Cirsty comes back from the Dead

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Talk, given by Donald Leitch, 6th Nov. 1956

I would like to tell you tonight of an Old Tain Worthy, who reached the zenith of her worthiness round about fifty years ago. Distance may be lending enchantment to the scene, but to me, her claim to worthiness lay in the extraordinary kindness, gentleness and interest she displayed in her daily contacts with the children of our little town. She lived in a little house in Ross Street, but she was originally a farm worker in Morayshire, drifted to Tain and finally settled down here.  We all called her Bent Cursty.

In appearance, Cursty was the rough diamond type.  She always wore dark clothes along with a dark grey shawl which was firmly draped over her head and shoulders.  She wore heavy working men’s boots, big and tackety, and always well covered with dried clayey mud. She walked literally bent double and this gave her a sort of squint masculine ruggedness of the lifelong outdoor worker, but we children seemed to see in this face a quiet restful beauty. How we loved to go up and speak to Cursty, and how we loved to listen, as in her broad Morayshire accent, she spoke to us of the weather and the harvest, and the tatties, and asked us if we were good bairns and how were we getting on in school:  and many a pandrop I got from Cursty.

Cursty lived before her time in that, although a female, she smoked, and to do that required some courage from one of the fair sex fifty or sixty years ago. But smoke she did, publicly, blatantly, and with utter abandon, but not for her the thin delicate cigarette so beloved of the modern miss of 1956.  No, Cursty smoked good honest thick black Bogie Roll Tobacco and smoked from a blackened clay pipe of great age and rich maturity. On a good sunny day, it was Cursty’s wont to take a walk along the High Street, bent double as she always was, and sit down for a rest on the pavement kerb right beside the Commercial Bank.  There she would sit with her back to the High Street and her face to the Commercial Bank with her feet resting on the pavement.  Then she would out with her pipe, light up, and smoke like a furnace. She was not unlike an Eastern Potentate holding court.  The Minister knew her, the Provost knew her, the Doctor knew her, the Baillie knew her, they all knew her and whoever was walking along the Commercial Bank pavement, would stop and quietly enquire for Cursty’s health and they would be answered respectfully in that homely broad Morayshire accent.

There was once an incident in Cursty’s life that caused somewhat of a sensation in the town at the time.
Cursty fell ill.  She was devotedly attended by her near neighbours.  Her condition was so serious that three of the neighbours sat up all night keeping watch by her bedside.  During the night it appeared to them that Cursty was sinking fast, and about two o’clock in the morning it seemed quite apparent to them that she had passed away.
The good people forthwith proceeded to dress the remains.  After this sad duty was done, and the room tidied and made to look respectable, the good people sat by the bedside and started to partake of some needed refreshments about seven o’clock in the morning. They were just in the middle of having their refreshments, when the seemingly lifeless Cursty sat bolt upright in bed, enquired sharply as to what was going on, and demanded her pipe immediately because she said she “affa needed a smoke”. The startled neighbours quickly got Cursty her pipe and after a good smoke, she ate a good breakfast and lived hale and hearty for a good ten years thereafter.