Document 647

Dipper: 35 - Fair Cop

Author(s): Dr James A Begg

Copyright holder(s): Dr James A Begg


It is said the Glesca Fair wis inventit by the Almichty - juist tae gie Glesca Keelies their yearly dippin! Sae it wis nae surprise then, efter a week o teemin rain, tae fin the watter in guid order on Fair Friday nicht. It had been gaun up an doun like a yo-yo aa week, an the sicht o the furst run o Simmer grilse loupin an splashin in the puils abune the tidal weir an oot o the reach o the estuary netsmen, fair gleddened the herts o fishers an poachers alike.

The day afore, I had occasion tae check the Dam Puil anent Charlesmount Hoose. It wis a lang deep dub, fou o snags, wi open meedaes on the south bank, an the Big Hoose gairdens slopin doun tae the watter's edge on the north, while amang the trees roun aboot were scattert the grand hooses o the douce an weel-tae-dae folk o the south-side o the toun.

No the place for poachers, ye wad think - an so did I an a wheen mair - but we were wrang! For alang the south bank o the puil I fand the gress had been weel trampit doun, an there were draw-merks whaur nets had been poued oot - on mair nor yin occasion by the nummer an state o the saumon scales scattert aboot. Some scales, twa-three days auld, had lost their sheen an were curlt up an tramplt in the glaur, while ithers glintit an sparklt like mither-o-pearl in the mornin sun, nae mair nor fower oors mebbe, sin the fish they cam aff had been chappt on the heid an cairtit awa. An stashd aneath the ruits o an auld haw-tree I fand twa coal-secks, left ready for neist time!

Wi it bein the Pit Holidays as weel as the Fair, I wis sair fashd getherin thegither a team o byllies, an at the hinner-en had juist John the Dominie, Big Wull frae up the watter, an young Mick, oot on his furst nicht as a prentice byllie, tae gaird the Dam Puil.

Big John set himsel doun by the faur side o the dam-dyke, while Wull, Mick an mysel hid ahint a hedge at the tap o the brae owerluikin the puil, neist the hoosin estate. It wis close on twal whan we heard the scliff o feet on the grevel road, vyces, an the clang o metal as they sclimmt ower the field-gate.

'Ah think there's fower or mebbe five!' I whuspert tae Wull, whae agreed. 'Ah'll gae an phone the Polis. It's mair nor we can haunle oorsels.' Twinty meenits later an I wis back wi twa young Polis, baith a bit sweirt tae gang doun the brae wi us, tho I've a notion they were mair feart o gettin their buits aa clarty than o tanglin wi the poachers! Nane-the-less, whan we were hauf wey doun, herts lowpin, an haudin oor braiths, there wis a sudden flash o a licht gaun aa-roads, frae the faur bank.

'Whit the Hell's Big John daein?' growled Wull. 'That's buggert up everything!' There wis some faur awa splashin, an cracklin frae the wid dounstream, then naethin.... Silence.....

'It luiks as if they've got a fricht an ran,' I said. 'They'll likely be makin for the road. The young polis drew oot his radio tae alert ither Polis nearhaun, for he said they had brocht a Paddy-waggon 'juist in case' we nabbed the five o them! An shuir eneuch, whan we got back up the brae his mates had gruppt ae young lad, wat up tae the hochs, walkin doun the road. But wat troosers is nae evidence o poachin (even gettin gruppt by the Polis can gie a bodie wat troosers!) - sae they had tae let him go.

We fand oot wha the ithers were forby, for the McGinty brithers' auld caur wis parked impidently ootside yin o the smert hooses! Whan Big John jyned us he confirmed this, by tellin us hou he had been courit doun at the faur side o the watter whan twa o them unexpectit-like, stertit tae wade across the dam-back. As he wis stuck there an didnae ken whit tae dae, he shone his licht on them as they cam alangside, and recognised Wullie McGinty - afore he beltit aff like a bat oot o hell!

Twa-three year efter this splore, I wis sittin there disjaskit, watchin a perfect flee watter glide by on a het August efternuin, wi a bricht sun keppin the fish doun an makin the fishin uiseless, whan Wullie McGinty cam moochin alang the bank. A bit unshuir o himsel at furst, he passed the time o day, an then seein I wisnae gaun tae bite, stoppt an sat doun aside me an we had a lang crack, wi him blawin aboot this an ither encoonters.

'Y'ken,' he said, 'Yon nicht at Charlesmount….. Ah saw the fella an pit my torch on him as he lit me up, an wis juist aboot tae belt him yin whan I saw it wis Mister McLean…. but Ah didnae, for I like him…. He uised tae be ma teacher! Sae we scattert an Ah skelpt back tae the caur. If yon big polis eejits had juist luikt ower the gairden waa they were leanin against, they wad hae fand me lyin ahint it!'

It wis near hauf-yin by the time we had feenished wi the Polis. Big John had had a belly-fou for the nicht an went awa hame tae his bed.

'Wull,' I speirt, 'dae ye fancy a luik in at the Denholm Big Puil on oor road hame? There's twa-three times this year Ah've cam across peg-merks on the bankin whaur some bugger's had a gill-net streitcht across.'

'Micht as weel,' said Wull. 'The nicht's young an Mick here's no workin the morn, sae anither oor oot his bed'll no dae him ony herm! Forby, that wee twa-inch rise in the watter's juist eneuch for some grilse tae rin.'

Denholm Dam Puil wis yin o the main haudin puils on the watter, a three hunner yaird lang horseshoe wi a heich bank o beech trees on the oot-bend an a braid holm on the ither side, sawn this year wi barley. It wis ill tae fish, for the slow current gied nae cairry tae the flee or Devon unless the watter wis big, but it held a wheen o fish an had aye been easy tae poach. There were tales o the auld gangs drawin its hale length twa or three times in a nicht whan there wis a run o fish. For by the time they had drawn oot an cairtit the net back up tae the tap again, as like as no anither twa dizzen saumon had cam intae the puil.

Mind ye, we had pit the kybosh on that ploy twa year syne, whan we sank a wheen muckle grapnels set in concrete blocks richt doun the puil, an efter three or fower nets had fanklt an stuck, the word shuin gat roun! But whaur there's a will there's a wey, an the buggers stertit tae uise gill-nets streitcht across the puil in the gaps atween the blocks, intae which fish wad soum an get snared by the gills. Or mebbe they'd tuim in twa-three gallons o creosote, Jeyes' fluid, Insecticide, or even Chemical Closet Mixture, tae drive the fish doun intae their nets! Whit kin o taste thae saumon had whan served up on a Hotel Menu, Heiven kens!

Onyweys, we drew up at the Big Hoose lodge yetts, steikit the caur doors quait-like, an crept intae the bleckness o the wid. Twinty yairds in, there wis the sudden clatter o somethin lowpin awa tae oor left.

'Whit the Hell wis that!' hisst Wull as we stoppt short an rummlt intae each ither like shuntin waggons. 'Dinnae ken,' I whuspert back. 'Micht be a Roe-deer, there's a pair o them in the wid.' We stuid up for a meenit or twa, strainin oor lugs agin the silence o the nicht, an hearin nocht but the rustle an squeak o a wee shrew-moose, an the distant skreich o a houlet huntin for its tea.

'O.K. Lads! We'll gae doun the middle pad an hae a wee luik. Juist caa canny, an try no tae staun on ony dry twigs. Follow me!' It wis pitch-black, an tho I kent it weel, we had tae gang cannily alang, feelin oor wey fuit by fuit. For aa he wis built like a gable-en, Big W ull wis gey licht on his feet, an young Mick wis no bad ither, for a prentice, sae there wis scarce a soun as we crept alang. Twinty feet ablow us we cuid see the glint o watter throu the trees. There wis anither rustle - this time no a shrew-moose! I stoppt.

'Wull, there's somebody doun there! Listen!' We listened - mair rustlin o leaves - then intae sicht cam a bleck sheddae movin agin the siller glint o the watter, as a man, hauf courrit doun, crept laich alang the bankin.

'Wait till he's juist ablow us then we'll pit the lichts on him,' I whuspert. We did juist that.

'Richt, Surr!' bawled Wull. 'The gemm's up! Stey whaur ye are!'

The puir fella, like a frichtit rabbit, dived straucht intae the busses oot o sicht, an I slithert doun tae the watter-side tae heid him aff. My torch caught the gliff o a white face in the busses. 'He's in here, Wull!' I cried.

'Richt, ye bugger, come oot o there wi yer hauns up, an get doun ontae that bankin!'

'For Heiven's sake, Wull, no doun here! Ah've ten feet o watter juist ahint me! Get him up the bliddy bankin tae you!'

'Oh, aaricht then! Get yer hauns abune yer heid an sclim up here tae me!'

Wull roars like a bull at the best o times, an in the bleckness o the nicht ye cuid see the puir poacher wis frichtit oot his wits. 'O.K. Ah gie in! Ah'm comin up!'

'Richt, keep yer hauns up! Nou lay doun on yer face on the pad an keep yer airms oot! Yae move an Ah'll let ye hae it wi this stick!' I think Big Wull must hae been watchin ower mony Yankee cop movies on the telly!

The fella, shakin like a jeely, did as he wis tellt. He wis a man aboot forty, no that big, an a bit thin on tap, wearin a green byler-suit an saft shune that were no even wat. Sae the 'roe deer' that had fleyd us at the tap o the wid must hae been his mate comin back across frae the faur bank! He wis whit ye micht caa an auld-farrant poacher, juist gaun quaitly aboot his wark an no wantin ony trouble, unlike some o the ither local scruff wha, if they're no poachin, they're at the hoose-brekkin or thievin tatties.

'Whit are ye daein here, an whae are ye?' I speirt.

'Ma name's John Broun, an Ah wis juist gaun a walk tae ma brither's hoose.'

'Weel, ye’re five mile oot yer wey, freen!' I replied, whan he tellt me whaur his brither steyd. 'Haud him there an Ah'll hae a wee luik at the watter!'

Shuir eneuch, my licht latcht on tae a raw o corks streitcht across the puil upstream o whaur we were staunin, an anither twa nets further dounstream - juist at the very bits whaur I had fand the peg-merks twa weeks syne. I wis fair pleased wi mysel - we had got him at last! I scrammlt back up the brae an tellt the lads.

'Ah'll juist gae an radio for the Polis,' I said in a loud vyce. We didnae hae ony radios at that time, but a wee kid-on wad dae nae herm, an there wis a phone nearhaun. I'd juist reached the road whan caur-lichts cam roun the corner - a Polis caur! I jumpt oot an flaggd it doun. The polis an his young polis-wumman gied me a queer luik whan I teIlt them the story.

'We're juist on oor wey tae a rammy in a hoose up in the Cooncil Scheme.' I had forgotten it wis Fair Friday nicht! 'But that can wait. Wi a wee bit o luck they'll aa hae knocked the shit oot themsels gin we lae them a wee bit langer!'

I wis back at Mick an Wull wi the twa Polis inside five meenits o laein them, an collectit the three nets an the seiven braw grilse hingin deid in them. I'm shuir 'John Broun' - for that wisnae the name the Polis gat oot o him - wis maist impressed wi oor 'Radio Communications', an that the word gat roun his poachin cronies gey quick efter he wis fined on Fair Monday mornin!

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Dipper: 35 - Fair Cop. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 19 July 2024, from

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Information about Document 647

Dipper: 35 - Fair Cop


Text audience

General public
Audience size 1000+

Text details

Method of composition Handwritten
Year of composition 1991
Word count 2228
General description Anthology of prizewinning and other Scots poems, and short stories in Ayrshire Scots.

Text medium

Other Audiocassette

Text publication details

Publisher Luath Press
Publication year 1991
Place of publication Barr, Ayrshire
ISBN/ISSN 0946487227
Edition First
Part of larger text
Contained in The Dipper an the Three Wee Deils: Tales and Poems in Ayrshire Scots
Editor Authors: Dr. J. A. Begg and J. Reid
Page numbers 89-93

Text setting


Text type

Short story


Author details

Author id 623
Title Dr
Forenames James
Initials A
Surname Begg
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1940
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Medical Practitioner
Place of birth New Cumnock
Region of birth S Ayr
Birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Ayr
Region of residence S Ayr
Residence CSD dialect area Ayr
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Clerical Officer, NCB
Father's place of birth Sandbank
Father's region of birth Argyll
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Arg
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Primary Teacher
Mother's place of birth New Cumnock
Mother's region of birth S Ayr
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
Danish No No No No A little
English Yes Yes Yes Yes Home, socially, at work
French Yes Yes Yes Yes Holidaying in France
Norwegian No No No No A little
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes Home, socially, at work