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.




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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


>> Haggis

Nessie <<

haggis                                    lochness-monster

This Burns Day we bring you two legendary beasts of Scotland: one famous for having two of its four legs shorter that the others, apparently from continually running round the sides of mountains; the second so nebulous as to defy any definite sightings but vital, nonetheless, to the tourist economy of its supposed habitat. Rarely if ever sighted in the wild, the Haggis is, even so, frequently found butchered by ‘rustic labour’, its ‘gushing entrails’ forming the heart of the feast in celebration of our national bard. One wonders whether the continual devastation of the creatures’ numbers every January is placing them under threat. Maybe this week’s poem can hint at an answer as we hope its partner can hint at a sighting. For none other than Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, is our second mythical beast. Supposedly first spotted by St Columba in the 6th century, the poor creature must have had such a shock from its encounter with the holy man that it didn’t show its face again for over a millennium. It certainly has enough space to take refuge in, Loch Ness holding more water that the combined volume of every single inland lake in Britain. Not until the invention of the camera did the monster put in another appearance. Maybe it was just preparing for its close up.

A Veesion
by David Kinloch

(bein a post-Brexit owresettin o the poem ‘Une Charogne’ by Charles Baudelaire. Wi bits missed oot.)

D’ye mind yon thingummy we seen, hen,
wan mochie back-end day:
jist at the kink o the close, a collop o flesh
jirbled its guts wi a blasé
an cynical wink: a haggis
impaled oan the rail.

It dreeplt an drappit
an grat an slittered,
turned the stairfit intae a stew,
an aw the midgies and maukies
that steyed up the close
thocht heiven had come tae the Drum.

They crowled oan the tripe.
They fucked in the thairms.
They mooched in the painch.
The skin roiled oan its ane.
An the stink! The stink
Was a stink lik a stank.

Och wha cud blame the wee dug
– Mrs Henderson’s pug –
fur startin a tug-o-war.
You tugged an it tugged,
we aw tugged thegither
an the haggis jauped fae its poke.

Ma angel, ma passion, hale countries
o offal tottered ooty the close
an ah hud a veesion o transmugrification:
ma luv a huge haip o a haggis,
– yon bonnie lichts an heid cheese –
in aw the lingos o Europe.

There are yer tootsies ah sae luv tae suck:
Latin pajata and Romany drob;
yer tummy is trippa, yer airms herzgulasch,
yon bubbies are – aw man – jist lampredotto,
yer throat’s a rerr rognon
an yer neb’s andouillette.

Lass, len me yer blood tongue,
auld Scoatland’s haggis creole,
atlantic papiamento.
In time o need your meats
are whaur extremes meet
a fleur o Europe at the close stairheid.


Nessie To The Unaccompanied Minor
by Claire Askew

Like you, I was unmoored – all my kind
dying – and like you, I’d heard
there may be safe port in this land.
The bottle of the sea loch stoppered.
I watched its neck – through millennia
quick as an eyeblink – narrow, narrow
and I could not move.  I was not like you:
couldn’t trust my heart, my own
little outboard motor.

But like you, I know what it means
to be hunted: to have nets cast
in your wake, nets barbed
with all the ways they’d like to take
you apart.  Out, they send their boats
to find us: out, and out.  The search-
lights glitter on the loch like spilt fuel.
As if we don’t know boltholes!  The art
of disappearing oneself among the rocks.

(They want to find us, but
they also do not.)

Monster to tabloid monster: I’m sorry –
you’re starting a loneliness I know
only too much of.  This loch
is a big drum I rattle through,
fin over fin, flick over seized old tail sick
of swimming.  I’m singing, if
you can bear to be near water
any more.  The song goes
alone, alone, alone –

but you know that.
It’s the only song you’ve ever sung.







David Kinloch
has published five collections of poetry, the last three with Carcanet Press. His next book, In Search of Dustie-Fute, is forthcoming from Carcanet in 2017. He is currently Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at the University of Strathclyde.


Claire Askew
‘s debut poetry collection is This changes things (Bloodaxe, 2016): shortlisted for the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award and the Saltire First Book Prize.  Claire is also a novelist, and her debut novel-in-progress won the 2016 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize.  She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh, and lives in Edinburgh.




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Claire Askew photo courtesy of Sally Jubb Photography


WEEK FIFTY-ONE – Gregory’s Girl/Local Hero

>> Gregory’s Girl

Local Hero <<

gregorys-girl        local-hero-1

Scotland’s greatest living movie director is undoubtedly Bill Forsyth. In a relatively brief 20-year career he made some of the finest films ever to come out of Scotland, starting with the minor classic That Sinking Feeling in 1979. Scotia Extremis was incredibly moved by his 1981 BBC TV drama Andrina based on a George Mackay Brown short story, but it was his feature film Gregory’s Girl that same year which propelled him to fame. Natural dialogue and simple direction made this movie about struggling with adolescence and teenage romance in an inner city secondary school (actually filmed in Cumberbnauld) a joy. The marvellous acting was centred on a young cast including John Gordon Sinclair and Clare Grogan, plus an unforgettable cameo from Chic Murray as the headmaster. Two years later Forsyth explored a very different vision of Scotland in Local Hero, this time set in the fictional West Coast village of Ferness, the inhabitants of which are about to have their lives changed forever with the arrival of an oil boom. An older cast including Rikki Fulton and Fulton Mackay are joined by the legendary Burt Lancaster in another perfectly-pitched cameo. Both movies, one with an urban setting and one rural, are about the blossoming of love; shy and awkward teenage love in the first instance, and that mysterious love of landscape and a way of life which rural Scotland still has the power to inspire in even the hardest of hearts.

Gregory’s Girl
by Patricia Ace

In another million years, there’ll be no men, no women. There’ll just be people. Just a world full of wankers.
(Eric, Gregory’s Girl)

Some things are gone forever:
the clack of a typewriter under the secretary’s fingers;
the gowned headmaster playing piano in the lunch hour;
the low wolf-whistles of school gardeners
greeting girls strolling past in anoraks and parkas;

Bella bella!

Some things are still there but transformed:
boys find tits, bum, fanny; the lot with one swipe on their phones;
the shops in the precincts are boarded up and forlorn
but in the homes of new towns electric toothbrushes drone
alongside laptops, iPads, Fitbits, all bought online.

Arrivederci, Gordon.

And other things remain the same:
For girls, being the best doesn’t mean you’ll make the team ―
it’s not that simple and window cleaners still dream
of wooing bored housewives with their streak-free gleam.
Girls help each other, invisibly, behind the scenes.





Where’s The Door Here?
by Jane McKie

Sky. Sea. Desire and pining. Stuff fetching
up – there is no door, only horizon.

How do you do business with a man who has
no door? Knock on the window, the long dawn.

The ethics are the same here in the north
as they are in your heart: impossible

to say… but pick up the receiver, dial;
keep watching the sky. “Sky, sir? It’s amazing.”





Patricia Ace has published First Blood (HappenStance, 2006) and Fabulous Beast (Freight Books, 2013). Her work appears in Be the First to Like This : New Scottish Poetry (Vagabond Voices, 2014), Hallelujah For 50ft Women: Poems about Women’s Relationship to their Bodies (Bloodaxe, 2015) and Umbrellas of Edinburgh (Freight Books, 2016).


Jane McKie‘s first two collections of poetry were Morocco Rococo (Cinnamon Press), which jane-mckiewon the Sundial/Scottish Arts Council award for best first book of 2007, and When the Sun Turns Green (Polygon, 2009). In 2011, Jane won the Edwin Morgan poetry prize and published a pamphlet, Garden of Bedsteads, with Mariscat Press, a PBS Choice. Her most recent collection is Kitsune (Cinnamon Press, 2015). She is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh.


Images courtesy of 


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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WEEK FORTY-NINE – Scotland The What?/ Chewin’ The Fat

>> Scotland The What?

Chewin’ The Fat<<

scotland-the-what-cast-1987      chewin-the-fat

A pair of comedy ensembles to start us off in 2017, separated in time but both reflecting a particular image of Scotland. The trio of Aberdonians who formed Scotland The What? – Buff Hardie, Stephen Robertson and George Donald – met at Aberdeen University in the 1950s and became a Scottish comedic institution throughout the 1970s based on regular appearances on Grampian TV, the trio finally retiring in 1995. Their gentle digs at the Scottish way of life were tinged with Doric and often set in the fictional rural backwater of Auchterturra. More caustic and urban, Chewin’ The Fat was originally a BBC Radio Scotland show but later transferred to Television and ran for four series from 1999-2002. The Glasgow-based sketch show was fronted by Greg Hemphill, Ford Kiernan and Karen Dunbar assisted by a gang of other actors taking smaller roles. Their comic creations included failed actor Ronald Villiers, the Lighthouse Keepers, Betty the libidinous geriatric and, most notably, Jack & Victor who were spun out to the even more successful series Still Game. The two ensembles represent the high road and the low road of Scottish comedy, with each crystallising a particular version of Scotland and poking fun at the stereotypes and behaviours that any Scot would find instantly recognisable.

A Day Like Today
by Jackie Kay

If ever there wiz a day
A doon aboot the mooth day,
A gey dreich and drookit day
When all ye want is tae be
Beddit under the duvet

It wis the day

If ever there wiz a day
When the hale wurld seemed crazy
An affy day, when ye lost the will a wee bitty,
A day when aabudy is thon way
Affa shivery, a- Doom’s-day day

It wis the day

If ever there wiz a day
When the wurld goes frae
Bad tae wurse;
Allagrugous! Lips pursed.
Cursed! (In need o’ a nurse!)

It wis the day

If ever a day, a day, a day
When ye didnae think you’d crack
A smile ne’er mind laugh till ye wur greeting, eh? (Split
Sides. Laughter’s a rebellion – so it is tae.)
Scotland the What: the order o’ the day.

It wis the day

Chewin’ The Fat
by Nalini Paul

This poet thing is a problem
for the DSS.
You call yourself a poet –
it’s hardly Burns, is it?

Translating for the NEDS, Rab McGlinchy:
breenge up
breenge oot o’ the van
half a mill –

Ah, the gallus Glasga banter.
Feast on beans ‘n chips ‘n
flavoured condoms for pensioners –
barley sugar
Scotch broth –
you ought to have seen the fandan.

Postie, shut the door behind you,
you’re letting all the smoke out.

Your bottle crashes
when the doorbell goes
and your Highland heart longs
for Cracknathuddan Point
(ya coupla)

Murder polis! The auld boys
are stealing tins of salmon for a thrill,
‘up against ma clackerbag’
and past the checkout.

‘Check the crust on that pie,
‘Oh yes, faither, we knew him well.
A very nice service…
such a tragedy.’

Gonnae no dae that
    to the fish
    the wasps
    the ponies.

Betty’s World War Two memories,
unsuitable for daytime listeners,
are perfect for TV.

DVD-daft toothsome salesmen,
greasy as they come,
push the X-five-thousand with a wipe-
clean screen.
‘Are ye into internet dating, John o’Groats?’

In the palace of the gallus,
we chew on language.
Ya big, fat, daft Klingon dauber.

Cheese baguette
modus operandi –
words that do not quite belong,
the opposite of ‘good guy’.

‘Class, a big clap for the nice, tall policeman.
That’s eenuf of thaat, Tracy Sneddon.’

Planet Scotland moves beyond
the stratosphere,
Taysiders in Space rejected Ronald Villiers;
too fat for West Side Story.
But in Taggart, dead brilliant as a corpse.

You’ve taken that too far.

Clock that nice bit of pornography,
son, with biscuits for afterwards.
Or an individual fruit trifle;
milk, lemonade, chocolate.

Aye, not much happens,
stuck in here,
day after day after day…

All your life wrapped in a parcel.
Get a job, you work-shy –

Nice try, but it’s mince.


jackie-kay-credit-mary-mccartney-cleared-for-free-uk-useJackie Kay was born and brought up in Scotland. She has published five collections of poetry for adults – The Adoption Papers won the Forward Prize, a Saltire Award and a Scottish Arts Council Book Award – and several for children. She was awarded an MBE in 2006. In March 2016, she was appointed the Makar or National Poet of Scotland for a five year term.




nalini-paul-picNalini Paul is a poet currently based in Glasgow, though she has lived in Edinburgh, South Lanarkshire and Orkney. Her first pamphlet, Skirlags, was shortlisted for the Callum Macdonald Award. After a successful Rehearsal Room for Stellar Quines theatre, she is developing Beyond the Mud Walls towards production. For more information, see www.nalinipaul.com.




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Jackie Kay photo courtesy of Mary McArtney

WEEK FORTY-EIGHT – Irn-Bru/Cullen Skink

>> Irn-Bru

Cullen Skink <<

irn-bru                                      cullen-skink

Scotland has long been associated with liquid refreshment of one sort or another. From the nip to the swallie, it always goes down a treat; while from broth to brose it warms the proverbial cockles. Almost as iconic as whisky, Irn-Bru is popularly acclaimed as ‘Scotland’s other national drink’. Though many Scots state they couldn’t live without it, proclaiming it the best hangover cure around, few dentists would endorse its high sugar content (but, to be fair, alternative low calorie versions are available). While the ingredients of Irn-Bru, famously ‘made in Scotland from girders’, were often thought of as the country’s best kept secret, those of this week’s other iconic national liquid, Cullen Skink, are as plain as the fare they represent. Smoked haddock, potatoes, onions and milk have formed the basis of this wholesome soup since time immemorial. Though more adventurous chefs have been known to add ingredients as exotic as bay leaves, chives, fennel and even a poached egg, the traditional recipe remains the all-time favourite. So, whether the approaching New Year hangover is best assuaged with sugary pop or warming soup we at Scotia Extremis HQ leave up to our esteemed readers.

The Declaration of Barrbru
by Rebecca Sharp


Cullen Skink
by Dilys Rose

The Cullen Skink World Championship
has  commenced and the battle for the crown –
contested by more than a dozen hopefuls – is hotting up!

Ye swither atween the deil o a broth
and a deep sea stew o tatties, ingins,
a drappie milk and scraps o  smuikit haddie. 

And whit a braw and  couthie appellation
that tickles outrels and, in locals forby,
boosts pride in thir ain hame-branded cuisine!

                Oh skink, oh skink, oh cullen skink,
                I love yir skinkle, yir neb-twitchin stink. 

On tartanned tables o Balmoral Hotels
fae Edina tae Durban  yi scrub up fair perjink,
wi  chiffonades o parsley, drizzles  o cream

but forget yir airs and graces. Dae yir job.
Cheer the  hert  and warm the painch o shilpit folk.
Ye wir aye humble fare.  And nane the waur o it.


rebecca-sharp-photo-raz-ullahRebecca Sharp
is a writer from Glasgow, now based in Fife.  She has a special interest in interdisciplinary and collaborative projects – examples include Unmapped, an exhibition and book of poems and paintings with artist Anna King (2013); and For the Bees, text for musical performance with Mr McFall’s Chamber (2014).  In 2016 her play The Air That Carries The Weight was performed at the Traverse theatre in Edinburgh; and she was Poet-Perfumer in Residence with StAnza poetry festival, creating an installation of poetry and scent.  www.rebeccajoysharp.com



Dilys Rose lives and works in Edinburgh. She is a novelist, short story writer, poet and librettist and has published eleven books, most recently the novel Pelmanism (2014). A new novel, Unspeakable, is due out in 2017.




Images courtesy of;
Rebecca Sharp photo courtesy of Raz Ullah

WEEK FORTY-SEVEN – Emeli Sandé/ Susan Boyle

>> Emeli Sandé

Susan Boyle <<

emeli-sande                                  susanboyle

Two distinctive Scottish voices feature in this week’s pairing, both embarking on their journeys to stardom in 2008-9 before establishing successful professional careers. It is the route they took, however, which provides the clearest contrast; Emeli Sandé grew up in Scotland and part of her family hail from Zambia. She worked hard for several years on the fringes of the UK music scene, collaborating with other acts on moderately successful chart records and playing live in front of small crowds before eventually coming to the attention of major record labels. Her first solo single in 2011 was followed by a smash LP the following year, and her distinctive soprano voice is now familiar across the UK and beyond. Taking a different approach was West Lothian-born Susan Boyle, who applied for the Britain’s Got Talent TV contest, appearing on the show in 2009 to general astonishment. Initially sneered at by the audience for her unprepossessing appearance at her televised audition and subsequently picked to pieces by the media for her humble background, she was blessed with a rich and expressive mezzo-soprano voice which stopped people in their tracks. Although she didn’t win the contest, she soon became established as a major recording star and one of the most unlikely success stories in British popular music of recent years, selling tens of millions of records. Both artists possess singular voices and occupy a profitable space in the UK music scene, but they represent two different paths to stardom. Whether through hard graft or by the waving of the media’s magic wand, talent will find a way to express itself.

by Janet Paisley

It is light, and the lightness
of air, the flow of breath,
a throat full of bright vowels
that lift, and rise, and raise

in a tumble of words
rolling out on a tide
from beaches of granite,
the swell breaching rock.

It is the salt in a wound
healing as it hurts,
the sound of a woman
creating her landscape,

coursing from crag to corrie,
as water falls over stone.
Even as clouds gather,
glower, there is lightning,

skies torn apart, thundering,
there will be light, and lightness.
There are rhythms in rain, of storms,
grace in green notes, a flowering.

There is wonder, in living,
in darkness, and in the light of it,
breaking, there will be song.


Susan Magdalene
by Valerie Thornton

I see the snarling brats
taunting you, burning
your clothes, chasing
you home from school
every miserable day.

Mine kicked wide
my toilet door, clawed
me for being clever
and, once, crushed dog-
shit into my face.

I see your bullies now
have peroxide teeth and
pound-signs in their eyes.
They pluck out your eye-
brows, fake your nails,

primp your hair and teach
you to deride yourself.
They stalk you, lapping up
footage of your anguish,
your endless fear of failing.

When I was twelve,
my bullies melted
to another school.
I heard that no good
came to them, poor kids.

I wish that I could sing
like you, into the heart
of every wounded child
before they need to hurt.
I wish that I could sing

like you, for you,
to soothe your pain
and calm your fears,
and show you that
tomorrow’s looking bright.



janet-paisley-2013Janet Paisley is an award-winning Scottish poet, playwright, author, script and screen writer, writing in English and Scots. Her work is published internationally, and has been translated into fifteen languages. It includes five works of historical and contemporary fiction and seven collections of poetry, the latest of which is Sang fur the Wandert (Luath Press).



Valerie Thornton has published two collection of poems, Catacoustics, and If Only Coll Were Two Floors Down (both Mariscat Press). Many more of her poems and short stories have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies over the last 40 years. She has also published three creative writing textbooks with Hodder Educational and worked with the Royal Literary Fund since 2001. In 2012, she was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies, in recognition of both her writing and her educational work.




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