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Alan Millar - Nit Hairst o tha Anshints, Colonsay

1st December 2022

Alan Millar is a poet, writer and journalist based in Ballymoney, Co Antrim, but born and reared in the Laggan valley of East Donegal, also a traditional Ulster-Scots speaking area. In 2021, he won the SLS Hugh Macdiarmid Tassie for his poem ‘Wee Weaver Birdie’, the first

Irish person to have done so. He is also winner of the inaugural Linenhall Library Ulster-Scots writing competition, short story section, and is runner up in in the 2022 SLS’s Robert McLellan Tassie for short story. He is published in Lallans, Ullans, Linenhall Library 2021

Winners Pamphlet and Ulster-Scots Community Network publication, ‘Yarns’. In 2014, he edited 'Frae the Causey tae the Apocalypse' the poems in Ulster-Scots and English of John McKinley of Dunseverick. He has recently started a weekly Ulster-Scots column ‘Leid

Loanen’ in the paper he works for. He has appeared in two BBCNI programmes in his capacity as an Ulster-Scots poet including ‘The narra sea, the further shore’, with Scots musician Phil Cunningham. Alan is a keen hiker and open water swimmer and is starting his third Polar Bear challenge, swimming at least 3k a month, from November to March, at Portrush, NI and local lakes.

Nit Hairst o tha Anshints, Colonsay 

frae a tael o oor Mesolithic hunter-gaether ancestors  
bae Alan Millar

blakberries, connies, nits, deer, pillwort, buckies, troot, dulse, boar, cherries, clappy doos, otter, siller eel, watter hen, duck, maukin, scart, petricock, saumon, mackerel, spoots…    


Twa auler yins sit, wearied  

at wid’s laggin, fornenst tha shore 

dugoots beached in plane sicht 

a wairm autumn evenin 

doucely fleppin at tha midgies 

as tha sun’s bricht draps 

abakka trees on tha saft lift 


ahint them, tha peck, peckin 

o whinstane chackin at wid 

chiels clishmaclaverin 

snoiterin forbye 

fur a wean is sleepin nearerhan

moo fu apen, wee finngers aa rid 

sair frae tha gaetherin


anent her, tha gye roon pit 

shalla, san lined, big as birkies-bae-twa 

pit heid tae toe athort it 


fur twa days noo tha nits 

hae tumult in frae their creels 

collectit bae tha wee femily 


waek yins foragin inbye 

tha stranger dannerin tha airts   


bonnie broon thoosans noo platted aaf 

tae jist aneath tha gress 

smellin o hairst sappie

yerbivore greens, deep guid 


Yao’s boonty 

tae tha lass stid grimin tha san ower    


tha mither, yer mammy’s namesake 

on her knees

smuithin aff flush tae tha groon

wi eydent hans 


sens tha dochter bak tae tha stran fur mair  

noo sat bidin 


keekin at her granwean, streichin   

a lown spell, a quateness faals 

wan she jalouses maun swallie this isle 

efter they’re awa  


her unco sperin cut shoort  

bae a sweet burd sang     


itsell loost  

as her nephews’ pap oota tha busses   

traelin hazel sticks fur tha wid bing 

aye groughin  


in tha late mirk o dailygaun 

ilka boadie gaethers 

aroon tha bonfire, 

cannie bigged ower tha hairst 


aal een on tha younglin heid yin 

hunkered wi flints, he lichts tha fog tinner 

blaws, tae flames kittle his finngers  

quick sets it unner tha boney    


naw lang efter, tha clan beed doon 

furfoughen, bit fur wan aule sentinel 

wha kens his darg   

taipin on sticks 

skailin tha haet greeshoch fairly   

fur their rich hairst maun kythe  

maun bae roastit naw burnt


kerries his gree lik a heid yin 

o a blast furnace, smeltin 


gustie baked flora, niver gaes aff 

kept beilded weel, frae rane an tide 

meat though ony scantiness  

on their gye road farrit.