Shetland ForWirds, the group behind – among other things – the wonderful ditty and gaer boxes schemes to promote the use of Shetland dialect in nursery and primary schools, has released a CD designed to promote and encourage dialect in wir peerie folk. Myself and my bairns, Ewen, five, and Emily, 17 months, were only too keen to put it on and discover some new songs and some old favourites.
First of the 24 tracks, seven of which are set to music performed by Freda Leask and Brian Nicholson, was the song Mary o Burland Haes a Croft, the Shetland dialect version of Old MacDonald’s farm adapted by Jean Ramsay. This was a favourite of Ewen’s already from the ditty box and evoked memories of a trip to Trondra farm. Emily, who is a bit young to quite let her opinions be known verbally, danced around clapping and quacking and mooing at the appropriate bits so a big hit all round.
The title track Da Craigsaet, a coontin rhyme, followed, read by Melvyn Leask and Hakki Spence who is one of the many delightful sounding and clear spoken bairns who appear on the CD.
The short traditional ditty Mystery Coo had an unexpected and rather realistic Moo that had both bairns in giggles and Da Ferry Song started a debate on which crossing was being portrayed and it got big smiles all round.
A favourite from my own past came next; I mind being rocked on granny’s knee as she sang Row da Boats o Maelie; she still does this, but to my bairns as I am a bit too big, unfortunately.
Boannie Tammie Scolla’ elicited excited shouts of “I keen dis wan, we sang it at school”, so we did our best to sing along – although I must confess, I had to keep referring to the handy lyrics sheet as although I mind this one from school also, past the first two verses I was lost!
The first of the two stories was the Muckle Neep, adapted brilliantly by Jean Ramsay. Ewen enjoyed the different types of words for the grasp of each helper in the goal of hauling the neep, from “yock” and “grip” to “mitten hadd o’”. These are just a few fabulous examples of our ever descriptive dialect and a joy to listen to. The story ended with Ewen saying: “I just loved dat wan”.
Ewen is a great lover and believer in all things trowie so the antics and rather spooky laugh of Tirval Trow by Robbie Walterson depicted both in a rhyme and the song Mair aboot Tirval, had him beaming and asking yet again, “is dere really trows around here Mam?” I just give him a wink and we listened on.
The traditional song Tree Craas Sat Upon a Waa was sung unaccompanied by Melvyn Leask and had us all singing along, though maybe just about as tunefully as three craas ourselves.
The final item on the disc was Tom and Tim, a story written and read by George P S Peterson in his very soothing voice, just perfect for bedtime. His story of two peerie boys, one good, one bad and a peerie man with more than a little bit of trowie magic about him, left Ewen wide-eyed and ready to accept being good is the best way to be!
Ewen’s last words before he fell asleep were: “Guess which wan was my favourite?” and, after a pause, “all of dem”.
This CD is great for bairns of all ages, but especially nursery age and up as they will already be familiar with the ditty and gaer boxes. I am sure though that there are a few older folk that would enjoy the chance to hear some new verse and some more well-kent presented in our own dialect.
The lovely cover picture by Eileen Nicolson makes this a very attractive and excellent Christmas present.
Craigsaet is available now and is priced at £9.