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For Ma Faither by Brian Holton

22nd March 2017

The Tannahill Poetry Competition run by Read Raw Ltd of Paisley has held its winners event as part of Lochwinnoch Arts Festival. It was a fine occasion. I am happy to have permission to publish the winning Scots Language poem here. It's by Brian Holton, a professional translator into Scots and English. His poem, a lament for his father's life, takes him to a high level of poetic awareness resulting in a songlike elegy in a pure and true tradition of the language.

A reminder perhaps, that simply writing in Scots is only a beginning. You have to write really well in Scots, as in  any language, to excel. We are lucky that there are people writing Scots as well and confidently as this, to set current standards in the language.

Though  he lives in Melrose (and sometimes in China), Brian managed to attend the Lochwinnoch event to collect his prize -- photogrpahed  here.


In memoriam C.S. Holton

the back-en turnt grey
the colourt wuids wis wae an wan
ye’d taen the auld auld road, man
an left the rosie leaf ahint

the spring wis late o comin
nae heat, nae graith wis gien ti the hill
an aa the wells o christentie cudna slocken
the drouth at cam an checkt oor season then

nae cauldrife bed for you, man, reishlt wi the wund
ye tuik the simmer’s lang white road
whaur lichtsome hills is daft wi sang
an siller watter rummles doun the linn

the herd hed come ti lead ye in
to set ye on yir auld white road
the birselt hill abune ye, the sweit upon yir brou
rinnin doun the tropic road yir lane

A mind ye yet, ye chairmer, an mercy me
in ither airts oo’ll aiblins meet, afore lang gae -
a gairden mebbes, whaur ye’ll turn an fauld uis,
ma weill-luvit an ma absent dear

ma gowd wis turnt ti bress then
an aa ma joys wis turn ti leid
in the birselt wearie days o hairst-en
ye tuik the bitter road, the auld white road, an ran

the back-en wis grey as stane, man,
the colourt wuids wis pale an wan
ye tuik the auld auld road, man
an aa yir warkin days wis dune

Brian Holton