r2vyln3rdioj14u-rld0ska where mountains meet the sea: 2017

View of Scotland/Love Poem

Down on her hands and knees
at ten at night on Hogmanay,
my mother still giving it elbowgrease
jiffywaxing the vinolay. (This is too
ordinary to be nostalgia.) On the kitchen table
a newly opened tin of sockeye salmon.
Though we do not expect anyone,
the slab of black bun,
petticoat-tails fanned out
on bone china.
‘Last year it was very quiet…’

Mum’s got her rollers in with waveset
and her well-pressed good dress
slack across the candlewick upstairs.
Nearly  half-ten already and her not shifted!
If we’re to even hope to prosper
this midnight must find us
how we would like to be.
A new view of Scotland
with a dangling calendar
is propped under last year’s,
ready to take its place.

Darling, it’s thirty years since
anybody was able to trick me,
December thirty-first, into
‘looking into a mirror to see a lassie wi as minny heids as days in the year’ –
and two already since,
familiar strangers at a party,
we did not know that we were
the happiness we wished each other
when the Bells went, did we?

All over the city
off-licenses pull down their shutters,
people make for where they want to be
to bring the new year in.
In highrises and tenements
sunburst clocks tick
on dusted mantelshelves.
Everyone puts on their best spread of plenty
(for to even hope to prosper
this midnight must find us
how we would like to be).
So there’s a bottle of sickly liqueur
among the booze in the alcove,
golden crusts on steak pies
like quilts on a double bed.
And this is where we live.
There is no time like the
present for a kiss.

Liz Lochhead, from A Choosing: Selected Poems

Staying In

I watch the city shrug its clothes back on.
An appaloosa spatter gathers scent
that hits the brain the way it hits a lawn:
it quenches, hard as mint. I think it meant
to come inside, but only leaves a note
in droplets on the door; at Hogmanay
it settles in the lungs and in the throat
and whispers too a hush of seaside spray
that sweeps below the ribs and keeps its snow
flakes back from hopeful tongues. I’m breathing when
the rainsmell pours my throat a dram, and so
I open up the window wider, stand again
here in our cloud and wincing, hats and boots,
a pearlish weeping reaching for the roots.

Charlotte Runcie, from The Salt Book of Younger Poets, (ed by Roddy Lumsden & Eloise Stonborough)

This Was the Year

This was the year before the year
that collapsed on us, a roof brought down by snow.
The year of riding through abandoned stations
on the riverside line that never crossed the river
but danced among warehouses, silos and factories (deceased)
beside battleships settling into red mud.
This was the year that, too exhausted to sleep,
I boiled down the pink and ivory and blue of other women’s hands
into a single grey slab. The soap pot next the soup,
fumes of gardenia and bone.
This was the year we were always coming home.
Three steps and a garden where the splayed trike in the frost said
better to have careless love than none at all.
This was the year before the year
I found out that we are fused from lightning, our bodies
maps across which electrical storms flare
and move on. This was the year
extremely far rooftops and lit windows
seen from a plane flying its late night mission
had their glow zapped by pinball fire.
This was the year I closed the door underneath the porch light
and stood out on the first of the three front steps, listening.
Our children’s beds expecting their bodies
to come warm them like small fires
but growing cold with waiting.

Pippa Little, from Overwintering

New Year's Day

Under the Christmas lights,
I watch across the river,
Pretending I see you,
So far from the city where I stand,
Where I've made my home now
And every December is fresh in the snow

The New Year is made for dancing,
We all dance again
The New Year is brave and forgiving,
And every December is fresh in the snow

And in the evening chill,
I watch the frost descending
On all of the houses,
So strange and new,
And as I look for you,
I feel in this city
A fire is kindling
To make me anew

And when the sun is high
on the morning of tomorrow,
And all of the people -
So bright and new,
And as the distance stands,
I am standing by the river
The people are dancing
On New Year's Day

Cliona Cassidy
Catriona McKay

wishing everyone a safe and happy Hogmanay!

Christmas Song

Dougie MacLean

Nollaig Chridheil dhuibh uilleadh
Happy Christmas to you all


a mark of respect

Group to Stop the Development at Culloden
Protest against planned homes near Culloden Battlefield

in October, a housing development at Bannockburn battlefield was blocked...'concerned the development would not respect the landmark or view of the monument.'  BBC News


Bela Lugosi in Stornoway

I was definitely typed, doomed
to be an exponent of evil:
each time I stepped into a room,
there was that still
expectation something wicked would be done,
until within the murk of winter,
without beam or glint of sun,
I found that kirk and entered
a hall where black coats clustered,
dark funereal hats loomed over pews,
and this old preacher in the pulpit mustered
just about enough strength to give the news
that human souls could rise again without the need
to bleed others dry and white.
I felt my cloak shrug off me then,
no longer seeking refuge within the gloom of night.

Donald S Murray, from SY StorY: Portrait of Stornoway Harbour 

Early Morning Train to Inverness

from time to time snow sprinkles from the sky
the way flour sifts from a baker’s fist

grey steel pylons pose like giant girls
playing ropes

gorse, dark bottle green, bristles in scruffy tufts
on a badly shaven chin of hill

a woman in a suit tap-taps at her laptop staring at the screen

scots pines turn their Presbyterian backs
on a stream that pishes like a drunk

a grey cloud weeps over patches of snow
pooled like milk in nooks and crannies

a lochan slate-grey bides her time, swollen-bellied
in February, her waters will break in March

a woman paints her nails, the air grows thick with the reek of varnish

Slochd summit snow, a crumpled duvet
chucked on the chittering land

Look! Look! A red stag with forked lightning antlers
poses for a child’s pointing finger

a mobile phone skirls Scotland the Brave

between peaks that rise like stony breasts
a yellow lorry carrying eggs, races the train

as packed like battery hens we hurtle on
towards breakfast and Inverness

Magi Gibson, from Washing Hugh MacDiarmid’s Socks

Happy St Andrew's Day!

Scots and Scots at heart from all over the world wish you a Happy St Andrew's Day!


I don't know if you can see the changes that have come over me
In these last few days I've been afraid that I might drift away
So I've been telling old stories, singing songs, that make me think about where I come from
That's the reason why I seem so far away today

Let me tell you that I love you and I think about you all the time
Caledonia you're calling me and now I'm going home
But if I should become a stranger you know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia's been everything I've ever had

I have moved and I've kept on moving, proved the points that I needed proving
Lost the friends that I needed losing, found others on the way
I have tried and I've kept on trying, stolen dreams, yes there's no denying*
I have traveled hard sometimes with conscience flying somewhere in the wind

Let me tell you that I love you and I think about you all the time
Caledonia you're calling me and now I'm going home
But if I should become a stranger you know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia's been everything I've ever had

Now I'm sitting here before the fire, the empty room the forest choir
The flames that couldn't get any higher they've withered now they've gone
But I'm steady thinking, my way is clear and I know what I will do tomorrow
When the hands have shaken and the kisses flow then I will disappear

Let me tell you that I love you and I think about you all the time
Caledonia you're calling me and now I'm going home
But if I should become a stranger you know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia's been everything I've ever had

Dougie MacLean


St Andrew is Scotland's patron saint and on November 30 we celebrate St Andrew's Day with the rest of the world.

This St Andrew's Day is going to be something special. On the 30th of November Scotland is coming together to share little acts of kindness with each other in tribute to our kind country and generous Patron Saint.


not Coul

Developers want to build a new golf course on one of the rarest and most unique dune landscapes in Europe. The planned destruction at Coul will be far greater than that brought by Trump’s development on Aberdeenshire’s Menie beach, which also failed to deliver promised economic gains. The dunes and beach at Coul are one of the last areas on undisturbed dune land in Scotland and support a range of rare wildlife. If protecting these is important to you, comment on the planning application and ask the developers to reconsider their plans  

The White Swan

Donald MacDonald, (known as Red Donald of Corùna), was a North Uist stonemason, a veteran of the First World War and a legendary war poet in the Gaelic language. He’s best known for the song An Eala Bhàn, “The White Swan” which he composed during the Battle of the Somme. It’s been performed by a huge number of Gaelic artists from Julie Fowlis to Capercaillie and Linda Macleod who grew up in the same part of North Uist as Donald MacDonald. She speaks here to Cathy McDonald about the significance of the song and the man behind it. - from  BBC World War One At Home

Gur duilich leam mar tha mi Sad I consider my condition
'S mo chridhe 'n sas aig bron With my heart engaged with sorrow
Bhon an uair a dh'fhag mi From the very time that I left
Beanntan ard a'cheo The high bens of the mist
Gleanntannan a'mhanrain The little glens of dalliance
Nan loch, nam bagh 's nan srom Of the lochans, the bays and the forelands
'S an eala bhan tha tamh ann And the white swan dwelling there
Gach la air 'm bheil mi 'n toir Whom I daily pursue
A Mhagaidh na bi tursach Maggie, don't be sad
A ruin, ged gheibhinn bas Love, if I should die
Co am fear am measg an t-sluaigh Who among men
A mhaireas buan gu brath? Endures eternally?
Chan eil sinn uile ach air chuairt We are all only on a journey
Mar dhithein buaile fas Like flowers in the deserted cattle fold
Bheir siantannan na blianna sios That the year's wind and rain will bring down
'S nach tog a'ghrian an aird And that the sun cannot raise
Tha 'n talamh leir mun cuairt dhiom All the ground around me
'N mheallan suas 's na neoil Is like hail in the heavens
Aig na 'shells' a'bualadh With the shells exploding
Cha leir dhomh bhuam le ceo I am blinded by smoke
Gun chlaisneachd aig mo chluasan My ears are deafened
Le fuaim a'ghunna mhoir By the roar of the cannon
Ach ged tha 'n uair seo cruaidh orm But despite the savagery of the moment
Tha mo smuaintean air NicLeoid My thoughts are on the girl called MacLeod
Air m'uilinn anns na truinnsichean Crouched in the trenches
Tha m'inntinn ort, a ghraidh My mind is fixed on you, love
Nam chadal bidh mi a'bruadar ort In sleep I dream of you
Cha dualach dhomh bhith slan I am not fated to survive
Tha m'aigne air a lionadh My spirit is filled
Le cianalas cho lan With a surfeit of longing
'S a' ghruag a dh'fhas cho ruadh orm And my hair once so auburn
A nis air thuar bhith ban Is now almost white
Oidhche mhath leat fhein, a ruin Good night to you, love
Nad leabaidh chubhraidh bhlath In your warm, sweet-smelling bed
Cadal samhach air a chul May you have peaceful sleep and afterwards
Do chusgadh sunndach slan May you waken healthy and in good spirits
Tha mise 'n seo 's an truinnsidh fhuar I am here in the cold trench
'S nam chluasan fuaim a' bhais With the clamor of death in my ears
Gun duil ri faighinn as le buaidh With no hope of returning victorious
Tha 'n cuan cho buan ri shnamh The ocean is too wide to swim

                                               Dòmhnall Ruadh Chorùna

Lines Before Going

Soon is the night of our faring to regions unknown,
There not to flinch at the challenge suddenly thrown
By the great process of Being - daily to see
The utmost that life has of horror and yet to be
Calm and the masters of fear. Aware that the soul
Lives as a part and alone for the weal of the whole,
So shall the mind be free from the pain of regret,
Vain and enfeebling, firm in each venture, and yet
Brave not as those who despair, but keen to maintain,
Though not assured, hope in beneficent pain,
Hope that the truth of the world is not what appears,
Hope in the triumph of man for the price of his tears.

Alexander Robertson, from Comrades

November Eve

In this video, with an original audio recording by Peigi Macrae, we see that on the Island of South Uist the Scottish Halloween tradition of Guising or ‘galoshin’ was alive and well for young residents. By dressing in old clothes and painting their faces they could venture out safely without being detected by wicked ghouls. However, they were expected to perform with a song or poem before receiving any treats!

Oran Domhnall Iain

He was a strange fellow for our village
with a peculiar reason for his fame.
There'd never been an ISBN attached to his name,
no play of his had been performed on stage,

and what was worse, there was no word of verse
ever written by him, no epitaph
to accompany a relative being carried to the dark
of the graveyard on a black and shining hearse.

No words of love for Catriona Ban
or Peigi. Even when he was affected by the nonsense
lyrics of loud rock songs in his adolescence,
he just failed to understand

the impulse that drives most of us to song
from time to time. The lark's surge and fall.
The sweep of waves. The call
of home. It's as if he doesn't quite belong with us.

Instead, he's been banging on and on about a wall
to be built between his croft and Mexico.
It's at times like this we know for sure
he doesn't really come from here at all.

Donald S Murray

October Running

A Small Car’s Day

The Highland Road's been sung before and will be sung again, So long as bards give thanks for good in the way of honest men; And let who will be contrary, the lave will yet agree, And cry again,‘The Highland Road, the Highland Road for me!’

Fife was a shadow across the Firth
When the Granton boat put out;
Over the sea and the solid earth
The mist lay all about;
But a rousing wind from the Isle of May
On the ruffled waters strode
And blew us a clear October day
To ride on the Highland Road.

Loch Leven lay like a silver shield,
Glenfarg was amber and jet,
Earn ran grey in a harvest field,
Perth was a moonstone set;
But the north hills beckoned us fold on fold
Till round Rohallion bend
Birnam in glory of russet and gold
Smiled like a long-sought friend.

Tummel and Tay ran hand in hand,
Farragon challenged us on
Through the old enchanted Atholl land,
Grim heart of Caledon;
And the laughing Garry led us a dance
By heather and rowans and rills
Till we saw the red deer watching askance
On the grave Drumouchter hills.

A minstrel wind from Badenoch sang
Laments for the waning day,
As from the darkling Ericht the Truim sprang
To carry us down to Spey
By crags and corries and grey rock spurs
Where the steadiest head may flinch,
Till evening fell on the Laggan firs
And the sunlit birks of Insh.

Then thanks be given whate’er betide
That still as heretofore
A man may waken in Morningside
And couch him in Aviemore;
Thanks for the rare road running North
And a day that gave its due,
From the mounting sun on the Firth of Forth
To the moon on the Lairig Ghru.

The Highland Road's been sung before and should be sung again, With a verse for every heather hill and every rowan glen; And, though God’s earth is a goodly place and a many roads there be, It’s the North Road, the Atholl Road, the Highland Road for me!

Hilton Brown

The Storm

This might be the calm before the storm
or this might be the storm;
some are sunbathing on the deck,
others huddled inside keeping warm.

A contagion of rumours spreads through our ship,
mutating with every forecast;
some wonder who will first walk the plank,
others argue about who should be last.

Some see an iceberg on the horizon;
others believe it’s the light -
that a new day is dawning, full speed ahead,
we’ll soon leave behind this dark night.

There’s grumbles from some who are making complaints
this was not advertised for our cruise;
the orchestra in the restaurant
is still singing the blues.
Though all disagree, each is convinced,
as the waves continue to roll,
our ship would surely be safely in harbour
if they were in control.

There are those who have said the Captain is dead
and have looted the ship’s supplies,
launched the lifeboats to make their escape
but all of them capsized.

Some still have faith in the Captain’s hands,
steady as she goes;
they’re drinking martinis in the cocktail lounge,
not minding which way the wind blows.

I'm here rearranging deckchairs
and everyone's wondering why,
but I’m not in the hurricane;
you’ll find me in the eye.

Irfan Merchant



'An iar's an ear, an dachaigh as' fhéarr - cùl ri gaoith,'s aghaidh ri gréin.'

(to east and west the house that’s best, back to the wind, face to the sun)

between wild and not wild

We want people to find their own journey in this work, asking questions and coming up with their own answers. If nothing else we realised that, like any psychological or physical transition, these borders between wild and not wild for most people are all about a feeling. The very personal response is the most important thing. The stepping over an invisible threshold where the shoulders relax and you smell the pine in the air, catch a glimpse of a red squirrel, watch wood ants wrestling on sun warmed rock, step over the raptor torn remains of a Ptarmigan, and lie down in the heather and stare at the clouds for a while thinking about nothing in particular. Designating lines on the map are the necessary part of defending that moment for all of us. 
We would hope that our work can be another perspective on landscape that is not just another set of highland landscape postcards but includes humans in that picture and gets deeper into what it is to be in these wild places, their ecology, the changing impact of seasons and weather and the cultural history and their uncertain future.   - Goat

tick talks

Highlands GP ups tick awareness campaign
Lochaber 'Tick Talks'

nb: Transmission time is now considered to be 15 minutes (probably less) and not everyone develops a bulls-eye rash.

The Big Tick Project

The Big Tick Project is the largest ever veterinary study of ticks and tick-borne disease in the UK. Explore the site to learn more about the study, the growing problem of tick-borne disease in the UK and what you can do to protect your pets from ticks.

Lyme Disease Awareness Month

It's that time of year again, dear readers. May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month.
Each year, more of us are being infected with one or more tick-borne diseases. For too many of us, diagnosis is still coming far too late, or not at all.  Lyme Disease UK's  Wake Up To Lyme campaign aims to raise awareness and prevent further Lyme infections this year. Will you join us in whatever way you can?
Watch this space over the coming weeks for more information about borreliosis (Lyme Disease) and other tick-borne diseases, and what you can do to help yourself and others in your community wherever you live.
In the fullness of time, the mainstream handling of Chronic Lyme disease will be viewed as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of medicine because elements of academic medicine, elements of government and virtually the entire insurance industry have colluded to deny a disease. This has resulted in needless suffering of many individuals who deteriorate and sometimes die for lack of timely application of treatment or denial of treatment beyond some arbitrary duration."

- Kenneth B. Liegner, M.D. in a letter to the Institute of Medicine published in "In the Crucible of Chronic Lyme Disease: Collected Writings & Associated Materials", Oct 2015.

Home (Is Not What I've Left Behind)

Morning waiting to embark holding hard against the dark
In the company of ghosts from pillar I have gone to post
I’ve travelled here to China’s coast without the one I love the most

From the window of the train Manitoba’s endless plains
Corn is moving in the breeze Scotland’s nearer by degrees
Children hanging round my knees know nothing of these silent pleas

Home is not what I’ve left behind
And home is not what lies ahead
Home is the peace I’ll find
When I’m with you again.

Home is not what I’ve left behind
And home is not what lies ahead
Home is being with you again
Home is being with you again

The end of yet another day the mid-Atlantic’s cold and grey
A few more days and then we’ll be on that train to Waverley
There’s faces there I long to see but not the one that waits for me.

Home is not what I’ve left behind
And home is not what lies ahead
Home is the peace I’ll find
When I’m with you again.

Home is not what I’ve left behind
And home is not what lies ahead
Home is being with you

I know you’re waiting for me.
I know you’re waiting for me.
Yes, you're waiting for me.

Home is not what I’ve left behind
Home is not what lies ahead
Home is the peace I’ll find
When I’m with you again.

Home is not what I’ve left behind
And home is not what lies ahead
Home is being with you again
Home is being with you again

Home is being with you again

Mairi Campbell

for Robert (1946-2015)

Thuirt Thu Gun Lasadh Ceud Uinneag

Thuirt thu gun lasadh ceud uinneag
ceud bliadhna air ais na do bhaile
far nach eil a-nochd ach tè do mhàthar
a' deàrrsadh thar na mòintich briste.

Aithnichidh mi an aon aognaidheachd
fa chomhair na fàsalachd annam fhìn
gun aiteal a-nist bhuats'
ag innse dhomh gu bheil thu ann
ged a chroch mi an lampa an àirde
is tha solas a' dòrtadh mun stairsnich.

You Said A Hundred Windows Shone

You said a hundred windows shone
a hundred years back in your township
where tonight only your mother's
sends its light over the broken moor.

I know that same desolation
in the emptiness in myself,
with no glimmer from you now
to tell me where you are
though I have hung up the lamp
and light floods the doorstep.

Meg Bateman, from Wish I Was Here: a Scottish Multicultural Anthology (ed Kevin MacNeil & Alec Finlay)

Peatland Flux

This animated transformative doodlemotion outpouring, was created for the Sexy Peat project, following a two week residency on the Island of Lewis, and a week at Highland Print Studio in Inverness. It captures a very personal image based response to the stories, sights and emotions of Lewis and its ethereal peatlands.

Fabric Lenny

Wounded Dancer

The earth as holy ground

The dancer holds her breath
homo-would-be-wise walks the earth
boots up and strides the earth
which now lies inert
the dancer hurt.

In throes of anti-matter we
participate in misery
while fragments of freedom
emerge from cracked ground

Out of death and dereliction -
anti-death and resurrection
the dancer unbound
as we throw off our platform soles
to tread on sacred ground

Which feeds but is not consumed
burning does not burn
speaking does not denounce
providing does not denude
withers but does not perish -
like rock like grass like air like water
like ideas like love like us, us
creatures made of stars for Earth,
planetarians for this planet
world without end amen.

Tessa Ransford


Dis is a lempit shall

dis is a mussel shall,

dis is a cockle shall,

dis is a wylk.

But dis shall here

All gie him ta dee

a shall laek dis'n

if you can listen

hadds da soond o da sea.



Hear da hush o da waves.

Child of the Gael

And now the time has come
When we must be on the run, my love and I,
We will travel far from here.
And all the days that we
Sat a'neath the rowan tree, my love and I,
We will never be here again;

Wherever we go, my love
Forever you'll know, my love
We will prevail, my love
The child of the gael, my love;

It's always been a crofter's life for me,
I'll always be my father's son,
Yet in a far away land we will be,
A highland name on the run... we're on the run;

So let us leave before
The soldiers come around and break the door,
Let us all be far away,
And we will become pilgrims
Where our children will help
Create a new nation again;

Wherever we go, my love
Forever you'll know, my love
We will prevail, my love
The child of the gael, my love;

A new world waiting for us yonder rising sun,
You can be proud to become...
A highland name on the run

Wherever we go, my love
Forever you'll know, my love
We will prevail, my love
The child of the gael, my love;

As I awoke one morn, I heard a voice beyond the dawn...

Steve McDonald

Children of the Gael
immigration and emigration
UCC Émigré
Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies

It Was A' For Our Rightfu' King

It was a' for our rightfu' king
We left  fair Scotland's strand;
It was a' for our rightfu' king
We e'er saw Irish land, my dear,
We e'er saw Irish land.

Now a' is done that men can do,
And a' is done in vain:
My Love and Native Land fareweel,
For I maun cross the main, my dear,
For I maun cross the main.

He turn'd him right and round about,
Upon the Irish shore,
And gae his bridle-reins a shake,
With, Adieu for evermore, my dear,
And Adieu for evermore.

The soger frae the wars returns,
The sailor frae the main;
But I hae parted frae my Love,
Never to meet again, my dear,
Never to meet again.

When day is gane, and night is come,
And a' folk bound to sleep;
I think on him that's far awa,
The lee-land night, and weep, my dear,
The lee-lang night, and weep.

to our family and friends across the sea, a Happy St Patrick's Day!

more about this Robert Burns song
Songs of Separation

My Ireland

Visit of Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, to the Scottish Parliament
Address to Seanad Éireann by Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister of Scotland

Connecting Cultures

I am talking in our lingua franca.
Tell me, do you drive on the left or right?
Is your football team the Botswana Zebras
Or Indomitable Lions of Cameroon?
Can you take me to Junkanoo
And is there mangrove forest?
Is it true that a lightweight business suit
Is the appropriate city-garb and shaking hands
The usual form of greeting?
Are there frigate birds? Diamonds? Uranium?
What is the climate? Is there a typical hurricane season
Or a wind of change?
How many miles of coastline in your country?
Is the currency the Kenyan shilling or the
Brunei dollar -- or is it also the word for rain or a blessing?
Do you speak the lingua franca?

Communication can mean correspondence,
Or a connecting passage or channel, can mean
A means of imparting and receiving information such as
Speech, digital media, Facebook, the press and cinema.
Communications can mean means of transporting, especially
Troops or supplies.

Commonwealth means
A free association of independent member nations bound by
Friendship, loyalty, the desire for
Democracy, equality, freedom and peace.
Remembering how hard fellow feeling is to summon
When Wealth is what we do not have in Common,
May every individual
And all the peoples in each nation
Work and hope and
Strive for true communication --
Only by a shift and sharing is there any chance
For the Welfare of all our people and Good Governance.

Such words can sound like flagged-up slogans, true.
What we merely say says nothing --
All that matters is what we do.

Liz Lochhead

Commonwealth Day

Eyes Fixed

Eyes fixed open, to the wind
Eyes wide open

Watch my mind start to go
Darkened eyes darkening soul
Lost my grip come unstuck
A sinking ship I'm out of luck

Eyes fixed open, to the wind
Eyes wide open

Lose the place start to rock
Fear shuts me in and I can't talk
Grasp the thread I unfurl
Into a ball I curl up and lie

Eyes fixed open, to the wind
Eyes wide open

Their voices pierced the stifled air
Feel the glow know they're there
Scrambling back from the brink
Save me from the quicksand, the sinkhole in my mind

Head fixed open, let them in
With arms wide open

Mike Vass

sung by Mairi Campbell

A Portrait of Ga

The Scale of Things

There’s a whole country at the foot of the stone
If you care to look
These are the stones we have instead of trees
In the north.
Our trees all got lost,
Blown over or cut down
Long long ago, and some of them lie there still in the
      peat moss
Or fossilized in limestone.
At the shady foot of trees
Certain things grow,
But at the foot of stone grow the sun-loving
      wind–resisting short plants
With very small bright flowers
And compact, precise leaves.
The wind whips the tight stems into a vibration,
But they don’t break.
The full light of the sun reaches right down to the
And reflects obliquely and sideways in among and
      under the snug leaves,
And settles on the stone too,
Makes a glow there,
A sufficient warmth and clarified light.
The stunning frequencies seem to get absorbed
And if you stare closely at the stone
It’s a calm light, not too blue,
Precisely indicating its variegated surface.
The great stone stands,
On a different scale, in a way, from the minute plants
      at its base.
A proliferating green lichen
Grows on it
As well as round golden coin-patches of another
      common lichen,
And only in the earth right up to the very stone but
      not on it
Grow the crisp grass
And all the tiny plants and flowers
Which, together interlaced and inter-related,
Make the fine springing turf which people and animals
      walk on.

film and poem by Margaret Tait in honour of International Women's Day


James Robert Sinclair was born in 1930 in the ben (the 'good') end of the croft house at Clavel in the South Mainland of Shetland. The only child of Gibby and Mima Sinclair, he has lived there all his life, and since they died, on his own.
A familiar sight in his blue boiler suit and yellow wellies, James Robert has always been on the go, in all weathers: feeding his sheep, checking on them, moving them on.
As he grew older the crofthouse fell into disrepair. Following a stay in hospital, James Robert heeded the concerns of friends and social services and reluctantly moved to sheltered housing in the nearby village of Bigton.
Yet, as warm and dry as his new home may be, James Robert longs for Clavel. So with the help of neighbours and friends, James Robert continues to go to Clavel and look after his sheep. 
Shona Main was brought up in Bigton and James Robert is at the side of the road of many of her childhood memories. With the aim of documenting this man, his way of life and those who make it possible, she and her camera followed James Robert around for a 'sheep' year, from lambing to wintertime.
Originally a writer, Shona Main began experimenting with film in 2011. This is her first solo project.

The music was written and performed by Bigton musicians Alice Mullay, a music therapist, and Jonathan Ritch, a sound engineer. The song Dagalien was sung by men from Bigton who have known James Robert all their lives.

in search of ancestors

more information can be found in the Who Do You Think You Are links in the sidebar.

migration and the mither tongue

“Scots is a language – some people dispute that. Orcadian is a branch of Scots. All these dialects from Shetland to the Borders have variants of Scots. Though in Orkney we have words based on Orkney Norse – so we use these words to intersperse with Scots terms so our dialect is a mixture of Scots mixed with these lexical items form Orkney Norn. You speak a west side Scots – I have my Orcadian way of speaking – they’re not dissimilar but there are variants all the way through.”  -  Orkney Dialect with Tom Rendell
Scapa Flow Orkney Dialect Project
Voices Aroond the Flow

Harvest Gypsies

In October we will come
A hundred and fifty thousand strong
When the picking's over we'll be gone
They call us the harvest gypsies

We only came because we must
We were driven here by dust
And they won't even look at us
We're only harvest gypsies

There's apricots in Santa Clare
And Kern County they have apples there
And the grapes they're growing everywhere
For the harvest gypsies


In a walnut grove I met a man
Who lost a child before San Fran
We're strangers they don't understand
We are the harvest gypsies

The hardest that it's ever been
I sold my blankets for gasoline
It's only hunger I have seen
Now I'm a harvest gypsy

The gondolas the railway lines
Filled with men when it is time
Drawn by the orange and the lime
All the harvest gypsies

They hate it when their taxes rise
The squatter camps that they despise
Without us they would rot and die
Without the harvest gypsies

The Holbrooks we were farming men
 I dream one day we will again
To miss the soil's a curious pain
When you're a harvest gypsy

Kris Drever