Renfrewshire Council

Musings of the Tannahill Makar: Post Lockdown

After enduring being shut off from the outside world except for TV, newscasts and fleeting visits to have my shopping dropped off, I've warily ventured out, following guidelines, of course, firstly to have my post lockdown haircut, then next, to visit Castle Semple Loch with my son's new dog, a puppy named Abbi, then latterly to visit Glencoe for my 70th birthday treat, again, courtesy of my son and daughter (what would we do without our children?)

A visit to Castle Semple Loch is always a pleasant affair with a smashing walk alongside the loch which was being enjoyed by locals and visitors who were, sailing, fishing, dog-walking, etc. and generally chewing the fat as the sun shone complimenting a slight breeze.

This visit was made more special with the company of my son, Craig, who was my main food supplier during the early days of the pandemic, and the new addition to the family, Abbi, a 12 week old Springer Spaniel, who could sniff for Scotland given half a chance. The thing about the Castle Semple walk is, as well as the general ambience there is the bonhomie created by the folk also out walking, stretching their legs with, family and friends.

Brian at Glencoe Then there is Glencoe. What can I say? When I was 16-year old I first hitch-hiked to the Glen and camped beside the river Coe after having a libation in the Clachaig Inn, the local hostelry. Since these early days, I've forged a bond with the Glen with periodic visits, usually camping with my son and daughter, Craig and Debbie, and a little exploration of the surrounding area, and its history. This birthday trip was courtesy of part of their birthday gift. The birthday that was a biggie for me. Reaching such an age is viewed as a great achievement. End of!

So, when recently, I scanned my photographs, two unannounced poems, popped their heads up, demanding to be written, I had no choice but to drop everything and do the writing. With both, I've tried to come at the experiences from different angles rather than the stereotypical style that such subjects may suggest. I hope you enjoy them and also if you haven't done so already, visit both places, many many times, and enjoy the hospitality of spirit that is still relevant in Scotland to this day. Happy birthday to me!


In Castle-Semple loch
a father spins dreams of Pike or Perch.

Lobs lure, that glint, plop into
silvery sunlit slivers bobbing
on the crests of afternoon ripples.

Memories will be of this catch of the day...

... of his little boy's first casting
of his first line
of his showing mild interest
as he munches on a banana.

Watched over by his dad who is
decked out with baseball cap, peak to the back
and camouflage waders
immersed in water to his knees
with landing net at the ready.

His tackle box nearby
with a spare line, lures, bobbers, swivels, leaders, sinkers, hooks, needle-nose pliers
and tales of
the ones that got away.

as the wife unwraps an appreciative smile
and a sandwich or two,
patiently pouring warming mugs of tea
from her flask.

A dinghy tacks,
its sail heading horizontally
whilst unknown sailors
lean in the opposite direction
their backs almost touching the water.

The father, the son, the wife and Castle-Semple loch.

Brian Whittingham


A birthday gift from the weans.

Taking the low road.
Feeling the high road.

Craig speeds along the familiar.
The Loch's twisting track
hugging the water's edge
basking still, in the hot hot sun.

Passing the Youth Hostel
at the foot of Glen Douglas,
where I found
my sixteen-year-old self's wanderlust.

My German mother and English father
never got the chance to travel this road.
Their pasts buried in the coals of Newcastle
and the bombs of Hamm's railyards.

But I discovered.

Places named Inverbeg, Tarbet and Crianlarich,
added a taste I would come to savour.

Inverbeg ... Tarbet ... Crianlarich.

Their sound, a soothing balm.

On by Tyndrum past the Bridge of Orchy
with a rest at Loch Tully Viewpoint
where we have our traditional tea and sandwiches,
watch tourists stop for selfies
before buses rush them into their future.

And, as if I'm re-reading an old map,
my imagination travels back in time
slicing through
the boggy wilderness of Rannoch Moor
and past Glen Etive and the Old Military Rd.

Onto Glencoe's Three Sisters
standing solid in their majesty
where we fold-out camping chairs
in the shadow of the Clachaig-Inn
this time, drinking David's tea
and eating Debbie's pancakes
spread with butter and jam.

And I go for a walk past the Clachaig
back on the path, I trod as a sixteen-year-old
from the pub to the tent pitched beside the river Coe
that tumbled and gurgled.

where me and Billy Myles
warmed ourselves, as our campfire spat sparks,
fuelled by beer, bonhomie and Billy's guitar

singing Beatles songs and harmonising on Sloop John B
'way into the wee small hours
as the Sisters looked on

Brian Whittingham

(Hamm is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia in West Germany. Its railyard was bombed heavily during WW2.)


Published 17 September 2020

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