Donkey shays were a means of transport for many Cornish years ago; miners, especially, used them to get to their work each day. It was a simple contraption little more than a piece of board fixed to an axle and a pair of wheels; it was just big enough to fit one man. Not exactly a luxurious ride but preferable to walking any day. And anyone who has had anything to do with donkeys will know that they can be stubborn and unreliable if the fancy takes them and my poem was the result of a memory of a neighbour who had the most obstinate donkey I ever knew.
As we say in Cornwall, “Ee wud gaw ta lie.” As soon as he was put in the shafts of the shay down he would go and lay in the road, nothing would move him… he was tempted with carrots, apples and every kind of food a donkey liked but he would not move. Our neighbour was at his wits end and like most owners of a donkey shay he was very fond of his donkey. Then at the end of his tether he decided to sell the donkey and advertised him far and wide… that seemed to be the incentive Neddy needed to behave and he would be as good as gold for weeks and our neighbour would say, “Aw I shan’t sell tha dear obbum eeze uz good uz gawld.” Within days back he would go to his bad habits and all the problems began again. I don’t think Neddy was ever sold and ended up living a splendid retirement in our neighbour’s field, never having pulled his shay more than a few miles in his life.
Jaw’s Magic Pawshun.
Teday we da ride in sharabangs
Und evun fly in plaanes,
But, guss long yew kent bate a dunkey shay
Fun coosun round owur laanes.
See, back long twuz all tha raage
Ta awn a dunkey shay
Saw Jaw ee thot eed fancy won
Fun courtun und fun work each day.
Saw, sweatun like a poultice
Ee scat sum planchuns bout
Maade a andsum shay my gar
Twuz fatty twuz knaw doubt.
Tha nixt thing wuz a dunkey
Saw awf ee bawled ta Summercourt Feer.
Und bawt Billy off av a Gypsy
Who saw poor Jaw a cummun up there.
Ess, Billy wuz a sight ta see
Yew cud av knocked un down with a feathurr,
Wild us a fitcherr, tha look in iz eye
Und us thin us two elluns clapped tegithurr.
But Jaw wuz proud uz punch ee wuz
Und bawld uz brass set owt
Not knawn bouwt all tha lill ga-ames
A dunkey can be abowt.
Und ailun threw tha villuge
Well, Billy went ta lie
Shot Jaw ead furst into sum furze
Eee cuddun blaw nur strike nur cry.
Twuz plaane fun all ta see then
Billy wuz goine ta be boss
Lampered, glazun like a stat
Jaw felt uz silly uz a waggun ass.
Eee stud scritchun like a whitnick
Ee wuz wisht und letup sure nuff
Awl av hog stag, vixed uz fire
Eee knawed twuz time ta stop this stuff.
Ee knawed ow fawkes wud grizzle
Und pards ded tip tha grin
But iz pride ee ad ta clunk un down
Cuz ee needed advice fun- ta win.
Advice ee cummed frum far und wide
Youm nivvurr eard sich taales.
Frum lightun bunfires side tha rawds
Ta feedun Billy with waturr snails.
Poor Jaw wuz in sum flummux
Eed gawne ta all tha pains
Av tryun iverythin they said
Ta slock Billy round tha laanes.
Won day ee met awld. Ernie Skewes,
A shammick fly und fickle.
Ernie tawld un waturr wuz tha trick
Ta give Billy’s ears a tickle.
Nizt day Jaw did uz Ernie sed
When Billy wint lie near Madron Well
Jaw dropped sum watturr down iz ears
My gar, off wint Billy like a bat owt av ell.
Naow, we Cornish iddun sa simple,
Knaw we iddun sure nuff.
Jaw thot eed bottle sum av Adam’s wine
Und sell tha bloomun stuff.
Well, ee mixed sum waturr weth grushuns,
Til twuz black uz a turf rick tawd
Und ee ma-ade a fortune you sellun un
Ta they with dunkeys, wat da gaw lie in tha rawd.