Scottish Poetry Selection
- Free Boots

Nowadays, poor children are marked out by receiving free school meals. In former times, second-hand clothes were the give-away. But often the poor kids made their way in the world, as this poem by Douglas Barber shows.

Free Boots

Oft time I view my childhood days
Through years that bridge the gap
An' see my parish boots
Wi' the twa holes at the tap.

The parish mannie o' that time
Wid lang be deid an' gone,
But swear I will that pair o' boots
Could still be hangin' on.

For weel I mind he says to me
'They'll last ye a' yer life
An' serve ye good an' be tae you
As faithful as a wife.'

They gave me a lift that day
An' took me aff the grun
W' near three hunner tackets
An' they felt like half a ton.

But oh! boy they were beezers
An' I'd wait 'til it wis dark
Ta skite them on the causie steens
An' thrill tae see the spark.

Ye can speak o' faithful servants
Wha wid come tae your defence.
Well those that felt the force o' them
Wid nae hae sat doon since.

The toffs' kids had a swagger
Wi' their cricket bat an' cap
An' they'd snub me' cause I'd parish boots
Wi' twa holes at the tap.

But nae doot there's some amongst them
Finished up much worse than me
An' would gladly trade their high horse
For a pair o' boots that's free.

Meaning of unusual words:
parish=poor law district
hunner tackets=hundred metal shoe studs
beezers=bigger than usual
skite=slither, slide
causie steens=paving stones

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