Ship’s Anchor


On Islay I bought a collection of poems by George Campbell Hay, a native of Argyll who wrote in Scots, English and Gaelic. He was influenced by Hugh MacDiarmid and the Scottish Renaissance.

I have been inspired by little nuggets like this:

Ar cainnt’s ar cultar, car sealain

     ged rachadh an leagadh buileach,

cuiridh am freumhan’s an seann stoc dhidh

     failleanan snodhaich is duilleach.

(Our speech and culture, | though they should be wholly cast down for a time, | their roots and their old stock will put forth | sappy shoots and leaves again)

I found some sheet music collected by Duncan Johnston called the Croon of the Sea, and hope to learn some of it to sing alongside the new work. I love this one:

In the quiet of the night my galley sets sail,

The ship of my sleep a-sailing,

The haven she seeks by the moonbeams, pale,

Where the laughing eyes are a-hailing.

I’ll meet with my people and kindred of yore,

The voices of childhood a-calling,

We will scamper and play among the green shore

In the isle of life’s fair morning.

I’ve written this in response:

Ship’s Anchor

A generation after

My dad raises my gran’s face with a touch of nephew. He says

Aye aye. Aye aye.


Empty air, halted in the larynx

Like purgatory.

A purgatory populated with saying it as it is

With to the point

With opening up and letting rip.


He steers his ship, with a crew of half answers

And the smoky air never clears

Never for a moment allowing us a good view

Of the whole scene and of each other

This is my last inheritance

In his mouth he brought

Embers, oose, talcum powder

Breath that fails to find the voice.

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