Renfrewshire Council

Musings of the Tannahill Makar: Postcard poetry and workshops over video

During full-lockdown I was asked, by the libraries, to write a postcard poem to put into food parcels that were being distributed throughout Renfrewshire.

As standard I was left to do my own thing regarding subject matter etc. The only stipulation being it had to fit onto a postcard format. After a few misfires (poems that once written, you know, don't cut the mustard, therefore bin them) I decided to write something that could apply to various locations in Renfrewshire and also reflected my many happy years I lived there, usually via family outings to Erskine, Barshaw, Castle Semple and The Gleniffer Braes. A postcard of positivity so to speak.

The resultant poem was ...


Lochwinnoch's orange sunset over Ring-necked ducks
bobbing on the surface of Castle Semple Loch.
Fishermen casting spinners to lure perch or pike or trout.
Stirring notes, from distant bagpipes, float into the air.

The edge of Barshaw park's pond, with bamboo-pole nets,
catching baggie minnies and sailing model-yachts.
The kiddies' train chuntering its loop, with smiling parents
and children sitting astride, arms around each other's waists.

A picnic in the Boden Boo car-park,
The billowing sails of Tall-Ships catch the breeze.
Dwarfed by the majesty that is the Erskine Bridge.
At pace, they cut along the Clyde under the bluest of skies.

Trekking past yellow gorse bushes, watched by skylarks,
kestrels and a roe-deer who grazes in the shadow
of the mesmerising Craigie-Linn.
We walk the ancient Braes to explore Tannahill's well.

Shafts of sun poking through the trees.

Brian Whittingham

I was latterly contacted regarding an initiative set up by Lillian Brookes, an artist and local historian, who facilitates video workshops for the Renfrewshire Disability Arts Forum for clients who are long term shielding relative to the pandemic. The workshops operated under the banner of The Lockdown Lounge.

In this workshop, I talked about Robert Tannahill using him as an example of a local lad enduring life's trials and tribulations whilst creating some beautiful writings etc. Also chatted to the students about Tannahill, Burns and Habbie Simpson etc.

The result of this is a poem written by Lillian Brooks, the group facilitaor, who tells me this is the first poem she has written, which I'm sure you'll agree, hits the spot.

Also the students were all given the challenge to write a few lines, or whatever, about, where in Renfrewshire, they live/have lived. You can read some of these, along with Lillian's poem below.

Thanks to all who participated and gave me a warm friendly welcome.


Walking up the old high road out of Bishy
Old Greenock they call it
Mission time - pick brambles to make jam
Hold hands with Mum and skip along collecting bucket in hand...
Swing to, swing fro...
Now standing at the top of the brae looking out to the wide estuary of the Clyde...
Dumbarton Rock
Same view as the Romans got...I'm told... walking, running, no flying downhill towards the treasures beyond... on the other side of the hill...
Brambles, brambles... so many to collect!

Lillian Brooks


Where I grew up

Life was so much fun and carefree
Down at the bottom of the garden next to the big apple tree ,
Was the free flowing burn ,
We caught Jelly Black Eels, Rainbow Trout in that burn to name but a few,
One of my favourite past times was sitting taking a pew,
Listening to the burn trickling
was so soothing for the soul.
Even though back then I probably didn't know what a soul was!
I just found it so relaxing.
I very much doubt my life would be so enriched with mother nature if my Family had not moved from the city to the countryside.
Oh how different life could of been,
I will be eternally grateful to my Father for taking the gamble.
When we crossed the burns magical bridge
It took us to the field with its never ending fun woods,
Where we would spend hours making dens ,
These memories are some of my fondest from childhood.
Horses would graze in the field back then,
The field is a bit derelict now,
The horses gone, the woods have shrunk ,
Or maybe I just grew up, either way fantastic memories of where I grew up.

Laura, DRC group member


My Lockdown

In March 2020 my life changed dramatically from how I know it.
My emotions went up and down, as each day passed
Some days good, others horrible
Sleeping, not sleeping, eating then not eating for days
Smiling, crying, felt loved, felt I didn't want to carry on
So many emotions to cope with, but I know I'm loved and cared for
So my life goes on hoping that things someday will be better
You never know maybe a better world will come out of this pandemic

Brenda, DRC group member


Published 22 August 2020