Alexander Whyte: A Childhood Anecdote

How can you not appreciate a Christian biographer who captures an unflattering event in the life of their subject and writes about the event with fitting humor and candor! From Barbour’s The Life of Alexander Whyte:

In the summer of 1921 the present writer had the privilege of a short talk in a cottage far up the Glen with a retired farmer of over ninety who had seen two sons enter the ministry of the Church of Scotland. He told that his wife had known Alec [Alexander] Whyte when both were “wee toddlers,” playing at the side of the field while their mothers worked. Later still, Alec himself was able to gain employment in herding at a farm, now demolished, on the east side of the Glen.

Beyond securing keep for the summer months, this work cannot have done much to support the family finances, for the wages of a herd laddie at that time were only about twenty or thirty shillings for the season. The boy’s thoughts were already rather with the books which he so earnestly desired to read than with the cattle which he was engaged to watch.

On one occasion, like a second and youthful King Alfred, his dreams of his future kingdom had made him forget his immediate task; and the farmer’s wife, seeing the cattle stray into the corn, ran out “raging him”—

“I dinna ken fat ye’re gaen to dae, or foo in the hale warld ye’ll ever earn an honest living.”

The delinquent appears to have met this onslaught calmly—

“What wad ye think if ae day I was to wag my pow in a poopit?”

“You, ye feckless cratur!”

But unhappily the rest of the justly angered dame’s retort was couched in Forfarshire speech so racy as to elude the present chronicler.*


* G. F. Barbour, The Life of Alexander Whyte (Hodder & Stoughton 1924), pp. 18-19.

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