>> Niel Gow
Martyn Bennett <<
Two giants of traditional music feature in this week’s Scotia Extremis, both of whom have left their mark on the sound of Scotland, though in very different ways and in very different times. Niel Gow, born in Perthshire in 1727, was perhaps Scotland’s most celebrated fiddle player and composer and is responsible for writing many classics from the canon of great Scottish folk tunes, some of which are still played at ceilidhs and concerts today, including ‘Loch Erroch Side’ and ‘Farewell To Whisky’. Martyn Bennett was a Canadian-born composer of Scots descent who was at the forefront of the ‘Celtic Fusion’ movement which successfully brought together traditional music with contemporary styles and techniques including techno and sampling. He sadly died in 2005 at only thirty-three years of age, but left behind a body of ground-breaking work including his final album Grit in 2003. Both our poetic subjects upheld the strong traditions of Scottish music and instrumentation, but set them into the context of their times, and it’s arguable that without Niel Gow we would not have had Martyn Bennett.
by George T. Watt
The blin man wuid aaweys ken yer bow sicsyne,
sic wis the fluence o yer wrist as ye played,
an fit in hobnail bit, clog, or saft calf skin
wuid step the heichtmaist fan ye reeled.
But mair important ye kent hoo tae flatter an fawn
ladies faw socht a tune by Gow named i thair honour.
Ye gar thaim wi guid braid tung an wuts weel hewn
tae kep thair place an ye yer ain, nae seekin favour.
Frae Baden Baden tae the great ha o Blair,
thay cairrit symphonies tae the gentry’s parlours
an ye wuid gae thay maisters licht an air,
the tunes Europe sailin ower heilan arbours.
Music was yer aa be it castle ha or cotter hous,
for Scottish Country Dancin echt by thirty twa
fan the Bratach Bana frae turret cairriet the news,
or kintra ceilidhs wheechin birlin, gaein thair aa.
Yer chair bides noo whaur it aaweys stuid,
waitin for the Maister’s dowp tae tak its saet,
ye wir niver some mechanical fiddler cours an rude,
but a classical violin player, ane o the greats!
by Stuart A. Paterson
“What brave new music!”
(Hamish Henderson on first hearing ‘Grit’)
Bennett dead? How can he be? I’m sure
I heard him jouk & heuch! through birch
woods up past Hallaig just last month leading
the dead in a Seann Triubhas to Suisnish.
And not just there but in Glens Lyon & Shiel
where woodless cleared expanses reeled awake
remembering people, buildings, trees, a dance
of language dragged upright from bleeding knees.
And in Sativa, Squid, La Belle Angele,
The Buddha Bar, that’s where he really is,
not dead but sampling you, me, himself
through great loops of life on a crackcorned mix.
Bennett dead? How can he be? On Mull
I saw a cliff of kilt, a ben of nodding dreads,
a bay of angry hands resolved to build
what’s broken, nae words unspoken, nae regrets.
George T. Watt writes almost exclusively in Scots and has been published in Lallans, Gutter and New Writing Scotland. He is a past Runner-up in the McCash Poetry Competition and one of his poems featured in the top 20 of 2014 by The Scottish Poetry Library. He has also produced CDs for Scotsoun, the label of The Scots Language Society, most notably of Marion Angus and Violet Jacob. He is currently working on a CD version of Whaleback City (the 2013 anthology of Dundee Poetry ) edited by Andy Jackson and WN Herbert.
Stuart A. Paterson is a past recipient of an Eric Gregory Award & a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship. His 2015 collection of Galloway poems Border Lines was published by Indigo Dreams, who are publishing its follow-up volume Looking South in 2017. His latest collection is Aye, poems in Scots, published by Tapsalteerie. He lives in Galloway by the Solway coast. More info available at https://www.facebook.com/patersonpoetry/