The New Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Robert Louis Stevenson

Winters Walk Notebook/3

with 6 comments

Overheard conversation in Scots

The right-hand page was probably written on Sunday 16 January between Glenluce and Wigtown in Galloway and records an overheard conversation about renouncing drink. The mark [?] in the transcription refers to an uncertain preceding word. Any help on this (or any other aspects of the transcription) would be most gratefully received.

click image for larger image


[p. 36]

[page written upside down; game scores[1]]

R.A.S. RLS. W.G.S. W.S.
2 1   1
1. 1    
1 1.    
1. 1    
1. 1    


[p. 37]

blue peat reek.

Are ye goin to be teatotal again[2]

I hafe[3] no need of it.

Deed, ye’ve just as much need of it as me – Miss Thamson,[4] Miss Thamson!

– Aye.

– Musure[5] Macfadyen just as much need of it as me.

– Deed, Weeliam I think about as much. (muckle?)[6] Ye see, he was like you. He took it[7] an he couldna keep it.

– I kept it nine month, by God and Macfadyen kept it a a[8] week.

– Aye Weeliam, ye kept it a long time.

– Deed; I kept it long enough, and he drunk.

“Keept” throughout[9]

[illegible word] crying in the street had brought forth the remark

I think that man’s going mad


[1] the players are probably RLS’s cousin, Bob Stevenson (RAS), RLS, and their friends Walter Grindlay Simpson (WGS) and his younger brother William (WS), a few months later in Barbizon (April-May 1876), when perhaps RLS was writing up his ‘winter’s walk’.

[2] This conversation transcribed by RLS on his walk is listed by McKay as a separate work: Drinking, Going Tea Total, Etc. (6168).

[3] spelling indicates pronunciation of an Irish or Highland speaker.

[4] could be ‘Thomson’, but since RLS is interested in pronunciation here, the Scots form has been chosen.

[5] for ‘Monsieur’; if the first letter is ‘H’, ‘Husure’, it might indicate a Highland or Irish pronunciation of ‘Oh! sure’; the penultimate letter could be ‘n’.

[6] note from RLS to himself; perhaps trying to remember which word was used.

[7] ‘He took the pledge’ to renounce alcohol.

[8] Scots ‘all a’.

[9] RLS notes the form used in this dialogue.

Written by rdury

23/08/2012 at 1:11 pm

6 Responses

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  1. Some playful and imaginative reading fot the [illegible word]: Sooths – Youths – Chortles – Thistles – Throstles – Wrestlers.
    Pardon my usual liberty (but this work is really amusing)!


    25/08/2012 at 4:39 pm

  2. The lastthree etters do seem to be definitely “ths”, and “Youths” makes a good fit – the first letter isn’t clear and seems to be written over another one. Thanks for your contribution!


    25/08/2012 at 7:24 pm

  3. The accent Stevenson is recording is almost certainly what is known as Galloway Irish, a very distinctive accent common in the area due to the large Irish population there.


    28/08/2012 at 1:28 pm

  4. ‘Carters [Carter’s/Carters’?] crying in in the street’? First thought ‘Christ’s crying [preaching?] in the street[s]’ partly because of following ‘brought forth’ sounding biblical …

    Neil Brown

    30/08/2012 at 9:59 am

    • I am now in the Beinecke with the notebook open in front of me, checking our transcription. Sometimes the pencil never made a mark or the graphite has since blown away and all you can make out is the scratches on the papers surface.

      Now let’s look at this word. The last three letters are definitely ‘ths’, so ‘Carters’ (which fits the sense nicely – since RLS has noted drunken carters on the way) unfortunately doesn’t fit. The first letter is a capital of some kind, but is written over another capital – ‘Youths’ is the only word I can think of that would fit in here, and the marks on the paper don’t exclude it.


      31/08/2012 at 8:59 pm

  5. Correction: the entry is probably for Saturday 15 January 1876 and the place could be Glenluce where RLS stayed overnight.


    31/08/2012 at 9:07 pm

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