Thursday, 11 July 2013

Eat your heart out McGonagall

I was down in Jedburgh a couple of days ago for the sad, but rather uplifting occasion of my much loved Aunt Ina's funeral. She was laid to rest at the town cemetery, a beautiful spot, just behind the castle and overlooking the River Jed. She lies within a few feet of my dad and about half a dozen relatives and close to many of her friends.

When I visited my dad's grave I was reminded yet again how much he loved this Border countryside and particularly the beautiful Jed valley, where he liked to walk and where he taught me how to cast a fly and helped me catch my first trout.

Just before he was taken ill I was overtaken by a sudden and totally illogical urge to record the land around the town in verse. Illogical because I'd never written poetry before and had no idea whether I could. By the time I finished the first, he'd already passed away and I've always regretted not having the  opportunity to read it to him. I think he would have liked it, because every name would have held memories for him, but he'd probably have laughed and said it was rubbish.

Much of it is in local Borders dialect you may find indecipherable, and some of it doesn't rhyme, but I think it captures the essence of the place and it's probably the only poem I'll ever write; so here it is.


Fair Jed your sylvan water flows,
o’er peat and stone
from whence you rose.
Neath Millmoor Rig and Weasel Hill,
 where roe deer stoop
 to drink their fill,
past Soothdean’s fort 
and Soothdean’s mill,
a bubbling, tumbling Border rill.
A flash of blue,
nae, turquoise, bright,
shy kingfisher is caught in flight;
in shallow pools,
the salmon writhe,
a frantic prelude
to new life.
Through forest glades,
past peel and tower,
in valley broad you
feel your power,
storm fed by every
spring and burn, 
men fear the day
your mood will turn.
By sheep filled pastures
lords hold dear
 that once played host
 to sword and spear,
where reivers camped
and warden trod,
 fore bluid was shed 
on Redeswire’s sod.
Camptoon awaits,
and Mossburnford, 
close by once rode
that fatal lord
o’ Linthaughlee
whae, faithful to 
his king’s last plea, 
took heart and soul
and set baith free.
Grey Ferniehurst
hame o’ the Kerrs,
the crumbling rocks 
of mighty scaurs
Tree shrouded pools
where otters play, 
and fairy bowers
where lovers lay;
 you hae them a’.
At Tammy White’s,
 the bairns still swim
and leap frae Fourth Brig at a whim.
Then on to Jethart’s
noble lie, 
whence oft was cast an errant fly. 
Three caulds you’ll cross,
when you reach there - 
Allars, Glebe and 
Anna fair.
And David’s Abbey’s
muckle wa’s,
where black clad monks
once walked the ha’s, 
til Henry’s knights in a’
their splendour left 
their mark in flame and horror.
Past Mary’s Hoose 
and mills now lost
to Riverside
and Jammie Scott’s.
Neath Shoogly Brig
your waters flow,
through gentle glides
they now will go 
until they reach that sacred spot, 
where fair Jed ends,
two rivers marry
and on its way
the Teviot carries
your essence to the sea.

Doug Jackson 2010

The Abbey at Jedburgh, with the river in the foreground

2 comments: said...

You do yersel a disservice, Doug... a beautiful piece of work.. evocative and lyrical.

jayne said...

Bill would have loved this Doug, it is a lovely poem.