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The First Hoolit's Prayer by Ian McFadgen


'The First Hoolits Prayer', by Ian McFadgen, is one of the poems from 'The Kist' -  an anthology of Scots (and Gaelic) poetry and prose that was digitised by Education Scotland and gifted to the Scots Language Centre so that teachers and learners can continue to benefit from this valuable resource.

The poem is based on the idea of God deciding - in the very first place - what this creature would do. However, the owl ends up telling God what to do! The idea came from a folk tale about how the birds got their colour and the nightingale its song. 


The First Hoolits Prayer by Ian McFadyen


All tak the nicht-shift, says the hoolit.
The nicht-shift suits me fine
An i the deeps o winter
All aye dae the overtime.

Dinna send me wi thae ithir birds
cheepin in a choir
i the gloamin or at brek o day
lined up oan a wire.

But gie tae me a solo pairt,
markin oot the nicht wi low notes that gie goose-pricks
an hie anes that gie frichts.

An Lord, dinna pey me
wi nuts or crumbs or seeds:
A want tae be carnivorous,
an chow aff rottans heids!


Learning Resources



  1. What does the owl mean by, All tak the nicht-shift?
  2. What evidence is there to show that the owl likes to be on their own?
  3. Why might the owl wish to make a noise that gives goose-pricks?
  4. Does the owl seem like a pleasant creature? Why?
  5. Define the following Scots words:

          gloaming             anes           rottans