Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Caller herrin'

This week  Diarmaid O Muirithe turned to the Ulster word caller in his column Words We Use in the Irish Times.  According to the Concise Ulster Dictionary it means, of fish or vegetables, fresh, in proper season, newly caught or gathered.

The word used to be very common in Ulster and in Scotland and Northumberland.  Robert Burns wrote in his poem The Holy Fair (1785), 'I walked forth to view the corn, An' snuff the caller air.'  Walter Scott in The Antiquary (1816) has: 'There's fish nae doubt, - there's sea trout and caller haddocks.'

I can recall hearing the word many times on the White Heather Club when Moira Anderson sang the old Scottish song Caller Herrin', which was written by Carolina Oliphant (Lady Nairne) in the early 19th century.
Wha'll buy my caller herrin'?
They're bonnie fish and halesome farin';
Wha'll buy my caller herrin',
New drawn frae the Forth?

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