A boy adrift in a boat is rescued by a fishing boat crew. This short story by John Cumming is from 'White Below: poems and stories from Shetland’s fishing industry' (2010).
I dunna kaen fu hit began raelly, bit der wis a kinda tradeeshin wi da Mizpah. Every year, upö da sam date in Mairch, we wid steam ta Fair Isle. We hed a mark dere at wis helluva göd fur codlins, an we jöst göd dere every year at dat time. Noo hit mychta fyshed as weel on anidder day, bit we nivver tried. Onywye, dat day, dat year, hit wis a brisk wind fae da noardert, maybe norwasterly, an we were jöst clear o da Roost, whin I saa dis peerie skyiff ahaed o wis. Da boat wis aafil peerie fur yun waters, jöst kinda driftin withoot pooer, an nae sign o life. Weel hit wis a damned nuisance; still we could nae better dö bit alter wir coorse ta hae a luik. Hit belanged ta someen, an every boatman is dependin on his neebir.
Hit wis only whin we cam alangside at we saa da boy. Da oars wis shippet, an he wis lyin i da forehead, kinda cruggit up, luikin gey depooperit. I pat a couple a bowes ower da side ta act as fenders an we belld him a ropp. He tied hit tae a bycht i da whillie’s penter an we halled him in, bit he made nae effort ta come aboard. Weel we didna kaen whit state he wis in, so I clamb doon an bummeled him ower da gunnel o da Mizpah. Aa dis time we wir shoutin instructions tae him, bit he nivver opened his sheeks.
He wis nae age, maybe fifteen or dat, an shakkin lik a laef, so we got im i da galley as fast as we could. I rowwed him in twartree blankets fae me bunk, an we set a staemin mug a tae afore him.
He sat dere drinkin; pale face; fair hair hingin ower his broo; blue een; no riggit fur da sea atall. Weel I speired him his name, bit he wisna aaber ta tell me. Aa we got oot o him wis dat he hed taen da boat fae Scallowa da moarnin afore, an hit wisna his. Apairt fae da caald he seemed nane da waar o his ploy, so we left him wi da cook - makkin a pan o milgruel ta feed im.
We towed da whillie ta Nort Haven an left her tied tae da pier; spak tae da costgaird on da marine band an tellt dem we wid be in Scallowa dat nycht, an at da boy, whaivver he wis, wis ower weel. Bit we still hed a livin ta mak.
Whin we wan tae wir mark, dey wir twa Scotty traalers dere already, so we steered weel clear o dem an shot wir gaer. Hoosomivver, we were hardly taen up wir dhan, an started da draig, afore I heard da aald man shoutin fae da wheelhoose. Whin I wan up dere I could see da problem – een o da traalers wis bearin rycht doon on wis an da bugger wis towwin. Du mycht tink at der’s some kinda rules o honour at sea, wis aa bein up against hit, sae ta spaek, bit damndee wan. If a traaler is fyshin an dy gear happens ta be in his gaet, he’ll cut rycht trow dee. If du’s big anyoch an coorse anyoch du’ll yield ta naebody. We tried dis felloo on da wireless, bit if he heard wis, he wisna carin a damn.
Da bastard wis haedin straight fur wis, an we werena aaber ta loss wir gear. Shu’s draigin, says I, an her block’ll be on da stabard side, so shu’ll turn dat wye I reckon. So da skyipper says, We better third her beuys. We banged her rycht inta third gear, an, aff coorse, da net starts ta close. Da wye cam affa her, bit still da traaler cam on, so we pat her in fifth, an be dis time we were nearly gyaan backlins. Da traaler passed wir boo an we sent wir blissins efter her.
Noo we wir barely shot afore aa dis happened, so da net should a bön empty, bit be da wye da winch wis knockin I kent der wis sometin amiss. We haaled, an up cam da bag, fairly stentit. In meenits da daek wis awash wi codlin, gret big buggers. Twa hunder an sixty boxes we took dat day, an no a whitin among dem. Beuys I hoop you hed a göd brakfast, fur we’ll be guttin aa da wye ta Blacksness.
Weel we cleared da daeks an set tae. Hit’s a caald dreich job, bit der’s sometin kinda lychtsome tö, whin da hael crew is bent ower da ketch, da engine is hammerin awa, an da sky is veev wi white wings an da claagin o maas. Dere we were, guttin fur life, whin dis peerie fellow appears alang side wis wi a tully in his hand, an sets tae guttin. Weel I watched him fur a while an he wrocht wi a göd vynd. So efter a while I göd below an faan him a oilskin an a pair o half-böts.
Six ooers hit took wis ta Scallowa, an he nivver preeved maet; nivver lat up; an no a wird oot o him. Da police met wis at Blacksness, wi his fokk. I felt hert sorry fur da peerie bugger. Göd kaens whit hed taen him ta da Sumburgh Roost in a stown whillie, bit he wisna short o pooster.
A week efter yun, we were steamin intae da pier at Blacksness i da mirknen. I wis standin i da boo wi a fender i me hand whin I saa dis peerie body steppin oot o da lee o da herbour office. As we tied up, he clamb aboard an axt fur da skyipper. He hed a duffle bag ower his shooder. Weel I took im eft tae da wheelhoose. Joannie, I says, der’s a lad here ta see dee. Da aald man luikit at da boy an dan luikit at me. I wisna lippenin ta see dee again, says he.
I cam as shön as I could win, says da lad, Ah’m wantin ta gaeng ta sea wi you.