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Fortingall Yew, Scotland - the oldest living c...

The Fortingall Yew, photo:Wikipaedia

Of course, I said, Pontius Pilate was thought to have been brought up in


Oh, Candia, you’re always making out that Auld Caledonia was-no, is,

The Promised Land.  How on earth do you justify that last remark?

Holinshed-Raphael, I said.

Who? (Carrie didn’t study Shakespeare in her degree.)

The chap whose Chronicles was a source that Shakespeare drew on.

Oh yeah.  Right. (She’d never heard of him.  Raphael, I mean.)

Well, it has been mooted that Pilate’s father was a high ranking member

of a Roman delegation which was sent to negotiate with the Picts.  He married

a local girl in Perthshire and fathered young Pilate. Then the young family

returned to Rome.

Well, said Carrie.  That’s obviously a load of old rubbish. (She was munching a

hot cross bun.)

Homemade Hot Cross Buns.jpg

What makes you feel you are a better authority than Holinshed?

I felt a little belligerent, as I had denied myself a bun and was irritable

through hypoglycemia.

(Well, that is my story, and I am sticking to it as firmly as Holinshed stuck to

his fanciful proposition.  Okay, okay, I know he was wrong about so much,

but he just liked to pep things up for the Bard. I agree: Macbeth was probably

a New Age stay-at-home father with a fully-developed feminine side to his


All right, Carrie, I swallowed, why is it a lot of codswallop?

Because I can’t imagine anyone thinking that they could negotiate with a

Pict. Not if you are anything to go by.

Charming, I said.  You deserve another poem, my good friend.  And yes, I will

have a bun after all. With jam. So there!


Pontius Pilate played under your branches

in Fortingall, it’s alleged, two thousand

years ago, before he would wash his hands

of innocence.  Crimson shells of arils

broke out like bloodbeads on a thorned brow

and he trod on golden prickles, so sharp

they pierced his sandals.  Rootstock of saplings

for a future planting, you are much more

than three-in-one.  Funeral corteges

passed through your hollow trunk more easily

than camels through the eye of a needle.

Later young men trimmed your boughs for longbows.

Ancient churchyard trees abutting the butts

united sacred and secular.  In this space,

one rootball bound the dead

of the parish in a communal grave.

Portions of this yew may have been a man

the Governor knew.  Memento mori;

toxic and taxil, your lost heartwood rings

defy establishment of your true age.

Christian evergreen; Druidic icon?

You were a linchpin of society

by the lychgate of a newly planted church.

You may stand here when certainties are gone.

Antonio Ciseri's depiction of Pontius Pilate p...