Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Walking Quietly

I'm afraid this blog, rich source of wisdom though it is, fell foul of the easy lures of Facebook. I am less enamoured of pussbook now so am inclined to meander back here in my dotage, back to tales of Theosyphilis Neill- yes still bringing in the contraband thistlemilk by barge down the Nith every Sunday morning- Macduff and the rest.


I have retired from being a pedagogue though have been drawn back by episodic penury. I am still writing to some effect, but this effect is not so far visible in my wallet.  Two books have come and gone, https://www.waterstones.com/book/not-actually-being-in-dumfries/hugh-mcmillan/9781910745106 and https://www.waterstones.com/book/mcmillans-galloway/hugh-mcmillan/9781910745182  Others are on the stocks, more talk of them soon.


Currently I am writing some poems about Original Nations in America. There has always been a rumour, backed up it must be said by DNA evidence, that a great grandparent was of this stock: a very exciting prospect. I have always walked quietly in Capenoch Wood, for instance, another sure sign. Researching Bufallo Bill's Wild West Show and its visits to Scotland, I came upon the tale of Crazy Dancer, one of the Sioux Ghost Dancers who was sprung from incarceration to tour with Bufallo Bill and re-enact the destruction of his own people on  daily basis. He spent some time in Barlinnie having been arrested in a pub. here's a poem about it: The picture is from Buffalo Bills visit to Dumfries.




Ghost  Dancing
in the Gallowgate 1892


 
After one whisky too many
Crazy Dancer
thumped a minder
over the head with a doorstop


but before that had reached
an understanding
beyond the need for words
with Donald from Sligachan


whose leg was shot off
in Egypt with the Seaforths.
They both lived in
the hem of their histories


ragged at the edges
telling stories for beer
over and over
in the insistent poetry of tongues


as though the fevered act
of repetition might
reel back time
and the landscapes
black with ghosts.





Sunday, September 04, 2016

Arts in Dumfries in Rude Health






The Arts in Dumfries are in Rude Health as Twelve People  Follow a Man in a Horse's Head and Four Girls with Pink Faces hold Smoke Sticks as a Machine Lifts a Cow

Not for the first time 
the town is being reanimated,
filled with colour, music and ritual.
Ignore the blank expressions 

and the cries of What the Fuck,
we are empowering the people
and what risks we take! 
It harks back to the time

the Vikings sailed here 
trading beads and origami herons. 
Our links with this proud race
are perpetuated in

a vegetarian stovie recipe,
our sense of destiny,
and the ruthless way we fill
in our funding applications. 


Sunday, May 01, 2016

And so the months passed....

Two new books folks. When I recover the knowledge of the ancients I shall put them up for sale to the right of this page.

I'm not going to attempt to summarise what's happened since December 2015 though highlights might creep out. Talking of creeps I am regaled this morning with pictures of the folically unchallenged Neil Oliver, sneering at the case for Scottish independence in an unashamedly adolescent manner. I wrote a section about Neil in 'McMillan's Galloway' which was far too kind but I reproduce it here, by way of a cheeky advert for the book.

  Examining one of the panels of the ancient Knockhill Cross, it is clear that the figure near the Archangel Gabriel depicted with long hair and a microphone, is Neil Oliver, the historian with the best hair on television, even more beautiful than Walter Scott's Helen of Kirkconnell:



O Helen fair! beyond compare,
A ringlet of thy flowing hair,
I'll wear it still for evermair
Until the day I die.





Neil is an ex-pupil of my old school Dumfries Academy where, so we are told by his agent, ‘his love of history was born’. As well as having hair, Neil is a great walker and has starred on TV tramping coastal paths round many countries that have a coast, like Scotland, Ireland and now Australia. My coastal walking is not as good as Neil’s, and in fact only consists of a 22 mile hike done in the dead of night while completely drunk in Mull after my glasses had been buried in a landslide, but even that small experience has filled me with admiration for Neil’s achievements as well as those of the TV crew who will have to trek the 35,846 kilometres round the variable coastline of Australia with heavy equipment and products to maintain Neil’s hair in its good condition. Going at the pace they were in the programme I saw , they should be finished when Neil is 107 years old, in the year 2074, the year which is, coincidentally, the 250th anniversary of the publication of Mactaggart’s Gallovidian Encyclopedia. What an achievement that will be.


Of course walking long distances without thought to fatigue is a well-established tradition in Dumfries and Galloway. The old Well Path from Durisdeer in Nithsdale north is thought to be the pilgrimage route that linked the south, ultimately Whithorn, with Edinburgh, Dunfermline and other royal centres. It’s also where ‘men of pairts’ would think nothing of walking to university in Edinburgh or St Andrews from their homes. Alexander Murray for instance walked to Edinburgh from Minigaff to become eventually Professor of Oriental Languages in St Andrews. Joseph Thomson, the famous explorer, was famous for his pedestrian activities. His brother noted in 1882:


On the hottest day of summer he walked from Gatelawbridge to the top of Criffel and back, a distance of 55 miles … indulging cheerfully in a dance on his return.


And  not a hair out of place.