Kate’s Keekin-gless

Kate’s Keekin-gless is a renowned Arran fairy tale written in the Scots language. The story is a bawdy romp around the Isle of Arran in the 18th century.

A beautiful but vain island girl bids to leave Arran – preferably with a rich husband, but not everything goes to plan after she receives the gift of a mirror, and the Wee-Folk turn against her.


Read along while you listen to the audio.
A loose translation of the dialogue in Kate’s Keekin-gless that will help those who don’t have the Scots to understand the subtleties of the language and to follow the story. 
Scots speakers may even crack a smile.

The Adaptation.

Kate’s Keekin-gless was written by Alasdair Dunn the well known Arran potter and teacher. The story includes a point of view some may consider outdated. I have tried to treat this with empathy in the adaptation.

I feel a connection to the story because my dad, Archie Boyd, made a 16mm film of it with Alasdair in the 1960s, which is why I adapted the play for audio.

I’ve known Arran all my life, and the audio adaptation of Kate’s Keekin-gless pays tribute to my dad’s achievement as a film-maker who won awards at the Glasgow Film Theatre, to celebrate Alasdair’s work, and their shared love of Arran.

Kate’s Keekin-gless was originally performed by drama societies both on Arran and across Scotland.  Alasdair and Archie’s film starred Arran actors mostly from the Whiting Bay drama club, and although the film was donated on Arran, it can no longer be found.

The Cast.

In order of appearance.

Sheila Gilmore.
Wilma Stark.
Charles Curry.
Iain McAllese.
John Divine.
Members of the cast.

The Crew.

  • Written by:
  • Adapted by:
  • Concertina:
  • Directed by:
  • Recording,
    Audio production and Sound Design:
  • Knitted Wee-Folk:

Alasdair Dunn.
John Boyd.
Alison Boyd.
Jill Korn.

John Boyd.

Wilma Stark.

The Characters.

Kate Kiscadale.

Kate is a young, beautiful but vain trollop.  She can be haughty and arrogant, and intends to make the most of life.  Her ambition is to leave Arran, preferably with a rich man, and she does whatever it takes to succeed.  Kate is obsessed with the apparently magical keekin-gless Simon has given her.  She plans to seduce him as she thinks Simon is her best opportunity yet for escape.  Kate speaks the Scots language.

Back to Cast.

Lizzie Urie.

Lizzie is a world-weary, older woman weighed down by the peats she carries in a wicker basket on her shoulder.  She shuffles as she walks and has difficulty in looking up.  Lizzie understands more of her than Kate would like, and her cynicism shows.  She speaks the Scots language.

Back to Cast.

Simon Sassenach.

Simon is an Englishman, sent to Arran by his artist father to find a Scottish, “perfect” beauty for his next portrait.  Simon is a rake and a cad; possibly a failed soldier.  He indulges his own agenda, making unrealistic promises as he enthusiastically wenches his way through the pretty young women of the island.  He speaks English with an upper-class accent.

Back to Cast.

Glaikit Davie.

Davie is Lizzie’s son, who could be described in Arran terms as a “bodach”.  He is believed to have been cursed with a simple mind at birth by the Wee-Folk.  Davie has a good heart, but is easily led.  He perceives the world in child-like terms, and believes he can see the Wee-Folk.  He is prone to over excitement and rushing around.  Davie speaks the Scots language, and often stutters with enthusiasm and frustration.

Back to Cast.

Willy Sliddery.

Willy is the son of a local landowner.  He was born with a huge nose, cursed on him because his father had displeased the Wee Folk.  He has a snuff habit, which along with the size of his nose, does nothing to please Kate.  Willy has always loved Kate, and his lack of experience with other women occasionally leaves him tongue-tied and at a disadvantage, especially in casual conversation.  He speaks the Scots language.

Back to Cast.

Two Wee-Folk.

The grotesque pair of supernatural bogles are Man and Wife.  He has a red, pock marked face and red hair.  The Wife is completely green, but with red pustules, and hair dripping with mucous.  They take glee in their command of the glamourie, and casting vindictive cantrips.  Their voices are “other-worldly” speaking the Scots language and Gaelic. No Bogles were harmed in the making of this audio drama.

Back to Cast.

12 Replies to “Kate’s Keekin-gless”

  1. Well I listened to this without subtitles and thoroughly enjoyed it, even though coming from down south I could not understand all the words, I’ve been on Arran long enough to understand most. A most entertaining way to listen to the old Scottish dialects and would definitely advise others to listen as well.

    1. Clive & Sonia, many thanks for listening. The subtitles have a flavour of Stanley Baxter’s “Parliamo Glasgow”. Some tongue-in-cheeck interpretations need a certain knowledge of the Scots to get the full irony. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Really enjoyed this Arran fairy tale, I sure needed the subtitles as I’m from south of the border, but the true Scots language surely came to life with the cast’s enthusiasm telling the story, it was brilliant.

  3. Fantastic, the language is so rich the pictures painted in the mind are hilarious. What a great cast too, Sheila at her best and who would risk meeting the Bogles on a dark night!
    Congratulations and well done John for bringing it to our ears at last, how sad it would have been to lose this little diamond of Alasdair’s. Still chuckling!

    1. Thank you Mhairi. My first memory of the play was when dad and Alasdair made a 16mm film of it in Alasdair’s garage at King’s Cross. And that wisnae yesterday!

  4. Kate’s Keekin’ Gless was brilliant. Thoroughly enjoyed it and could even hear the enjoyment in the voices of the cast. Thank you for fair brightening my day.

    1. I’m really pleased you enjoyed Kate’s Keekin-gless. Yes, we all had great fun making it. Sheila, who plays Kate, had even been in a stage version when she was at the school, which brought back memories.

  5. The spoken words are great, but the sub-titles are absolutely brilliant. The translation is accurate with off the wall twists. The guy is aff his heid. Just love it.

  6. Absolutely fantastic to hear the Scots language in this brilliantly dramatic production.
    I highly recommend having a listen!

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