Tales of Dumfries, Galloway, Burns and the red, red, wine…


Was the great Scottish poet Rabbie Burns a Unionist or Nationalist? Which way would the Bard have put his mark on the Indyref ballot paper last year?

And what of Galloway, a region which has “swung both ways” for and against Scotland and England, a region with its own “foreign policy” down through the ages?

Billy Kay
Billy Kay

All this and more was discussed when Galloway poet Hugh McMillan dropped into the studio on his way to his own book launch to discuss history, politcs and poetry with our podcast host, Derek Bateman. Apart from his interview, Hugh has also contributed some poetry (below)

In part two of the podcast, we feature another contribution from Scottish social historian Billy Kay, who’s treating us to a series of tales based partly on his remarkable book about the Scottish Diaspora, The Scottish World.

This time the subject is our relationship with wine… click on the audio file above for a right good listen!

Hugh McMillan writes:

When I think of Dumfries, I think of Duke Swann’s little cave full of comics in the High St, hot chips in Piolis, Eddie P drunk and selling the Evening News, my first kiss near the sewage plant, my mother dying in the hospital muttering quietly to her own mother dead in the Highlands 30 years before. This is the Dumfries of hopes and disappointments and death, of the pub and the dead end, the place to dream of getting away from, only to find yourself back.”

When I am walking up Queensberry Street in low cloud

and tread on chips floating in an oily puddle,

I am actually on the Cierro Del Sol, staring through trees

at ponds like pearl, the roses and myrtle.

 When I turn onto the High Street at seven o’clock at night

and neds are stoned out of their brains and jeering,

I am hearing the sound of nightingales in gardens

with the heat still singing and the sun setting on fire.

 At midnight I am not leaving the Hole in the Wa,

fumbling my way through a huddle of strange dwarves, 

but moving statuesquely through the lush blooms 

of my imagination, heavy and sweet as jacaranda,

 and the night will not end here, in light to heavy drizzle,

and a taxi that fines you a hundred quid for being sick,

it will not end here in damp sandstone and shadows

but surely with a last long kiss below an orange moon.

– Hugh McMillan