Though guddicks – the local name for riddles – are not usually sung, they nevertheless form part of the rich collection of oral tradition enjoyed in Whalsay and other parts of Shetland.

These verbal puzzles play on words and meanings to create more than one possible interpretation and quite often one of them can be ‘blue’. They come from a Shetland tradition of ‘laying up guddicks’ (asking riddles). You can find others less ribald at

Grace Anderson and Janet Shearer                                                                                       SA 1974. 11.2–6

This first group was recorded at a very merry party in January 1974 at the home of David and Iris Anderson. Grace gave the first one and Janet supplied the rest. Thank you to Janet’s daughter Iris Anderson for transcribing them.

On my belly there is a fixture,
A hole and bridge betwixture;
On that brig there is some hair
And some sweet music proceeds from there.

Belly to belly, hand aboot back
Raw flesh aa (in the) hole, clap erse clap.

As I cam ower the mires o Munnie
I met a auld wife clawing her cunnie
A cunnie, a cunnie I’ll gie de a cuff
For aa de hair staands up in a ruff.

As I cam ower the mires of Lea
Twenty pussies came chas’tn me
If I’d not been sae witty and wee,
Een o dem widda catched me.

Hair oot and hairy in
Lift the leg and plunge me in.

The red bull wallops at the black bull’s erse
‘Till aa his guts rumbles.

Betty Poleson                                                                                                                                        SA1977.106.1

Betty could not give a complete answer for this guddick, but we include it along with her remarks because it is a fascinating and teasing example of the Whalsay dialect.

I sat in my sheerum-shaarum                            [chair]
I lookit oot through my leerum-laarum                  [window]
An’ saa da ree-raa                                            [crow]   
Cairyin’ me runti pipes awa                             [tripe?]
An’ swor’ by my britty-braaty                           [book? Bible?]
‘At if I hed me ritty-raatty                                  [gun]
I wid mak da ree-raa
Lat my runti-pipes faa.                                 [fall]

Of the pair that follow, the second is quite well known.

Betty Poleson                                                                                                                                          SA 1977.106. 2 & 3

         Hank, tank, in under a bank;
        Ten about fower.

         In the woods I grew,
        A’ axe did me destroy;
        Deid I was and now I live
         And now I sing for joy.