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Ramsays Tales of Rankin

Courtesy Project Gutenberg eBook,
Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character,
by Edward Bannerman Ramsay, et al

This extract is a selection of Dr David Reid Rankin's wit as observed by Edward Bannerman Ramsay c.1770

He tells the tales of a funeral, - in those days travel by foot or horseback meant they often held the service continuously during the day as groups of mourners might arrive, and the drunkenness which ensued.

Then the tale of the bereaved on losing his second wife being told it's not often the pub owner gets a second (repeat) business in the bar-room. This could well have been at the Black Bull pub just yards from St Lukes graveyard.

And finally Rankin's riposte to a member of the Free Church who complained of wedding dancing taking place. Saying 'in the Songs of David, they danced naked – Was that what you wished?' - The implication being that the Free Church member did not know his bible scriptures.

Enjoy the text in its original wording... They probably fell about laughing at these stories back then.


Title: Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character

Author: Edward Bannerman Ramsay

“ I have been much pleased with an offering from Carluke, containing two very pithy anecdotes. Mr. Rankin [Dr D.R. Rankin – Ed.] very kindly writes:--"Your 'Reminiscences' are most refreshing. I am very little of a story-collector, but I have recorded some of an old schoolmaster, who was a story-teller. As a sort of payment for the amusement I have derived from your book, I shall give one or two."
He sends the two following:-

"Shortly after Mr. Kay had been inducted schoolmaster of Carluke (1790), the bederal [ 'Beadle'- Ed.] called at the school, verbally announcing, proclamation-ways, that Mrs. So-and-So's funeral would be on Fuirsday.

'At what hour?' asked the Dominie. 'Oh, ony time atween ten and twa.'

At two o'clock of the day fixed, Mr. Kay - quite a stranger to the customs of the district - arrived at the place, and was astonished to find a crowd of men and lads, standing here and there, some smoking, and all argie-barging [ 'Arguing' – Ed. ] as if at the end of a fair day.

He was instantly, but mysteriously, approached, and touched on the arm by a red-faced, bareheaded man, who seemed to be in authority, and was beckoned to follow. On entering the barn, which was seated all round, he found numbers sitting, each with the head bent down, and each with his hat between his knees - all gravity and silence.

Anon a voice was heard issuing from the far end, and a long prayer was uttered. They had worked at this - what was called 'a service' - during three previous hours, one party succeeding another, and many taking advantage of every service, which consisted of a prayer by way of grace, a glass of white wine, a glass of red wine, a glass of rum, and a prayer by way of thanksgiving.

After the long invocation, bread and wine passed round. Silence prevailed. Most partook of both rounds of wine, but when the rum came, many nodded refusal, and by and by the nodding seemed to be universal, and the trays passed on so much the more quickly.

A sumphish weather-beaten man, with a large flat blue bonnet on his knee, who had nodded unwittingly, and was about to lose the last chance of a glass of rum, raised his head, saying, amid the deep silence, 'Oh, I daur say I wull tak anither glass,' and in a sort of vengeful, yet apologetic tone, added, 'The auld jaud yince cheated me wi' a cauve' (calf)."

At a farmer's funeral in the country, an undertaker was in charge of the ceremonial, and directing how it was to proceed, when he noticed a little man giving orders, and, as he thought, rather encroaching upon the duties and privileges of his own office. He asked him, "And wha are ye, mi' man, that tak sae muckle on ye?" "Oh, dinna ye ken?" said the man, under a strong sense of his own importance, "I'm the corpse's brither ?"

Curious scenes took place at funerals where there was, in times gone by, an unfortunate tendency to join with such solemnities more attention to festive entertainment than was becoming.

A farmer, at the interment of his second wife, exercised a liberal hospitality to his friends at the inn near the church. On looking over the bill, the publican defended the charge as moderate. But he reminded him, "Ye forget, man, that it's no ilka ane that brings a second funeral to your house."

"Dr. Scott, minister of Carluke (1770), was a fine graceful kindly man, always stepping about in his bag-wig and cane in hand, with a kind and ready word to every one. He was officiating at a bridal in his parish, where there was a goodly company, had partaken of the good cheer, and waited till the young people were fairly warmed in the dance. A dissenting body (Free Church) had sprung up in the parish, which he tried to think was beneath him even to notice, when he could help it, yet never seemed to feel at all keenly when the dissenters were alluded to. One of the chief leaders of this body was at the bridal, and felt it to be his bounden duty to call upon the minister for his reasons for sanctioning by his presence so sinful an enjoyment.

'Weel, minister, what think ye o' this dancin'?'

'Why, John,' said the minister, blithely, 'I think it an excellent exercise for young people, and, I dare say, so do you.'

'Ah, sir, I'm no sure about it; I see nae authority for't in the Scriptures.'

'Umph, indeed, John; you cannot forget David.'

'Ah, sir, Dauvid; gif they were a' to dance as Dauvid did, it would be a different thing a'thegither.'

'Hoot-o-fie, hoot-o-fie, John; would you have the young folk strip to the sark?'"

(i.e. dance naked - You don't know your bible.)


Read more stories from the People section
Don Donovan (the next story in sucession)
Carluke Bowling Club
Carluke Family Names in 1751
Dixon Vallance
Don Donovan
Dr Hunter-Selkirk

Created before 2012