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Hairst - Margaret Gillies Brown

5th August 2013


Margaret Gillies Brown is best known for her books of reminiscences of her family's farming life in Perthshire, Canada and north east Scotland, but she is also a considerable and well published poet. Her poems in Scots often deal with the farming background, so that her new poem Hairst brings a deep understanding of country life to bear on this very traditional subject. We follow through great detail of the struggle to bring the harvest in in wet and muddy weather until the colours of the sinking sun and the collected corn win through, the combine is silent and the whisky more gowd is out on the kitchen table where else.

Margaret now lives in a log cabin close to her large family at their farm and winery in the Carse of Gowrie, where they produce Cairn O' Mohr wines. She is a member of Perth poets who meet at Souter House, and of Dundee Poets, and she holds annual Stovies Poetry Nights where numerous poems in Scots have been recited over the years.

In the photograph, Margaret looks out from the veranda of her log cabin onto the elderberry bushes grown for wine.


Atween the shoors they ettle to save the grain
this hairst o weet and wind.
Noo, in the evenin licht, they`re reapin the hindmaist acres.
The yella combine rattles up and doon lang distances.
In front the lang reel turns and knifes like sharks teeth
cut intae gowd.  Twa chutes at the hinerend
spew oot chopped strae and chaff
wi  that muckle stoor you`d think the hairvestor on fire.
It sweeps on and never dachles
even when it dueks oot its hollow airm
to feed the waiting bogey
drawn by the dub-splashed tractor keeping accurate pace.
The last lang woosh of grain and aff the tractor speeds
stottin owre ruts, splashin through glaur,
throwin mud to the settin sun
to reach the hills o gowd  heapin in the barn
It seems the whole warld`s busy.
The flurry re-enacted on ilka fairm aroon.
Men at wark tae feed their bairns;
keep hoose and steadin wind and waterticht.
Clouds are charcoal against pink
For a moment the sinkin sun flairs oot.
In the aftermath stubble turns a curious gowden- reed.
Aboon, late swallows jink aboot catching invisible thrips
and a hare, twa rabbits scamper from the last strip o standin grain.
Hairst ower for anither year
An ald bonnet is thrown hich  ow`re the silent combine
by way o praise
The whisky bottle`s oot on the kitchen table

Margaret Gillies Brown