True Grit

I caught a bit of one of my favourite films on Saturday afternoon telly, True Grit with John Wayne, the only movie for which he received an Oscar, and in which he uses the famous line,  “Fill your hands, you son of a ****!”  as he rides out to face four gunmen.

Earlier in the film Wayne’s character Rooster Cogburn describes someone in a rather derogatory term as having ‘Clabber’ for brains. Here in Northern Ireland we know clabber to be a term for mud or muck made famous by the poem “Livin in Drumlister”,  (properly called “Me an’me Da”), by W.F. Marshall, “The Bard of Tyrone,  – W F Marshall was actually a Presbyterian Minister and a highly regarded authority on the dialects of Ulster

In True Grit I think the screenwriter was using the term Clabber in it’s American sense as thickened or curdled milk, ie resembling brains but without any functioning ability.










Check out the following links for more info on the word Clabber and how as an ‘Ulster Scots’ word it made it’s way to the Appalachian Mountains and eventually common usage in the South and East USA and as well as the foodstuff can mean any soft gooey substance, hence mud and muck.


I have also printed the full words of  “Livin in Drumlister” below and if you read through them there is a certain poignancy, the reality of Irish Rural life – the eternal Bachelor, either by accident, design or influence from others as illuminated in the work of Patrick Kavanagh another great recorder of Ulster and Irish Rural life.

Me an’ me Da,  (“Livin in Drumlister”)

By W.F. Marshall

I’m livin in Drumlister
An I’m getting very oul’
I have to wear an Indian bag
To save me from the coul.
The deil a man in this townlan’
Wos claner raired nor me,
But I’m livin’ in Drumlister
In clabber to the knee.

Me Da lived up in Carmin,
An’ kep a sarvint boy.
His second wife was very sharp,
He birried her with joy.
Now she wos thin,her name was Flynn
She come from Cullentra,
An’ if me shirts a clatty shirt
The man to blames me Da.

Consarnin weemin sure it wos
A constant word of his,
Keep well away from them that’s thin
Their tempers aisy riz.
Well,I knowed two I thought wud do
But still I had me fears,
So I skiffled back an’ forrit
Between the two,for years.

Wee Margit had no fortune,
But two rosy cheeks wud plaze.
The farm o lan’ was Bridget’s,
But she tuk the pock disayse.
An’ Margit she was very wee,
An’ Bridget she was stout.
But her face was like a goal door,
With the bowlts pult out.

I’ll tell no lie on Margit
She thought the worl’ of me.
I’ll tell the truth me heart wud lep
The sight of her to see.
But I wos slow, ye surely know
The raison of it now,
If I left her home from Carmin
Mr Da wud rise a row.

So I swithered back an forrit’
Till Margit got a man.
A fella come from Mullaslin
An’ left me jist the wan.
I mind the day she went away,
I hid wan strucken hour,
An cursed the wasp from Cullentra
That made me Da so sour.

But cryin cures no trouble,
To Bridget I went back,
An faced her for it that night week
Fornenst her own turf stack
I axed her there,an’spoke her fair,
The handy wife she’d make me,
I talked about the lan’ that joined
-Begob! She wudn’t take me.

So I’m livin in Drumlister
An’ I’m getting very oul’
I creep to Carmin wanst a month
To thry an’ make me sowl
The deil a man in this townlan’
Wos claner raired nor me,
And I’m dying in Drumlister
In clabber to the knee.


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