The Ulster-Scots Language Society, formed to promote the Ulster-Scots language, our own hamely tongue

The Antiquary

[Taken from "Pat M'Carty, Farmer, of Antrim: His Rhymes with a Setting" by John Stevenson (London: Edward Arnold, 1905)].

When days begin to lengthen oot
At seed-time o' the year,
A wee bald-heided cratur, stoot,
Wi' glesses on, comes here.
It's sic a sure and sartin fack
That lengthenin' days will bring
Our frien' the antiquary back,
He's ca'd "the Sign o' Spring."
He'll scart auld tombstanes by the 'oor
To find some name or date,
His face a' blackened by the stour, —
What cares he? — deil a haet.
He revels in blue-mowlded things
That mickle need a wash,
Auld rusty buckles, bolts, and rings,
That common folk ca' trash.
For twa-three fossils frae a rock
He'll walk ten mile or mair;
He'd gie his heid for some auld crock
O' prehistoric ware.
The bits o' trumpery he brings
Up by to let me see
Are juist the maist rediklus things
That's possible to be.
He's got the veritable tail
O' Queen Matilda's sark,

The jug that used to haud the ale
That Shakspere drank at wark;
He's got the tawse King David used
To scalp unruly weans,
And twa pair breeches, much abus'd,
That cloth'd his nether banes;
The circlet o' Queen Mary's waist
(A dirty-lookin' dud),
The tail hairs o' an anshent baste
That leev'd before the flood.
A' these and muckle mair I've seen —
Things brocht frae every airt;
Let but the thing be auld, my frien'
Will tak' it to his hairt.

I mind me o' the day when first
I met him wi' his load;
The horse had stopp'd to quench his thirst
As he cam' doon the road.
He emptied oot his bag o' stanes
On paper on his knees,
And show'd me some wi' herrin'-banes
And some wi' marks like trees.
"Are ony ammonites," quo' he,
"In these pairts roondaboot?"
I thocht he pokit fun at me
And answered straight: "Nae doot
There's lots o' them — they're common sights,
Ye'll fin' them here in wheens,
And Jebusites and Moabites
And sometimes Philistines."
I had nae lear o' fossils then,
Nor ever had a squint

At tools o' prehistoric men,
Or workit flake o' flint.
But ere he left I thocht I knew
A guid deal o' the trade,
And thocht I understandit hoo
A trifle micht be made.
He read me frae his catalogues
The price o' flints and stanes,
The horns o' animals frae bogs,
Auld skulls, and bits o' banes.
It seemit strange that folk should buy
Sic ugly, useless trash,
But if they wantit it — why, I
Wad find it them — for cash.

Next morn I started to colleck,
And drew a load o' flint;
I had, as near's I recolleck,
Five thoosan' pieces in't.
I valued them at twopence each,
'Twas naethin' to the price
That larn'd professor folk wha teach
Wad fork out in a trice.
I fun' twa useless kitchen crooks,
A braukin three-legg'd pot,
Some rusty spades and reapin' hooks,
And for the anshent lot
I fixed a guinea to be paid —
Sae moderate was I;
Auld airn work my frien' had said
Museum folk wad buy.
I minded me my feyther's dog,
He had when we were weans,
Was deid and berrit in the bog —
I diggit up the banes.

I pric'd the skull at one pun' ten,
Leg banes ten shillin' each;
No' willin' that the teacher men
Should fin' them oot o' reach.
The shafts o' an auld rotten cairt
And keel o' fishin' boat,
I thocht, self-interest apairt,
Were worth a five-pun' note.

My treasures a' by Monday night
Were rangit in a row,
They seemed to my unlearnit sight
To mak' a guidly show.
The chairge, too, seemed a proper fee,
But, by the Tuesday morn,
I thocht if but advanced a wee
'Twould buy a field o' corn.
On Wednesday I thocht the price
Was still a bit too low;
It should, at varra laste, be twice
As much — I made it so.
Thinks I at that I'll let it be,
From addin' mair refrain;
By Friday afternoon at three
I raised the price again.
I thocht wi' guid museum stuff
Anither rise nae hairm;
By Saturday I had enough
To buy a dacent fairm.

And then my thochts went far afield,
And saw a bright career;
If yin sma' week a' that can yield,
What winna dae a year?

Ye ken hoo thocht desires will breed
And hoo desires expand;
A farm nae langer satisfeed,
I bocht the haill toon-land.
And noo a person o' estate
Wi' lands let oot on lease,
I saw mysel' a magistrate,
A justice o' the peace.
Sae verra near and sure it seem'd,
My bosom heav'd wi' pride;
I leeved respeckit and esteem'd
By a' the country side.

Next week my frien' a veesit paid,
We clamber'd straight abaft
To whaur my precious stock in trade
Was rangit in the laft.
I show'd wi' ill-concealit glee
The objecks o' my quest,
He look'd at them — he look'd at me, —
I needna tell the rest.