r2vyln3rdioj14u-rld0ska where mountains meet the sea: April 2015

croitear na mara / the sea crofter

Mick lives in probably the remotest house in the UK.
For the past 30 years he has made his living from the sea.
During a typical working day, he muses about the state of the industry and worries about it's future.

Uncle Roderick

His drifter swung in the night
from a mile of nets
between the Shiants and Harris.

My boy's eyes watched
the lights of the fishing fleet – fireflies
on the green field of the sea.

In the foc'sle he gave me a bowl
of tea, black, strong and bitter,
and a biscuit you hammered
in bits like a plate.

The fiery curtain came up
from the blackness, comma'd with corpses.

Round Rhu nan Cuideagan
he steered for home, a boy's god
in seaboots. He found his anchorage
as a bird its nest.

In the kitchen he dropped
his oilskins where he stood.

He was strong as the red bull.
He moved like a dancer.
He was a cran of songs.

Norman MacCaig, from The Poems of Norman MacCaig

Scalpaigh Bheag Mo Ghraidh-sa

A music video for the beautiful Gaelic song, 'Scalpaigh Bheag Mo Ghraidh-sa' sung by Emma MacLeod. Emma walks around the island, showing the beauty of Scalpay and hears the opinions of those who have a deep love for the place.

The Postie’s Washing Line

When I think of Eigg
it’s not the bulk of the Sgurr
or Rum’s Coolin’s
dominating the western horizon;
but the scent of primroses,
the constant willow warblers’ song
and, on the dune edge,
strung between two driftwood poles,
a chorus line of socks
to the blue Atlantic.

Mavis Gulliver

Island White

White in the Hebrides is seldom snow

unless it tops the highest of the hills,

more like to be an early morning frost,

hailstones windswept banked against a wall,

sandy beaches born of cockle shells,

marshy hollows filled with cotton grass,

swans and eider drakes, a wheatear’s rump,

spring lambs or new shorn ewes,

daisy pathways cutting through the dunes,

water tumbling down a stone strewn burn,

crests of waves, gale-lashed flecks of foam,

blackthorn blossom, quartz veins through a rock,

a single white bell in among the blue,

dandelion clocks, bleached bones,

mushrooms, dog whelks, cuckoo spit,

water lilies on a peat dark loch.

Mavis Gulliver, from Shades of Meaning: Poems about Colours (ed by Joy Howard)

Srath Nabhair

Anns an adhar dhubh-ghorm ud,
à irde na sìorraidheachd os ar cionn,
bha rionnag a’priobadh ruinn
’ s I freagairt mireadh an teine
ann an cabair taigh m’ athar
a’ bhlianna thugh sinn an taigh le bleideagan sneachda.

Agus siud a’ bhlianna cuideachd
a shlaod iad a’ chailleach don t-sitig,
a shealltainn cho eòlach ’s a bha iad air an Fhirinn,
oir bha nid aig eunlaith an adhair
(agus cròthan aig na caoriach)
ged nach robh àit aice-se anns an cuireadh i a ceann fòidhpe.

A Shrath Nabhair ‘s a Shrath Chill Donnain,
is beag an t-iongnadh ged a chinneadh am fraoch àlainn oirbh,
a’ falach nan lotan a dh’fhàg Pàdraig Sellar ‘s a sheòrsa,
mar a chunniac mi uair is uair boireannach cràbhaidh
a dh’ fhiosraich dòrainn an t-saoghail-sa
is sìth Dhè ’na sùilean.

Ruaraidh MacThòmais, from Creachadh na Clarsaich


In that blue-black sky,
as high above us as eternity,
a star was winking at us,
answering the leaping flames of fire
in the rafters of my father’s house,
that year we thatched the house with snowflakes.

And that too was the year
they hauled the old woman out on to the dung-heap,
to demonstrate how knowledgeable they were in Scripture,
for the birds of the air had nests
(and the sheep had folds)
though she had no place in which to lay down her head

O Strathnaver and Strath of Kildonan,
it is little wonder that the heather should bloom on your slopes,
hiding the wounds that Patrick Sellar, and such as he, made,
just as time and time again I have seen a pious woman
who has suffered the sorrow of this world,
with the peace of God shining from her eyes.

Derick Thomson, from Plundering the Harp

Badbea, Caithness: Coastal Clearance Village

This could be the hearth
that heats the widow
carding in its light.

Here in the cranny of a wall
lays the chaib* sweating
from the peat cut.

Under the slab of a sill
lays a bag of malt
hidden, a safe minding.

Here on the door step
Sutherland stands,
pipe in hand

dunts it against
that sleeping plinth,
and embers melt into pools,

lost within the bog
where the pipe, soiled with ash,
lays against his bones

that leach through
the granite cliffs,
seep into the scree

strain the sands
to the dawn sea where herring
are on the turn, once again.

* a kind of spade

A P Pullan, from New Writing Scotland 28 ‘Stone Going Home Again’


Cuil-lodair, is Briseadh na h-Eaglaise,
is briseadh nan tacannan –
lamhachas-làidir dà thrian de ar comas;
‘se seòltachd tha dhìth oirinn.
Nuair a theirgeas a’ chruaidh air faobhar na speala
caith bhuat a’ chlach-liomhaidh;
chan eil agad ach iarann bog
mur eil de chruas nad innleachd na ni sgathadh.

Is caith bhuat briathran mìne
oir chan fhada bhios briathran agad;
tha Tuatha Dè Danann fon talamh,
tha Tìr nan Og anns an Fhraing,
‘s nuair a ruigeas tu Tìr a’ Gheallaidh,
mura bi thu air t’ aire,
coinnichidh Sasannach riut is plion air,
a dh’ innse dhut gun tug Dia, bràthair athar, còir dha anns an fhearann.

Ruaraidh MacThòmais, from Creachadh na Clàrsaich: Cruinneachadh de Bhardachd 1940-1980


Culloden, the Disruption,
and the breaking up of the tack-farms –
two thirds of our power is violence;
it is cunning we need.
When the tempered steel near the edge of the scythe-blade is worn
throw away the whetstone;
you have nothing left but soft iron
unless your intellect has a steel edge that will cut clean.

And throw away soft words,
for soon you will have no words left;
the Tuatha Dè Danann* are underground,
the Land of the Ever-young is in France,
and when you reach the Promised Land,
unless you are on your toes,
a bland Englishman will meet you,
and say to you that God, his uncle, has given him a title to the land.

* Tuatha Dè Danann, a supernatural race in Ireland, sometimes said to
be the progenitors of the fairies.

Derick Thomson, from Plundering the Harp: Collected Poems 1940-1980


Night-arrival, the suspension bridge lifting
its aircraft lights, then the road veers
to narrow streets precipitous by contrast.

Arrive in a night-rain, the heady air,
then lit-up with drink gaze down
that choke of water to high lights again.

A disco off the main street, pulsing with colour;
and yards away down river steps
a fisherman cast a fly to catch a salmon’s eye.

A bridle of bridges, shower-cap of stores;
a hotch-potch of history. Its account current
in Highland and Devolution politics.

The city packed into luminous acres;
a hand-span in the river’s mouth; the castle
a Court-house kept by Flora MacDonald, and crows.

The sea-laid land lays mapped eastwards, anchored;
its rich earth wealthy with farms, and spilled blood.

Michael Murray

Siuthad a Sheònaid

To the little girls from next door, life in Seonaid's household never seems dull as they join in the fun playing with her seven sons. In reality, having nine children to cope with, along with the constant demands of a husband who seems to appreciate his pipe more than her, all get too much for poor Seònaid!

From a landscape in April

Snowflake grinds against snowflake.
Grass creaks like old furniture.

I spread silence on the fields.

I bring home thick squares of it
to hang on my noisy walls.

Robin Fulton Macpherson, from The Thing that Mattered Most: Scottish poems for children ed. by Julie Johnstone