We came across the Reply to the Toast to The Lassies Gunnie Moberg gave to the Stromness Debating society at a Burn’s Supper at some point mid to late 1990s. Gunnie’s handwritten notes run to twenty-one pages. ‘Don’t be alarmed by all these pages’ she tells her audience halfway through the speech, ‘I am writing big’. We thought you might enjoy an excerpt of Gunnie’s speech . Gunnie’s spellings and underscorings have been retained.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen, when my husband came home with the message, would I speak at this dinner, I said ‘you must be joking!’ I can’t even speak English!
He assured me that anyone who could build a 30 feet long stone dyke can make a speach. I am very proud of my dyke, so he hit the right note. However I soon realised that building a wall and speaking here had nothing in common, although a lot of bad language had gone into building the wall. So, I wasn’t persuaded until he said, ‘well, maybe it isn’t your thing’. That was like a rag to a red bull! (I told you I don’t speak English). What do you mean not my thing? You think I can’t do it?
I think what worries one about speaking here is, that everyone talks about the speaches for weeks afterwards and Gud help you if you haven’t made a good one! Of course there are the ones that nobody can’t remember, that would be worth. I must say, it is nice to be remembered for something. So you have to make a memorible speach, that is why I have decided to do it…….in Swedish.
Mina damer och herrar, jag star hár framfór er naken. Translated Ladies and Gentlemen I stand here in front of you…..naked. You have to imaginend that part for that is what I feel like. Always before when I have spoken in public, the two times, it has been behind a projector, in total darkness. So, if someone, please, could turn out the lights, I have with me here somewhere……a torch.
What am I supposed to talk about? My husband said, you can talk about anything, yourself, or even me! Very generous of him, and I already have and will, that is why I am refering to my husband as my husband, not wanting to embarras him by identifying him by name, as he is with us here tonight.
I might disappoint a few women tonight when I say I have never been much of a womens liber….I don’t have to believe in femenism, because my husband does. I like being a woman, getting special treatment, and we do get special treatment whatever the press and books say. We get to do, without any interference from men, such interesting things in life as cleaning, washing, shopping cooking and taking the dog out, last thing at night….you wanted a puppy, dear …… and taking the children swimming….you wanted children, dear.
It makes you wonder what we need men for? (…) But of course we do need men, if only for one thing…yes, it is physical, in my case driving in fence-posts. Also making money as my new garden is becomming very exspencive. I plant trees, bushes and flowers trying to win a loosing battle, a battle with winds, salt, rabbits and mice but two-thirds of what I plant die. My husband said, the other day, why don’t you just stick fivers in the ground?
I believe in marriage, marrying for love. Sadly we know a lot of people can’t like in India, or won’t…..like in Shetland. I was in the island of Fetlar when a crofter, Jimmy Henderson, surprised the islanders with the news that he was getting married, after living alone for many years. Then he asstonished them by naming his bride, bent Anna of Skumpitoft, fifteen years his sineor. Now Jimmy was a handsome man and could have had many a lass throughout the years, so it was a mystery. One of his cronies finely took currage and asked him, ‘Why bent Anna?’ ‘Well’, said Jimmy ‘she will be good for the hoeing.’
How you view men and marriage of course has a lot to do with your upbringing. As a Swede, you would think I would have had an explicit sex education, but no. None at school, well it was a long time ago, and my father was a gentleman and didn’t talk about money, politics or sex. What did we talk about at home I wonders! (…)’