfully have memories of their Papa and as you would expect are pretty good at the puns and the spoonerisms too. I can still hear him urging them to ‘eat up your Florncakes’ or asking them if they’d like a wee ‘croom ceakie’ from the baker’s van or a ‘hokey pat’ when the ice cream man came around. We enjoyed special times when he eventually got his piano and I ‘got’ Hugh – his very own accompanist. I would love him to have seen his Grand Son, Grand Daughters and his Great Grand Daughters now all grown up and to have met his Great Grandsons – (characters both) – I am sure he would have enriched their lives and ‘honed’ their sense of humour (as I try to do! – ‘Oh Nana!!!’…) and as he most assuredly did for me. I just wish I had asked him more questions……..
‘We die, that they may live,‘….he whispered gravely to me as the local undertaker and spouse whirled around the dance floor at a parish function, ‘Let’s hope he doesn’t fall on his hearse…….’