WEEK FORTY-SIX – Glencoe/ Silicon Glen

>> Glencoe

Silicon Glen <<

glencoe                           silicon-glen

Scotland is rightly proud of its glens and this week we contrast two of them, very different in character, one a phenomenon of geography and the other a construct of commerce. Glencoe has one of the most beautiful and distinctive mountain skylines in all of Scotland, and was of course scene of one of the bloodiest events in Scottish history. The massacre of 38 members of the Clan MacDonald by the Campbells in 1692 is steeped in infamy, and adds to the palpable sense of mystery and foreboding that many visitors to the area describe experiencing. By contrast, Silicon Glen is a loosely-defined area of the Central Belt of Scotland that is home to a preponderance of the nation’s electronics and technology firms. The use of the name can be traced back to the 1980s when heavy industry was thrust into its irreversible decline under the Thatcher government. Whilst these two glens share little in common except a portion of their name, in their own way they represent the extremes of Scotland’s character – one remote, wild and beautiful with a bloody history, the other urban, commercial and less picturesque but at the heart of Scotland’s future.

From Alyarmouk to Glencoe
by Iyad Hayatleh


































































When the nostalgia for my father’s Galilean house attacks me
I come to sprinkle my revelations here
and when the flames of yearning to my mother flood my heart
I come to put them out here
and when my prison becomes so tight
I come to weep for my Lamees here

Here in Glencoe
on the river banks, amongst the wilderness of my waiting
I see the moon pale in shame from the tears of bereaved mothers
and the steps of my grief march behind the shadow of a girl wandering on her choked
chasing the footprints of a child who escaped the murder’s knife
and my heart hears the echoes of a bagpipe,
a bagpipe that dodged the stabs of the monsters of the dark,
and flew away
with her tunes still filling up the space with lyrics

In the mirrors of the loch
I see my face, which was seized by tyrants
I know these mountains
I save their motherly wrinkles by heart
rocks, flowers, graves,
snow, meadows, burns and caves
the silent howling wind,
the moaning clouds,
and the legendary painful solitude
descending streams, ascending tears
I carried their unseen details like love amongst my ribs
brought them from my far away country
and fixed them here

This is Qassioun, and that is Carmel Haifa
my torn heart between hills
that is Mount Hermon from my violated homeland
hugging the neck of the sky here
and dropping down intoxicated with miracles
dancing with the red deer of my soul, running liberty over mounds
between Rannoch Moor and Glencoe

Loose from my fear, free
I spell his curves and the high peaks
the depths of the glens and the overwhelming loneliness
the glory of the eagles, and the dignity of the buzzards
the gloomy morning blizzards
the secrets of pine and myrtle tree’s perfume
heather blossoming in my body, leaning on my old wound
the immortality of my diaspora
my lost name in the family tree
herb smells deified in the bottom of my chest
and the sighs of my ancient grandmothers

Ascending, ascending
It’s as if I smell the blood of those who perished in massacres
my captive people there, my victim people here
Oh, Kafr Kassem, call out Shatila
and you, Deir Yassin, please wipe my tears in Sabra
and Tal Azzaater which repeated into my Yarmouk
Oh, house of MacDonald
oh, you, mothers, martyrs, prisoners
oh you, who are seeking sanctuary from death, in death,
every slain child in the land of Syria
I am you, take refuge in me
I set my heart for you as a tent, the width of this horizon

Here rise the songs
extending their fountains towards the seventh heaven
and shining like dew, like a gorgeous morning star
which our survived laughter deserves

Ascending, ascending
the song ascends into me:
(O, cruel was the snow that sweeps Glencoe
and covers the grave o’ Donald
O, cruel was the foe that raped Glencoe
and murdered the house of MacDonald)

Descending, descending
the song ascends into me:
(O, elegantly handsome guy, stop so I can tell you
you are going abroad but your country is better for you
I am afraid you will get established there my love
and fall in love with someone else and forget me)*


Qassioun, Carmel Haifa, Mount Hermon: Mountains in Syria, Palestine
Alyarmouk: a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria
Kafr Kassem, Deir Yassin: towns in Palestine
Shatila, Sabra, Tal Azzaater: Palestinian refugee camp
(Massacres took places against Palestinians in all above places)

*A Palestinian folk song


Silicon Glen
by Carolyn Richardson

a woman plants a shovel into Middlesbrough, Belfast
staples steel wool on northern dull skies
scours heaven better to mirror her Queenly reflection

she means business

Rob Milne, aka Silicon Glen
charges down the superhighway in a DMC to pick her up
an ear on a mouse in the glovebox
a brace of bleaters in the back

he means business

gull wings open
straight in, ramming hard with love talk
gdp, gbp, goes deeps in
yield rates, compound (self) interest
her legs spread

straddles the Firth
twin colossi of both coasts
jute, jam, journalism
orgasmically squeezed in meaty thighs

he chops a line
gets high on zeal and greed
she nibbles his earlobe huskily
quotes Thessalonians
“If a man will not work he shall not eat
laughs pushing his head down

their in-joke with the Wee Free

pops her for a cool five mill for IA
shopping & shooting galleries
Grand Theft Auto, AI, IA
and surfs the interweave

one hand on the wheel
one up her skirt
eyes wild

Monarch of the Glen


ROB MILNE earned international respect for his innovative work in adapting artificial intelligence (AI) as a practical aid to industry and in bridging the gap between the research laboratory and the factory floor. His Livingston-based company was called IA. Milne died on a climbing expedition on Everest on 2005







iyad-hayatleh-picIyad Hayatleh is a Palestinian poet, translator who was born and grew up in Syria. He has lived in Glasgow since 2000, and has taken part in many cultural events, translation and poetry workshops and readings in UK, and published his poems in anthologies. He has collaborated with poet Tessa Ransford, on a two-way translation project for a book Rug of a Thousand Colours, published by Luath Press 2012



Carolyn Richardson is a poet, a painter with work in the Public Catalogue, now re-branded as ArtUK, a maker of filmed poems and a guerrilla poet in the wilds of Dumfries & Galloway. Carolyn has been a Director of the Scottish Writers Centre and longlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work, both 2015 & 2016. She spends some of the year abroad in the National Booktown of Montolieu in the South of France. 




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WEEK FORTY-FIVE – The Majestics/ The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

>> The Majestics

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band <<

majestics            alex-harvey-band

Not for the first time (nor the last), Scotia Extremis visits that most fertile field of Scottish endeavour – popular music. This week we feature two bands – one fictional, one real – who refused to die even after the loss of their lead singers. The Majestics were the fictional ’60s rockers at the centre of John Byrne’s late-‘80s drama Tutti Frutti, described by Tom Morton as ‘by a long shot the best Scottish-made TV series ever’. A wonderful ensemble cast including Richard Wilson and Emma Thompson bring to life the seedy existence of a band riven by disputes out on the road, with Robbie Coltrane shining as Danny, brother of deceased lead singer Big Jazza McGlone. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band was a bunch of hard-rocking but theatrical glam rock-tinged musicians lead by their eponymous Glaswegian frontman, enjoying several moderate hits in the 1970s. Their stage performances were electric, and they developed a devoted following in the UK based on the magnetic presence of the unkempt, rocket-fuelled Harvey. When he left the band in 1976 they continued, incredibly, for several years as The Sensational Alex Harvey Band…Without Alex. His early death in 1982 at the age of just 47 cut short any possibility of a Majestics-style return to the road, with or without a replacement at the microphone. Both acts stand for the dirty-fingernailed realism and feverish creativity that lie at the heart of Scottish art, as does the refusal to go quietly at the end of the show.

Love Hurts
by Jenny Elliott


Think you know me, right?
Think yuv seem ma face afore?
Maybees a freend o a freend,
one o the guys proppin up the bar
in biker boots an leather jaekit?
Or whit aboot on the telly, or in a band?
Aye, ah’v got that kinda mug, but naw,
ah’v niver made it intae the limelight, no me,
but ah’v aye bin wan o the chorus
tae the lucky yins that huv.

Dennis Sproul is whit they crie me,
transport an aa that, roadie tae the Majestics
fur as long as ah can remember – rock ‘n roll,
hud a sorta hit single in sixty-two
wi No Particular Place to Go.
Ah did the sound checks, lugged the gear
an dropped Big Jazza’s yella suit
intae its final restin place.  A grave day
that wiz, wi me huvin been lookin at
four precent gross on that Silver Jubilee tour

– an ah’m still owed fourteen quid
fur wee bro’ Danny Boy’s taxi fare. Aye, an Eddie
hud me tryin tae fit him intae the big guy’s boots,
wi Bomba, an Fud an Vinnie none too pleased!
Y’ see, thur’s three outfits where blood ties
dinnae count – the Mafia, the Magic Circle,
an the Majestics! Naw, it wisnae easy,
an made worse by aa the dolls taggin along,
but ah said nuthin. See no evil, hear no evil,
speak no evil, me. Ah jis made the coffees

an kept drivin. Och, but it wus headin
fur tragedy, no so much fur Danny an his chick,
but Sufferin God, Vincent an aa his wemmen!
A wife whit couldnae hae wains, a wee burd
wi a phatom yin, an a big lassie fae Buckie
claimin to be the fruit o his loins wi a knife!
Lost everythin in the end. Hud his skull splut open,
his motor burnt oot, his clobber turned tae ash,
an then tae tap it aa the wee munchkin goes an
chucks hersel aff the Clyde Street bridge…

You could say he had it cummin,
wi his black leathers an aa his crowin,
but it got me richt here.
Collective culpability’s whit a think.
Doused hissel wi cheap vodka
an torched hissel at the Pavillion,
the Majestics’ final gig. Gie us a Pepsi Jim,
got an audition masel the night.
Steppin awa fae the bar, me,
Tutti frutti, all rootie …



Vambo Unbound
by Andrew J. Wilson


For Ralph MacGillivray

Goose-stepping onto the concert hall stage,
Long hair slicked back and parted at the side,
A cardboard moustache taped under his nose,
Alex Harvey makes the Nazi salute.

The great performer plays great dictator:
A rabble-rousing pantomime villain
Who wants his audience to boo and hiss
As he shouts “Sieg Heil!” again and again.

Shop-soiled glam rockers playing twelve-bar blues,
Punk rock apostles with nothing to lose,
Each with a weather eye on their leader,
The band keep strumming the first bars of “Framed”.

The crowd start aping Alex’s actions,
As if this is a Nuremberg Rally
Being restaged in ’70s Scotland
With a theme tune by Leiber and Stoller.

Harvey stops it with a chop of his hand,
Brings the music to a resounding halt;
Dropping his act, sounding broken-hearted,
He growls: “That’s how it fucking well started!”




jenny-elliottJenny Elliott lives on a farm in North-East Fife where she runs The Shed Press, a small press producing handmade poetry pamphlets and other poetry related bits and pieces. Her pamphlet Makkin-wires won the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award in 2016 and previous pamphlets were shortlisted for the award in 2014 and 2015.



andrew-j-wilson-photo-credit-madeleine-shepherdAndrew J. Wilson is an Edinburgh-based writer, editor and spoken-word performer. Recent work has appeared in: Double Bill: Poems Inspired by Popular Culture; Professor Challenger: New Worlds, Lost PlacesShoreline of InfinityDystopia Utopia Short Stories; and Umbrellas of Edinburgh. With Neil Williamson, he co-edited the award-nominated anthology Nova Scotia: New Scottish Speculative Fiction.



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Andrew J Wilson photo courtesy of Madeleine Shepherd

WEEK FORTY FOUR-AND-A-HALF -John Knox/James Boswell

>> John Knox

 James Boswell<<

john-knox                james-boswell

A brace of Scotsmen form our unlikely pair this week, both often seen as in the shadow of another historical figure, at least in the popular imagination. One, however was adamant in his identification with his country, and fierce in his desire to alter its culture; while the other was more concerned with escaping what he saw – or believed others saw – as his country’s inferiority. Often presented in opposition to the romantic figure of Mary Queen of Scots, John Knox is the individual recognised as the central figure in the Scottish Reformation and the founder of the Calvinist Church of Scotland. While many of Knox’s ideas were laudable – democratic government for the church, a school in every parish for example – he can also be blamed for the extensive cultural vandalism by the mob in reaction to his his rabble rousing anti-Catholic preaching. Like Knox, James Boswell spent a great deal of time in England where he became a close associate of Samuel Johnson, going on to write their travels accounts and ultimately Johnson’s biography, hailed as the finest of its sort in English. A fine writer in many genres, Bozzy first become known for his account of the struggle for independence in Corsica. However, when asked by Dr Johnson where he came from, he replied, ‘I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it.’ It is perhaps this attitude – all too common in post-Union Scotland – that allowed Boswell to escape from his strict Calvinist upbringing and indulge in numerous pleasures of the flesh during his sojourn in the south. Racy and salacious though his diaries are, they show that he never completely escaped from the guilt his upbringing induced – a guilt which, it is arguable, the sanctimonious morality of Knox’s Calvinism induced.


Rob A Mackenzie
To Be John Knox

was hard in the sixteenth century.
Now all you need is a hipster beard
or centrifugal rhetoric to appear
a force in the world. Or a victim.
Nineteen months in a prison galley
did not arouse the sweet tongue
ladies-in-waiting counted on:
“You are beautiful. Your beauty
won’t travel beyond the grave” –
Knox’s finest shot at flattery.
There has been flattery: a band,
The John Knox Sex Club, could be
flagged as a tribute act. Scotland
usually sidelines revolutionaries,
continues to give an affirming No
vote to Knox, never a Yes man,
who loved England and prayed
for union. Love was unreciprocal,
unconsummated. But there was
consummation. Cardinal Beaton
had ten children, doubtless virgin
births, before his assassination;
One of Knox’s daughters married
a murderer. Knox found it near
impossible to disapprove of death.
There was disapproval: kneeling
for communion; the parroting of
prayer books; Popes pious as
cheeseburgers; dancing; queens –
blame Knox, unlikely therapist
on whom to offload Scottish
niche perennials: difficult-to-like
wha’s like us brigades, blottoed
sectarians, the misty women
conjuring summer rainclouds
from fish shops in Fife, bullied
adolescents with London accents,
the twenty percent Tory voters –
blame Knox: witty, intransigent
iconoclast. Let’s nail accusations
before the High Court carpark.
There he lies beneath berth 23,
powerless under a Mini Clubman.


Wee Bozzy Boswell
by James Robertson


Wee Bozzy Boswell
rins tae Lunnon Toun,
sooks up tae Sammy –
writes it aw doun;
back in Auld Reekie,
jinks up a close,
gaes wi a hizzie,
gets himsel a dose.

Boozy Bozzy Boswell,
fou  as a wulk,
heid like a fitbaw,
gaes hame tae sulk;
awns up tae Margaret
in her nichtgoun,
sets her aff greetin –
writes it aw doun.

Busy Bozzy Boswell,
bleezin wi life,
feart o his faither,
bad tae his wife;
stares at the starnies,
trips ower his shoon,
kisses his bairnies –
writes it aw doun.

Puir Bozzy Boswell,
seik-sair wi sin:
if he wins tae Heaven,
wull they let him in?
Keeks in the mirror –
sic a wickit loun!
Vows tae be a guid man –
writes it aw doun.

Weary Bozzy Boswell,
he pechs and he sighs:
canna help bein Scottish,
hooiver hard he tries.
Ach! Whit a penance!
Och! Whit a boon!
Wee Bozzy Boswell
writes it aw doun.


rob-a-mackenzie-picRob A Mackenzie
was born in Glasgow and lives in Leith. He has published two pamphlets and two full poetry collections, the most recent being The Good News (Salt, 2013). His reviews and articles have appeared in Poetry Review, The Dark Horse, New Welsh Review etc. He is reviews editor of Magma Poetry magazine.

james-robertson-portraitJames Robertson is a poet, novelist and editor. He established the imprint Kettillonia imprint in 1999, with the aim of publishing ‘original, adventurous, neglected and rare’ writing. He is a co-founder and editor of Itchy Coo, the Scots language imprint for young readers. His own poetry has appeared in many pamphlets, books and other outlets, and his next novel, To Be Continued, was published in August 2016. 




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WEEK FORTY-FOUR – St Kilda/Gruinard

>> St Kilda

Gruinard <<

st-kilda                                gruinard

Two islands represent two very different aspects of the country this week – one remote and often romanticised; the other in-shore and with associations that are more horrific – but both deserted by their original inhabitants, as is so much of rural Scotland. Almost as famous for its abandonment as for its remoteness, St Kilda – or Hirta in its native Gaelic – was, until 1930, the most remote inhabited island in the UK, being situated in the North Atlantic 41 miles west of the Outer Hebrides. Inhabited since prehistoric times, the island was largely self-sufficient until the early 20th century, but lack of communications and commercial impact on its traditional sustainability brought about the islanders’ decision to evacuate. Since 1957 the National Trust  has run St Kilda as a nature reserve, although the island is also the base for a Ministry of Defence radar tracking station. The MoD have also played a part in the history of our second island, infamous as the site for experiments with anthrax. Inhabited until the 1920s, Gruinard – or Eilean Ghruinneard – lies in the bay of the same name off the coast of Wester Ross only just over half a mile from shore. Despite its proximity to the mainland, in 1942 the island was requisitioned for the testing of germ warfare agents, being deemed far enough away from anywhere important to be so used. Only decontaminated in the 1980s, all access to the island was banned for nearly 50 years. Human footfall takes many forms, but few can be as chillingly extreme as an island rendered unfit for all forms of life and another abandoned through lack of support and disruption of ecological balance.


Guth ri Ràdh
by Rody Gorman

Ghlaoidheadh iad a-mach ann an Hiort:
Tha Goill air a’ Ghleann!
Agus thug iad an cnatan-mòr a-steach.

Agus nuair a dh’èirich a leithid dhaibh
Gus nach blaiseadh iad am beathachadh
Is nach fhaigheadh iad fàileadh ann

Is nach fhaiceadh is nach dùisgeadh ach air èiginn
Is nach cluinneadh is nan cante: Ciamar a tha sibh
A’ faireachdainn? ‘s gun canadh iad, mar a thuirt

Agus am bodach eile: Och, guth ri ràdh!
‘S e na dh’fhairich iad an uair sin
Ann an da-rìribh: Tha, dìreach a’ bàsachadh.


Nothing To Be Said
by Rody Gorman

They’d cry out in the Village in St. Kilda:
There are foreigners in the glen!
And they brought in the influenza.

And after they contracted it
And could no longer taste their food –
Fulmar, gannet, puffin – or smell anything

And couldn’t speak and couldn’t wake, even,
And couldn’t hear and if you asked
And how are you feeling?

And they’d say like they did
Och, nothing to be said!
Actually, Dying is what they really meant.


Gruinard Island
by Gerry Loose

what is the manner of sacrifice
a lamb born with blood on its ears
from a heaving heft-over ewe mother
born purple and yellow of caul
a suckling lamb nuzzling

what’s the nature of an offering
a tethered mother a ewe
in her body panting after labour
tonguing uterus blood lamb and faeces
we’ll gralloch her flense her

without the shedding of blood
there is no forgiveness
twelve times seven ewes
on a rock in the sea
hooded and tethered seven days

exploded from the gallows
Bacillus anthracis entering ewe breath
we’ll paunch and slice
a rite of our terror-dread
smear and smother bomb

four pound bombs in clusters
of one hundred and six
in two thousand seven hundred aircraft
each with forty thousand charnel-clusters of toxin
our benefaction to burn three million in six cities

how pleasing the aroma
each first lamb to each last lamb
each first bullock to each last bullock
each first born to each last born
each first nation to each last nation



rodygorman1Rody Gorman was born in Dublin in 1960 and lives in Skye. He has published a dozen collections of poetry.  Chernilo, his selected poems in Irish and Scottish Gaelic, was published by Coiscéim in 2006. 



Gerry Loose is a poet and artist who works primarily with the natural world, most specifically plants, as well as the world of geo-politics. His work is found inscribed and created in Parks, Botanic Gardens and in natural landscapes as well as in galleries and on the page. His most recent publications are fault line (Vagabond Voices) and An Oakwoods Almanac (Shearsman Books).



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WEEK FORTY-THREE – Arbroath Smokie/Edinburgh Rock

>> Arbroath Smokie

Edinburgh Rock <<

arbroath-smokie                 edinburgh-rock

Anyone who has attended one of the many farmers’ markets in the vicinity of the east coast will have experienced the distinctive reek of Arbroath Smokies being cured – and hopefully also have tasted the delicious flesh of the fish straight from the smoking barrel. Awarded Protective Geographical Status by the EU, the smokie is still made using traditional methods dating back to the late 1800s. Freshly-caught haddock is salted and then smoked over a fire of beech and oak, in a whisky barrel covered with hessian. Originally made in the village of Auchmithie, the smokie became exclusively associated with Arbroath when the fisher community moved to the town in the early 20th century. Equally exclusive, Edinburgh Rock is completely distinct from name-through-the-middle seaside rock. With a characteristic crumbly texture, described as being somewhere between candy and chalk, it is made with sugar, water and cream of tartar, with added colourings and flavourings. A traditional Scottish confection it was first made in the 19th Century by Alexander Ferguson, popularly known as ‘Sweetie Sandy’. The traditional company making Edinburgh Rock, although threatened with closure, has recently been saved ensuring more nightmares for dentists for years to come; while the continued popularity of the healthy low-fat flesh of the smokie will keep doctors and nutritionists happy for an equally protracted period.

The Numbers Stations
by John Glenday

We were like fish out of water in those days,
hanging about in pairs at the back of the bike shed
on Keptie Road with a shared Number 6, nursing

the latest rumours of World War Three. First clue:
that woman knee-deep in the Short Wave slush
singing ‘The Auchmithie Fishwife’ backwards.

Later, Badgers grumbling over from Murmansk
with their cargo of megatons; Leuchars snuffed out
in a blink, the Bell Rock’s candle lit one final time

as the blast wave rushes out like a single ripple
across a pond, searing the Strath as far as Fettercairn.
We would all be saved, of course, by the bike shed’s

blue asbestos walls. Trailing home, days later,
here’s me coming upon my Father in the garden pond,
smoke-grey rucks of skin sloughing from his flesh

and the cured flesh peeling easily from the bone
and every bone burned clean of whatever let it move,
but still he’s lingering on; his hand held out for mine.


Edinburgh Castle Rock
by Jean Atkin

the four of us pressed round the click
of our five sticks of cellophaned rock
still boxed inside the castle’s cardboard neb
& splash of sugared tartan
                                & how
we’d squabble for our favourite colour
snatch untwist the shiny crack the stick
to chumble in the teeth as sweet
as pop a holiday treat
                                & tear
down the street a yelping clan o still
those red clay pantiles sunlit in my head
Crail’s beach that beggar’s mantle
fringed wi gowd would open wide
                                & there
we’d let the rock melt on
our tongues like honeyed chalk
& singalong and play
team games
                                led on
by Christians on the make
who’d mind us bairns
& bleach us souls
& give our mum a break


john-glendayJohn Glenday
is the author of four collections of poetry – The Apple Ghost received a Scottish Arts Council Book Award; Grain was shortlisted for both the Ted Hughes Award and the Griffin International Poetry Prize. His most recent The Golden Mean won the 2015 Roehampton Poetry Prize.




jean-atkin-in-studyJean Atkin’s family came from Shetland, and for a long time she lived in Dumfries and Galloway.  Her first collection Not Lost Since Last Time is published by Oversteps Books. Her recent work has been published in magazines including Pushing Out The Boat, Northwords Now, Under the Radar, Envoi, The North, Earthlines, The Moth, Dark Mountain, and also commissioned by and performed on Radio 4.  www.jeanatkin.com  @wordsparks



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WEEK FORTY-TWO – Arthur’s Seat/The Inaccessible Pinnacle

>> Arthur’s Seat

The Inaccessible Pinnacle <<

arthurs-seat                       OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From a walk in the park to a serious climb, we reach new heights with this week’s themes. One of numerous locations named for the legendary British chieftain, Arthur’s Seat dominates the capital city and is visible from miles around. Rising to 250m it lies at the centre of the Queen’s Park, adjacent to Holyrood. A regular walk for generations of citizens, its summit provides panoramic views of the city, the Pentland Hills, the Firth of Forth and the shores of Fife beyond. An enormously more challenging ascent, the Inaccessible Pinnacle is the second highest of the Cuillins on Skye, forming the summit of Sgurr Dearg at 986m. Generally referred to by mountaineers as ‘the In Pin’, it forms a towering fin of rock measuring 50m along its longest edge. Notorious as the most difficult to climb of all the Munros (Scottish mountains over 3000ft) it is the only one requiring a rock-climb and an abseil, together with suitable experience. But whether strolling or scaling, the sense of achievement at either ascent is the point and, while the views may hugely differ, each is a reward in its own right.

Taking My Mother To Higher Ground
by Aiko Greig

It is not hard to climb, our sleeping lion, its paths
worn and tourist-trodden. I tell her it will take us
half an hour and we will picnic at its summit.

Our lives had been sedentary for so long
before I left her for Scotland that she cannot
fathom a mountain, a thing to climb.

But I want her to see my chosen hometown
in all its glory: castle to crag, palace to firth.
I want her to feel the victory of reaching the peak.

Our ascent is slow with many stops to rest.
She touches the ruined walls of St Anthony’s,
takes in the changing cloud-light; I kick away

the broken bottles. She questions my directions,
certain I am taking her somewhere she cannot go.
Volcanic rocks skirt our path, gorse, heather.

My rucksack grows heavier. I talk to fill the hollow
that signposts her tiredness, but do not mention
the tiny coffins found here, or my small anxiety

at her slow speed, now that she’s retired to a town
where waves rose so fast, those that couldn’t climb
to higher ground died. Instead, we reach the summit,

two hundred and fifty meters high; we share snacks,
cast our eyes as far as we can on a day with no haar.
She seems relieved, or is it pride? She survived.

The In Pin
by Jacqueline Thompson

You brand me Very Difficult, as if I’m here
to challenge men who fritter days in stuffy

office blocks, evenings in provincial sheds
Sundays crawling up the backs of gods.

You peruse my Munro kin like bridies
on a buffet tray, but I’m the tricky bugger.

I make you strain with ropes. I don’t flinch
at your pitons. Gobs gape at my drop,

arseholes pucker tight as drawstring hoods.
I can’t be Bagged like a tin of shortie

or a bottle of scotch. I’ve felt the shifting
of tectonic plates, cracked and shuddered

through glacial drift. I’ve watched clans clash
like stags, flags indecipherable with blood.

Rain will rust your bolts, their fine red dust
tossed by the wind like ashes. You may fancy

your eroding steps superior to any other
Tommy Tourist’s, but watch your back.

I’m born of lava: my jutting jaw a blade’s edge,
my basalt skull treacherous when wet.



photos: www.clarkjamesdigital.comBorn in California, Aiko Greig lives in Scotland where she completed an MSc in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh. Aiko won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award in 2015. Her poetry is published in The Edinburgh Review, Dactyl, and Ink Sweat & Tears, among others.




jacqueline-thompson-picJacqueline Thompson recently completed a Creative Writing PhD at The University of Edinburgh. Her publications include poems in The Scotsman, New Writing Scotland, Gutter, For A’ That (Dundee University Press), In On the Tide (Appletree Writers Press), Double Bill (Red Squirrel Press), From Arthur’s Seat (Egg Box Publishing) and Poetry Ireland Review.



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Aiko Greig photo courtesy of ClarkJamesDigital.com

WEEK FORTY-ONE – Whisky Galore/I Know Where I’m Going

>> Whisky Galore

I Know Where I’m Going <<

whisky-galore-2                                           know-where-im-going

This week’s postings features two movies from the 1940s, both set in Scotland, both of which helped to fix an image of rural West Coast Scotland in the imagination of the cinemagoer. Whisky Galore, based on Compton Mackenzie’s novel Tight Little Island, was released in 1949. It portrays the devious and cunning islanders of fictional Todday in securing and concealing a shipwrecked cargo of whisky from the authorities during a time of wartime rationing. It’s a great ensemble piece featuring some of the great names of the Ealing Studio stable. I Know Where I’m Going, released four years earlier, was a romance from the pen of Powell & Pressburger telling the story of ambitious Englishwoman Joan and Scots naval officer Torquil, who fall in love while caught in the teeth of a Hebridean storm. It was praised for its realism and wild beauty, and even contemporary auteurs such as Martin Scorsese have described it as a masterpiece. Both movies romanticise Scotland to a certain extent, and while one is a kind of Hebridean Brief Encounter and the other a rural farce, both movies capture the truth of the Scots character – resourceful and resolute, whether driven by love, or by thirst.

Aisling an Aird nam Murchan (or Uisge beatha gu leòr)
by Anna Crowe

—Airchie, Airchie, are you awake at all?
Ach, that was a fine dream
I am after having, mo chridhe!
It was just the best dream
a body could have, surely!
Just wait till you hear it, Airchie.

—Hrrrumph! Weel, now that you have woken me
good and proper, no doubt I will have to be hearing it.

Eisd. I dreamt I was walking on the beach at Sanna.
I came to a cave I did not remember and went inside.
And what do you think was in it, Airchie?

—How should I know, Peigi?
Was it a selchie you saw, perhaps,
singing in the light of the moon?

—No then, it was not, though a selchie does
come into it, right enough. No, the cave
was full of cases of uisge beatha,
up to the very roof, I am telling you!
And sitting on an open case was a stranger,
it was no one from Kilchoan. He smiled at me,
and a most beautiful smile it was, surely.
Like an angel! —What is all this uisge beatha,
I am after asking him, and who does it
belong to at all? And he smiles again.

—It belongs to the future, Mistress.
What you are seeing here is the uisge beatha
of centuries to come.  Look!—
And he pulls out some bottles. I am after looking,
and I am reading the labels, but not one do I recognise.
And the bottles are all kinds of strange shapes.

—And what were the names on the labels, Peigi?
Do you remember them at all?

—I do, Airchie. Never will I forget
those beautiful names. There was Tobar na Gàire.
That made me laugh, I am telling you.
There was Soirbheas, a name like poetry itself, surely?
Port a Beul, and Tràigh an Òrain, music,
both of them, to my ears!  Selchie’s Blessing,
Nechtan’s Nectar, Osprey, Harp of the Gael;
Brown Wren and Old Otter. That one
made me think of you, mo bhodach! St Tod’s Finger,
Flower of Morar, Glen Orchy, Summer Isles;
Bròg na Cuthaig, and Golden Hare of Islay
names enough for a poem, I am thinking.

—Yes, indeed, eudail, and you should write it down.
But now I am going to pour each of us a dram
or never will we be getting any sleep the night.
There is still a bottle of Aisling an Aird nam Murchan
in the press, I am thinking, mo chridhe. . .

Slàinte mhath!
Slàinte mhòr!


Notes on Gaelic words:
Aisling an Aird nam Murchan                                      Dream of Ardnamurchan
Uisge beatha gu leòr                                                     Whisky galore
Mo chridhe                                                                      My heart
Eisd                                                                                  Listen
Tobar na Gàire                                                               Well of Laughter
Soirbheas                                                                        Fair wind
Port a Beul                                                                      Mouth music
Tràigh an Òrain                                                             Shore of Songs
Mo bhodach                                                                    My old man
Bròg na Cuthaig                                                             Harebell or Bluebell (literally Cuckoo’s Shoe)
Eudail                                                                              Dear

Nancy Somerville
I Know Where I’m Going

Or so she thinks,
Wendy Hiller with her clipped tones
and jaunty leopard-skin hat, sure
she’s headed to her fiance’s private island
for their wedding

but the wind whipping around Carsaig Bay
is in cahoots with the Corryvreckan whirlpool,
and they have something else in mind for her:
Roger Livesey, a dashing young kiltie
to show her a good time
with his wild ceilidhs and wilder friends
trailing packs of deerhounds
and bewailing a lost eagle they know by name.
We all know how it’ll end

but before the denouement
there’s a curse to contend with,
the jaws of death to avoid
and a case of mistaken identity,
for our Roger is a closet toff.

He’s a good sort though
and the only laddie for her,
putting her right
with some home truths:
the locals aren’t poor,
they just haven’t got any money.

And anyway,
how can she marry a man we’ve never met?


annacrowe-creditjemimahkuhfeldAnna Crowe 
is an Honorary President of StAnza, a poet and translator, and the author of two Peterloo collections and three Mariscat pamphlets. Figure in a Landscape won the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award in 2011. Arc and Bloodaxe have published her translations of Catalan poets Joan Margarit and Josep Lluís Aguiló, and Mexican poet Pedro Serrano. The Society of Authors awarded her a Travelling Scholarship.



nancy-somerville-picNancy Somerville, a Glaswegian who lives on the Isle of Mull, writes mainly poetry and short stories. Her poetry collection Waiting for Zebras was published by Red Squirrel Press (Scotland) in 2008.  The first draft of a novel is in a drawer, nagging at her to hurry up and get it finished.


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