Scottish Poetry Selection
- The Dainty Bit Plan

William Cross (1804-1886), the author of the poem below, was born in Paisley - where the weaving of muslin and rhyme often go together. His father was a craft weaver the poet was initially a designer of textiles and became a shawl manufacturer. But as early as 1825 some of his poetry was published in a local periodical called "The Gaberlunzie" and later contributed "The Dainty Bit Plan" and other humorous pieces to the third series of "Whistlebinkie". He became a merchant in Glasgow in Glassford Street and for 40 years was a successful manufacturer of tartan shawls. In 1882 he collected all his best compositions into a book entitled, rather unimaginatively, "Songs and Miscellaneous Poems." His friends described him as a "plain old Scotsman, quiet-living and charitable, who took pleasure to the last in speaking in his native Doric."

"The Dainty Bit Plan" is one of his humorous works, written long after the "Disruption" of the established church but at a time when any local minister who was still single was regarded as a fine "catch" for a young female parishioner.

   The Dainty Bit Plan

Our May had an e'e to a man,
   Nae less than the newly-placed preacher;
Sae we plotted a dainty bit plan
   For trappin' our spiritual teacher.
      For oh! we were sly; sly;
         Oh! we were sly and sleekit;
      But ne'er say a herrin' is dry
         Until it's baith reisted and reekit.

We flattered young Maister M'Gock,
   We plied him wi' tea and wi' toddy,
And we praised every word that he spoke,
   Till we maist put him oot o' the body.
      For oh ! we were sly, sly, etc.

Frae the kirk we were never awa',
   Unless when frae hame he was helpin';
When May, and the rest o' us a',
   Ran far and near after him skelpin'.
      For oh ! we were sly, sly, etc.

But, to come to the heart o' the nit,
   The dainty bit plan that we plotted
Was to get a subscription afit,
   And a watch to the minister voted.
      For oh ! we were sly, sly, etc.

The young women-folk o' the kirk
   By turns took a hand at collectin';
But May took the feck o' the wark,
   And the trouble the rest o' directin'.
      For oh ! she was sly, sly, etc.

A gran' watch was gotten belyve,
   And May, wi' sma' priggin', consentit
To be ane o' a party o' five
   To gang to the manse and present it.
      For oh ! she was sly, sly, etc.

Takin' present and speech baith in han',
   She delivered a bonnie palaver,
To let Maister M'Gock understan'
   How zealous she was in his favour.
      For oh! she was sly, sly, etc.

She said that "the gift was to prove
   That his female frien's valued him highly,
But it couldna express half their love "-
   And she glintit her e'e at him slily.
      For oh! she was sly, sly, etc.

He put the gold watch in his fab,
   And proudly, he said, he wad wear it;
Then, after some flatterin' gab,
   Tauld May he was gaun to be marriet!
      Oh, we were sly, sly;
         Oh, we were sly and sleekit;
      But Maister M'Gock was nae gowk
         Wi' our dainty bit plan to be cleekit.

May cam' hame wi' her heart in her mouth,
   And frae that day became a Dissenter;
And now she's renewin' her youth,
   Wi' some hopes o' the Burgher precentor.
      Oh! but she's sly, sly;
         Oh! she is sly and sleekit;
      And cleverly opens ae door
         As soon as anither is steekit.

Meaning of unusual words:
baith reisted and reekit=both dried and smoked
toddy=drink of whisky with hot water and sugar
feck o' the wark=bulk of the work
palaver=idle talk, wearisome talk
Dissenter=a member of the non-established church
steekit=fastened, shut

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