The Gaffer Remembers with his Nose

The Gaffer Remembers with his Nose

The smell of wormwood takes me back a bit,
For in July an’ Augus’ years ago
I used to see it grow
In the oul’ Ballamoar, the place was full of it.
We’d pull an’ tase it with our fingers
Aw my, the powerful scent theer was arrit!
Still in my nose it lingers:
Beautiful, beautiful altogether,
An’ comin’ out strong in rainy weather.
We’d carry it in armfuls up to the garret
An’ rub our faces in it – ay, we would,
It smelt so good.

Grievanagh, the smells we were smellin’ in them days!
All surts: the lek of them isn’ in now.
With all this machinery an’ new-fangled ways.
Which would you rather, the smell of the soil,
The hay an’ manure – or diesel oil?
O’ coorse, theer’s some that don’t lek the smell of a cow
or a pig, or a sheep, or a hen,
Or a fine soncy midden.  What then?
They’re spen’in’ their gool on bottles of scent
An’ reekin’ with odours that were navar meant.
An’ then in a lil quile, the stink!
If you smell a bunch of sweet peas, would ye avar think
Of callin’ it “Passion” or “Two o’clock” or “Winky Wink”?
A good hearty smell navar did any harm,
The lek you can get from avary farm.

Only the other day theer
I was down in the street
Lookin’ for somethin’ for me feet:
An’ I went into one of them cranium-plated places
Ye know, theer’s shapes in them without any faces
All bright an’ bare
An’ a carpet lek a fiel’
But only half as real,
An’ flowers, aw the flowers, but made of wax
Wax!  An’ not a dacent sniff,
Not the leas’ lil wiff
Of a smell at all: them’s the fac’s.

An wharrabout all the new roses they’ve got now?
Florrie Bundles is the name!
Yis, yis, purty thallure, but not the same
As the good oul-fashioned ones they used to grow.
An’ all these sprays with a name lek aeroplanes
For killin’ smells lek fish an’ drains –
If theer’s no smells to smell, goodness knows
We might just as well be born with no nose.

Funny tho’, when I think of the pas’
It’s the smell of things that seem to las’.
The scent of the rain an’ the sun on the grass,
The pine trees, the clover, the gorse an’ the heather,
An’ onions, an’ peat snoke, an’ leather.
The smell of the damp,
An’ the paraffin lamp.
White Windsor soap,
A length of new rope,
An’ apples an’ pears,
The oilcloth on the stairs.
An’ things I’d almos’ forgotten
Had smells, lek newspaper, wool an’ cotton:
An’ then theer was lavender in lil bags,
Not forgettin’
Beds of mint,
An’ jelly settin’
Out in the cool dairy on the flags.
Jus’ give me a hint
Of one of these smells an’ back on footsteps fleet
Back I go to the far-off days
When the sun shone in a golden haze
An’ the mountain air smelled fresh an’ sweet.


arrit = at it
grievanagh = dear love
soncy = plump
gool = gold
quile = while
purty = pretty
thallure = enough, plenty

(source: by W T Quirk, from The Gaffer’s Tales (2008).  `The Gaffer’s Tales’ is a collection of 25 Manx dialect monologues in poetic form. It includes a CD of the poems recorded by two local contemporary performers, who re-create the voice of the original storyteller. The CD brings the stories vividly to life, and the glossary to each page helps with the Manx dialect words that are sprinkled through the text.  The book conjures up a vivid picture of aspects of Manx life in the 1960s and 1970s from the point of view of one who is Manx born and bred.  Available to purchase via their Amazon).  Photograph)

It is well worth a visit to the website set up by Mr Quirk’s daughter and granddaughter at www.wtquirk.com where you can read about his life and more of his poetry.

Bernadette Weyde

Bernadette Weyde

I'm a web designer, amateur historian and keen gardener and I enjoy bringing Manx history, folklore and poetry to a modern audience.


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