This is the tale of a herd-lad who ‘cuts a sappy sucker’ from a rowan tree to make a home-made whistle. Having a good ear, he quickly learns traditional tunes and delights the locals with his playing.
He cut a sappy sucker from the muckle rodden-tree,
He trimmed it, an’ he wet it, an’ he thumped it on his knee ;
He never heard the teuchat when the harrow broke her eggs,
He missed the craggit heron nabbin’ puddocks in the seggs,
He forgot to hound the collie at the cattle when they strayed,
But you should hae seen the whistle that the wee herd made !
He wheepled on’t at mornin’ an’ he tweetled on’t at nicht’
He puffed his freckled cheeks until his nose sank oot o’ sicht,
The kye were late for milkin’ when he piped them up the closs,
The kitlin’s got his supper syne, an’ he was beddit boss ;
But he cared na doit nor docken what they did or thocht or said,
There was comfort in the whistle that the wee herd made.
For lyin’ lang o’ mornin’s he had clawed the caup for weeks,
But noo he had his bonnet on afore the lave had breeks ;
He was whistlin’ to the porridge that were hott’rin on the fire,
He was whistlin’ ower the travise to the baillie in the byre ;
Nae a blackbird nor a mavis, that hae pipin’ for their trade,
Was a marrow for the whistle that the wee herd made.
He played a march to battle, it cam’ dirlin’ through the mist,
Till the halflin squared his shou’ders an’ made up his mind to ‘list ;
He tried a spring for wooers, though he wistna what it meant,
But the kitchen-lass was lauchin’ an’ he thocht she maybe kent ;
He got ream an’ buttered bannocks for the lovin’ lilt he played.
Wasna that a cheery whistle that the wee herd made ?
He blew them rants sae lively, schottisches, reels, an’ jigs,
The foalie flang his muckle legs an’ capered ower the rigs,
The grey-tailed futt’rat bobbit oot to hear his ain strathspey,
The bawd cam’ loupin’ through the corn to “Clean Pease Strae” ;
The feet o’ ilka man an’ beast gat youkie when he played –
Hae ye ever heard o’ whistle like the wee herd made ?
But the snaw it stopped the herdin’ an’ the winter brocht him dool,
When in spite o’ hacks an’ chilblains he was shod again for school ;
He couldna sough the catechis nor pipe the rule o’ three,
He was keepit in an’ lickit when the ither loons got free ;
But he aften played the truant – ’twas the only thing he played,
For the maister brunt the whistle that the wee herd made !