Stuart Paterson

Stuart Paterson

These poems were written by Stuart Paterson, based on conversations he had with people aged 90 and over, during the winter of 2021-22. Stuart worked as part of Autumn Voices’ project Third Age Plus Pioneers. Those he spoke to were:

  • Jemima Dow (92), Kilmarnock
  • Lena Glass (92), Dunbar
  • Willie Gracie (90), Annan 
  • Doris Hill (96), Glasgow
  • Margaret & Mary, Annan
  • Mary (91), Lockerbie
  • Tom (90), Annan
  • Margaret Waugh (92), Annan

The poems are arranged, roughly Past-Present-Future – memories of bygone days, reflections on today’s world, and experiences still to look forward to.


Bridget by Doris Hill

I had an Irish great-granny
And an English grandfather.
There was a bit of mystery about her.
When my grandmother died 
My parents couldn’t find their birth certificates.
Bridget Mulligan was a talking point – not her real name.

Joseph Baillie was my grandfather,
My mother’s father,
He married Annie Purdon,
Was a very gentle soul.
They stayed with my mum and dad,
They lived in Crosshill.

My grandfather was an instrument maker
And a brass finisher.
We’d brass all over our house.
I’m ashamed to say I threw it all out.

According to my grandfather
‘Bridget’ was a very fine woman.
Joseph respected her confidence
In the days when your word was your bond.
I think those days are gone.

The Paraffin Man by Lena Glass

Loch Eribbol was my dad’s territory,
Richard Mackay.
His father was an interesting man
Who was a crofter at Eriboll, was very religious.

He read the works of a famous
Holy religious leader, Richard Baxter
From the seventeenth century,
He wrote books you could use for Bible Study
And my father was named after him.

He was a crofter,
Sold paraffin to locals,
It was a new form of lighting.
He was a lay preacher, very strict,
That’s where the Baxter came in.

He set up a little shop selling paraffin.
They used that for their lamps
Long before they had electricity,
Electricity came to the south first.

The lamp was usually a nicely coloured 
Glass bowl on a stand,
It had a wick attached that
Went right down into the jar.

You protected the light of the lamp with a globe,
You didn’t have fancy ones.
What actually created light was the paraffin,
A light parchmenty colour.

Mary Ma 93-Year-Auld Mum by Willie Gracie

She wis sound up there,
A memory she had of historical occasions,
Hard, hard workin.
She wis up tae it right tae the end, independent.
“Ah dinnae need anybody to do that for us,
Ah can dae it masel!”

In Brydekirk maist o her years,
Where she was born.
Historically it was what you called
An agricultural village.

Commonplace for folk tae hae pigs an hens,
Aw the blackcurrant bushes, goosecogs,
The weans used tae pinch them.

She wis live, plenty o life aboot her
When she passed away, quick as that.
She didnae want people lookin eftir her in homes.

“Mam d’ya no fancy movin on?”

“When Ah leave here it’ll be in a widen box!”

It’s said fae the hert.

The World’s Gaun Mad by Jemima Dow

The young yins hae nae history.
We’re 90, we can look back an remember
When there were nae aeroplanes,
We’d gas but nae electricity, nae hot watter,
Aw we had was a sink fu o cauld watter
An an open fire wi the swees on it,
Kettles an pans bi the side.

Rinnin tae the schuil an rinnin back
An huvvin purritch tae eat fir yer lunch,
Nae tins o beans an spaghetti,
Aw these things ye get in tins
We didnae huv them.

Ah leeved durin the War wi rationin on
An ye got clothin coupons
Ma mither used tae sell tae get money tae feed us.
We were poor. 

Whaur Ah learnt tae read wis sittin bi the fire,
We’d a fire kerb wi a seat at each side
An the first things Ah ever read –
Ah didnae ken whit a book wis then –
Were The Red Letter an The Red Star Weekly
An of coorse we got Oor Wullie an The Broons in The Sunday Post.

Ah huvnae even mindit gettin sweeties,
If there wis a cake bought for visitors
We were allooed in the hoose
Tae listen tae adult conversations.
Life’s no like that noo.

Ah huvnae got a downer on young yins
Yaisin phones an computers an aw that.
But it’s a different generation,
They’ve never needit tae graft fir onythin.
It’s too easy fir them nooadays.
We were poor in yin way an rich in anither.

The Nurse aye Cairrit a Wee Black Bag by Jemima Dow

We didnae hen whaur aw the weans came fae.
There were seven o us an we aw steyed in the same room, a bedroom.
When we were oot playin we’d see the nurse gaun in
An by the time we got in the hoose
There wis anither wean there.

We thought the nurse had brought it in her bag
An that’s hoo ignorant we were.
We werenae tellt the facts o life,
We never kennt whit wis in the bag,
We jist thought a wean had been left.
In later years we got mairrit oorsels
An then we kennt aw aboot it.

Mr Hogg by Margaret Waugh

The teacher that taught ma mither at Wamphray
Taught me at Ecclefechan.
That was the War,
We went to Secondary.
Mr. Hogg, a gentleman.

Me an anither girl
Used tae dae the library,
A library for children.
He’d come in an say
How’s ma girls?

He used to come into the shop I worked in
And still talked away tae us.
He’d just stand,
As how ma mither wis,
Always had a word tae say,
Made time tae talk tae you.

Put Things Away by Lena Glass

There was an old man
Who lived up in Bettyhill
And he used to say
Don’t put things down, put them away.

I have to remind myself
Not to put things down 
But to put them away.
Such very good advice.

John by Margaret & Mary

Cup o tea Mary?
Hoo mony sugars?
He gave us the twa fingers
An Ah said Ye don’t dae that!

He was a proper gentleman,
He luiked eftir us.

The queerest thing,
When Ah went oot the door
He follaed me, 
Walked me tae that door
Said Ye cannae gan oot that door!
An then said Cheerio!

That would never’ve been in my mind again
Til Ah’ve heard he passed away.
That’s why we should be nice,
We’ll be missed fae wan anither.

Ah wis brought up tae give
Rather than receive.
He’ll be remembered.

A note from Stuart on John
John – known to many as John Boy – was a local 83-year-old volunteer at Annan Day Care Centre. He said hello to all users and visitors as soon as we entered, told us which table to sit at while he got our tea & biscuits from the trolley he’d organised, then brought them over. In late January, as the usual Wednesday afternoon lunch ended and most users had left, he took ill. He died one week later in hospital. The day after this I was visiting the Centre for a booked creative session and lunch with three folks. All users were told, before lunch, that he’d died. Immediately, Margaret & Mary expressed their thoughts of him to me, in this series of words and phrases as a tribute. We agreed it makes a lovely and immediately honest and well-expressed clear tribute to John which he’d appreciate.

Ken by Tom

There’s a friend of mine, 
We used to go for a walk every morning
No matter rain, wind or snow,
An hour every morning we used to go.
The thing is he was into photography, 
He’d set up his canvas,
One shot, walking away,
Then, walking to another.
Just enjoy it Ken, 
Was always on the go, involved,
And then he was gone, just like that.
Take it as it comes.

More Truthful than Tactful by Doris Hill

I don’t want to end up
In a home for the bewildered.
Sometimes I can be more
Truthful than tactful.

You either take to a person
Or you don’t.
You either like them 
Or you don’t.

I tend to come away with things,
I say what’s on my mind
Instead of thinking twice –
More truthful than tactful.

LOL! by Doris Hill

There are different names now copping up.
I had to ask my carer the other day
The meaning of the word LOL!

I didn’t know what it meant,
I don’t see the purpose of it all.

Some people don’t feel like laughing out loud.
They’re maybe in pain or with a sore back
And don’t want to laugh at all.

Scrabble by Lena Glass

It’s the main thing that I do as a time-passer.
In fact, it more than passes time.
My sisters too are keen Scrabblers when they visit,
That’s how we pass the time.
They’ve now started playing Rummikub,
It’s a dice game, maybe more chance in it.
With Scrabble you need a vocabulary
And a knowledge of old words, many of which are foreign.

I can even play myself,
I play for the other person,
I have to be honest.
I don’t screw it up so I’m winning all the time.

But I prefer playing a person.
You’re getting a wide range of language,
If playing yourself you’re getting the same knowledge
Or coming from the same knowledge,
You’re just using what you’ve got already.

You’re improving beyond vocabulary
And even though Scrabble is all vocabulary
You’re reacting to other people,
Enjoying social contact
And social company
And you’re widening your vocabulary
If playing someone else.

Thought,
Company,
Victory comes most into it
Because you’re playing to win.

EUOI! by Lena Glass

EE! YOU! OH! AYE!
A high-pitched demonic shriek.
I’ve never heard anyone use it,
One of the oddest words in Scrabble.

It gets rid of 4 vowels 
Which is brilliant
As you don’t get good scores from it.

I don’t know a great variety of demons
But I know they’re famed for screaming,
Doing the screaming abdabs
As long as they come from Scrabble.

A Scrabble person should pick that up
As well as seven tiles.

Boris by Margaret Waugh

Ah dinnae ken hoo he can lie sae much.
When he went into yon gairden,
When he saw aw the folk,
He kennt that wis wrang.

Hoo wis his wife there?
The crowd.
Aw these folk couldnae meet up.
Ah cannae meet ma pals,

Cannae meet Mary,
Ah live oan ma ain.

He’s tellin lies aboot it.
He sent oot a hunner invitations.
He wisnae fined.
He should be settin an example.
A guid yin.

Ma Huddle by Jemima Dow

Ah used tae caw it a Huddle
When Ah got it at first,
Great for gettin information oot o it,
Aw the news an whit's happenin in the world.

It's been the best thing since sliced breid
Since Ah got it.
Ah had tae learn tae yaise it
But it keeps the mind alert.

Ah hope Ah live a while longer
Cos Ah've places tae be,
Places tae go tae
And mony mair people tae see.

Noo Ah caw it a Tablet but
It gets mony a name 
When Ah get a wee bit frustratit.
Ah cannae tell ye aw the names Ah caw it,
Thon are sweerie words.

Nae time tae sit and feel lonely,
There's a world ootside the windae,
Nooadays if no for readin ma Tablet
Ah'd ken far less if Ah didnae.

Driving by Mary

91 next month,
Still driving,
Just got new licence
Absolutely wonderful.
Don’t have the distances to walk,
Arthritis in my hand,
Scar on my heart
And need to drive to hospital appointments.
I can just get in the car and go.
Everybody kens me and I just miss them.

Skydive by Margaret Waugh

1,000 feet tae 10,000 feet
Then the door eftir that.

He edged me tae the door,
Ah’ve tae put ma legs behind me
Unnerneath the plane.

Then he just gies a push 
An yer right oot,
Nae choice, upside doon.

Then ye travel so far,
Ye freefall,
Then the parachutes open,
Ye just glide aboot
The photographer gan roond aboot ye,
Flies roon all the time.

When Ah come doon tae land,
Ma legs right behind me
An his legs gan doon
An he takes the weight o landin.

Ye just never feel yer on the ground,
Folk run up an get the harness
An that’s it, yer baith doon.

Folk said 
Were ye no frightened?
An Ah said
Hoo wid ye be frightened
Wi a hunk like that on yer back?!

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