Sunday, 24 November 2013

Some Journeys

Crossmichael and New Galloway in the last two days. The Mickle is an old place, no less than 16 different ancient sites, forts and stone circles, are scattered round about. It looks old, too. The Church tower is 17th century but the site is more ancient than that. The village was rain swept and deserted. Like all these communities- I know, I live in one- they flare episodically into life but not that afternoon. 

Sir Robert Gordon who donated the bell in the Church Tower in the 1620s was one of the very first to obtain a charter to establish a colony of emigrants in Nova Scotia and thus begin Scotland's most consistently successful export to date, its own people. He and his son called the colony Galloway.

Crossmichael Church
There wasn't a soul in the Thistle Inn, until a couple from Blackpool arrived with their soulful spaniel. The last time I was in Crossmichael I was at the makar Willie Neill's funeral. Willie lived in a house adjoining the pub then later at another at the entrance to the village. He wrote in all the languages of Scotland, and was a terrific poet who, while not neglected in Scotland, didn't get accorded the status he deserved, the status he would probably have been given if he'd lived and worked elswhere.

Oscar and his Novel
Later at New Galloway, two buses missed and in the pitch dark, the Cross Keys Inn was packed, but everyone was from Cirencester apart from Oscar the dog, who owns his own book and piano and is from London.  It was a very big shooting party. Someone made the usual joke about hunting peasants. As they chattered. a weather beaten and worldly old man was scooping their fifty pound notes into a huge wad and I was reminded of Wille;s poem, The Marksman'.

I never saw him waste a single shot.
He wouldn’t fire unless he knew a kill,
Marksmanship guaranteed to fill the pot.
In memory I see him standing still
over the autumn moor. The swollen bags
of bowed-and-scraped-to gentry on a shoot,
wounding or blowing driven game to rags
or wasting cartridges without a hit
he sneered at, although sometimes paid to beat
their fostered game-birds on an autumn day.
‘There goes some London glutton’s annual treat….
and mostly killed by accident,’ he’d say.

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