Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Coming soon: Samuel Rutherford Crockett Society – 'Glenhead Stories' by Joe Rae


I am thankful to my freen Joe Rae who lives near Beith in Ayrshire for this information. Over the years Joe has introduced me to countless stories, songs, traditions, places and histories, including the writings of Samuel Rutherford Crockett (1859–1914). He was a master storyteller, a bestselling author in his day, selling hundreds of thousands of copies of his books. He has been described as ‘Galloway’s Best Kept Secret’, doing for Galloway what Sir Walter Scott did for the Borders. Crockett was a friend and correspondent of Robert Louis Stevenson - Crockett dedicated The Stickit Minister to Stevenson, who in turn dedicated Songs of Travel to Crockett. Unsurprisingly, adverts and reviews of Crockett’s works appear hundreds of times in the Ulster newspapers of his day.

Joe has been working lately with the S.R. Crockett Society (society website here) to help with a new publication called Glenhead Stories, which is due out in April 2018. The book will feature fifteen stories, in Scots, remembered and retold by Joe.

Rutherford was a prolific author (see bibliography here) but one story which really stands out for me is the tradition mentioned in a recent post here about John Thomson leading Bruce’s defeated troops back to Scotland, giving rise to the expression in south west Scotland that ‘we’re aa Jock Tamson’s bairns’.

The story was told to Crockett by John MacMillan, a farmer from Glenhead. Glenhead is near Glen Trool, the scene of the Bruces’ famous victory in 1307 right after they returned to Scotland after wintering on Rathlin Island. There is a Covenanter memorial still at their farm of the Caldons, again close to Glen Trool, erected by the famous ‘Old Mortality'

NB: The very first Reformed Presbyterian minister was also called John MacMillan. He was born at Minnigaff just 14 miles from Glenhead, and was one of the founders of the Reformed Presbytery in 1743. He is known to have come to Ireland to minister to ‘United Society’ Covenanters in 1707 and 1715. Crockett wrote a dramatised account of MacMillan’s life, a novel entitled The Standard Bearer in 1898. There is a monument in Dalserf to MacMillan with numerous inscriptions, including:

A public tribute to the memory of the Rev. John Macmillan,
minister of Balmaghie in Galloway, and afterwards first
minister to the United Societies in Scotland, adhering at
the Revolution to the whole Covenanted Reformation in
Britain and Ireland, attained between 1638 and 1649. An
exemplary Christian ; a devoted minister ; and a faithful
witness to the Cause of Christ : died December First,
1753, aged eighty-four.


Carrick wis for lang counted pairt o Gallowa an the premier title o the heir tae the Scottish throne wis Earl O Carrick. The Bruce an his youngest, an only surviving, brither, Edward, Earl O Carrick, gaed ouwre tae Irelan in the year 1316 an met wi a wheen o the native chiefs. At the final getherin it wis agreed thit Edward wid return the neist year wi an airmy an jine forces, ourthrow the English usurpers, an then he wad be crooned king o irelan.

The Yearl an King agreed that the airmy wad be recruited fae Gallowa an word wis sent aa roon the cuntryside that ilk able man atween the age o saxteen an saxty wid hae tae gether et the Turnberry on the 21st.o Mey 1317, this gein time tae get the lammin bye an the feils plood an sawn. Whun the carls hid aa gethird the force cam tae 2000 men, noo boys ye micht think that this wis a gey smaa numer fur the hale o Gallowa, bit jist conseeder this, for twenty years the Southerin hid been butcherin Scotsmen like lambs et the slaughter an the hale population o Scotland et that time numbered 220,000 say 2000 fae sic an ootbye laun wis nae sae bad. Amang the thrang there wis thirty lords wha wur mounted.
Sailin fae Turnberry the airmy landed at Carrickfergus an sterted thir mairch Sooth aa the wey bein jined bi the native chiefs wi thir followers. Cumin tae the breist o a brae et a place caad Dundalk, an luikin doon there they saw a sicht thit garred some o them grue, fir

Doon the brae lined up in rank upon rank wis 20,000 Englishmen airmed tae the teeth an led bi a chiel caad Sir Jhone De Bermingham a notar loon. Weel the native Irish wi scant thoucht meltit awa like snaa aaf a dyke, bit whit dis thet daft chiel Edward dae? raisin his sword an gein it a sweep roon cries follow me men, an wi his thirty muntit men gaes gallopin doon the brae like some gommeril taen wi a brain storm, The Gallowa men on fit hadny gotten faur on there wey effter him whun even they could see it wid be like cuttin their ane thrapples tae gyang ony further. Say there they ur stottin aboot like a heedless corps whun oot o the thrang  steps ane Jock Tamson an he wi a voice like a foghorn gars them tak heed gin they didna move richt smert back the wye they hid cum they wid gang the wye o their faaen leader, naethin like self preservation tae spur a man on an ye cun be gye share they didna count the thistles on their wye back tae Carrickfergus an wi a guid win they wur nae lang in reachin Turnberry an sae hame wi very few missin et the hinneren.

Noo fur generations efter whun fermers an herds fae Gallowa met et mairkets or fairs they wad drink a toast, an the toast they drank wis:--We”re aa Jock Tamsons Bairns”----aye an ye ken it wis literally true, fir hud it nae been for Jock Tamson there widna hae been an indigenous buddy in Gallowa this day.

Meanwhile Sir Jhone De Bermingham examinin the bodies o the thirty slayn horsemen, discoverin thet yin wis the corps o yin o the hated Bruces, cuts aaf the heid pits it in a pyock an maks speedy arrangements tae gyang ouwre tae Lunnon wi his trophy.

Arrivin in the kings chaumer he coups the heid oot o its pyock ontae a table fornent the king an sez, whit dae ye think o that my liege, {this bein that English king wha cam tae a painfu en et the hauns o his ain courtiers, a rid hot poker bein involved.}  man, man sez the king aa hae lang soucht the sicht aa see noo.  Weel as a reward he fills the empty pyock wi goud, dubs Sir Jhone on the shooder an sez arise Sir Jhone, Earl O Meath wi the braid lans o Meath tae you an yours fir as lang as grass grouws an waater rins.

Back hame in Irelan ye wad hae thoucht thit the new Earl wid hae hid nae a care in this worl, bit ye ken things in this life dinnae aye turn oot as ye plan or expect.

Nae lang efter the new Earl tuik possession o his new launs, did his faimily no aa gyang native an they refused to speak English an wid only communicate in Erse which garred the faithers blood pressure rise tae sic a level thit he sune deit. Efter that did they no chinge the faimily name tae McJorris an they leived as sic tae the middle o the 18th.C. whun they decided tae emigrate, an whaur did they emigrate tae---why Gallowa, an there they thoucht the name McJorris a wee bit outlandish even fur they pairts an they chinged their name again—this time tae McGeorge an this name is still quite common in Gallowa even untae this day.         


• Wikipedia entry for S.R. Crockett is here

• You can join the S.R. Crockett Society for free here, which will give you access to regular updates and stories.