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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

George Philp

15th November 2012

Scots poets have been saddened by the death of George Philp on 3 November 2012. He was a weel kent and very enthusiastic figure in poetry in Scots.  

   This poem by George was published in Poetry Scotland. Previously it had won the Scottish International Open Poetry's Scots Award in 2003, but had not been published before. The SIOP, founded by Hugh MacDiarmid, was run annually from 1973 to 2005, Henry Mair and Sam Gilliland being the main administrators.  Every year they held a wonderful tea party, performance and presentation at Irvine Burns Club, attended by winners and runners up from all over the world.

   Our photograph shows George (right), as always, deep in conversation, talking to Lillias Scott Forbes at one of the Callander Poetry Weekends. The photo was taken by Beth Junor who edited the book of Valda Grieve's letters to MacDiarmid, Scarcely Ever Out of My Thoughts. So here we see George typically in the thick of the Scots (and Scottish) poetry community.

   To Robert Fergusson exemplifies George's awareness of the Scots poetry tradition. He wrote in very precise Scots and had strong opinions on its orthography, though he lived in a time when many poets were reinventing the language and finding their own ways of writing Scots  Meg Bateman, who now lives on Skye, writes in Gaelic and English with similar awareness of this great tradition to which George contributed so much

To Robert Fergusson
by George Philp
Translated from Meg Bateman's Gaelic poem Do Robeart Mac Fheargais

At morn I stuid aneath an aipple tree,
heich an thrang wi the bummin o bees,
hamewith eydent on soukin shairtly
   frae the skinklin tassies,
as I thocht o ye, Fergusson, dargin
   wi thon bee sauf i yir bield,

An ye cuisten doun i the mirk o Bedlam,
I the daurk o a hert-sair, disjaskit spreit;
did ony glisk o insicht rax til ye
   juist hou yir pith wis taen
yet hou stervin time wad ne'er tak frae
   yir joco musardrie?

 Gin ye'd no coud tuim the tassie,
wad ye e'er hae kent the tippler,
the scriever, macaroni, pauchler an hure
   an winter gowlin,
or pried the caller oysters braw
   an Reikie's guff?

 Ye had nae yuiss for Rabbie's souch
for his threipins an ticht manners,
nae mair loesome tae ye the lassie's breist nor the lily,   But ye pried mense,
shawed cant wi harns maist gleg
   an Hornie's forder.

 Had ye been bein in guid braid claith
wha's lieve tae gie his auld breiks tae the puir
a chiel taen up wi fouth an fame
   tae wyse him frae seil,
wad there hae kythed tae ye sic blissin
   or maisic wi nae devaul?