The Auld House – by William Soutar (1898-1943)

Original

There’s a puckle lairds in the auld house
wha haud the wa’s thegither:
there’s no muckle graith in the auld house
nor smeddum aither.

It was aince a braw and bauld house
and guid for onie weather:
kings and lords throng’d in the auld house
or it gaed a’smither.

There were kings and lords in the auld house
and birds o monie a feather:
there were sangs and swords in the auld house
that rattled ane anither.

It was aince a braw and bauld house
and guid for onie weather:
but it’s noo a scrunted and cauld house
whaur lairdies forgaither.

Lat’s caa in the folk to the auld house,
the puir folk a’ thegither:
it’s sunkit on rock is the auld house,
and the rock’s their brither.

It was aince a braw and bauld house
and guid for onie weather:
but the folk maun funder the auld house
and bigg up anither.

 

English Translation of ‘The Auld House’

There’s a good few lords in the old house
who hold the walls together:
there’s no large furniture in the old house
nor good sense either

It was once a fine and bold house
and good for any weather:
kings and lords crowded in the old house
or it went to pieces.

There were kings and lords in the old house
and birds a many a feather:
there were songs and swords in the old house
that rattled one another.

It was once a fine and bold house
and good for any weather:
but it’s now a stunted and cold house
where lordies gather.

Lets call in the folk to the old house
the poor folk all together:
it’s sunk on rock is the old house
and the rock’s their brother.

It was once a fine and bold house
and good for any weather:
but the folk must uproot the old house
and build up another.

 

Pitcairn House, Glenrothes - Close up of east wall

Pitcairn House, Glenrothes – Close up of east wall

 

See Pitcairn House post for more information about these photos.

 

Pitcairn House, Glenrothes - View from west wall.

Pitcairn House, Glenrothes – View from west wall.

 

William Souter

William Souter was born in Perth on 28th April 1898. He left school in 1916, and joined the Royal Navy, serving in the Atlantic and the North Sea during WWI. He was discharged in 1919, having begun to suffer from back pains and stiffness. He then enrolled in a medical degree at Edinburgh University, but transferred to English after one year, and graduated in 1923.

Unfortunately, in 1924 he was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, an infection of the spine, which had gone too far to be cured. Treatment continued for the remainder of his life, but following an unsuccessful operation in 1930, he became bedridden until his death in 1943. Fortunately for William, he was the only child of very loving parents, and his father converted the downstairs of their house to create a large bedroom with a bay window overlooking their back garden. From his bed, he spent his time writing poetry and keeping an extensive journal, and entertaining his many visitors, some of which were the leading writers of the Scottish literary renaissance. It was this literary renaissance that helped William Souter to become so famous, his original poems were in English, and not particularly successful, but once he started using his native dialect, his work improved dramatically. Some of his most famous works are whimsical children’s poems and epigrams, such as, for example, this first verse of ‘The Three Puddocks’.

Three wee bit puddocks
Sat upon a stane:
Tick-a-tack, nick-a-nack,
Brek your hawe-bane.
They lookit in a dub
And made nae sound
For they saw a’ the sterns
Gang whummlin round.

(Three small frogs
Sat upon a stone:
Tick-a-tack, nick-a-nack,
Break your neck bone.
They looked in a puddle
And made no sound
For they saw all the stars
Go whirling around.)

 

 

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50 thoughts on “The Auld House – by William Soutar (1898-1943)

  1. What a fascinating insight and how sad that Souter ended up bedridden with Ankelising Spondelitis. It can be congenital actually and my father had it, his mother before him and I have it and have passed it to at least one of my daughters. The good news is that treatment is far better these days and so far I am unchallenged by it though ever aware that I don’t want to end up very bent (spinally that is) as my granny and dad did. Your photo is the perfect companion to the poem.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Lovely poem to accompany your photograph. I am familiar with Souter from reading his poems for children when I was at school but I don’t recollect reading this particular poem before. It is funny that the word “puckle” happens to be in the first line as someone asked me about that word the other day. I was telling one of my kids that he needed a “puckle of money” for something and a nearby adult asked me what a puckle was. I said it meant “a wee bit” of something and he laughed and said that sounded just as Scottish – but at least he understood that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s excellent Laura to know that you still use terms such as ‘puckle’. It’s one of the problems that everyone can move from one place to another so easily now, I worry that whole dialects will die out as they get watered down – I can’t blame anyone, seeing as I’m a Cornishman living in Scotland! Lol!! But as I said, it’s great to hear that you are still using some of these wonderful words in everyday speech 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • My Scots was diluted when I went to University in Edinburgh and was interacting with non-Scots speakers and there I met my English-American husband and had to be understood by him too. However, I still use a lot of individual Scots words in my vocabulary. Indeed, some days I will find myself at least once struggling to think what the non-Scots word is for something.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the choice of photos to go with the poem, Andy! I really needed the translation of this one. Very evocative. I like the idea of lairdies foregathering and wonder if perhaps they are the ghosts of former lords?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jo 🙂
      That’s what I guessed it meant, I’m really not a language expert at all, but love the sound of some of these poems, and as you say, their evocative nature Jo 🙂
      I remember doing Seamus Heaney as our poet for English O-level, and although I didn’t enjoy the subject at the time, I can still remember the very evocative atmospheric nature of some of his poems about the Irish bogs 🙂 It’s a subject I would really enjoy now, but that’s probably true of quite a few school day lessons! Lol! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • He was indeed! 🙂
        And you’ve just made me feel guilty for having complained for all these years about our English Literature book choices! Lol!!! In my defence, although Seamus Heaney is no doubt a thousand times better than TS Eliot, and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ wasn’t a bad book, ‘Richard II’ has got to be the most boring of all of Shakespeare’s plays!!! LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I wonder why I kept thinking Westminster throughout. 😉
    It would be good to hear them read. If you’re thinking of giving that a go, the NCH free software is excellent. Easy to use and converts easily for Soundcloud.

    Liked by 2 people

    • LOL!!!!!!!! Love it Scottishmomus!!! 🙂
      Alas, I would not be a very good person to read them aloud, they don’t sound too good in a ‘English/Cornish’ accent, but maybe I can persuade my wife to read them! 🙂
      Thanks for the tip about the NCH software, that’s really useful!!! 🙂
      Of course, if you would like to read them aloud, and send the recordings, I’d gladly put them onto each post! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A very enjoyable post, Andy. I will need to give Pitcairn House a visit sometime, as I don’t recall having been there before. It was interesting to learn more about William Soutar who, like me, was educated at Perth Academy and Edinburgh University. How sad that he only lived to be 45. I’m getting into poetry myself these days and was given a couple of great books for Christmas which I’m hoping will inspire a few blog posts over the coming months!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Karen 🙂
      Don’t be surprised about having not seen Pitcairn House, there’s a few people in Glenrothes who are unaware of it’s existence!! And it’s in the most unusual of sites, right on the edge of a council housing scheme/estate. Fife council aren’t great with there planning regulations – there were three fairly important archaeological/historical sites in Glenrothes close to us, and one has been moved to put in a new road (Balbirnie Stone Circle) and the other two are in the middle of housing schemes (Balfarg Henge and Pitcairn House). 😦
      That’s amazing that both you and he followed the same route through your education, hopefully you will become as famous if not more famous than him, for your photography 🙂
      Poetry is something I am only now getting into myself, the Scottish dialect seems made for poetry 🙂 I’ll have to have a look to see if I can find the equivalent for some Cornish poets!
      We will all look forward to seeing some of your own poetry to go with some of your wonderful photos over the next few months Karen 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Andy! I suspect quite a few things like this happened with the development of Scotland’s new towns. I’ve stumbled across the stone circle a few times in the past when camping/caravanning at Balbirnie Park. I’ll keep an eye out for the other two sites next time I’m passing through Glenrothes!

        That’s certainly the hope! It would be lovely to have a famous name but not a famous face. Writing my own poetry might be an interesting challenge for a future date! In the meantime, I’ll delve into my new Robert Burns book ahead of 25th January and see if I can find anything that would tie in nicely with a photography blog post! Enjoy your foray into Cornish poetry! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’ve definitely got the right idea about getting to be a famous name in photography, but not a famous face. It must be horrible to be constantly on the lens side of a camera.
        I hope you are enjoying your new Robert Burns book! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a poem with a real tale to tell. The Scottish dialect is quite complex in the poem, too, and I can just imagine an old Scot reciting it. Really interesting information about William Soutar. How sad for him to become bed-ridden for thirteen years!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent post! Thanks very much. Having helped my daughter traverse two and a half years of being nearly completely bedbound, my heart goes out to William S and his family. But I was extremely glad to read that he had a good view, and visitors. What a brave man. Aren’t people extraordinary?!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting structure. It is something I really enjoyed seeing as it makes for great photographic material. When I read Pitcairn, I immediately think of Fletcher Christian, and the Pitcairn Islanders. So for a minute I was confused. There are many English and Scottish place names in use here.

    Andy, I am not sure if you accept challenges, but as I can see you like poetry, and words so I have nominated you for a Quotes challenge, which you will find here: https://forestwoodfolkart.wordpress.com/2016/01/20/quotes-challenge-week-3/
    There is no expectation of you to accept, as is always the case with the people I nominate to do the challenges.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s really interesting, Amanda, about the Pitcairn Islanders, I hadn’t read ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’, so I hadn’t heard of them 😦
      But I see Fletcher Christian originated from Cumberland, which is up on the Scottish border, so the name may well have come from Scotland originally 🙂
      Thank you very much for the nomination Amanda for the quotes challenge, I’m afraid I’ll probably give it a miss, just because I’ve had a lack of time recently to even post my own stuff. But I may well do it in the future, it sounds like a great idea 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a beautiful poem – and so appropriate to the accompanying photos. They make a perfect combination! I love having the two translations, it definitely helps correct some of my inferences. Lol. It’s also great to have a bit of the background on the poet. I’ve always thought poets a special breed, being able to fit so much into so little.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Meredith, I’m glad you like the translation, it was for my benefit too! Lol! 🙂
      Poets are certainly a special breed, I struggle to write haiku’s, I don’t think I could manage anything much more than that! 🙂

      Like

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