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The Skating Minister.jpg

You didn’t go to The Edinburgh Festival this year?

Brassica enquired.

No, too busy moving house.  But I will never forget the year I

went to the big Raeburn exhibition.

Why is that in particular?  I mean, I know he was a brilliant portrait


Because, when I came out, I could recognise all those faces, or phizzogs,

in Princes Street Gardens…I wrote a poem about the experience, as I


I started to declaim it, but Brassie protested that she didn’t

understand Lallans.  For all you linguists ‘oot there’, as it

were, ‘read oan‘.  See if you can get the gist:

Kirsty wark podium.jpg

(Kirsty Wark- crop image by Frank Wales.

KW at Innovate ’08 Conference, London)


Raeburn At The National Gallery of Scotland


A’ they pitten-oan, pauchtie Whigs appear

oan the Mound, or even wi’ Kirsty Wark,

debating devolution. Tartan-trewed

museum staff hae a look o’ Sir John

Sinclair of Ulbster and the Kirk still skates

oan wabblie ice – no oan Duddingston Loch,

but at its ain General Assembly.

Next thing they’ll be a’ wearin’ pink trappins

as they tapsalteerie roon key issues.


Slidderie, crabbit, towtie judges

aye hae glancy nebs, and advocates

gaither airt traisures. Quate, lang-drauchit wives

keep oan winnin’ their marital chess games;

take mair to theirselves than thir marrow’s queen:

wummen catch oan fast tae Enlightenment.

Braw, harp-playin’ sirens still turn hoose-ends,

musickers are forespoken by thir world;

bairnies crack thir thoums, so ye gie yir tent;

chiels forget thir first wives efter echt days.

The high heid yins adopt designer cloots

tae hide the fact they are debt-bedevilled.

They sappie, pairted lips warsle tae rede

themsels. We can hear them bairge in New Town,

spoat thir reflections in Jenny a’ things.

Thir portraits can be traced aff Princes Street:

there’s that carnaptious phizzog, they chollers:

a’ they bachles oan erstwhile buckled feet.