Musselburgh man shares nostalgic verses about Wee Toon home

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Down Memory Lane

A Campbeltown man now living in Musselburgh has shared with the Courier a couple of nostalgic poems he penned about his hometown.

Jim McRobert says that although he only lived in Campbeltown for 20 years, he has always called it home.

A fan of writing poetry, he has penned many verses during lockdown, some of which were published at Edinburgh International Book Festival.

As well as nostalgic pieces reflecting on his younger years, Jim also writes about current affairs like Covid-19 and US politics, some of which we have published in the past.

This week, both verses relate to nostalgic Wee Toon tales, the first recounting a supernatural encounter local miners had in a Kintyre cave.

‘In the early 1950s, many of the new men to the town had come to work in the mine and had all moved from the Denny region,’ he said.

‘They had grown up together and often behaved like teenagers. For example, when there was snow and ice on the roads, they made an ice slide on Tomaig Road from almost the top, down to the Meadows Farm, and they would let off fireworks in the street.

‘Here is another memory which was never mentioned again…’

Above our town the Piper’s Cave,
Few dare enter, none but brave,
Many tales of witch and spells,
Piping drones with chiming bells,
Held us kids in dread and fear,
Of corpses’ ghouls on floating bier.

Some mining men took the task,
With lamp in hand and dram in flask,
To search the truth or likely tale,
Feel the fear; would they fail?

Squeezing through the tightest gaps,
Avoiding water’s nasty traps,
Climbing over rocks and boulder,
Sweating struggles strata colder.

At slimy fissure split in two,
Which to take there was no clue,
Carefully they tied a cord,
Then took a chance on right-hand fork.

Ahead there appeared a solid wall,
‘All reverse,’ the urgent call,
Tripping o’er rocks, stones,
Soon was heard the moans of groans.

At left-hand fork, Tam took the lead,
On glancing down, saw a reed,
From out a chanter from the past,
Picked it up and gave a blast.

Hairs were quickly stood on end,
Glad no ghoul but Tam their friend,
Then the bones of ancient piper,
With fear in heart, action hyper.

Men took leg with cautious speed,
To climb back out they all agree,
Say no more with nowt to say,
Leave the cave for another day.

Jim’s second verse, about the enjoyment of a walk around Campbeltown, was written in response to a request from some of his Kintyre friends.

As I walk along the Learside,
Nearby Glenramskill Burn,
Watching eel and dogfish,
Do their twist and turn.

Then stravaig recent bulldozed track,
Unsteady on my pins,
Onwards ever upwards,
Past fresh the scent of whins.

Oh to be in heather,
Upon the mountain ling,
Skarting boots and gaiters,
Scented flowers sing.

Passing o’er the Piper’s Cave,
Perchance a skirl or moan,
Steady onwards to the Goat,
Memories flood: I’m home.

Tears of joy ignore the call,
‘Go back,’ by welcome grouse,
Youth upon Beinn Ghuilean,
Escape from pain and house.

Below the farm at Crosshill,
A moment lost in thought,
Days of skinny dipping,
Our path now just a blot.

Times spent in the valley,
Nuts for all to eat,
Spooning out the ground-nuts,
And soorucks we thought sweet.

The Goat has slid into history,
By foresters lacking care,
And the path we walked the Damhead,
A jungled track nightmare.

Shooting hares at Tomaig,
Pheasants on the run,
Picnics at the Black Loch,
Singing larks in sun.

By-pass the tree invasion,
This day I’ll need to thole,
Going down the Kileonan ridge,
A moment Covid stole.