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Promoting Creative Writing in Scotland


Poet of the Month


Betty McKellar




The inspiration for my poetry comes mainly from my love of the Renfrewshire countryside. I live within Muirshiel Country Park, and the diversity of sights and sounds and stories that it offers is a feast for the senses and a gift for any poet to work on.  I hope that, like me, you will be captivated by the spirit of the wild moorland that permeates these poems.




Murmurations  (2009)

Muirsheil  (2008)

Flickering Images  (2004)

Widdershins  (2003)

Poetry Trails


Composer Sally Beamish has written pieces inspired by Betty’s poems, particularly “Sangsters”, Cramasie Theid” and “Paisley Pattern”.






No artist sat down to design them

yet they are pencil-scored across the landscape

like an architect`s plans.

They evolved

from peasant knowledge

of the fields, the marshes,

the massive shoulders of the hills

their cliffs and dips and rises,

and from man`s need

of boundaries.

Through all the bitter winters

they survive

and function in their roles.

They hold the farms and steadings and the cottages

in stony arms

and on the hill

sheep use them for a bield.

Throbbing within them is a mini-world

where stoats

in stylish ermine

glissade a sinuous route through labyrinthine paths

and pirouetting whitrits dart and snap

at panicky voles.

Wrens and wagtails find small window-holes for nests,

green velvet mosses and the grey lace lichens

keep them dressed.


If you had told the dry-stane dykers

that they were sculptors

they would have laughed

and said that they were only builders

doing a job:

yet like the mystic standing stones

dykes have become an art form,

and when the sun shines on them

with the light of evening

their cold greyness

glows warm.

They come alive

and rise

like golden snakes

rippling their way upwards

to a high horizon.





Christmas Dreamings


It came and went so fast

through the gloomy not-quite-dark

of a December dawn.


it was an angel

stirring a small round hole

in the sky directly above

with the end of his harp  -

an overflow,

but for an instant liquid sunlight gold from out of Heaven

poured into my secret grey-walled garden

nowhere else

and on the earth

I was the focus

of a blessing.

Gold showered me, washed me, warmed me.

I stood, entranced

beneath tree branches dripped in gold


as a jeweller`s treasure trove.

Stone and winter grass were drenched,

brown-feathered winter birds exotic in the glow.

It was a beneficence.


Then it was gone,sky-hole obscured, suddenly cold.

Time for snow.

It came in dancing swirls

crystals and pearls

ten minutes and the ground was ermine-robed.

Hints for the Christmas dreamings  -

think light.

Dream you a gold christmas

dream you a white -

angel gleamings

from that December dawning

for the story of the golden Christmas night.






       The first of May:

a clear night with the hint of frost

          quite cold

but with the sky horizon-blushed

in pink and pleasurable thoughts

        of summer`s breath.


       My first year here

has come and passed and nearly gone.

       I feel the urge

        to light a fire

           of debris

in my cottage-garden wilderness.


    Soon, dry twigs crackle

        sparks spit out

    flames flicker and leap high.

I throw and poke and prod until its heart glows white

   and stand back as heat sears me

       strangely satisfied.


        Tandlemuir -

    The Bonfire Moor.


Pagan men who danced round Beltane flame

    and named this place


and vanished on a summer`s breath.

     "Light the fire,

      dance the dance,

taste the goodness of the earth".


    It is enough.



Fighting Back.


Nearly forty years since the McKellars

moved from "Heathfield"

and the bulldozers breenged in

to lay it low.

There`s been no healing to its wound.

The gaps are raw and sore,


crying outrage still,

the stone walls not yet ready to collapse

and "coorie doon"

into the role of scenic ruin.

What was a neat patch

of parsley, golden wonders,

geometric cabbage rows

is now a sea of nettle

flowing strong into the shore of moorland grass

with the corrugated iron flotsam of a nissen hut

which housed the tups

one more reminder of a living past.

Beyond the dyke

even the birds have flown.

Where once there was the peewit cry

the drum of snipe, the blackcock dance,

there`s empty sky.

Only the sad wind

whistles and sighs and moans.


But one thing soldiers on.

The rhubarb,

Rhubarb fights back.

It wins the annual battle against nettle,

grows tall and strong and rampant red and fat.

Every year I gather it.

Every year McKellars lick their lips

in pink juice from my rhubarb tarts.

Old Archie McKellar`s ghost still barks

"Heathfield rhubarb?

The best rhubarb in Renfrewshire!"






My hert has aye been pulsin

tae the rhythms

o the hills o Scotland.

I bide here

ma lungs a` scented

wi heathers an bluebells an thistles

an the ancient pine.

The name o ma faither`s line

is writ

alang wi Bruce`s on Arbroath   -

I`m frae the Pictish time,

the mystic time.


Nae hamecomins, then, for me;

I`m rooted.


But gin my faithers had gaed oot

tae seek their fortunes

in warlds

ahint the Cheviots

this Pictish bluid wad mebbies still hae raced

rid an rich

alang my veins   -

so, welcome, a` you veesitors wi your Scottish bluid

tae the auld hame.


We`re no juist a clamjamphrey

o oor politicians

rattlin Wemyss-ware piggy banks

afore yer nebs

for siller.

Hamecomins touch the hert.

They reach in deep.

May ye breathe the whiff o sweetness

frae oor wee white rose,

an wi MacDiarmid






Autumn is come

in its due time.

The year has made its circle.

Branches on the fruit trees

bend down towards the earth

in fruitfulness.

Apples and plums

are sweet as wine


red-ripe for picking.


In the long-ago

I filled my basket

like the rest

with the fruitfulness  -

apples and flowers and bread

and sprays of corn  -

and laid it on the altar

in the golden harvest morning.



when the years have done

with their circlings

and Autumn is come

in its due time

the flowers are full-blown

for the harvest home.

And children still stand

at the altar

with their faces raised

to the shining of the harvest morning,

glowing like ripened wheat

with seed for the years.





Come June

they break free of the coarse grass under Windy Hill,

tiny hearts

quickened and pleasured and purple-flushed

by the touch of a sunray,

evanescent as love`s first blush.  


They come like in the scatter from a summer bride,

floretted confetti

amongst the pearly bedstraw and the golden tormentil,

each one a digit


in the sum total beneficence

of the June bouquet.



Rites of Spring


Look high above the grand arena

of our Muirshiel moorland.

The white Nijinsky dancer

is taken to the blue

in a solo matinee -

incandescent star

gliding and leaping

to the wild Stravinsky music of the planet`s breathing

soaring on the impetus

of his life-force choreography.


Let your spirit surge and rise and whirl;

dance with the fierce white dancer,

join in his glee.

The age-old singing of the heart

starts up

in all the radiant earth`s glad lonely places

and shouts

"Be free!"



The Chiffon Time.


Come walk with me into the chiffon time of my remembrancing

to see the ones who once have been

grey mist dancers from the far-away behind the filmy screen


that sigh on a wind-breath of the in-between

behind a translucent magic

of quivering Muirshiel green.


One day we`ll fade with all those shadow dancers

to the misty grey of the far-away.

Tremors of air

we`ll be

the ones who once have been

pulled over

beyond the magic Muirshiel green

to move to old tunes in all the ancient rhythms


glimmering in the joined-hand line

that passes through time.



The Purple Time


August is the purple time

the lush time

the luscious time

with the road-edge tangled in a mass

of summer`s last wild rampant rasps

over-ripe with sweet, bruised fruit

that trickles down its mulled-wine juice

for thirsty, intoxicated thrushes.

And there`s the fankle of the bramble bushes

with berries

darkening to a shine

for next month`s bramble-berry time.

And struggling out from this melee


come knapweed

and mauve scabious

and fat pink clover flowers all blushing

and from a patch

of just the grass

a scattered shower of purple pansies

held over from the July high-noon blooming.


Autumn`s coming.

But while there`s time still

look to the Queenside hill.

She`s covered in hot heather flushes

of purple

for in the year`s circle


is the purple time.






All poems on this page are the copyright © of Betty McKellar













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