Runner-Up for the 2023 Sloan Prize
Meghan Link is a Spanish and English Literature student at the University of Edinburgh, from rural Angus. Taking inspiration from her family connections to Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England, she is fascinated by the themes of language and identity. She writes in her spare time and The Sound o Hame is her first work published.
The Sound o Hame
Ah popped up the day, left the big city
sick o sittin on ma todd, wi nae mates
wanted hame an the family, the byres, the gates;
while folk are off striking – well, at least ah’m no payin.
So ah got the bus tae Dundee,
an almost the firs thing ah see –
two not-sae-wee junkies
havin a stooshie, right there on the high street.
So I marched past, as ye dae,
keepin ma heid doon –
aye, ah’m back in sunny, druggie Dundee
naw, there’s nice bits, just no all of it.
Got tae the car, like a soldier fae battle,
waved at ma mum, tried the locked handle –
ma wee brother whinged at me, crabbit afore his pipes,
an mum said ‘aw wheesht you! you dae it aw the time’.
Ah smiled right there, ah knew ah was hame
an when he’s nervous, Alex is still such a bairn
an afore bagpipin wi the big school he’s affy faird
cannae really blame him though, an ah didnae.
Drivin oot o the toon, we all looked roond –
the polis by a car in a right wee midden
gone intae a barrier, the carnage nae hidden,
an the driver – ‘he’s gone an done a runner!’
Ah blethered aw the way back
fir the warm blanket o speech
wis givin meh a cosie, aw nice an sweet
there’s naethin like usin the wirds o family.
Bein known an understood – ‘what a dreich day’,
‘michty me’, ‘och oot yous go’, ‘they’re fleein away’.
‘Ah’m aff tae th cop-ey, or th spar-ey’,
‘eh ah did tha?’ ‘Eh she looks bonnie the day?’
Ye can slip back intae it, cuz it’s in yer veins
like pullin on yer stoorie, worn socks
yer soon haverin on, bletherin awa,
havin a right old chinwag tae end the day.
An it’s affy fun! Ah cannae mind
any other wirds tha spark laughter aw th time
jus listen tae meh! Wabbit an peely-wallie
are miles be’er than ill, sick or poorly.
Tae mak folk laugh or add a wee bit o emphasis,
tae describe tha thingmie when ye dinnae ken how,
tha affy specific type o weather or ragin mood or day,
a sarcastic, deprecatin, fest way o chattin.
Wirds tha were the breath o school,
screamed doon th halls by everyone cool
tha’s pure mingin, boggin, rank –
at some puddin or broth stainin a bag.
Hingin aboot in the line tae the bus,
wee bairns aroond the school,
greetin on aboot skivers an’ skippers,
he’s batterin him, footerin aboot on the cribbie.
Tryin not tae get run ower.
Mum at hame, ‘ah’m pure scunnert the day!
go on – oot!’ an she laughs.
‘away yous go tae dae yer hamework.
the mutt’s aw clarty again.’ poor wee max.
‘mum, he cannae help it’ he was covered in muck though.
Even ma Dad, fae doon sooth,
well, no affy sooth, jus Yorkshire,
says ‘aye’ an ‘wee’ an ‘cannae’, when he’s bealin –
tha’s the power o Scots, o stayin up here.
Las’ week, I was at some ceilidh
an’ got asked by some lad if
ah could speak in tha’ affy fest Scots
tha’ naebody kens. Mental, eh?
Whit? Ah didnae ken whit tae say.
Jus footered ower ma wirds
dootin mysel, feelin all weird –
as they sat an stared.
Ah mean, ah cannae jus turn it on.
There’s nae switch inside o me nae mair.
It bides down deep, ah need tae think back
tae the memories o hoose an hame.
It’s turned aff cuz ah ne’er use it doon here,
ma freends at uni wouldnae ken whit ah’m sayin.
Sae many fae the sooth, sae ah dinnae try –
’s fine by the by. Dinnae worry.
But aw’ ma freends cannae stand their scots accent,
well, some o them at least, ah ken twa.
ane’s fae up north, a private school lassie,
ane fae the edge o the glens.
They keep sayin wirds wrong,
‘poor’ as ‘por’ an ‘adult’ as ‘adult’,
‘nou’ instead o ‘nyew’
‘tour’ as ‘tor’ an too many more.
ken, ah’m scunnert by it, they’re rippin their tongues oot
brakin their lovely braw accent tae pieces,
implantin plastic wirds fae netflix shows –
aw ‘nicer’ accents than oor celtic tongue.
when ah hear them, ah hae tae hauld in a laugh,
cause they sound like wee girls dressin up
in poor, naff mermaid costumes that dinnae fit
an look like a pure faff.
Sae much time spent greedily
consumin those shows, as they slowly erode
awa an accent like acid rain, glued tae
a screen at any point o the day.
Jus ‘next episode, next episode,
next season, next show
yer accent’s glaikit,
sae remove the Scots, let it go.’
‘It doesnae sound good, nae smart, nae slick’,
thas the lies they’re taught tae think.
ah dinnae believe it, jus tellin it
the wirds ma pal said withoot any wit.
Every single one hurtin ma heart,
offendin ma past, aghast fae ma part,
Whit a thing tae say! When ah told
ma sister, she let oot a stunned gasp.
‘Ah’ll only marry an englishman’ well
ah never really cared tha much,
but noo ye said tha –
ah think ah’ll go fae a Scot.
an honestly, noo ah’m owerthinkin it (thanks hen)
ah dinnae think ah could stand anyone else
(cept irish an yorkshire) only, o course
(ah mean, ah say that noo, but naebody kens).
But it’s safety an comfort
an family freends an
tea eftir dark an up in the glens
an ah cannae explain it – bu’ it’s jus normal tae me,
an noo that ye hate it,
ye sound like a stranger
sae dinnae rant tae me aboot
the sound o MA hame.
I’m affy stunned whenever
anyone tries tae mak Scots intae some
political statement, some slogan o’ hatred
cause tae me it’s no’hin tae dae wi’ that.
No aboot bitterness, aboot kinship.
aboot wha we have an no wha others dinnae.
Aboot the connection an heritage we’re blessed wi
sae let’s no batter everyone’s heids in.
When yer back in the city,
chuffed eftir yer wee break,
an the workie comes o’er tae fix su’hin,
sae ye get him a wee cup o tea.
ye blether away, slip intae yer natural speech.
he says some wirds which make ye grin,
usually cannae or dinnae or ken or affy,
an’ ye jus smile, an ye say, ‘aye’.
It’s linked intae ma blood.
ma born an bred bones,
shouted an spoken
only e’er at hame.
Meghan says: I am from Angus, a rural area north of Dundee and so I speak and understand the Dundonian dialect of Scots, which was spoken in the public school I attended in Kirriemuir. However, my Mum is from the Solway Coast and speaks a lot of Galloway Scots. Many words in this dialect feel closely linked to my sense of family and identity as well, so I have included them in places which feel natural to me.