Blog From the North – February 2016

Bunty Gunn
Bunty Gunn

What of Caithness in January? Well – we missed the worst of the flooding that affected both Scotland and England to the south of us, although Halkirk had a problem with the water table leading to flooded basements. What we did have was a lot of very cold weather with fiercely strong winds and sprinklings of snow, followed by days of thaw which made everything either slippery or muddy – usually both. This is when I discovered that in Caithness you do not call a spade a spade; whatever its ultimate use, it is called a shovel. A lorry driver made rather a mess of the verges in the driveway and told me he had moved the mud with a shuffle – which is how you say it up here.
This led me to think of other Caithness idioms; for example where I would say that something is “no good”. my neighbour would say it was “no use”. And where I would say something was “no use”, my neighbour would say “it’s not handy.” Gutters are – well – gutters along the edge of a roadway, but the things along the edge of a roof are rhones. And a bucket for floor cleaning use is a pail, your actual bucket being something to put rubbish into. You soon learn.
There are also lovely words like “swak” which is quite difficult to translate but means something like hale and hearty. A fork (garden variety) is a graip and in order to empty your barrow, you coup it onto the rubbish heap (or midden).
You don’t take advantage of anyone, you “take a lend” of them. But I think my very favourite expression was overheard at the check-out of the local supermarket. Two elderly gents were queuing to pay and one, spotting the other, said “Now then, Johnnie. I’ve no’ seen ye for a whilie. How’re you doing?” To which the somewhat surly reply was “Yer seein’ it”!
So now we’re just into February and “Henry” is raging round; the Canada geese are feeding peacefully in the field in front; the ponies up the road have got their jackets on, Morven and Scaraben are covered in icing sugar and through it all the sun is shining. The days are getting noticeably longer and the daffodils are pushing through. Spring may yet come.

6 thoughts on “Blog From the North – February 2016”

  1. Hello!! My family had a gathering recently, in Lincolnton, North Carolina(USA). We were told that we are part of the Clan Gunn Society. My daughter is marrying in the McGregor Clan also in the USA, living in Nevada, Iowa

  2. Dear you all
    That would be too long to explain how my two sons are connected to the name Williamson.
    This surname doesn’t seem to be that important to be a clan by itself.
    I’ve seen more than one Clan that Williamson could be a sept of,
    Gunn his one of them.
    Of what I’ve read, the parents of Daniel Williamson got married in Dallas, Moray, Scotland.
    Do you guys Gunn, recognise some surname as septs of your clan.
    Thank you to bear with my english (I’m french canadian)

  3. The Scots are such a tender people…


    Time is like a river. You cannot touch the water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of life. As a bagpiper, I play many gigs.

    Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper’s cemetery in the Nova Scotia back country. As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost and, being a typical man, I didn’t stop for directions.

    I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place.

    I didn’t know what else to do, so I started to play. The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I’ve never played before for this homeless man. And as I played “Amazing Grace”, the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished, I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car.

    Though my head was hung low, my heart was full. As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, “I never seen anything like that before, and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.”

    Apparently, I’m still lost…. it’s a man thing.

    Sent to me by my sister.
    Mark D. “Pete” Gunn, Major, USAF (ret.)

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