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Tuesday 8 January 2013

Am Bodach a bha ann an Hiort – The Old Man from St Kilda

Here’s a rather funny anecdote from John MacDonald of Highbridge about a St Kilda man who had never seen a mirror before. A St. Kilda man saw himself in a mirror in Glasgow, and thought it was a monkey. He took the mirror home to his wife, and she thought the ugly creature in the mirror was his mistress! This anecdote was recorded by Calum Maclean in 1952 when he returned to Lochaber. He had previously recorded another version of the same story a year before. It would appear from the beginning of the recording that his sister, Ellen, was also present during the recording. This anecdote was later transcribed by the late Donald Archie MacDonald. The poor St Kildans often seem to be the butt of jokes in Highland tradition and are seen to be backwards when they were obviously very much the reverse:

Bha bodach ann an Hiort agus chaidh e a Ghlaschu, ach ’s e an aon rud mun Hiort, cha robh sgàthan idir ann ’s chan fhaca e sgàthan riamh gus an deach e a Ghlaschu, dar a chaidh e ’thaigh a charaid. Bha e a’ coimhead a-staigh don sgàthan agus chunnaic e an aghaidh a bha seo ann:
“Trobhad seo,” thuirt e ri charaide, “an e moncaidh a tha sin thall?”
“O, chan e, ’s e thu fhèi’ tha sin.”
“O, chan e idir, ach chuala mis’ aca bho chionn fhada nach robh aon char a chuireadh na do cheann nach dèanadh am moncaidh e agus tha mise a’ dèanadh sin–a cheart rud a tha mise dèanadh, tha an rud a thall sin ris. Agus dar a chuireas mi a-mach mo theanga tha e a’ dèanadh sin cuideachd. Agus chan eil teagamh nach e moncaidh a th’ ann.”
“Dad-aibh, theirg thusa a-nall rudan beag ’s cuiridh mise m’ ìomhaigh fhìn an sin ’s am faic thu.”
Choimhead e air:
“An-dà,” thuirt e, “tha rudeigin ann, gun teagamh,” thuirt esan.
“Ach, co-dhiù, innsidh mi dè nì mi: bheir mi am fear dhiubh seo dachaigh a dh’ionnsaigh a’ bhean.”
’S thug e leis e ’s dh’ innis e dhi dar a ràinig e an rud laghach a thug e dhachaigh.
“Càite a bheil e?”
“Tha e thall ann an sin,” thuirt e.
Choimhead i ’s dè bha i ri comhead air ach air a’ chùl aige.
“Coimhead air an taobh eile dheth, a ghalghad,” thuirt e.
Choimhead i air an taobh eile ’s bha i a’ coimhead air tacan. Chuir i sìos e agus choimhead i a-rithist air.
“An e sin a’ chailleach ghrannda leis a bheil thusa a’ falbh ann an Glaschu. Mas e, “thuirt i, “tha an làn àm agad stad dheth ’s gun a dhol a Ghlaschu, mas e sin an tè ghrannda leis a bheil thu a’ falbh!”

And the translation goes something like this although it’s never going to be quite as good as the original version:

There was an old man in St Kilda and he went to Glasgow but there’s one thing about St Kilda: there are no mirrors and he had never seen a mirror before until he went to Glasgow when he visited his friend’s house. He was looking in the mirror and he saw this face that appeared:
“Come here,” he said to his friend,” is that a monkey over there?”
“Oh, no, that’s yourself there.”
“Oh no it can’t be, but I’ve heard a long time ago that there wasn’t some movement in your face that a monkey wouldn’t imitate and I’m doing that – the very same thing that I do that thing over does the same. And when I stick out my tongue it does the very same thing too. There’s no doubt that it’s a monkey.”
“Here, come over a wee bit and I’ll place my reflection there so that you can see.”
He looked.
“Well,” he said, “there’s something there, right enough,” he said.
“But, anyway, I’ll tell you what I’ll do: I take one of these home for my wife.”
He took it with him and he told her when he got home the nice thing that he had brought home.
“Where is it?”
“It’s over there,” he said.
She took a look but she was looking at its back.
“Look on the other side, darling,” he said.
She took a look at the other side and she looked for a while. She put it down and took another look.
“Is that the ugly old carlin what you’re seeing in Glasgow. If it is,” she said, “it’s high time you stopped going to Glasgow if that’s the ugly woman you’re seeing!”
SA 1952/123/9

A monkey looking in a mirror.

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