Jackie Kay by Claudia Alonso (2015)

Claudia Alonso, Jackie Kay, 2015. Digital Photograph. Image courtesy of the artist.

Ballachulish – new poem by Chancellor Jackie Kay

Professor Jackie Kay CBE, University Chancellor and Scots Makar, is sharing a series of poems with colleagues, students and members of the public, reflecting on the current period of uncertainty that we are in.

This week, Jackie has shared the poem ‘Ballachulish’, remembering a happy trip with her dad to the village of Ballachulish in Scotland. Now, Jackie reflects on the community coming together to help each other in these unprecedented times. 


Wan time dad drove us to Ballachulish,
a guy dreich day, blawing up a hoolie.
We wur aff tae watch the Heiland Games.
Where’d we stay? Were we near Glenahulish?

Aw the way there in the green Morris Minor,
Dad sang Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina.
Why? I dinny ken. An’ told us aboot John o’ the Glen
Afore we watched them thraw the hammer in the driving rain.

Aye Kidnapped is based on the Appin murder.
This bridge is wan magnificent structure.
It wisnae here when I wis a wean.
No far fray here wis the Glencoe massacre.

Last night Ballachulish would not be laid low.
Every single house had a sign in the window.
Awbody uniting tae help the fowk by Loch Leven.
A green tick or a red cross to let folk know.

Amazing tae see Ballachulish on the TV screen.
How they stapped the foolish and the numpties,
Wey thur hame-made road blocks; wan a dead deer!
How they put up posters: Stay away fray here!

And got the fisheries tae donate tae the pharmacy,
Plastic gloves, an haun sanitisers tae the surgery,
(Which used to be the old terminus at Laroch.)
Aye, Aye, Aye, I hear my dear old dad say, Och,

From the peaty land of the newly dead,
It’s the community spirit that summons ye;
Pole vaulting in the slate quarry on Easter Sunday.
Clever teuchtars will ne’er surpreeze me!

Copyright Jackie Kay. Reprinted with kind permission from the author.

Follow Jackie on Twitter @JackieKayPoet to hear a new poem every Sunday.