Bits n Bobs
Ulster Words and Phrases
Snippets - Local and not
Among instances of epitaph humour is the case of an
hostler who met his death in the course of his work. It was put thus
on his tombstone:-
"Here lies John Ross, kicked by an 'oss"
An Irish epitaph in the same connection ran :-
"Here lies the body of Phelim O'Toole,
He borrowed a feather to tickle his mule"
The immediate relatives of Dugald McFarlane surely had
a grudge against him, for on his tombstone it was recorded :-
"Here lies Dugald McFarlane, aged 90.
The Good die young"
Then there was the bereaved widow who expressed her
sentiments thus :-
"Here lies John Johnstone. Tears will not restore him, therefore
I weep." Surely a sinister glance into their domestic life!
The significance of the concluding epitaph can only be
realised when it is stated that the deceased lady was over 20 stone in
"Here lies the body of Mary Lamb,
She rests on the bosom of Abraham,
It's all very well for Mary Lamb,
It isn't so well for Abraham."
Tourists and others are familiar with what is known as the
"Lettered Stone," standing on the roadside at Garron Point on the
Antrim coast. At the time of the erection of Garron Towers (1848) (the year
following the dreadful famine), by Frances Anne Vane, Marchioness of
Londonderry, she caused a large limestone surface to be polished and
prepared and the following inscription to be engraved on it :- Frances Anne
Vane, Marchioness of Londonderry, being connected with this Province by the
double ties of birth and marriage, and being desirous to hand down to
posterity as an imperishable memorial of Ireland's affliction and England's
generosity in the years 1846-47, unparalleled in the annals of human
suffering, hath engraved this stone
Fair tablet fashioned by the Almighty Hand,
To guard these confines of our sea and land,
No longer shalt thou meet the stranger's sight,
A polished surface of unmeaning white.
But bud him ponder on the days of yore,
When plague and famine stalked along the shore,
And pale Erin bowed her drooping head,
Like Rachel weeping for her children dead.
Go, tell him, to assuage those pangs and fears,
Britannia gave her bounty with her tears,
And bear this record though in phrases rude,
Of England's love and Ireland's gratitude.
|COUNTRY WIT AND WISDOM
"Butter to butter is no kitchen." quoted if
two eligible girls are seen walking or dancing together; also applied
to a tiresome reiteration of anything. "Kitchen" means
anything eaten to give a relish to food. "Kitchen" is also
used in another sense, meaning to serve out sparingly.
A man's laziness reaches its maximum when it is remarked: "He's
as lazy as butter's greasy."
Of a cook who wastes the butter it will be said, "She's the grub
that makes the butter fly."
A man who was complimented on his success in life said: "I didn't
get it all for eating butter."
A knife is pretty useless when "it's that blunt it won't cut
A man who pays special attention to, or humours in every way some
friend or relative who has influence or wealth, will bring upon
himself the remark: "He knows on what side his bread's
buttered." while just as some fortunate people are "born
with a silver spoon," so others seem always to have their
"bread buttered on both sides."
The proverb, "Butter goes mad twice in the year," means that
in the summer it is too soft and in winter too hard and also too
"He'll not go to the market and cry dirty butter of his own"
applies to a man who knows how to sell his wares to the best
It is not complimentary to say of anyone, "She spreads the butter
on the bread as thin as the striffin of an egg" - that is the
think film inside an egg shell.
"It takes no butter off your bread," means that the person's
interests are not affected.
When a series of disasters have befallen a man, a friend will say,
"His bread always falls on the buttery side."
If anyone is being over-praised an auditor will shyly suggest,
"The butter's too thick for the bread."
When a man who overcomes an apparently unsurmountable difficulty is
asked how he did it, he will say, "There's many a way of killing
a dog besides choking it with butter."
"Buttery-fingers" refers to a person who lets articles slip
through their fingers.
Sometimes butter that has been depreciated in value either because it
has been imperfectly worked after the salt has been added to it, or
because in churning the water added has been too hot, when cut
presents a series of streaks formed by a number of small holes. It is
then said to be "pin-rowed."
Butter that has diminished in value owing to its rancid unpleasant
flavour is said to have a "tack." When it has come in
contact with something else it has a "tang."
There was a chap who kept a store,
And, though there might be grander,
He sold his goods to all who came,
And his name was Alexander.
He mixed his goods with cunning hand,
He was a skilful brander,
And since his sugar was half sand,
They called his Alex. Sander.
He had his dear one, and she came,
And lovingly he scanned her,
He asked her would she change her name,
The ring did Alex hand her.
"Oh Yes," she said, with smiling lip,
"If I can be commander."
And so they formed a partnership,
And called it Alex and her.
Henry Jenkins, of Ellerton-upon-Swale, Yorkshire, died in
1670, aged 169. He remembered the battle of Flodden Field, fought between
the English and the Scottish, on September 9, 1513, when he was about twelve
years old. He was then sent to Northallerton with a cartload of arrows, but
an older boy was employed to convey them to the army. At Ellerton there was
also living, at the same time, four or five men, reputed to be of the age of
one hundred years and thereabouts, and they all testified that Jenkins was
an elderly man when first they knew him. In the last century of his life he
was a fisherman, and often swam in the river after he was a hundred years
old. In the King's Remembrancer Office in the Exchequer, there is a record
in a cause, taken April, 1665, at Kettlewell, Yorkshire, where Henry
Jenkins, of Ellerton-upon-Swale, labourer, aged 157 years, made deposition
as a witness.
|COUNTRY WIT AND WISDOM
Eggs and Chickens
"It's a poor hen that can't scrape for two
chickens." is applied to a woman who is bemoaning her fate with two
The saying is applied to a boastful, fussy person, "It's not the hen
that cackles most lays the biggest egg."
"They cackled before they laid." is reported of people whose
performance is far short of their promise. A variant is, "It's not the
hen that cackles most that lays the biggest egg."
When anyone talks too much of a matter that should be kept quiet it is said,
"If you're too keen in the clocking you'll discover the eggs."
A man quoted to a ne'er-do-well who had gone all over the world and returned
unsuccessful, "A rolling stone gathers no moss," to which came the
reply, "A sitting hen never grows fat."
When dealing with a greedy avaricious man you will be told, "He'll give
you the shell, but he'll keep the egg." A variant is, "He'll keep
the potato and give you the skin."
"Don't count your chickens before they are clocked (hatched) for fear
some of them might be ducks."
"You spoke a while late, as the man said, when he swallowed a bad egg
and heard the cheep of the chicken as it went down his throat."
Of an undulating type of country it will be said, "It's up and down
like a basket of eggs."
In relation to the egg as the emblem of heredity there is a proverb, "A
black hen may have a white egg." indicating that children of good
qualities may be born of parents not so gifted.
"Don't put your eggs all in one basket." is sound advice to give
to an investor. It is also used to convey the idea that it is not wise
policy to rely on one person in times of difficulty.
When a man picks his steps carefully or goes on tiptoe, it will be remarked,
"Look at him, travelling on eggs."
"The first of the tea-pot, but the last of the
cow." of which "The forepart of the tea and the strippings of the
cow," or "The hind-milk of the cow and the foremilk of the
tea-pot" are slight variants. In other words the richest of the milk
yielded by the cow is the last, which is "stripped" from the
udder, while the tea first taken from the tea-pot after a proper time has
been left for its infusion is the best. "The finest of the meal and the
coarsest of the potatoes." are other variants.
As an indication at an early period of how exclusive an
article of diet tea was, owing to its price, there arose the couplet:-
"The wives of the officers sat down to tea,
The wives of the soldiers took skillabolee."
Skilly, skillabolie or skillabolee was thin oatmeal porridge
or poor weak gruel given to soldiers and also to occupants of gaols and
"There will be no-one between you and the
tea-canister," means that the bride-to-be will be the only female ruler
in the projected new home.
Until well into the nineteenth century, all the tea drunk in
this country was China tea. Although the Dutch actually introduced the
beverage about 1645, it was a rare and costly luxury for many years.
Originally people supposed it to be a food and not a drink, and got out the
frying-pan to cook it in, with disastrous results.
OF AGED PARENTS
Margaret Krasiowna, of the village of Koninia, Poland, died 1763, aged
108. The following extraordinary circumstances are stated as connected
with the life of the woman:- "At the age of ninety-four she married
her third husband, Garpard Raycolt, of the village of Ciwouszin, then
aged one hundred and five. During the fourteen years they lived together
she brought him two boys and a girl, and, what is remarkable, these
three children, from their very birth, bore evident marks of the old age
of their parents - their hair being grey, and a vacuity appearing in
their gums, like that which is occasioned by the loss of teeth, though
they never had any. They had not strength enough, even as they grew up,
to chew solid food, but lived on bread and vegetables; they were of a
proper size for their age, but their backs were bent, their complexions
sallow, with all the other external symptoms of decrepitude. Though most
of these particulars," it is added, "may appear fabulous, they
are certified by the parish registers. The village of Ciwouszin is in
the district of Stenzick, in the palatinate of Sendonier. Gaspard
Raycolt, the father, died soon after,. aged 119."