Creel Boat Elegy

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My poem, Creel Boat Elegy has been put to music by George Mackie-who is part of The Sair Banes: Nick Shovlin and Alex Gillin. Nick is the vocal on this draft track :) It will feature as part of a night in August that will also feature my pal and fellow Makar, Ross Wilson with his poem/song.

Below is the poem and link to the song. Many thanks to George.

Creel Boat Elegy
The meal never finished, the children forsaken
Ainster is in tears, the North Sea chill has taken
In a flat sea wanded over by the still mist
Both faither and son will be sairly, sairly missed..

Most years the mermaids they kiss and drag doun
So savour the chips laid oot by the wounds
The herring has gone, the creels lie empty
See them sail oot by the light of this high April moon

Even if the teeth of the skerries and rocks hadn’t bitten
A pale aura of strange silence lies over the boat
Rescued but empty she lies broken, amid oily reek glisten
Gulls screech, swirl in their Hadean eighth notes.

Aye the same, aye different the April sea relents
For the summer nears and the gods they seem near spent
But watch come the autumn and the white canyons beat down
Wife and bairns look on as the lines of grey, white urge toward town.

From Ainster tae Pittenweem


It was the Pittenweem Fishing Festival
A chain o ladies in bunting would link the towns:
The fishing boats would grace the Firth of Forth
A line o trawlers and ithers fae Ainster tae Pittenweem.

On the bow o the lead lady
Heidin oot as the Isle o May looked on
Ma faither piping Highland Mary or Scotland the Brave
White palmed applause ablow fae a douce* watter;
Nae lik the savagery we kent in December or January.

Drinking lik Vikings aw wid enjoy whatever weather
The gods gave and even the grey seals took solace
As the water and land became one.

*Douce watter-soft/calm water.

Fame in the Cape


Years ago in the winter (oor summer)
We, I wis famous: Scottish dominies oot tae Sooth Africa
The Northern Cape schuils gied us bield.

We thocht we wir gien thaim ‘innovation’
Whan it wis saul renenwal
Kennin straught that love, hope cuin survive hunger
E’en deith or stervation.

An whan the steel drums gied it laldy,
Whan thir dancers performed
A wis greetin lik whan the first bairn wis born
Lik whan Andy Murray won lest year…



After the Independence vote
It will mean nothing, not an iota
He will stay be in care, still be in need
And the teachers, the Care Partners
Will do their best-never filling
What his early years didn’t give him.

We know many like Fraser
Boys or girls whose poverty is seen
Only by the constant movement and lacking
Early and later wounds give and gave.

For Fraser, for thousands like him
This political union has failed
Where ‘social justice’ is mouthed as a placebo
Simply for the Scottish stop
Before the London bus is taen*.



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This piece is from my 1999 collection, Temples fae Creels (Kettillionia). Another piece The Pool is on the Poetry Map of Scotland set up by the Scottish Poetry Library-link below.

Fife’s autumnal skin-leopard
Has breathed an raxed
Its lang spine.

The fields o cut stubble
Pierce cauld December air,
Heuch, wuid, lost dubs
Are threatened by
Lan souchin.

Neist tae it
A’m ane o a few
Warm in oor metal boxes
Pechin tae beat the bankers’ maws-
Lickin wet tarmac
Licht gies transient shimmers,
Preein the muckle constants.

Raxed-stretched, heuch-cliff/hillside, dubs-puddles, souchin-breathing, neist-next, pechin-working hard/breathing, pree-sample, muckle-big.

Black Osprey

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Black Osprey
Welcomes the living
To the land where wolf and bear once roamed
Lands where greed, famine and the dirk
Drew blood from Lowlander and Highlander alike
Amidst these granite and Dalradian time lords
Edging into cloud as the ephemeral on tyres burst into their lair
Driving I wonder
Somewhere do the Gaelic souls in astral ceilidhs
Wait, consider in Hellenic song
Will we fare better soon?
But that thought is human
It is as tiny as the smallest cloud particle
And their time is measured in thousands of centuries
Not the insignificant that would see a million
Preludes written, a Nile long line of Paradise Losts.