To Live in an Independent Scotland


not flags
but food-bags





is lost
in low mist

Brownsbank, Hugh MacDiarmid and Valda Grieve’s home


the losing side
renewed their alliances

the winning side split
into warring factions


I am union

I am Gordon Brown
I am the son
of the manse
where the poor folk came
with their children

I am my two sons
I am the NHS
which is Bevan
and everything that is Britain
which I am saving

I am the blood and organs
which are safe in my hands
protecting them

and you know
I am football too
on Saturday afternoon

and I am
my friend Nelson
Mandela and Kofi

and when I was saving
the economy then

so I am now
making a vow
which the leaders are signing

I am saying Scotland
all of Britain
I am saving our union

I am saying
it will be almost modern
‘Home Rule’
and it must be
inside the union

I am promising a motion
the day after October
Burns Day before
March anyway

and what is happening
now  – and I know
and the vow
and the leaders
must know too

I am a petition
100,000 signatures
growing in my name

now I can do no more –
the rest is up
to Lord Kelvin


’45                                  (too Jacobite?)
45+                                 (too aged)
Yes                                 (too 2014?)
Yes Scotland                  (too ‘team’?)
Yes Alliance                  (too David Owen?)
Yes Union                      (too much irony?)
The MacCruslick’s        (too folkie?)
some of the proposed names for a renewed Scottish alliance of Yes parties; McCruslick – in his Tour Johnson is introduced to someone of this name on Raasay, a pseudonym used by men who had been out’ in the ’45.


Addenda to Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary

Briton : one who is cruel to strangers (after Horace)

satire : (late 20th / early 21st C.) an endorsement of the status quo masquerading as an attack on it; a reactionary joke

Scot : one who, lacking a nation anywhere, sees his own land everywhere
Scotland : a very learned nation without any trade, any trees, any money, or any elegance

yes : a hopeful affirmation; c.f. “hopeful, full of hope; full of expectation of success; this sense is now almost confined to Scotland…”, SJ, Dictionary

from Out of Books





known for not
giving ATOSs


To Alex Salmond, Leader of the Scots

   for Lorna Waite

The salmon never turns from the current,
Swimming from dawn, on through the night.

ALEX, we have given you our YES. By right,
The tide of fate you meet, we complete.

praise poem, after the Scottish Latin poet Arthur Johnston, written in 2012.



“Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron has invited key Tory figures to his country residence to discuss his plans for constitutional change.”

from Dee Heddon

PLEDGE: a promise not worth
the paper it is written on

   for NC, GB, EM, & DC


from Cecilia Vicuna

I could feel all the way from here
the way people were
being manipulated by fear

the spirit that rose from the people
will live forever in your heart

now a whole universe of perceptions
will open up for you
through the pain

you will be closer to all of us
who were there

it is a place beyond space
   and time

the ‘there’ she speaks of is Pinochet’s Chile


“I have never heard a Scottish person say something good of the English; I have never heard an English person say something bad of the Scots.”

provocation on social media from an eminent poet, resident in England


Spacehopper politics

Brown bounced Milliband
Cameron bounced Brown
Farage bounced Cameron


And the poor spoke with one voice

Charleston 70%             Yes
Happyhillock 75%         Yes
Dryburgh 70%                Yes
Kirkton 72%                   Yes
Fintry 72%                      Yes

Some of the deprived housing estates that voted overwhelmingly for independence


Devo Max’s a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw –
– For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Scottish voters, the Electorate's despair:
For when they reach the polling booth –
Devo Max’s not there!

You may seek him in the papers, you may look up on the airwaves
– But I tell you once and once again, Devo Max’s not there!

Devo Max , Devo Max, there's nothing like Devo Max,
He's broken every enquiry, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of manipulation would make a voter scare,
And when you reach the polling booth
Devo Max’s not there!

You may seek him in the papers, you may look up on the airwaves
– But I tell you once and once again, Devo Max’s not there!

Devo Max, Devo Max, there's no one like Devo Max
For he's a fiend in wolf’s clothing, a monster of deception.
You may meet him in a leaflet, you may see him on an advert –
But when the result’s discovered, then Devo Max’s not there!

With few apologies to T. S. Eliot



a compass-point by weather
a satellite by media
a country by Westminster
a mandate by oil
a nation by resolution





a rare species, now threatened with extinction

Devo maximalis


after it was all over
and the old order
was secure
the Queen was heard
to purr purrr purrr


for Ed Milliband

I was told a story about the new Minister arriving at the kirk at Dunsyre in the 1950s. He was a keen gardener and one of the parishioners asked if he would like some manure. A horse and cart from Dunsrye Mains delivered a fresh load the next day. The following Sunday, as the flock left after the service, the Minister thanked Jimmy Barr, of Dunsyre Mains, for his kind gift. Jimmy replied” “Meenester, fir a sermon the like o’ the one you gave the day I would gladly hae’ given TWA carts o’ manure.”


as Gerry says

the thing that hurts the most
is being called a NATIONALIST


the First Minister
remains popular
with most Scots

so much so
that he is booed
by golfers





equality is balancing
different things


after WB

the rich are all romance
but without the beggar
there’s no myth


from shieling to shooting butt

a rise in class
a fall from grace


N A T I   N A L    M E M   R Y


Muir’s Law (for KILTR)


after John Muir




The St Kildans shared a single boat and each contributed a piece of cloth to the sail


after Broch

the rich have the poor
to do their work for them

conserving light, heating,
eating less, or nothing


The Third Horseman

I send ye these saws
Kneedeep i’ The Rotten Burn
up tae ma oxters in the Stinkin Lochie

Lost and Rotten
hae a’ been ill-begotten

Sourfold and Scrapehard
hae came tae Windyraw

Wha bit a beggar wad gang tae Poorhouse
Whit bit a Pyke wid swim i’ Drywells

You’ll gain yir fill at Dish Pot
e’en it is Green Swile

Frosty Nibs and Blackmiddens
are gaan to Reekimlane

Badchear and Mirydubs Burn
haste ye return

Bakebare and Peeled Egg
they’ll noo cam back ava!

fetch me tae Goryhill
lay me oot on Dead Wife’s Hillock

Semi-Ironic Coda

Maiden Paps
Naked Hill
Williehead Burn
Trembling Tree

after verses on place-names, from letters published in The Deeside Field (1924), contributed by a farm servant who used the pen-name ‘The Second Horseman’.


live as if you live in an independent Scotland

I joined the Green Party
I donated to Commonweal
I ended my TV license
I gave to a food bank
we sorted the recycling







conceived by Alec Finlay

walked by Gerry Loose, Andrew Schelling, Rebecca Eland, in the company of Colin Will, Luke Allan & Morven Gregor.

photography: Hannah Devereux 2014

commisioned by UZ Arts


Some Colour Trends

mountains are cultivated
with the eyes

The familiar settings in which my recent walking and mapping projects have found themselves – A Company ofMountains (14 mountain conspectus on the Isle of Skye), Walking and Seeding the John Muir Way, a walk and planting from Dunbar to Helensburgh, and there were our own /there were the others, a series of silent walks of remembrance at parks and gardens in England in the care of the National Trust – are, in their distinct characters, at odds with the wild atypical uplands of The Cabrach. This peaty 'gamekeepery' region is lodged between the Cairngorm massif to the south and the ferm-touns of Strathbogie to the north. Here there are hills, but no definitive mountain range, and glens, but set within expanses of boggy mire. To the novice it seems a region likely to endanger ankles and displace the mind from sensible landmarks and settled categories.

word-mntn (Cairngorm), poem AF, photograph LA

The Cabrach is, in human terms, semi-extinct. It bears the traces of settlement, transhumance and wayfaring, in shieling, drove roads, blue-stone cairns, fords, wells, stone circles, and bothies – all hinted at in place-names. 

Nowadays the hills are dominated by the old and new technologies of factory grouse shooting and wind-farms, which lay down metalled tracks, erect deer fences, and speak to the horror vacui of forced decline and exploitation. Land ownership in Scotland remains an issue that froths and grumbles but awaits the full spate of reform.

The Cabrach+ project that I have been working on over the past year was commissioned by Deveron Arts Hielan’ Ways, co-ordinators of The Walking Institute. I have given the work the title:

Some Colour Trends:

a genealogy of place-names relating to colour in the Cabrach and neighbouring regions with new translations into English

Here trend is shucked away from its metropolitan context: trend, from treid, troda drove, a path, a direction of travel. My trending is a tweet-free zone.

Unlike previous journey projects, the road north and Out of Books, which revived the traditional notion of The Tour and renewed cultures of viewing, in The Cabrach I could find no figures to follow – no Basho & Sora, Boswell & Johnson, Pennant, or Burns, to act as visitors and guides. Aside from some local history there were no obvious significant texts to rub shoulders with. Its an oral landscape, best known for its bothy songs.

At first I felt thwarted by the seeming lack of definition in the landscape – one could almost say, in contemporary-speak, the place seemed to lack topographical 'celebrity', compared to Skye, with its famous mountain peaks. The drove roads – or trends – that defined the project sometimes exist as marked routes, some of which carry names; others have been colonised by roads, where folk's need to travel upgraded them; and sometimes the trends are anonymous, half-lost, or forgotten. Haldane's Old Roads of Scotland remains the classic history.

Today Scotland brims with new Ways named after celebrities – Muir, Cuthbert, Buchan – but out there on the moors, looking for Ca' place-names, following -------- paths, we would be looking to tread in the footsteps of the anonymous drover.

There were also my practical limits as a walker. Claudia Zieske, a hiker of marathon proportions, was curious about how I might access these remote places, without stepping over them? And I had to ask myself: why this insistence to track with the mind and imagination where the legs cant step? 

Skye has a culture of skylines. The John Muir Way is a single trail to plant seeds along. But what of the all-over-up-down-and-boggy Cabrach? What landscape is more removed from the careerist highways of the contemporary, from the Sublime or Romantic? 

My research began with John Milne's Celtic Names of Aberdeenshire – this was before I learnt that he is notoriously unreliable. I read that the drovers, always travelling at the pace of their beasts, a steady 10-miles a day, would distinguish between the black roads, Ca' Dubh, whose peat moss became impassable in rain, and the more secure footing of the yellow trends, Ca' Buidhe. From that black/yellow differentiation I then devised a systematic analysis, based upon place-names and colours.

Names, to reveal the patterns of habitation and hybridity, from Gaelic, to Gaelscots, Scots, and English, with traces of Pictish and hints of Indo-European.

Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe

   Meikle Caochan Odhar

      Gowdie Hillock

         The Wormy Hollow

         River Deveron

Colours, to reveal how the inhabitants perceived the stuff of the earth’s surface, how they spoke to its appearance, and what that said of use.

Hill of Snowy Slack

   Hill of Greenfold

      Hill of Blackroads


            Cnapan Or

Colours to isolate cultural perceptions – names – and topographical realities – peat, heather, moorgrass, sward, heathen stone – and expose them to an aesthetic regime of typographical modeling, rendering the colour walks that illustrate this blog – the colours chosen in collaboration with John Murray, the designed composed with Studio LR. The Cabrach was revealed to be more colourful than its appeared.

after Nicolaisen


names are composed of words
for what a place once was


the names of rivers, burns & mountains
are the mother lode of onomastics


no text reveals the gap
between speaking and writing
more than the maps
of the Scottish Highlands:

The task was to explore lost languages and eroded ecologies.

there are no rowan
on Rowan Mountain

Trace land usage.

from shieling to shooting butt

a rise in class
a fall from grace

To finally understand why so many Gaelic names refer, in translation, to combined colours, bluey-grey, greeny-grey; to grasp why a mountain range was blue-gorm to some folk and red-ruadh to others; and see how broken-breacain, pockled hillsides defined the original tartans.

the complexity of Scotland’s rocks
gave birth to a science: geology
as its terrain gave birth to tartan

(after Paul Shepheard)

Three Burns


Allt na Duibhre, Gloomy Burn

my head rose in moor-grass
then spilt into darkness


Ault Tairich Laichcavine, Ruddy Burn of the Butterwards

a faint flavour
   of butter

Allt na Greine, Wee Sun-warmed Burn

vestiges of cud
flushes of  sun

Another task that I took on was the composition of English translations of the names. I have attempted to create respectful equivalents to the Scots and Gaelic originals, as an alternative to the existing translations, which are functional transcriptions of elements, with little attempt to suggest the names’ music or deeper associations. Perhaps this is one way in which the poet can renovate the wilderness?

The Thwarts

   Ferricky Burn 

      Drabbit Hillside

         Haunt of the Lucky Stag

            Bridge of the Eerie-lanestanes

the walk leaves
a lag that lurks
in pools of darkness

And what of that fundamental question of belonging – in a place that I can barely access, whose moors are bare, strange, beautiful in moments of sunny prospect? I think back to the accusation You can never belong in nature”, and recognize again how that forced my awareness: with or without walking, we may find and share ways of belonging in the wilderness.

Some Colour Trends was made in collaboration with:

Ron Brander, who advised on local history.
Maoilios Caimbeul, who made Gaelic translations.
Alexander Twig Champion, who made field trips
Peter Drummond, who advised on the interpretation of place-names
John Stuart-Murray, who advised on place-names on colours
Amy Porteous, who helped with the mapping
Gill Russell, who made field trips and maps
David Wheatley, who composed a companionable essay
Simone Kenyon, who walked the entire route

And Luke Allan and Brodie Sim, who co-ordinate the studio.

It will appear as a book and digital prints in November 2014, on the occasion of a symposium organized by The Walking Institute, Deveron Arts, in Tomintoul.

for Hielan’ Way, commissioned by DeveronArts.

The WalkingInstitute initiative was developed by Deveron Arts in collaboration with guest curator Simone Kenyon.

The Hielan' Ways network includes historical routes, colour walks, hydrological walks, and a 5-day route with accommodation.