This article appeared in The Gallovidian Magazine in 1932. It's a good example of the, now mostly lost, art of local story telling. It's interesting that mention is made of a Captain Ewart, who was an early Palnackie Mariner - but all the best stories contain just a little bit of fact!  There is no Boreland farm in the Parish.  I suspect it may have started off as 'Barlochan', which is just outside the village, but was changed to save the farmer's blushes. 

I have tried to keep to the spelling of the author, and I am sorry if there are those of you who try to read this, but cannot understand the old Scots doric.


By "DEE"

NEAR the foot of granite Craignair, tucked into a little hollow between the woods and the river, stands the quaint old seaport of Palnackie. The river here is the winding Urr, which just at this point grows weary of its wanderings and comes safe to the long, narrow estuary, stretching down to the sea. No one looking on Palnackie for the first time would guess that he was gazing at a seaport, for the estuary lies low between great banks and the little jetty at the bottom of the sloping street is scarcely noticeable. Then perhaps the next moment the stranger would give a start of surprise, for he would see what appeared to be a phantom ship sailing up green meadows as though they were the ocean and coming to rest at the end of the village street. But now that rail. ways and motors have come to Galloway, Palnackie is not the busy port it used to be, and grass and moss grow on the steps of the little harbour where only an occasional ship casts anchor.

For us inland youngsters a holiday cycle trip to Palnackie was a great experience; the good-natured sailors did not forbid scrambles in and out of the vessel they were unloading; there might even be time for a tale of the sea or a legend of the busy past of Palnackie when trade, smuggling or otherwise, was something to be proud of. It was usually Captain Tom who told us the stories. Seated on a "whummled" cask, his square figure bent forward with elbows on knees, his speech somewhat impeded by the quid of tobacco he was thoughtfully chewing, he could hold his audience entranced till time was forgotten. Of all his tales none was received with louder acclamations than that of the giant, John A. Boe, by whose aid a party of Englishmen were vanquished; for to "beat the English" was in those days the first article of faith.

"Mony a lang year syne," the Captain would tells us, "the fowk hereaboots were in a sair wey aboot a ship ca'd the Sark whilk was lang ahint time, an', forby, the weather had been that ill that nae man could min' the like o't. First there cam' a muckle daddin' wind frae the sea juist aboot the hint o' hairst, and syne it begoud to poor, and it poored on the maist o' the back-en' wi' awfu' jaws and skelps o' rain, an' no' a blink o' sun frae the tae-end o' the week tae the tither. An' a' the time the win' was comin' reishlin' an' skreighin' ower the sea, snell eneuch to gar ye whustle on your fingers, an' fowk said, 'Faigs, this is no' canny ; I's warrant some speerits ha'e an ill-wull at the auld Sark. We'll no see her again, I doot.'  For a' the sea-farin' fowk in thae days were unco supersteetious - no' but what there's some gey oorie things happen whiles on the sea."

"But in spite o' a' the heid-waggin, the hinder end o't was that hame the Sark cam' ae gloomy forenicht wi' the mirk settlin' ower the sea. The maister o' the ship was Captain Ewart, an' says he to the lads aboot the quay, "We ha'e gotten a passenger here whae hasnae paid his wey"  an' wi' that he hauds up in his airms a bairn happit in a seaman's jaiket - a laddie nae mair nor three year auld an' gey doited-lookin'."

""We picked him up floatin' in a boat a' his lane," the captain tell't them."We didnae ken his name, but the name o' the boat was John A. Boe, so we ha'e e'en named him for his vessel."  'Man, Captain," says an auld langshoreman whae was by, "Ye'lI shairly no' keep him, wull ye." "An' what for no ?"' says Ewart, "the wife's aye yin for the bairns an' we ha'e nane o' oor ain. She'll mak' an unco wark wi' him, I'm thinkin'.'  "It's an awfu' risk," says the langshoreman, shakin' his pow. "Gin ye rob the sea o' its due, the sea'll droon twa - aye, an' mebbe fower -for ilka yin ye tak' frae her." "Havers," says the Captain, "ye're an auld sweetie-wife, Jims. Awa' an' craik at your ain fireside.""

"Sae the Captain went awa' up the street wi' John A. Boe in his airms, an' Mistress Ewart was neither to haud nor to bin', she was that ta'en up wi' the wean. He grew at a maist awfu' rate, an' when he was sax year auld he was as muckle as a laddie o' twal', an' by the time he was twal' he had the heicht an' weicht o' a man. But the schulemaister could learn him nocht; he was as saft as yin o' thae puir feckless craturs frae the Coonty 'Sylum. He got his letters at the hinder en' and could write a wee thing, but he was fair useless at the coonts an' his spellin' was nocht to mak' a sang ower."

"When John was twal' year auld the Captain was drooned at sea, an' Mistress Ewart was that ill aboot it she juist ga'ed frae ae dwam to anither an' dwyned awa'. The day they kisted her the fowk gaithered thegither for to consider what to dae wi' John A. Boe, for he was that donnered he wasnae muckle use to onybudy. Auld Jims, the langshoreman, was for settin' him adrift aince mair in a boat. "There'll be nae guid come o' keepin' him," says he, glowerin' like a wull-cat. "Ye min' the ragin' storms afore he cam' here. Ye see what's come tae the Captain an' Mistress Ewart, alang o' takin' him in. It's no' chancy, neither it is.""

"But the fairmer frae the Boreland said he wud tak' John an' mak' an orra-man o' him. "He can aye howk the neeps," says he, "an' herd the kye an' steek the yetts. Maybe he'll get mair sense gin he has his grouth."  'Has his grouth!" mutters Jims. "Losh, man, he's as muckle as a shamlock."  A hantle o' fowk thoucht it was rale guid o' Boreland to gi'e John his bite an' a bed, an' said he was a fell charitable buddy. But the feck o' them was o' the opeenion that there was nae charity aboot it; he had dune't to save his ain pooch; he was aye a man that kent his groats in ither fowks' kail an' no' the kind to sell his hen on a rainy day. John bided wi' him for seeven year an' ne'er saw the colour o' a bawbee, for a' he wroucht, lang an' weel, ilka day aboot the fairm-toon. A' the fowk roon kenned him an' ca'd him Giant John, for by noo he was near seeven feet lang wi' muckle braid shouders an' airms. But he was as saft as a soukin' bairn and awfu' easy frichted; an' the weans used to torment him gin e'er he set fit in Pa'nackie."

"Noo, in thae days there was a queer wee hoose at the end o' the schule loanin' whaur there bided an auld wife whae got the name o' bein' a witch. She had a cat, a muckle black glowerin' beastie, she ca'd Sampson, an' yin day when John was in the village he cam' on a hantle o' laddies peltin' Sampson wi' stanes. John was vexed for the beast, for a' it was an unchancy animal, an', feart as he was, he clouted the laddies' heids an' brung the cat hame tae the auld wife. The carlin was fell pleased to get her cat hame, an' says she to John, "Mony a lang weary year ha'e I waited for a buddy to dae me a guid turn frae kind-ness an' guid-wull, an' noo ye ha'e dune it. Ye bude to ha'e the wish o' your hairt. Tell me, what is't ?""

"Pair John swithered, peckin' an' hawkin' an' hoastin' like a stot, but nae mair able to get oot a word o' sense nor if he'd been tongue-tackit.  "Speak oot, ye donnert eejit," says the auld carlin, fair pit-oot. "Dinnae staun' there wheizlin' like a blastit stirk. What are ye wantin' ?" "'I wud wish," says John, nervish like - "I wud wish to dae a gran' deed, sae gran' that fowk wud gi'e ower lauchin' at me an' tormentin' me; but I doot I'll ne'er dae't, for I'm aye that feart.""

"The auld carlin didnae hing back on hearin' his wish. "Ye lippen to me," she says,"'an' afore the sun gaes doon the morn's nicht ye'll be the crack o' Pa'nackie. Tak' this pot o' heather-honey an' cairry it wi' ye alang by the gallows on the road to Auchencairn. Dae this at noon the morn an' ne'er fash your thoom but ye'll get your wish.""

"John's maister wasnae fell pleased when the laddie speired at him for a day aff, for a' it was the first he'd pit in for a' the time he'd served wi' him."'Can ye no' bide till the Fair?" says he, "it's then ye sud be gallivantin' aboot aefter the lasses." "'I doot I'll ha'e to gang the day," says John, and Boreland gi'ed over, but wi' a grudge."

"Aff John set alang the road till he cam' to the bit where the fower roads cross at the fairm-toon o' Douganhill. A' roon aboot there was a laigh marres, a' wat an' muddy, where there was aye an unco flees on a hot simmer day. When John went by wi' the open honey pot the flees rose at it like bees when the heather's alow, an' he an' his pot were fair chowkit wi' them. 'Dod,' says John to himsel', 'I wish I may e'er get a lick o' my honey, if thae flees dinnae gi'e ower'; an' wi' that he tuk aff his bunnet and skelped at the flees till the top o' the honey-pot was ramforsit wi' their deid bodies."

"Noo, as I tell't ye, John was ill at the coonts, an' no' bein' able to say hoo mony flees he'd kilt he pit them doon to be a hunner. He was sae upliftit wi' himsel' he felt maist uncommon gleg, and oot o' his pooch he tuk a wee bit charcoal an' wrote on the pot:-

Here am I, great John A. Boe,
Whae kilt a hunner at ae blow."

By this time, what wi' the heat an' wi' usin' his wits, he was sair wearit, and he stretched himsel' oot by the side o' the road an' gaed aff tae sleep."

"Afore lang there cam' doon the loan frae Orchardton Tower a braw gaitherin' o' men an' halflins wi' horses an' swords an' whingers; an' at the heid o' them Sir Peter Cairns o' Orchardton leadin' the hynes frae a' his fairm-toons for to fecht a wheen English whae were ower the Border alang by Solway Moss. When he seen John A. Boe aside the honey-pot an' read what he had writ on't, says he, "Faigs, but gin ye can kill a hunner at ae blow, ye're the' boy for us."  Afore puir John kent where he was they had him on the back o' a muckle cairt horse, an' some o' the laddies had ta'en a sheet aff the guid-wife at the fairm and had prented John's rhyme on't in braw reid letters wi' peint for peintin' the fairm-cairts. The laddie was that ramfeezled that when he got to the auld gallows at the Cross Roads he tuk a grup o't for to try and keep hissel' back. I's warrant ye there was a grand shugie-shoo, wi' John pu'in' ae wey an' twae o' the buirliest o' the halflins Pu 'in' the tither. But the tap an' tail o't was the gallows cam' awa' in John's airms an' was carried alang wi' him on his horse. "'Guid save us," says Sir Peter Cairns. "Yon's a braw weapon for a lad of your heicht; ye may e'en bring it alang wi' ye to clout the heids o' thae English loons.""

"Sae on they ga'ed, puir John wi' the sweat fair poorin' aff him, gruppin' at the gallows, heezin' hissel' frae the tae side o' the saddle to the tither and goupin' at Sir Peter as if he was a bogle; an' the halflins said ye could see by the wey his mooth ga'ed he was tryin' sair to speak; an' maybe thoucht himsel' he was speakin' but no' a cheep cam'. When at last they cam' in sicht o' the English, Sir Peter gied John a jundie wi' his elbow, an' says he, "Gang forrit, ye gowk; dinnae staun there, fuffin' an' blawin' like a muckle stucky eemage. Tell thae loons whae ye are."  In fair desperation John opened his mooth an' let oot in a maist awfu' skelloch the rhyme on his honey-pot:-

"Here am I, great John A. Boe,
Whae kilt a hunner at ae blow."

an' juist then a halflin gied the cairt-horse a jag wi' his whinger, an' it loupit like a lowrie straicht for the English wi' John A. Boe on its back, gruppin' at the gallows, an' screighin' for a' he was fit. A fearsome sicht he maun ha' been, seeven feet lang wi' strong braid shouders, a gallows for a weapon, an shoutin' that he had kilt a hunner. An' the English loons tuk but ae keek at him afore they turned aboot an' rin for the Sooth side o' the Border as quick as a lick."

"My, but Sir Peter was a prood man that day as he led his troop hame again, but he was fair ta'en up wi' John A. Boe. He tuk him to ride alangside him at the heid o' the gaitherin', tellin' him he was the braw lad o' the day. Puir John was that dum-founded, his heid was in the merligoes, an' he a' but fell frae his horse wi' a' thing gaein' soomin' roon aboot him; but for a' that he was happy, for he minded what the auld carlin had telt him, that his name wud be in ilka man's mooth, an' that afore the sun gaed doon he wud be the crack o' Pa'nackie."

"An' my, but the fowk were fell ta'en up wi' John A. Boe when he got back to the port. They near tuk the coat aff his back wi' hingin' on to him, an' they ca'ed him for a' the gran' names like hero an' saviour an' preserver. The schulemaister whae had gied him his licks sae often said he had aye kent John was a laddie whae wud make his mark, an' auld Jims, the lang-shoreman, askit' the fowk to mind hoo he had foretold that he wud bring luck o' some sort aboot the place. When John went alang the schule loanin' for to thank the auld wife he could get nocht oot a' her but the words, "Get the name o' a guid riser an' ye may bide in your bed a' day," whilk he could mak' naething o', no' being gleg in the uptak'."

"The only ane that wasnae pleased was the fairmer at the Boreland, an' he was fell disjaskit, for he didnae get back his orra-man whae had wroucht sae lang wi'oot a bodle o' fee. For Sir Peter Cairns wudnae pairt wi' John, an' he made him his liggat (park gate) keeper. He lived in a braw wee hoose at the gate wi' a muckie board aboon the doorway, an' peinted on the board was the rhyme whilk had brought John his guid luck:-

"Here am I, great John A. Boe,
Whae kilt a hunner at ae blow."

If ony skybalds or randie-beggars cam' by an' read the verse, they wud get sic' a scunner as wud send them slinkin' awa', shiverin' an' shakin' like a man wi' the tremblin' aixies at the bare thoucht o' a giant whae could kill a hunner at ae fald o' his nieve. Whilk was what ye may ca' fortunate, for John A. Boe was nae mair beild nor ever he had been, for a' he was eident an' weel-guided eneuch."

"But he had nae need to be a birkie, for, juist as the auld carlin had said, "get the name o' a guid riser an' ye may bide in your bed a' day," John had got the name o' bein' rackel-handit; an' he leeved to a green an' quate auld age on his rachlin reputation."