Aberdeen humour

At Aberdeen University we're proud of our long history especially, of course, the fact that we've been teaching the physics of the day since the first classes began after the foundation of the University in 1495. Part of the image of Aberdeen is the miserly outlook of its citizens, particularly when it comes to paying for drink. It's not at all true, honest, but in the spirit of Henry Ford encouraging the derogatory name 'Tin Lizzie' for his model T on the grounds that there's no such thing as bad publicity, we offer you some traditional Aberdeen jokes from the 1920s to balance the serious stuff on our other pages. Such jokes are so out of fashion that our younger locals have never heard them and don't know the myths upon which the legend has been built. For you and them, we have mined the archives. Today, Aberdeen is now a very cosmopolitan city. You won't even hear much of the lingo of these jokes in Union Street. Don't read them all at once.

A company of Americans were touring Scotland and lost their way in the North. Presently they found themselves in the outskirts of a large city. Stopping their car they asked a boy the name of the town. "I'll tell ye if ye gie me saxpence" replied the youth. "Drive on!" said the American - "I guess this is Aberdeen".

"Can ye tell me" asked an Aberdonian of an English visitor, "Can ye tell me why we Aberdonians have a' a gift o' humour?" "I suppose", replied the visitor, "It's because it is a gift." "Jokin' aside," said the same Aberdonian, "how much whusky dae ye think an Aberdonian can drink?" "Any given quantity!" replied the Englishman. Thereafter they adjourned into a Public House for a drink, but had to leave again quickly as the Englishman had no money.

It's on record that an Aberdonian once gave a waiter a tip - but the horse didn't win. Which is on a par with the story of the Aberdonian who, spying a threepenny piece in Picadilly, stepped out to pick it up and was run over by a passing motor. The Coroner's verdict was "Death by Natural Causes".

Still on the subject of restaurants, Sandy strolled into one of London's leading restaurants, sat down at the bar, called for a glass of whisky and drank it off. "That will be two and sixpence", said the waiter. "What!" said Sandy, "Hauf a crown!" "Ah!" said the waiter, "but you have to pay well for this establishment - the fine pictures, the expensive carpets, the magnificent furniture and fittings." "Oh I see!" replied Sandy, "That's a' richt!". Next day he appeared again and was served by the same waiter. This time he laid down the regular 1 shilling and 4 pence. The waiter was about to explain but Sandy with an expansive sweep of his hand said "I pey'd for a' thae things yesterday." It was at another bar that another son of the Granite City lingered a long time while examining his change. "Isn't it right?" asked the barmaid. "Aye" he replied, "Juist".

A wireless enthusiast was anxious to hear 2BD [this fairly dates the joke; 2BD was the first BBC station to begin broadcasting from Aberdeen, in 1922]. He tried over and over again to adjust the coils of his receiver for the correct wavelength. Finally a friend came to the rescue. He asked for a money box and rattled it in front of the new-fangled wireless set. Instantly a voice was heard, saying "Aberdeen Calling, Aberdeen Calling".

An Aberdonian, resident in London, had a conversation with a Londoner regarding the large number of Scotsmen holding responsible positions in the Metropolis. "Why is it?" asked the Londoner. "Weel," replied the Aberdonian, "it's a question of brains. The Scotsmen have the brains." "Yes, yes, but why do the Scotsmen have the brains?" "Oh, that's easily explained. They live on fish and fish make brains. You could get brains too if you lived on fish. Suppose I send you a pound's worth from Aberdeen!" "All right," replied the Londoner, "I'll try it". So he handed over the pound. In due course one haddock arrived from Aberdeen. Some days later the friends met again. "Weel," asked the Aberdonian, "and how did the fish work - notice any difference?" "I can't say that I do." "Oh, but you must persevere. May I send you another pound's worth?" "All right, I'll try it." So another pound passed into the Aberdonian's keeping. Again, one haddock arrived at its London destination. The friends met again: "Weel," asked the Aberdonian, "how are you getting on - notice any difference yet?" "I can't say that I do." "Oh, but you mustn't give up now, You must take the whole course. Suppose I send you another pound's worth?" "Oh, but I say," replied the Londoner, "That's a fearful price for one haddock: surely there's something wrong!" "Ah, now I've got you", replied the Aberdonian, "the fish are beginning to tell!"

In the same vein, we met Mr Macpherson the other day, the buyer in one of Aberdeen's drapery stores and just returned from a trip to London. "An' what did you think o' the English when ye were up in London?" he was asked. "I didna see ony", he replied, "I only met the heids o' Departments." Ah, well. We have it on reliable authority that whereas in the old days Scotsmen emigrated to London, they are now being born there to save the expense of railway travelling.

An Englishman had just been given a comprehensive tour of Aberdeen by one of the locals. "How is it," said the Englishmen, "that you have so many Asylums in Aberdeen?" "It's true enough," said the Aberdonian, "we do, but where you come from the inmates would be called normal." A variant of this concerns the Scotsman resident in London who was always boasting about his native land to his English friends. "Why didn't you stay there" asked one of them, "since it is such a grand country?" "Oh, it's just like this," he replied, "they were a' owre clever for me there, but I get on fine here!" No shortage of hubris in Aberdeen.

A drouthy Aberdonian desirous of quenching his thirst found that he only had 6 pence all told, whereas 9 pence was necessary. He solved the problem by pawning the 6 pence for 5 pence and selling the pawn ticket for 4 pence. He thus obtained 9 pence and got his pint of beer.

The number of London jokes attest to the number of emigres down South. One Aberdonian on a visit to a friend in London over stayed his welcome. It was getting towards Christmas and his host thought a kindly hint might speed him away. "Don't you think," he said, "that your wife and family will want you to be with them at Christmas?" "Man," replied the Aberdonian, "I believe you're richt. It's rale thochtfu' o' you. I'll just send for them." Aberdeen's reputation thrived in the music halls. A traveller at Euston station was booking a third-class single to Inverness. The ticket clerk said "Change at Aberdeen". "Na, na", came the reply, "I'll take my change now. I've been to Aberdeen before".

Some alleged Aberdeen proverbs:

A Frien' that treats you is a treat o' a Frien'.

Keep yer auld flag for the new flag day.

Dinna spend money on drink, but aye keep a corkscrew.

If ony man insults ye by offerin' ye a drink - swallow the insult.

An Aberdonian and a Yorkshireman foregathered in Hull. They discovered they were both thirsty, but naturally neither of them had any money. A bright thought struck the Yorkshireman. "I know a barmaid who's very forgetful. If you engage her in conversation, she can't remember being paid or not. I'll go in and see if it'll work". In he went and in a short time he came out to find Jock patiently waiting. "Weel, hoo did ye get on?" "Fine, Jock, you try it on." In Jock went, and after ordering his glass of whisky he engaged the barmaid in interesting conversation. Some ten minutes later he paused and casually remarked "Ah weel, I'll hae to be going. Whit about my change?"

Some boys were messing about on a raft off the Aberdeen beach when the whole thing capsized. Knowing his son couldn't swim, the father offered the Rescue 5/- if he would save his boy's life. In jumped the rescue and after some trouble the boy was brought safely ashore. Artificial respiration had to be applied and when at last the boy "came to" the father paid over 2/6. "Oh, but you promised me 5/-" said the Rescue. "I did that," replied the father, "but the laddie was half deid when you brocht him oot!"

An Aberdonian was found searching his pockets, with a woe-begone expression on his face. "What's wrang, Tam?" asked a friend. "I've lost saxpence and I've searched every pooch but one." "Why don't you search it?" he was asked. "I'm feared, Tam!" came the reply "For, if it's no there I'll drap doon deid." Perhaps it was the same person about whom a story was circulating that he opened his purse and was surprised to see a moth fly out. We have made searching enquiries as to the truth of this tale and find that it's a distortion of the facts. The moth was dead.

Donald hadn't come across his friend Sandy since the Wedding Day, now six months past and at last they met in Union Street. "Weel, Sandy," said Donald, "and hoo are ye likin' merried life?" "No bad," replied Sandy, "but she's aye ask, ask, askin' for money!" "Hoo much hae ye gi'en her?" "Nane as yet."

A charabanc accident took place in Union Street. Several of the injured were lying about, waiting for attention. A native came on the scene and asked one of them: "Has the Insurance man been round?" "Not yet," was the reply. "Ah, weel," he said, "I'll just lie doon aside ye!" Another accident story concerns the motor car moving gingerly in a confined space necessitated by repair on an Aberdeen roadway. The car happened to knock down an old woman. The injuries were rather serious, and a sympathetic passer-by was anxious to know who she was so that her relatives, if any, might be communicated with. To the question where she lived, she managed to get out "Great Western Road." "Are you married?" was the next question. "Na", she answered, her voice a little stronger - "this is the worst thing that's happened to me as yet."

Sometime ago the Aberdeen tramcar fares were reduced. Strangely, not all the citizens were pleased. One spokesman for the discontented said "Whaur I used to save three ha'pence by walkin', now I save only a penny." Speaking about fares, have you heard the one about the Aberdonian who was asked by a companion on a tramcar, "I thocht ye kent that lassie sittin' at the front?" "So I do - but wait till she peys her fare." Finally, the following conversation was heard in Union Street. "I was fair affronted, yesterday!" "Hoo was that?" "The car conductor glowered at me as if I hadn't pey'd my fare!" "What did ye dae?" "I just glowered back at him as if I had!" Of course people still talk about the great Union Street traffic jam. The prime cause was a horse that wouldn't move. When at last by gentle coaxing it was persuaded to raise one foot and step forward, it was found to have been standing on a sixpence.

The following story may not be true, but it happened during circus time in Newcastle. Two little fellows each had a silver threepenny piece, but the admission price was sixpence. One of them had a bright idea: "Let's put them on the railway line and get them flattened out," he said, "and they'll each look like sixpence." So they placed them on the line and waited till the train passed but, alas! when they went to get their coins there was nothing there. The train happened to be the Aberdeen Express.

Not all humour was about alledged miserliness and alcohol consumption. A local clergyman came across one of his flock working on a road gang with his sleeves rolled up and his cap off. "Donald", the clergyman queried, "are you not afraid to work in such a strong sun with your cap off. It might affect your brain?" "Ach!" was the reply; "d'ye think if I'd ony brains I'd work at this job?"

I have to confess some personal interest in the classic Aberdeen joke though almost all of them are not now politically correct. My great uncle was given the accolade of "Scotland's Prince of Story Tellers" and some of his 'stories' are in the lines above. He wasn't a music hall commedian but Sir James Taggart, highly respected local citizen. He clearly knew the need to humour his audiences with some local 'stories' but humour not only has geographic bounds, it also fades with time and a century on he wouldn't entertain many in a modern audience.




Initial design by Jan Skakle j.skakle@abdn.ac.uk
Content John Reid j.s.reid@abdn.ac.uk
Last updated 24th January 1999