The Boy and the Bunnet

31 Jan

The Boy and the Bunnet

What a wonderful story the Boy and the Bunnet is, with its slaverin’, snochterin’ scary Urisk and beautiful Scottish music.

I’d stumbled across the website for this Scots story a while ago whilst trying to soak up as much Gaelic information as possible but didn’t follow through on it until this weekend when a free CD of the story landed in my lap.  This story of a little boy who loses his bunnet (or did the bunnet lose him?) uses a variety of Scottish instruments to represent the characters including the fiddle, cello, harp and bagpipes, and covers a wide range of traditional Scottish music styles including the jig, reel, strathspey and waltz.  It’s a magical way to not only expose children (and to be frank, many adults) to the beautiful, traditional Scottish culture around us, but to let them hear and absorb spoken Scots in all its glory.  For one of the things that has really drawn me to this story is that it’s written in two versions.  One version is written in Scots by James Robertson and music by James Ross(the one we have) and one in Gaelic – Balach na Bonaid, translated by Aonghas MacNeacail.

I’m not particularly old (she says, desperately clinging to the belief that you’re not IN your 30s till you’re 31…) but when I grew up I was taught to speak “proper” English and to consider Scots as “slang.”  “Slang” AKA “not-to-be-spoken.”  Recently I’ve come to realise how wrong that was, and wish that I could sign up to learn Scots somewhere, much as I have signed up to learn Gaelic.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m from Falkirk, live in Glasgow and my Gran does speak Scots (rather than just being really slang as I grew up believing) so I can hear and understand a fair bit of the lingo – I certainly had no problem with The Boy in the Bunnet, but I’d struggle to speak it.  I hope to encourage my children to hear, understand and, most importantly, respect not just English and Gaelic but Scottish too.

So I played the CD in the car for the children and they were enthralled!  My little boy didn’t want to leave the car to race in and play with his Leappad when we arrived home until he’d found out if the Urisk was creeping up on the boy – a miracle!  He loved trying to work out what each creature was like based on the music we could hear.  For your information, the selkie is pretty because her music is lovely and is his favourite, the craw sounds naughty and the Urisk… well, we have had to reassure him that the Urisk doesn’t live under his bed, but such is the power of the music and vocabulary in this story.  There are simply no better words in English to describe the slaverin’, snochterin’, unknown creature than you can find in Scots.  We’ve only had it for a few days but he has already asked if we can get the book (not available till March but you can preorder) in Gaelic too.  I won’t be able to read it to him, but we can listen and absorb the rich language.

This story has really sparked my imagination – I wish I was back teaching again so that I could stage a fabulous production.  I can totally see how I would do it and am itching to try it out but I think, sadly, it’ll have to wait a few years.  It was so exciting to discover that the original Scots version is being shown at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre as part of Celtic Connections this weekend (3rd and 4th of February) but sadly, even if we all go wearing our bunnets, the £31 family ticket price is beyond our reach (£13 for a single ticket) so for now we’ll settle with listening in the car.

If anyone does go this weekend, I’d love to hear what you thought of it.  And if you have a copy of the free CD that you don’t need, I’d love a spare for when ours is eventually to scratched to play.

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2 Responses to “The Boy and the Bunnet”

  1. h0pefulmummy February 7, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    oh, thanks for the link to the web page – a friend who plays cello and her child who plays a wee mini harp – and they say the show was great – although they did get free tickets… away to get a cd me thinks!

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