r2vyln3rdioj14u-rld0ska where mountains meet the sea: November 2014

Scotland the World Over


(St Andrew's Day under the Southern Cross)

GOD bless our land, our Scotland,
    Grey glen an' misty brae,
The blue heights o' the Coolins,
    The green haughs yont the Spey,
The weary wastes on Solway,
    Snell winds blaw owre them a' —
But aye it's Hame, lad,
Yours an' mine, lad,
    Shielin' or ha'.
        It's Hame, it's Hame for ever,
            Let good or ill betide!
        The croon o' some dear river,
            The blink o' ae braeside.

God bless our land; it's yonder –
    Far in the cold North Sea:
But 'neath the old Saint's glamour
    It's calling you an' me:
Your feet tread Libyan deserts,
    Mine press the wattle's bloom,
But to-night we stand together
    Among the broom.
        It's Hame, it's Hame for ever,
            Let shore or sea divide!
        The croon o' some dear river,
            The blink o' ae braeside.

God bless our land. We dream o't —
    The days aye brakin' fine
On the lang, lane glints o' heather
    In the glens we kent langsyne.

Ay, we are Reubens, rovers,
    'Neath mony an alien star,
But flaunt the blue flag o'er us,
    Pipe up the " Braes o' Mar,"
And steppe and nullah vanish,
    And pomp and pelf and fame —
It's gloamin' — on a lown hillside,
An' lads, . . . We're . . . Hame.

Mary Symon

Happy St Andrew's Day


My only country
is six feet high
and whether I love it or not
I’ll die
for its independence.

Norman MacCaig

A Recipe for Whisky

Wring the Scottish rain clouds dry;
Take sleet, the driving snow, the hail;
Winter twilight; the summer's sun slowed down
to pearl-sheen dusk on hillsides, city-roofs,
on lochs at midnight.
And, most of all, take the years that have already run
to dust, the dust we spill behind us…

All this, distill. And cask. And wait.
The senselessness of human things resolves
to who we are – our present fate.
Let's taste, let's savour and enjoy.
Let's share once more.
Another glass for absent friends. Pour
until the bottle's done.

Here's life! Here's courage to go on!

Ron Butlin, from Without a Backward Glance: New and Selected Poems

Landscape and I

Landscape and I get on together well.
Though I'm the talkative one, still he can tell
His symptoms of being to me, the way a shell
Murmurs of oceans.

Loch Rannoch lapses dimpling in the sun.
Its hieroglyphs of light fade one by one
But re-create themselves, their message done,
For ever and ever.

That sprinkling lark jerked upward in the blue
Will daze to nowhere but leave himself in true
Translation - hear his song cascading through
His disappearance.

The hawk knows all about it, shaking there
An empty glove on steep chutes of the air
Till his yellow foot cramps on a squeal, to tear
Smooth fur, smooth feather.

This means, of course, Schiehallion in my mind
Is more than mountain. In it he leaves behind
A meaning, an idea, like a hind
Couched in a corrie.

So then I'll woo the mountain till I know
The meaning of the meaning, no less. Oh
There's a Schiehallion anywhere you go.
The thing is, climb it.

Norman MacCaig



A long peninsula of solid rock,
upholstered every year in threadbare green.
Stones everywhere, ambiguous and burgeoning.
In Sanna ramparts of them
march around our crofts
but whether to keep cattle out or other stones
no man can say.
And at Kilchoan there were three houses
cropped from one field.
That was when I was a boy.
The masons left the pebbles
and there’s a castle now, waiting to be harvested.
God was short of earth when He made Ardnamurchan.

Alasdair Maclean, from From the Wilderness: poems

Return to Scalpay

The ferry wades across the kyle. I drive
The car ashore
On to a trim road. A car on Scalpay?
Yes, and a road where never was one before.
The ferrymen's Gaelic wonders who I am
(Not knowing I know it), this man back from the dead.
Who takes the blue-black road (no traffic jam)
From by Craig Lexie over to Bay Head.

A man bows in the North wind, shaping up
His lazybeds.
And through the salt air vagrant peat smells waver
From houses where no houses should be. The sheds
At the curing station have been newly tarred.
Aunt Julia's house has vanished. The Red Well
Has been bulldozed away. But sharp and hard
The church still stands, barring the road to Hell.

A chugging prawn boat slides round Cuddy Point
Where in gale
I spread my batwing jacket and jumped farther
Than I've jumped since. There's where I used to sail
Boats looped from rushes. On the jetty there
I caught eels, cut their heads off and watched them slew
Slow through the water. Ah - Cape Finisterre
I called the point, to show how much I knew.

While Hamish sketches, a crofter tells me that
The Scalpay folk,
Though very intelligent, are not Spinozas...
We walk the Out End road (no need to invoke
That troublemaker, Memory, she's everywhere)
To Laggandoan, greeted all the way -
My city eyeballs prickle; it's hard to bear
With such affection and such gaiety.

Scalpay revisited? - more than Scalpay. I
Have no defence
For half my thought and half my blood is Scalpay.
Against that pure, hardheaded innocence
That shows love without shame, weeps without shame,
Whose every thought is hospitality -
Edinburgh, Edinburgh, you're dark years away.

Scuttering snowflakes riddling the hard wind
Are almost spent
When we reach Johann's house. She fills the doorway,
Sixty years of size and astonishment,
Then laughs and cries and laughs, as she always did
And will (easy glum, easy glow, a friend would say) ...
Scones, oatcakes, herrings from under a bubbling lid.
Then she comes with us to put us on our way.

Hugging my arm in her stronger one, she says,
Fancy me
Walking this road beside my darling Norman!
And what is there to say? ... We look back and see
Her monumental against the flying sky
And I am filled with love and praise and shame
Knowing that I have been, and knowing why,
Diminished and enlarged. Are they the same?

Norman MacCaig


Privilege or necessity of age
this twice or thrice nightly quitting
warm pit for a slash in the dark?

Not that automatic
nocturnal quest to the loo and back
I woke to hear my father make,
   heavy tread past my room humming
   childlike under his breath
        Oh Jeezy-beezy loves me
        the Bible tells me so
and wondered that he went so often ...

Years tell not in the mind but in the bladder.
It's a reminder
who's in charge here
as one unzips the tent and stumbles
turf thrust wet between toes,

      to sway  stop  stand
      upright in the night
      streams of oneself back to earth.

I find myself
   upright in late middle-age
     a mast stuck into the ground
bracing the billowing
     spinnaker of night
as the dark hull of this island
      sails forth with constellated sails …

Cockleshell image, I know!
    Couped by the first critical wave
but wonderful to float within
for the duration of a pish.

Damp soles dried on palms,
back in my pit,
first offices of the night performed,
I smiled at the dark and sank.

Andrew Greig, from Found at Sea

The Tear in the Sack

A nocturnal bird, say a nightjar,
cocking its head in the silence
of a few deflowering trees,
witnesses more than we do
the parallels.
            Its twin perspective:
seeing with one eye the sack-
grain spilt on the roadway dirt,
and with the other, the scattered stars,
their chance positioning in the dark.

Niall Campbell, from The Salt Book of Younger Poets, (ed. by Roddy Lumsden & Eloise Stonborough)


In a salt ring of moonlight

The dinghy nods at nothing.

It paws the bright water

And scatters its own shadow

In a false net of light.

A ruined chain lies reptile,

Tied to the ground by grasses.

Two oars, wet with sweet water

Filched from the air, are slanted

From a wrecked lobster creel.

The cork that can't be travels -

Nose of a dog otter.

It's piped at, screamed at, sworn at

By an elegant oystercatcher

On furious orange legs.

With a sort of idle swaying

the tide breathes in. Harsh seaweed

Uncrackles to its kissing;

The skin of the water glistens;

Rich fat swims on the brine.

And all night in his stable

The dinghy paws bright water,

Restless steeplechaser

Longing to clear the hurdles

That ring the Point of Stoer.

Norman MacCaig, from The Poems of Norman MacCaig, (ed. by Ewen MacCaig)

When the Whales Beached

Dear, on that day of spades,
engraving lines and inlets in the sand,

so that we could begin the slow
unmooring of those black shapes to the waves,

it was hard to think of anything
but how soon after my grandmother

had followed her husband earthwards. Love,
and yet so much more than. The quiet

unionship of sometimes being the one
to lead, sometimes to follow. And these

who softly climbed the aching stair
of shore together and there, stalled.

How we stood by as if we’d nothing
to say, when, love, I did, I do.

Niall Campbell, from Moontide

The Fisherman's Daughter

Adaptation of Western Isles folk story about a girl falling in love with a seal and what her parents do when they find out. - Tom Chick



Kenneth Steven, from The Thing that Mattered Most: Scottish poems for children (ed. by Julie Johnstone)

Summit of Corrie Etchachan

But in the climbing ecstasy of thought,
Ere consummation, ere the final peak,
Come hours like this. Behind, the long defile,
The steep rock-path, alongside which, from under
Snow-caves, sharp-corniced, tumble the ice-cold waters.
And now, here, at the corrie’s summit, no peak,
No vision of the blue world, far, unattainable,
But this grey plateau, rock-strewn, vast, silent,
The dark loch, the toiling crags, the snow;
A mountain shut within itself, yet a world,
Immensity. So may the mind achieve,
Toiling, no vision of the infinite,
But a vast, dark and inscrutable sense
Of its own terror, its own glory and power.

Nan Shepherd, from In the Cairngorms

Hamish MacInnes

The Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture 2008 was awarded to Hamish MacInnes. A pioneer of hard ice climbing and mountaineering in Scotland and throughout the world. Presented by climbing legend Dave 'Cubby' Cuthbertson. Directed and produced by John Sutherland and Joe French of Heatherhat Productions for the Fort William Mountain Festival

Meall a' Bhuiridh / Hill of the Bellowing

In 2010 photographer Jennifer Wilcox started documenting Glencoe Ski Centre in the Scottish Highlands. Using sounds recorded on the Hill and around the ski centre Barry Reid then added a compelling soundtrack to the images. This is a short film documenting the results from a fascinating project within Scottish mountain culture, one with it's roots right back at the beginning of the British ski industry.

The Hill Burns

So without sediment
Run the clear burns of my country,
Fiercely pure,
Transparent as light
Gathered into its own unity,
Lucent and without colour;
Or green,
Like clear deeps of air,
Light massed upon itself,
Like the green pinions,
Cleaving the trouble of approaching night,
Shining in their own lucency,
Of the great angels that guarded the Mountain;
Or amber so clear
It might have oozed from the crystal trunk
Of the tree Paradisal,
Symbol of life,
That grows in the presence of God eternally.
And these pure waters
Leap from the adamantine rocks,
The granites and schists
Of my dark and stubborn country.
From gaunt heights they tumble,
Harsh and desolate lands,
The plateau of Braeriach
Where even in July
The cataracts of wind
Crash in the corries with the boom of seas in anger;
And Corrie Etchachan
Down whose precipitous
Narrow defile
Thunder the fragments of rock
Broken by winter storms
From their aboriginal place;
And Muich Dhui’s summit,
Rock defiant against frost and the old grinding of ice,
Wet with the cold fury of blinding cloud,
Through which the snow-fields loom up, like ghosts from a world of eternal annihilation,
And far below, where the dark waters of Etchachan are wont to glint,
An unfathomable void.
Out of these mountains,
Out of the defiant torment of Plutonic rock,
Out of fire, terror, blackness and upheaval,
Leap the clear burns,
Living water,
Like some pure essence of being,
Invisible in itself,
Seen only by its movement.

Nan Shepherd, from In the Cairngorms

Canada Geese

Out of the haar, in flight,
in formation, in position, each eye
on the white rump in front, each aware
of the white bar on a face away to the side.
Direct, speedy – the flock is two waving lines
passing between mountains, over salt water,
following the coast, a creamy shoreline
broadening on to marshes, tidal islands
until – ahead and below – something familiar,
another flock resting on a sand bar.
Down they go.

Down, level with the hills.
Down, level with the road.
Down, level with the shore.
Skimming over water the lead bird
working hardest, the wind from his wings lifting
the following bird, then the next until
they are all floating on air broken by the birds in front.

They lift to cross an island. Come down again
on the other side. Up ahead, white-barred heads
turn on long necks. Take care! Take care!
crying from the bar, and from the air the flight
calls back, We’re here! We’re here! The sky
between sand bar and flight filled with voice.
Take care! We’re here! Take care! We’re here!

Spreading their wings, turning them downwards,
they stretch out webbed feet. Everthing now,
every part of them, is catching the air,
slowing them, dropping them.
Take care! Take care!
In they come as though they must scatter
the geese on the sand like marbles, but now
their dropped wings lift them and bring them
down again, slower now, one after the other,
feet planing across the water, all together


to sit down on it, glide along the surface and paddle out
onto the sand, to become a feathery conference
of webs, wings, necks and beaks, all crying together.
We’re here! We’re here!

Robert Davidson