Sawney Bean, legend of a cannibal - written in broad Scots dialect

Written by: Thvia Stein

Thar was nae richt ae laddie sair
wha heft a cave 'side Galloway,
wi' nae jaiken he griftit dare
as he was nae tae lippen tae.

Ill-naitur'd  fishwife he haud in wi',
the twa 'greed tae gang the'gither.
She haud her tryst, an' haud her wheesht,
his ill-duin vext her wi' nae dither.

Wi' dirk in hand at howe o' nicht
in fu' ambush thay lay waitin',
skilt o' fecht an' breukin' neck
grantin' flesh for desecratin'.

Than brochten hame an' ne'er spill
tae weil wi' kale an' roastit wean,
for Clootie's gut,  ae meal an' yill
'afore wan cotchit Sawney Bean.

King James the fourth heard o't a'
an' sent oot four hunner men
tae scour the Heid an' gaither a'
o' Sawney's unco clan.

Tae Tolbooth Gaol, than aff tae Leith
whar nae mercy wad be seen
wi' sic brutality tae bequeath
at the quarterin' o' Sawney Bean.




Rough translation, not nearly as poetic!:

There was a crazy, angry man
who inhabited a cave near Galloway
with no skilled trade he dared to grift
and he was not to be trusted.

An ill-natured fishwife he gained in favor
and the two agreed to marry.
She kept her word and held her tongue,
his ill-doing did not bother her.

With dirk in hand at midnight
in full ambush they lay waiting,
skilled at fighting and breaking necks,
granted them flesh for desecration.

They brought it home with nothing wasted,
to mix with kale and roasted child.
For the devils gut, a meal and ale,
before the capture of Sawney Bean.

King James the fourth heard of it all
and sent out four hundred men
to scour the Head and gather all
of Sawney's notorious clan

To Tolbooth Jail, then off to Leith
Where no mercy would be seen
with such brutality to bequeath
at the quartering of Sawney Bean



GLOSSARY:

nae richt- mentally unbalanced (literally 'not right')
heft- to settle or establish a dwelling place
nae jaiken- without a skilled trade or craft
griftit-to use dishonest or illegal methods for personal gain 
nae tae lippen tae-  not trustworthy
haud in wi'- obtained favor from
gang the'gither- unite as in marriage (literally 'go together')
haud her tryst- kept her word
haud her wheesht- kept her silence
ill-duin- wrong, perverse or ill-behavior (literally 'ill-doing')
howe o' nicht- midnight
Clootie- the Devil
ae meal an' yill-a traditional dish, served with whisky or ale, consumed at celebrations
wan-one
unco- strange, notorious, extraordinary
quarterin'-  punishment by severing the hands and feet (and usually genitals) resulting in a fatal loss of blood.