WEEK FIFTY – Ali Abbasi/Robbie Shepherd

>> Ali Abbasi

Robbie Shepherd <<

ali-abbasi              robie-shepherd

Two champions of language would seem to be obvious candidates to appear on Scotia Extremis and the tongues to which they lent their support – Gaelic and Doric – are both the natural vehicles to poets we have already featured. Born in Karachi, Ali Abbasi came to Scotland as a toddler in 1963. After working for Glasgow council, he joined the BBC as a travel reporter in the 1980s. He was a passionate supporter of Gaelic and appeared in Gaelic programmes for both adults and children. In 2003 he was appointed the country’s first Gaelic-speaking reading champion, but died at the young age of 42 in 2004. As one of his friends said in tribute, ‘Ali was a shining example of multi-culturalism at its best – Asian, Glaswegian and Gaelic brought together in one’.  Fortunately still with us is Robbie Shepherd, indefatigable champion of Doric, the Scots dialect of the North-East. Best known as a broadcaster and presenter, he was MC for the radio programme Take the Floor for 35 years and was awarded an MBE in 2001. Also well known as a writer, he has numerous books on language and traditional music to his name and at 80 continues to write a weekly column in Doric for the Aberdeen Press & Journal. All minority languages need their champions in this increasingly homogenised world and we are happy to present these two to our readers and followers.

Farpais A200
by Catriona Lexy Campbell

Mar chuimhneachan air Ali Abbasi                                           

Solas òir na grèine
na laigh air copan airgid
is d’ ainm air lainnir.

Bàrdachd ga h-aithris,
briathran beò ann an labhairt,
guthan air an tabhachd
do chànan neo-chaillte,
còmhradh a’ maireann
le ioma blas-cainnte.

Chan eil farpais eadarainn.

Tha sinn uile a’ sìneadh
chun na duais thar phrìs:
caraid a dh’ innseas do ’n t-sluaigh
g’ eil luach nad fhacail.


Competition A200

 In memory of Ali Abbasi

Golden sunlight
resting on a silver cup
and your name sparkling.

Poetry recited,
words living in expression,
voices offered
to an unlost language,
discourse enduring
with many accents.

There is no competition between us.

We are all reaching
for the priceless prize:
a friend who will tell the crowd
that your words have value.


The Ali Abbasi Memorial Cup is a trophy presented by the Royal National Mòd to Gaelic learners reciting poetry in respect of Abassi’s legacy of support for the language.


The Muckin o Robbie’s Byre
by William Bonar

 Squeeze the box upon the tune
   They call Kate Dalrymple O.
Cock your ears upon it and
   To cock your leg is simple O.
                                                                     W.S. Graham

 Auntie swept in tae Beechgrove wan day
Said, “Rob, get shoat o the sharn n the strae.”
N sae began that undeemous day
O the muckin o Robbie’s byre.
Rob caad his freens tae help redd the gear
They aa cam alang wi whisky n beer
N fiddles n pipes tae pleesure the ear
Tae the muckin o Robbie’s byre.

The Deil himself fidged fou fain,
Phil n Aly played Hunter again,
Even the Turrif Cou hud tae jine in
At the muckin o Robbie’s byre.

Jeanie wi jiggin goat hoat as cud be
Said, “Jock, c’mon taak a wee dander wi me.”
N she goat mair than the barley bree
At the muckin o Robbie’s byre.
The jig wis up, the reel gang roun,
The Dashin White Sergeant gat aff wi a loon;
Him n Gay Gordon the speak o the toun
At the muckin o Robbie’s byre.

Leezie wis there wi a sleekit wee grin,
It wis back tae Balmoral fur tonic n gin,
But Phil the Greek wis up tae his een
In the muckin o Robbie’s byre.
Auntie herself hud that mony drams
She danced  cutty sark in Rob’s auld nicky tams.
O whit a sicht tae see her auld hams
At the muckin o Robbie’s byre.

A tenor pit the mirth oan a choke
Bi singin “My Ain Folk”, maakin aabody boke;
Fause nostalgia wis naebody’s poke
At the muckin o Robbie’s byre.
The bothy boys goat us back oan the drams
Wi barnyairds n byres n hoat nicky tams,
Cornkisters n ballads n sic like sangs
At the muckin o Robbie’s byre.

The polis arrived tae deal wi the din,
Scunner n Smeddum wid no let them in,
Til they cam back wi a couple o quines
Tae the muckin o Robbie’s byre.
Robbie bi nou wis sae muckle fou
He kissed baith quinies fou on the mou
N Esma raised sic a hullabaloo
At the muckin o Robbie’s byre.

The Dunecht Loon wis fair oot o tune
He claucht aff his tammie n howled at the mune
The luve o his life hud left him tae droun
At the muckin o Robbie’s byre.
But Robbie bore up, though it wis sair,
Anither wee dramie n he didna care;
He goat his auld mouthie n tuik tae the flair
At the muckin o Robbie’s byre.



With grateful acknowledgement to the anonymous lyricist of the traditional Bothy Ballad, “The Muckin o Geordie’s Byre”. The present poem/song is a (very) loose interpretation of two films made by BBC Alba and shown earlier this year to mark Robbie Shepherd’s 80th birthday. They can both be seen in their entirety on You Tube:
“Kate  Dalrymple” is the theme tune of Robbie Shepherd’s long running Saturday night BBC Radio Scotland show of Scottish dance music, “Take the Floor”.
 Willie Hunter(1933-94) was a highly influential Shetland fiddler and composer, greatly admired by Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham and, of course, by Robbie Shepherd himself.




Catriona Lexy Campbell has worked as a theatre artist, actor and writer for many years, primarily in her native Gaelic. She was the first Gaelic Associate Artist with the National Theatre of Scotland in 2011 and her first radio play for the BBC, based on her novel Samhraidhean Diomhair, was broadcast in December 2012. She was the Writer in Residence at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in 2013. She is an Associate Artist with Theatre Gu Leòr and her first play, Doras Dùinte, was produced by Theatre Gu Leòr and toured in 2014. Her most recent novel for adults, Cluicheadaran, was published in 2014. Her latest play, a stage adaptation of her father, Tormod Caimbeul’s novel, Shrapnel, toured Scotland in March 2016.

Tha Catriona Lexy Chaimbeul air obrachadh mar neach-ealain dràma, cleasaiche agus sgrìobhadair airson iomadach bliadhna, ann an Gàidhlig mar as àbhaist. B’ i a’ chiad Neach-ealain Gàidhlig aig Theatar Nàiseanta na h-Alba ann an 2011 agus bha an dealbh-chluich a sgrìobh i airson a’ BhBC, steidhichte air a’ chiad nobhail aice, Samhraidhean Dìomhair, air an rèidio ann an 2012. B’ i a’ Sgrìobhadair air Mhuinntearas aig Sabhal Mòr Ostaig ann an 2013. ’S e Neach-ealain a h-innte le Theatar Gu Leòr agus bha a’ chiad dealbh-cluich aice, Doras Dùinte, air a riochdachadh le Theatar Gu Leòr agus air chuairt ann an 2014. Chaidh an dàrna dealbh-chluich aice, ath-chrthachadh airson a’ stèids de nobhail a h-athair Tormod Caimbeul, Shrapnel, air chuairt sa Mhàirt 2016.


william-bonarWilliam Bonar was born in Greenock in 1953. He spent 30 years working as first a teacher of English and then an Educational Psychologist and retired in August 2013. His poems were chosen for the Scottish Poetry Library Best Poems online anthology in both 2012 and 2015. His pamphlet, Offering (Red Squirrel Press, 2015) won the James Kirkup Memorial Prize.



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