Sunday, February 23, 2014


The great tour of Wigtownshire designed to inform an eager public about the MacTaggart project gets off to an inauspicious start in Wigtown Library where the staff are shocked to see me, there is no audience, and I retire into the local collection to research furiously to overcome my humiliation. I look in a mirror and am shocked to see myself to tell you the truth: it's been a long bus journey without a toilet stop and a large man bound for the Stranraer boat has spent the whole journey telling me how desperate he is to get out of Scotland because it's destroying his liver.

This is not the first time this has happened to me. I was once invited to a reading in Wick when only the janitor came, and, unlike these discreetly embarrassed librarians, he insisted on making things worse by telling me Edwin Morgan had been the the fortnight before and they had been "queued round the block." Worse I suppose, is a story that Tom Pow once told me about a reading in The Edinburgh Festival at the Art College, entitled 'Bards o Gallowa' featuring himself and the great Willie Neill. In spite of extensive publicity no-one turned up at all and the poets were about to leave quietly and in a dignified way, when the organiser said "wait a minute" and pointing to the door of the bar from where extravagant noise and laughter issued, said " I'll see if anyone wants to come for free." After what seemed an eternity he emerged furiously shaking his head, muttering "no, no-one".

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bobby Dalrymple and the Science of Coincidence

Bobby Dalrymple of Newton Stewart, having just shown an approving gaggle of spectators the mark of an adder bite he'd got as a boy on Cairnsmore, moves effortlessly onto a discourse on the science of coincidence.

'Is it not bloody strange' he asks us, rhetorically, 'My Grandfather Bobby was in the KOSB, and was killed in Cape Hellas in Gallipoli on the 4th June 1915, his body was never found, though he's on the memorial there. My youngest brother is going in October to see it, by the way. Anyway, do you know the Turkish man who's got the cafe across the road?' Everybody nods. 'Aye a really good man. Anyway I was telling him all this and - this is completely kosher now, he showed me the proof- his grandfather was killed in exactly the same place on exactly the same day, except fighting on the other side. Is that no incredible now? ' Everybody agrees.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

On the Trail of the Wickerman


What has happened here?
Why are the cottages shuttered,
the streets primed for tumbleweed?
Where are the zimmers, 
the folk carrying parcels of fish,
the kids drumming on fences,
the men and women walking back
leaden footed from work?
Only the offices to prevent
rural depopulation are open,
their computer screens flickering
madly behind half closed blinds.
I am waiting for these small villages 
by the sea to regenerate, 
like in some film,
to be born of flame,
and while I do, public art sprouts
above me,
huge and mysterious like alien pods.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

The Clatteringshaws Hydro Electric System

The Clatteringshaws Hydro Electric System as described by Keith Downes in the King's Hotel Dalbeattie 21st January 2014

It's f...........incredible, see the loch we ca Loch Ken, it's an artificial loch, ye ken? On an old tidal system, 6 dams, a third o the power o the whole Stewartry comes fae that, ken, it's a f.........great system, I'm proud as f........of it. Built in the 1930s ken. It's incredible. I'd like you to see it. You'd be f.........dancing for joy when you see it, mukker. F.........dancing. Feenished in 1937, yon Tongland, what a great wee power station. See I'm a Stewartry man, born an bred. F........Dumfries . C'mon now Dumfries has stolen New Abbey frae us, f...........Southerness, f.............Creeton's awa. Shocking. It's a grab by Dumfries, it's a f.............disgrace. A f...............conspiracy pure and simple. I'm makin too much noise am I? Should be shoutin it frae the rooftops. F...............shocking. Pure and simple.