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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