WEEK FIFTY-SIX- The Glasgow Empire/ Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom

>> The Glasgow Empire

Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom <<

glasgow-empire                         OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We celebrate Glasgow nightlife past and present this week – when Scotland goes out on the town it often ends up in a place much like one of our two subjects. In years gone by, the Glasgow Empire was the leading music hall and variety venue in the city for nearly 70 years until its closure in 1963. Situated on Sauchiehall Street, it was one of the national chain of theatres owned by Sir Edward Moss, playing host to many of the top singers, comics and entertainers through the golden age of variety from 1930-1960. Despite aspiring to gentility in décor and high-class entertainment, it developed a fearsome reputation as being a difficult ‘house’ to win over, and proved to be the graveyard of many an act (particularly if they were English). By contrast, the Glasgow Barrowland ballroom (opening on Christmas Eve 1934) was a less genteel venue situated to the east of the city centre, adjacent to the ‘Barras’ market. Maggie McIver, ‘Queen of the Barras’ and founder of the ballroom, died in 1958 which was gutted by fire soon afterwards, but the rise of popular music which did for venues like the Empire proved to be the lifeblood of the Barrowland. In its time it has played host to acts as diverse as Lulu, The Clash and Oasis, despite achieving grisly notoriety as the haunt of murderer ‘Bible John’ in the late 1960s. Again, the contrast between venues is in aspiration – one a gilded palace of variety, the other a more rough-and-ready dancehall, but both made intimidating by the demanding Glaswegian audiences who frequented them.

Glasgow Empire
by Liz Niven

‘If they liked ye they let ye live’.
A luxury no afforded thae globe-trottin
Empire buildin sodgers.

Back hame fear-fillt shoes tread
the theatre’s widden boards.
Shoutin fae sherp-tongued audiences.

‘See ye at the Depot oan Monday morn,
Ya wee fat bastard’.
Tae the comic wi a bus drivin day joab.

‘Christ, there’s two o them’,
Bernie Winter’s fissog peerin
Throu the curtains efter Mike.

Bugger aff’, tae the Irishmen
who reversed aff stage singin,
Right ye are bejabbers’.

‘Goodnight all’,
on Des O Connor’s soles.
Carried aff efter a feigned faint.

Ice cream flung at a topless act.
A coin lobbed aff Bobby the Maestro’s heid.
Ten bob a week extra in danger money.

Victor Seaforth in a cold sweat kennin
he’d tae finish his Charles Laughton Quasimodo.
‘Away hame ya humpy-backed aul bastard’. 

Till nae turn was unstaned an the tide turnt.
Duncan Macrae an Albert Finney
strikin demolition’s first blows.

Thon tap-tappin echoed ower the globe,
no jist in this country, a wey o life chyngin
boays in tartan bunnets marchin hame.

Colonels packin in thir ain wee Empires,
fortunes made In far flung places.
Noo mair nor an Empire Theatre brekkin tae bits.



I Remember Your First Time
by Colin Begg


I took you there sight unseen
last winter touring season –
my South Belfast girl, mixed marriage.
Your blue eyes had never darkened the Gallowgate.

Out past the Sarrie Heid
hugging the north side of the road
your pupils narrowed
at lights blazing: Barrowland!!

Past the louts, through the touts,
frisked by stout bouncers,
through the metal detector
up the mirrored stair to the bar:

cheap lager, tacky lino,
ghostly Sixties gauds
and the stale Brut
of Bible John.


After a final sound check,
(one, two        two      p-pow!)
(because roadies can’t count to three…)
the bands always start
              with a darkness
              a stage of shadows
              a spreading cheer
              a press-forwards
              lights! anticipation! feedback!
We find a place, on the left.

The Jesus and Mary Chain play
Psychocandy Live is fuzz fuzz, whirling wires,
white persistence,
smoke, smoke and twisting ire,
melted-down vocals.

Time dilates and spreads–
through jumpsweat of crowd,
starry ceiling, bouncy floor, faint piss,
nose-tang of smoke machine smoke,
comes olfactory roll call of
              lovers lost
              bands seen
              friends missed
              old stubs in my scrapbook.
              sweet spill of beer.

You turned with a barbed wire kiss,
caught my mood:
moving up and still alive,
still like honey.




Liz Niven
is a poet writing in Scots and English. Her last collection, The Shard Box, was a Scottish Libraries Summer Read. Awards include McCash/Herald and, TESS/Saltire for her groundbreaking work for the Scots language in education. She is Poet-in-residence at Inverness Airport, has had poetry engraved in wood and stone in southwest Scotland and also on Temple Forest folly. She is an honorary Fellow of the Association of Scottish Literature and an executive member of Scottish PEN.




Colin Begg is a writer, editor & doctor from Ayrshire, currently working for the NHS in Glasgow. He is co-editor and co-founder of Gutter magazine. His poems have appeared in many periodicals, from Poetry Scotland to The British Journal of Psychiatry, as well as several small anthologies and four New Writing Scotland annuals. He is a previous recipient of a Hawthornden Fellowship and a Clydebuilt Poetry Apprenticeship. In 2013 he won the Basil Bunting Poetry Award.  He is currently working on his first poetry collection.




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WEEK FIFTY-FIVE – Moira Anderson/ Eddi Reader

>> Moira Anderson

Eddi Reader <<

moira-anderson          eddi-reader

Traditional song in Scotland has had many interpreters over the years, from the strictly ethnic to the quasi-operatic. While the folk scene has given rise to many, others have emerged from rock music, from musical theatre and from choral performance. Eddi Reader’s began her musical career as a backing singer for bands such as The Eurythmics and The Waterboys, going on to score the number 1 hit Perfect in 1989 with her own group Fairground Attraction. Her return to Scotland after the group split saw her moving much more towards traditional styles and in 2003 she released an album of songs by Burns with full orchestral accompaniment. Further work with musicians such as fiddler John McCusker and pianist Jools Holland indicate the diversity of her interests, but she has always come back to traditional material and, in particular, the work of Burns. With whom Moira Anderson is also very much associated. Taking the different route to a musical career of training at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, her big break came via an audition for the BBC. Going on to appear on TV’s White Heather Club, she subsequently hosted her own television show on BBC1. A frequent performer with Scots tenor Kenneth McKellar, in the early 1980s she made an album of duets with Sir Harry Secombe. While our pairing this week is not particularly extreme in terms of repertoire or even background, it does reflect differences in interpretation and approach that have changed Scottish song over the last half century. However, while coming to Scottish music from very different perspectives, both singers have been honoured for their work, Anderson receiving an OBE in 1970 and Reader an MBE in 2006.

On The Edge
(For Moira Anderson)
by Donald Adamson

We wir that faur awaa –
faur frae the metropolis, faur frae the studio
and the transmitter they’d pit up in Kirk o’ Shotts
(whaurever that micht be).
Ilka hoose needit its Logie Baird,
a bodie tae shin up a ladder, claumer on a chimney
wigglin here and yonder the muckle H o the aerial,
aa the time yellin doon, ’better noo?’ ’worse?’
till ilkane wis seatit aroon the TV,
mairvellin at the electrons that hud somehow made it,
joukin the cruel carlins o the atmosphere,
staucherin though the firmament
until they flappit, wabbit, doon the wire
intae the snawstorm o the twal inch screen.­

Nae maitter the hissin and the cracklin,
nae  maitter we cuid hairdlie see ocht,
we kent whit wis there –
the sprigs o heather, tho invisible,
and kilts an aa, tho the tartans wir just a blur,
and maybe a thistle or twae  –
and here wis Moira
wi her pure tones, parfait legato,
dingin the notes slap bang in the middle,
singin the sangs we hud learnt frae oor mithers,
the Auld Hoose, the Rowan Tree, Loch Lomond,
and she let us ken we wir Scottish
tho oot on the edge, ticht against the border,
faur frae the city – its smertness, sophistication –
that hud little time for us kintrae fowk.

Thir wis some that hud seen the queen,
the Liz-Queen, that wis croont in Westminster Abbey,
but Moira – you wir the Queen o Sang,
ye tendit the flame
the wee sperk that leapit intae a lowe
frae bits o kindlin – whitever wis lyin aboot –
and whit if it hud heather in it and tartan?
Ah’ll no say a word against it.
Here’s tae the memory! Here’s tae ye! Here’s tae it aa!



Love is the Way
by Gerard Rochford

Your body lives in every song,
half earth, half heaven,
half Brit Award, half kitchen sink.
Your voice could rouse
a dormouse, stir a nation.

You sing to lads and sing to lasses,
restate the once blurred truth
of Ae Fond Kiss, peering through
familiar glasses, mouthing
loss in meditation,
the grief it finds in joy, in bliss.

Kite your videos into space
to join the music of the spheres,
let aliens know there’s beauty here.
May faery magic and patient angels
guard your all-embracing heart.





Donald Adamson is a poet and translator, living in Scotland and Finland. He has won prizes in various poetry competitions including the Herald Millennium Competition (1999), the McCash Scots Poetry Competition (2014), the Margaret Reid/Tom Howard Competition (2015) and the Cornwall Contemporary Poetry Competition (2016).  Collections include From Coiled Roots (2014 IDP) and Glamourie (2015 IDP), and he has also published translations of Finnish poet Eeva Kilpi (Arc 2014).




Gerard Rochford was  born  England, lived in Hong Kong for a time but has spent most of his life in Aberdeen. His collections include Failing Light (2010), Of Love and Water (2011), Morning Crossword (2013) and CAIRN (2016). Janice Galloway chose his poem My Father’s Hand for the SPL’s Best 20 Scottish Poems in 2006.




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Donald Adamson photo courtesy of Ulla Tiainen

WEEK FIFTY-FOUR – The Proclaimers/ Francie & Josie

>> The Proclaimers

Francie & Josie <<

proclaimers                    francieandjosie

Double acts are the staple of the entertainment industry, and this week we feature two very different exponents. Auchtermuchty duo The Proclaimers (twins Craig and Charlie Reid) first came to public attention after an appearance on 80’s pop show The Tube. They steadfastly refused to conform to music industry expectations by performing their jagged distillation of folk, country and soul in broad Scots accents, but it was their curious and slightly nerdy image that set them apart from their contemporaries. They continue to advocate Scottish independence and identity and have recorded ten albums and even spawned a hit musical (later a movie) Sunshine on Leith. They remain one of the best-loved Scottish musical icons of the late 20th/early 21st century. A very different kind of double act, Francie & Josie arose out of the variety circuit of the 1950s, featuring Jack Milroy and Rikki Fulton in the roles of glaikit Glaswegians of undetermined sexuality, forever on the lookout for ‘burrds’, announcing their arrival with their catchprase ‘Hallawrerr!’ before bursting into the inevitable silly, sentimental singalong. Their timeless, broad appeal was featured on television from the early 1960s until their final reunion appearance in 1996. Although the two double acts represent two different strands of Scottish entertainment culture – one subtly militant and nationalist, the other sweetly daft – both found a lasting place in public affections.

by Theresa Muñoz

(according to The Proclaimers’ songs)

A letter from America, ocean & railroad track,
a second chance, broken jaw, cigarettes
back of a bus, a slap in the puss,
cat that barks, a poor lonely heart
what it takes to be a man:
a king of the road, a drunk fighter
this man waking up next to you,
who passes every penny on to you
who would walk 1000 miles
in sorrow, sorrow.



Ye Dancin?
by Charlie Gracie

Barga, in summer sun, and I’ve polished up my Italian.
“Una birra alla spina, per favore.”
“That a pint or a hauf pint, pal?” A husky resonance of the Clyde.

She has old skin, but her eyes sparkle, soft and brown.
Her parents, refugees from dry Tuscan hills to the bright, damp hope of Troon.
She married a McLean, lost her Moscardini tag, but not her Moscardini heart.
Now, as generations of Bargagiani have swung back and forth,
no husband or bambini in Scotland any more,
she is a nonna here.

“Do you miss it?”
”I miss,” she takes her husband’s ghost in the pose, “a dance on a slidey floor,”
and turns, as light on her feet as she always was.
“The Gaiety, where I met my Bill.
He took me to Francie and Josie the very next week.
‘Ye dancin?’
‘Ye askin?’
‘Ah’m askin…’”
She laughs a long wheeze.
“Bill hated them. ‘A couple of eejits,’ he said.”

She grabs him again and spins off,
a waltz in dusty sunbeams.



Theresa Muñoz 
was born in Vancouver and now lives in Edinburgh. Her debut collection Settle was shortlisted for the Melita Hume Poetry Prize. She reviews books for the Herald and is Research Associate at the NCLA.



charlie-gracieCharlie Gracie’s first poetry collection, Good Morning, was published by diehard in September 2010. His work (poetry and short fiction) has been published in a number of journals and anthologies in Scotland. Alongside this, his poetry has featured in The Herald and the Irish surfing magazine Tontta. He is currently working on a second poetry collection.




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WEEK FIFTY-THREE-AND-A-HALF – Ken Buchanan/George Kidd

>> Ken Buchanan

George Kidd <<

ken-buchanan                  george-kidd

One of the many popular images of the Scots as a race is that of a tough and occasionally belligerent people, well-able to handle themselves in a scrap should it become necessary. It’s fitting, therefore, that this pairing features two legendary Scots exponents of martial pursuits. Boxer Ken Buchanan was crowned undisputed Lightweight Champion of the World on February 12th 1971, cementing his place as the greatest boxer in Scottish history and certainly the best lightweight ever to come out of the British Isles. Stylish and with a devastating left jab, memories of the Edinburgh-born ‘Fighting Carpenter’ in his tartan shorts remain strong among boxing aficionados. George Kidd was a regular draw throughout the ‘golden age’ of British professional wrestling in the 1960s to the early 1970s, although he began his career as early as 1946. In an era when the once-noble art was drifting into pantomime, Dundee’s ‘Houdini of the Mat’ refused to join in wrestling’s transition from sport to light entertainment and consequently rarely appeared in televised wrestling events. When he retired in 1976 at the age of 51 he had fought over 1000 times, losing on just seven occasions. Both sportsmen were hugely respected by their peers and by the public, though neither enjoyed the huge rewards that professional sport confers on the stars of the 21st century.

KEN BUCHANAN (1945 – )
by Tom Pow

World Lightweight Champion 1970-1972

Catch it on YouTube
not just the thirteenth round
but the whole fight
and it’s the whole fight
you must watch to feel
even after all these years
as Roberto
Hands of Stone Duran
plunders the space
between them. Hombre,
where you are, there I’ll be
and nothing will deny me.
Upright, elegant
the Champion jabs
but can’t find the range
for his punches to do
damage. Still, he’s in there
with a chance
with his heart
always with a chance.

Till at the end of the thirteenth
after the bell Duran swings one
that lands low on Buchanan’s
proud tartan shorts
denting his protector –
Manos de Piedra.
He shuts like a knife
and goes down.

Even after all this time
it seems impossible
that the referee would then –
the Champion unable to continue –
award the fight to Duran, Now the new
World Lightweight Champion!
After all this is not a dodgy off-side,
a trip or a dive; this is two men
in Madison Square Gardens
floodlit on a stage before
thousands there, millions at home,
and a blatant punch after the bell to
Ma baws, ma fuckin baws! 

Duran will not honour him
with a re-match –
he doesn’t need him
to make his millions.
So it seems clear
the gods have stopped
smiling on him and
after a couple of setbacks more
he goes back to being
a joiner. He still loves
the smell of sawdust
and fresh cut wood,
likes being known
simply as ‘Ken’.
But he can’t let go
of the memory, of how
he was cheated. He just can’t
let it lie. He leaves his tools
and flies to New York.
For two weeks he scours
Harlem for Duran, a showdown
on his mind. Always
he has loved to scrap.
A white man in Harlem! they say.
But he fears nothing –
for some know him
even there. And who hasn’t
wanted to go back
to the place
where you felt your life
unravel? Who hasn’t walked
empty streets wanting
one last lover’s embrace
or one last tilt
at justice? With what
will the hollowing out
ever be filled?

My daughter, taking the bus
from Edinburgh to Glasgow,
finds herself next to
an older gentleman –
camel coat, be-ringed fingers.
They’re both late for meetings,
he for one about…
‘Boxing, I’m sorry, I know nothing…’
‘Your dad’ll have heard of me,’
he tells her and gives her
a signed postcard
of a young boxer –
the gloves up, the body
honed, the face
intense, close to being
pretty, but for the slight
spread of the broken nose.
Below his name
in a shaky hand
he writes ‘World Champ‘. ‘Aye,’
he says, ‘they named
this bus station eftir me.’


NOTE: In 2000, Ken Buchanan MBE was inducted into the International
and World Halls of Fame – the only British boxer to win both awards.



George Kidd
by Richard Watt

Bull’s blood and vinegar lugs
has it really been so long since you were home
a moth that traveled between towns
flew to occupied countries
cooled and condensed in their archways;
to start they called you Titch

Until the day you double hooked one bully’s legs
and squeezed
found a world inside
not even light could escape without bending

Chased Rudi Quarez over continents and the Press
but the body remembers its shapes
and drawn to neon
you top-billed bingo halls
picked out in buzzing bulbs outside — George Kidd.
I’m ten years old.

Come in, submit
it’s filling up
beneath the glare from too-bright lights
a whorl of reek punches out dark shapes
gran’s powerful French almond scent
tussles with sawdust and iron shavings,
the smell of artificial light on upholstery
a musk of neoprene and brylcreem

You took it all lying down
wrist lock chin lock whip, half nelson.

So arrogant he wouldn’t raise his hands
Jackie Pallo deckchaired
in that reverse surfboard
like kites in leafless trees, and frieze
rest hold for the cameras




tom-pow-by-sophie-kandaouroffTom Pow’s long poem Transfusion (Shoestring Press 2007) was in praise of another boxer, Muhammad Ali, and of Nelson Mandela. His latest poetry collections are A Wild Adventure – Thomas Watling, Dumfries Convict Artist (Polygon), Concerning the Atlas of Scotland (Polygon and NLS) and B (Mariscat). The Walnut Gatherers (‘Recolectores de Nueces’), a bi-lingual selection of poems, translated by Jorge Fondebrider (Cooperativa la Joplin, Mexico) was published in 2016. He has recently been recorded for the Poetry Archive. 


Kris Miller, Courier, 21/04/15. Richard Watt Staffpic. Staff Pic.Richard Watt 
is a father of one, journalist and Dundee University graduate based in Tayside. He won the University’s poetry prize in 2004, which was co-judged by the late Dr Jim Stewart. His first solo poetry pamphlet, The Golem, was published by Holdfire Press of Merseyside in 2013.




Images courtesy of;
Tom Pow photograph courtesy of Sophie Kandaouroff

WEEK FIFTY-THREE – Gretna Green/John o’ Groats

>> Gretna Green

John o’ Groats <<

gretnagreen                                   john-o-groats

No prizes for guessing the link between today’s pairing. To quote REM, just ‘Think about direction / Wonder why you haven’t before.’ Facing north, as that song enjoins us, we have the famous end-of-the-country location which is, of course, neither the end of the country nor the farthest north point of the mainland. Quite how John O’Groats came to be regarded as the extreme point nobody seems to know – especially as the actual farthest north point of Scotland, Dunnet Head, is only a few short miles away – but long distance athletes have so seen it for too long to change that perception now. Perhaps it was the existence of the ferry to the Northern Isles, traditionally founded by Dutchman Jan de Groot in the  15th century, that established it as such in the minds of travellers. It would have been the end of the road, after all. As would Gretna Green for numerous eloping couples from south of the border, making it our southern extreme for this pairing. Also associated with a traditional character, although in this case generations of the same, the village became famous for weddings carried out by the blacksmith through the traditional handfasting ceremony. Since this was not legal in England, couples intent on marriage without parental approval would flee to the first place over the border to forge their own unique bond. Both locations are now, of course, prime stopping points on the tourist trail that links them together across the historical riches of mainland Scotland.

(Tired of) Greetin’ fur Gretna Green
by Michael Pedersen

Ack Gretna Green, I’m sorry pal,
I really did mean tae visit, really did
want tae, instead I’m writing this
fae Indonesia Ubud, beside a lover,
in and out of napping, last night’s
daft wee squabble ripening on our lips;
but breakfast beckons and we’ll wash
it aw away with miso soup
and watermelon juice. She’s lovely
the lover, hus stories of yer service
stations (aye, I asked), firing up
the A74, broke the border many times
wi her faither barkin’ in earshot.
A caveat, there is no runaway
bride here, no blacksmith’s anvil,
no Jane Austin adaptation, no any
of those most-talked-about traits
yer likely sick to death of hearing.
It’s yer starling murmurations
that draw the most fae me, them
reminders that sometimes ‘hings
spin so fast it looks as if they’re still, them
amorphous blobs of thousand lives
shape-shifting with inky synchronicity
– them like baubles on yer pylons, them
I’m guessing, hoping, dress yer postcards.
But that’s the noo and I’ve hud months
to dress myself in you and of the months
before ma excuse is just as thin. Whilst
others would huv sought you oot, extolled
yer charms, got mucky in yer dirt,
shared wedding tales where life wi you
was a glass brimfu’, I, the fud, did not.
So I’m sorry to your broken hearted,
I’m sure we’d get along, savour breaths,
break bread, slam shots thigether
at the disco, neither o’us dancing.
Fecklessly, for you, I imagine aw these
pusses on the streets, the good folks
of Gretna Green: pale jackets, colourful
umbrellas crown sunken heads, pain
on some of their faces, yawns,
smiles, fancy hats and tattoos,
sharp bursts of apology
if they accidentally touch – but then
this is how I see us most, in shifting
winds, yer twigs breaking under feet
that urnae mine. So let’s get to it,
this is what I’ve got tae give:
you’ve muscled yer way into many
mighty moments here, mighty as I’ve
kent: ornate carvings of Hindu
goddesses on stone temples peppered
wi you, elephant towel art wi you
in their een, my sunburn stinging, you
part of pulse; you climbed wi me & lover
to the top of thon Tegenungan Waterfall,
clambered into sheets without a fold
and as I unwrap lover’s legs, fur
a flash, ye dirty bugger, my mind drifts
into you. If we are whit we are
because of whit we’re no,
me and you, we’re forged a little
closer than I ever would huv thought,
than places cherished and desired,
your platitudes of the still-to-be-imagined
in ma takeoffs and landings, up here in
the stratosphere, you; in Ubud, caked
in sweat, you, clinging ever tighter.
So perhaps I’ll see you after,
perhaps to share a photo, in which
we’ll, both of us, look eager
to be ignored. On the plane
above the clouds, the view belongs
tae masses of folks but is at the same
time entirely mine own, until, yes,
ma mind drifts back to you, Gretna
Green, to the poem unwritten,
the promise never kept.



John o’ Groats
by Ian McDonough

Endings are not entirely bitter: here,
where the land gives out
in a last flourish of sea-pink, sand
and louring cliff,
the Atlantic and North Sea
join to sing, sometimes in a mother’s croon,
often with the battle cry of a marauder.

Sky is everywhere you look: underneath it
coastal townships busy themselves
with a million small inconsequentialities.
Stacked one upon the other,
all these particulars conspire to build
the shaky watchtowers we all gaze from.

Air is sharp and vital, cut with salt,
seasoned with a blend
of moorland bloom and arctic ice.
Conversation, cautious but frank, reflects
a recognition that each wave and every breeze,
each shaft of autumn sunlight
unfolds depending only on its inner strength.

Balanced on the outer edge,
we watch each moment spool before our eyes,
knowing the future is uncharted sea,
certain there is no way back to land.




Michael Pedersen 
is co-Founder and an Artistic Director of Neu! Reekie! He is also a Robert Louis Stevenson Award winner, a John Mathers Trust Rising Star of Literature Award winner and a Callum McDonald Memorial award finalist. His 2013 collection Play With Me was published by Polygon books, and he has written short plays for National Theatre of Scotland/FMT and Edinburgh Art Festival, pop songs for the band Jesus, Baby! and is currently working on a feature film screenplay. He also enjoys knitwear.



ian-mcdonoughIan McDonough was brought up in Brora on the East Coast of Sutherland. He has published four collections of poetry, most recently A Witch Among The Gooseberries published by Mariscat in 2014. His work has appeared widely, including Poetry Review, Times Educational Supplement, Physics Review, New Writing Scotland and The Scotsman. A member of Shore Poets, Ian lives in Edinburgh with his partner and daughter. When not writing he works as a mediator and trainer.




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WEEK FIFTY-TWO – Jackie Bird/Muriel Gray

>> Jackie Bird

Muriel Gray <<

jackiebird       murielgray

Scotland is recognised for its contribution to journalism over centuries, and here we feature two very different contemporary exponents of the journalistic arts. Jackie Bird is a weel-kent face on BBC Scotland over the years, mainly in what the American media would call the ‘anchor’ role on Reporting Scotland but also occasionally on other programmes. Despite the assumption that she is merely a newsreader, her journalistic reputation is quirkily impressive; the Glasgow Evening Times, The Sun and teenage magazine Jackie at the start of her career. Her cheery and effervescent demeanour makes her arguably the most recognisable face and voice in Scottish television news. By contrast, Muriel Gray is a more acerbic commentator, mainly on arts and culture in Scotland and beyond. Rising to fame through her appearances on 80’s cult music show The Tube, she went on to host shows in the field of fashion, arts and media and to write for a number of newspapers. A true polymath, she can speak on Punk Rock and 19th Century painting with equal passion and authority. Both our subjects have risen to journalistic prominence through their mastery of spoken and written word, but while one is the comforting face of daily news, the other is a more provocative voice on arts and culture.

Jackie Bird Bingo
by Kevin Williamson

Joining us tonight
on Live From Holyrook
are a peahen
and a cockatoo…

It’s an extraordinary situation!

It is indeed, Jackie.
The flock is restless.
We’re heron on the grapevine
there may be owls of protest
from local branches.
And there are malicious
rumours that flock leaders
have gone stork raven mad.
This is unprecedented.

How have the leaders responded?

With great anger, Jackie.
But they’re up against it.
They can rail all they want
about internal grousing
but the Opposition smell
blood and are crowing
about a possible
vote of no consequence.

Why is that?

Good question.
It could be they’ve genuinely
lost their way.
It is after all their third
tern in office
and their once
unassailable popularity
has been undermined
by a chorus of internal squawking
not to mention
a series of damaging scandals
involving prominent cocks.

Indeed. Remind us what happened.

Two cabinet wagtails
were caught feathering
their own nests using
bogus eggspence claims.
Party warblers claim
it was all just a lark
and that the avian press
are having yet another
snipe at them.
But as you know, Jackie
there’s no way back
if you’re caught
robin the tax payer.

What can the flock do now?

It’s too early to say, Jackie.
Hawkish right wingers
are clucking they should
hold their nerve
and refuse to finch
in the face of adversity.
But this is proving a bit much
for some left wingers to swallow.
They claim the flock
can’t duck its responsibilities
to the tits who elected them.

How will this affect ratings?

Recent polls say
they could be in Deep Trouble.
With the flock claiming
migration policy
is all over the place
is already flying high
in the Daily Gannet.
We’re also hearing rumours of discontented shags
and some consider the sight
of the flock leader swanning
about with the blue tits
to be a …

I’m going to have to interrupt.
we couldn’t get through
to our peahen chick
but as always swift
incisive analysis
from our roving cockatoo.


Prepare To Climb Your Muriel
by Beth McDonough

You’d not tabled her
Munro-glam, but check
that summit snow shock. Don’t
scale her down, don’t reckon on
some shilpit kind of Corbett. Expect

right feisty crags, belays to take
poke elbow turns. There is
no tourist path; she’s more
attitude than altitude. Screw
your courage and your

soup flask lid. Shove
your moleskins, shave your beard –
don’t think you’ll sneak
that back way up a rabbit track
through easygoing glens. A Rowan

springs one woman there, whittle fine
punkbright from East Kilbride (and you should know
she’s partly Yiddish). But
tarmac’s every chip as tough.
Carved sandstone gives no hold

even to prehensile toes.
Every crevice cracks
opens down her fissure face
as bastard flames scour out
our Toshy’s spooked wood dreams.

Mica glistens fierce in granite
to sharp and wit her supple strength. So
chank your belt, now catch that axe,
sling your hooks, clip crampons on –
watch up. Watch out.

No Pin, however sharp
is truly inaccessible. For this
more gallus one, pack kit. Allow
some careful recce time. Show
serious respect.




kevin-williamson-from-the-bongo-club-websiteKevin Williamson is a writer, publisher, poet and performer of Burns.  As half of Neu! Reekie!, in the past five years he has run almost 100 cultural events combining writing and music. He is also co-founder of the political and cultural publication, Bella Caledonia, and in the 1990s ran Rebel Inc, which published early work by authors including Alan Warner and Irvine Welsh.



beth-mcdonoughBeth McDonough trained in Silversmithing at Glasgow School of Art, and later completed an M.Litt in Writing Study and Practice at Dundee University. She was inaugural Writer in Residence at Dundee Contemporary Arts (2014-16).  She reviews for Dundee University Review of the Arts (DURA) and edits the poetry section there. Her recent pamphlet Handfast (with Ruth Aylett) was published in May 2016 by Mother’s Milk Books.




Images courtesy of;

WEEK FIFTY-ONE-AND-THREE-QUARTERS – Francis Begbie/Miss Jean Brodie

>> Francis Begbie

Miss Jean Brodie <<

begbie         miss-jean-brodie

Two literary anti-heroes fall under the Scotia Extremis spotlight, both hailing from Edinburgh, both representing elements of the Scottish character but each separated from the other by a chasm of class, aspiration, education and temperament. Francis Begbie, the most memorable character from Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting novels, is a foul-mouthed, brawling sociopath on a very short fuse. He is drawn to the drug addicts at the centre of Welsh’s novel but is not an addict himself, though one could argue that he is addicted to confrontation and bouts of vicious physical violence. By contrast, Miss Jean Brodie, literary invention of novelist Muriel Spark, is more refined and genteel, aiming to lead a clique of secondary school girls (whom she refers to as her crème de la crème) into adulthood. She manipulates their thoughts, beliefs and ultimately their romantic and sexual lives and seeks to imprint upon them something of her own questionable moral belief system. The two characters were unforgettably brought to life at the cinema; Begbie by the wiry Robert Carlyle and Brodie by the magnetic Dame Maggie Smith. Although it’s inconceivable that the two could ever meet each other in a literary sense, they stand equally for perceptions of the Scottish character through the ages; educated yet capable of brutality, loyal and yet individual, lying in the gutter yet looking at the stars.

by Martin Malone

A slight shift
in the cunt’s perception
and you are fucking claimed.
General Franco,
gallus twat,
hair-trigger king
of your twenty street

Francis Begbie,
the law-giver:
down from the hill
with his cairn
of dimpled glass
to stick into the face
of some draftpak.

How you anchor us,
Blind Beggar,
in the keich
of our own expedience,
lead us
by its nose-ring
from cop-out
to appeasement.

unlovable man,
let me pull the pin
and roll you
fizzing into Annie’s Bar
to stanley well-fed chops,
stick the head on Gove,
have Boris shit his keks.

Rogue trader
in broken teeth,
show them what
the markets mean
to scum like us,
for these myths
give us the basis
to rescue the night.


by Tim Turnbull

And here entombed
is quisling Sandy,
gripping the bars,
struggling with big
questions – as if there
were questions, big
or otherwise, to be
answered or asked –
wrestling with faith,
the fragile psyche,
sin, and the world
and all its dirt.

But where’s the use
in that, my dears,
my dilettanti,
when we have myth,
art and aesthetics.
Let’s tramp the streets
in soft black boots,
hail and worship
gilt and glitter pagan
Caesars, find succour
in flaccid rebellions
and easy heresies.

There is no evil
where there’s beauty.
That’s the siren wail.
Watch the film.
Know we were born
way past our prime.




martin-malone-picBorn in County Durham, Martin Malone now lives in Scotland. He has published two poetry collections: The Waiting Hillside (Templar, 2011) and Cur (Shoestring, 2015). Two further, Great War-related collections, The Unreturning and Ghosts of the Vortex will be published in 2018. An Honorary Research Fellow in Creative Writing at Aberdeen University, he has just finished a PhD in poetry at Sheffield University. He edits The Interpreter’s House poetry journal.


tim-turnbull_-alejandro-salinasTim Turnbull was born in North Yorkshire in 1960 but has lived in Highland Perthshire for fifteen years. He worked for many years in the forestry industry, but has more recently been involved in adult literacy projects. Donut Press publish his poetry collections Stranded in Sub-Atomica (2005) and Caligula on Ice (2009). He has also produced ‘entertainments’ for the stage. His collection of eerie and satirical tales Silence and Other Stories (2016) is published by Postbox Press, the literary fiction imprint of Red Squirrel Press.




Images courtesy of;
Tim Turnbull photo courtesy of Alejandro Salinas