WEEK TEN – Balamory/Summerisle

>> Balamory

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balamory            summerisle


Scotland is a place that often exists in the imagination of those who live there but haven’t seen much of it, or those who have never been. Its fictional places are sometimes more vivid than its real ones, and this week’s brace of poems examine two very different places of the imagination; Balamory, the cosy, friendly West Coast fishing village from the BBC childrens’ TV programme of the same name, peopled by bright and earnest characters and filmed in and around Tobermory on the Isle of Mull; and Summerisle, the sleepy and semi-remote island featured in the cult classic movie The Wicker Man, also on the West Coast (actually filmed in a variety of locations including Plockton, Gatehouse of Fleet and around the Galloway area), which becomes more sinister (and deadly) as the eerie plot unfolds.

Both locations represent something of Scotland’s personality; Balamory portraying the warm, childlike simplicity of life lived alongside decent people in beautiful surroundings, and Summerisle revealing a place where Scotland’s Presbyterian restraint meets an altogether wilder tradition – pagan, uninhibited and occasionally dangerous. To which of these two places does your own imagined Scotland transport you?

True Places
by Sheenagh Pugh

‘It is not down on any map; true places never are’ – Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Can you go there? Too many theres
and they don’t stand still.
The pink castle’s a hotel
for hunters and shooters.
The children who skipped and hopped
into the nursery
have been busy growing up,
away from Miss Hoolie.

Can you reach it by ferry,
can you ride Edie’s bus,
might you cycle with Plum
to the white house? 

Outside and inside don’t tally:
you walk through the door
of a house in Tobermory
onto a set
somewhere in Glasgow,
all primary colours,
a red shop, a yellow turret,
a blue bus depot.

Can you paint with Spencer,
play games with Josie,
might you meet Archie’s robot
or buy sweets at Susie’s? 

Spencer went back to Las Vegas,
of all places,
Miss Hoolie took refuge in radio
from mobs of young fans.
Plummie’s at home in panto,
and Archie does stand-up,
and Susie, everyone’s gran,
she died in her sleep. 

Do you still know Penny’s song
and can you recall
how to make yogurt pots
into a castle? 

Real is not always
and worlds carve out
space on the globes
of fancy and memory.
Young folk, their thought
on exams and jobs,
could still find their way
around Balamory.

by Hugh McMillan

‘Dog shite and plenty af it’.
Big Tem is talking of his cucumbers,
great phalluses,
thick and rubbered enough
to crack your head.
‘The carrots dinnae like it,
they prefer human keech.’

What luck to be born here
in this verdant space,
though our cottages slip into the sea
and we are a place
for ghosts and shotguns
and fine views of the cosmos
uncluttered by street light

because our streets are empty,
only the regeneration offices open,
winking long into the diamond night.
In Spring the auld heids
will stamp around the maypole,
their caps cocked at the breeze
and we will count the missing:

our children gone
over the hills like fairies,
their replacements grim changelings
with water for blood
the Daily Telegraph for a newspaper,
and not enough shite for a carrot,
if they tried all year.




Sheenagh PughSheenagh Pugh
spent most of her life in Wales but has lived in Shetland since 2009. Her current collection is Short Days, Long Shadows (Seren 2014).



hugh mcmillanHugh McMillan
comes from Penpont and is a well published poet. His selected poems Not Actually Being in Dumfries have just been published by Luath.



Images courtesy of;

3 thoughts on “WEEK TEN – Balamory/Summerisle

  1. Once again loved both of these but especially Summerisle. A real treat to get this weekly. Thanks again for such if terrific idea.


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