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If Columba hid bin Chowkit bi Eithne

7th July 2020

Hugh McMillan is a poet from Penpont in South West Scotland. His work has been published widely in Scotland and beyond, and he has won various prizes, most recently the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award in 2017 for Sheep Penned, published by Roncadora; he won the same award in 2009 for Postcards from the Hedge. He has been a winner in the Smith/Doorstop Prize and the Cardiff International Poetry Competition, and has also been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Award and the Basil Bunting Award.
Not Actually Being in Dumfries: New and Selected poems was published by Luath Press in 2015 as were in 2018 the poetry collections Heliopolis, and The Conversation of Sheep, the latter in collaboration with a local shepherd. He has featured in many anthologies, and three times in the Scottish Poetry Library’s online selection Best Scottish Poems of the year. His poems have also been chosen three times to feature on National Poetry Day postcards, the latest in 2016. In 2017 he was writer in residence at the Harvard Summer School. In 2019 his collaboration Elspeth Buchan an the Blash o God featured at the Wigtown Book Festival and the Scottish Poetry Library. He currently curates #plagueopoems a daily series of poems filmed from lockdown. 
His website is at

If Columba hid bin Chowkit bi Eithne

Braw day in the Cruethentath, 
the leaves drappin siller an gowd 
on the watters, gyurds fae the Goddess
Annan whase birthy bluid an veins
creaut a fish an fruit an wild 
craiturs o the wuid.
I hud a dream last nicht 
that ah was in a preeson
o wurds, wurds sae glittie 
ah couldnae climb oot. 
They were saft and slesterie
 an easy tae say, these wurds – 

the kynd we lassies aften hear
hot frae the mooths o liars
an thieves. Yon man glazie
in his white robe would hae us 
learn the wurds he says, 
but ah hae the gift

an sense the feenish o things.
Nae convent fur me: ah will pit
my strong hands roond 
his wheaselie thrapple an chowk
his life oot. Despatch him tae 
his weel-rade God. Keep ma ain.