The word Halflin is not as you might be forgiven for thinking, an abbreviated version of Halfling aka a synonym for hobbit courtesy of JRR Tolkien. Although there are echoes and overtones in the meanings of the two words. Because the word halflin too refers to a small person in the physical sense as in a child. Specifically a child who after half a day in school worked part-time in the Jute Mills of Dundee prior to 1918 when the system was officially abolished. The thousands and thousands of primary school aged children such as my own grandfathers who worked in this way were more commonly known as half-timers.
Many of them would also have been excellent hecklers. Proud perhaps of a word with its modern sense origins in the very same Dundee Jute Industry. To heckle is to comb fibres out of raw jute or textiles and one of the City of Dundee’s monikers was the Radical Town. And if we factor in the literally deafening noise of jute machinery and do the Maths we should find Hecklers as we know them today!
So mes amis I’m currently tweaking the script of a play I’ve written about Halflins and Hecklers and Jute no more. And one of the things which motivated me was that while it is a historical narrative so many themes in the Jute story are I believe relevant today. There’s globalisation, the wealth and poverty chasm, the status of women, immigration and the environment!
‘O Halflins an Hecklers an Weavers an Weemin’ will be performed in the High Mill at Verdant Works Scotland’s Jute Museum in Dundee this June by actors from the ZeroThreeFifteen Theatre Co. So please watch this space if you feel able over the coming months and I’ll blog anon about Halflins and Hecklers and more!