Jennie Lee’s Homework Project, William Hershaw, Grace Note Publications, Ochtertyre, 2017, 50pp., £6.50

This is ‘a play suitable for upper primary/lower secondary school ages’ and involves Jennie Lee, who ‘doesn’t like school much, let alone history’, but through the magic o the theatre (an a Davy lamp) she traivels throu Time to the age o the Picts, then the days o William Wallace, syne Sir Walter Scott an William Adam mak an appearance, an she even meets Jennie Lee hersel, a teacher, no yet a weel-kent politician, wha helpit foond the Open University in the 1960s in spite o muckle opposition.

In the play, Jennie the schoolgirl meets archaeologists wha dig at Lochore (also cried Inchgall Castle) an throu their finds and the time travel mentioned, she (an the audience, acoorse) learn a wee-bit mair aboot the past, an no juist the past o the lords an ladies, but o ‘ordinary’ fowk. It has a fair scowth, frae the Romans til the First World War an ayont, an there’s a wry mention o the place for women … at hame! Or, as the character Peggie says til Jennie the latter-day politician: ‘Don’t you know girls don’t go to university, Jennie? Certainly no miners’ lassies like us. How could we ever afford it?’

At the end o the play, aifter aa her adventures, schoolgirl Jennie decides she wants tae become an archaeologist. The laist word gangs til the Pictish lassie Ora, on stage, alone, wha speaks a bonnie poem in Scots, wi the laist stanza:

And I’ll bide here aye
Through winds kind and ill,
Till the ice freezes up
As heich as yon hill.

The first performance wis gien at the Lochgelly Centre (Jennie Lee wis born in Lochgelly on November 3, 1904) on the 24th o Februar, 2017, an I hae nae doot it wis very well received.
Raymond Vettese

Buirds: Poems by William Hershaw, Linocuts by Fiona Morton, Roncadora Press, Dumfries, 2017, 26pp., £15.00.

This a beautifu series o poems, maistly short, wi superb linocuts created by Fiona Morton. The haill is designed and handstitched by Hugh Bryden in a limited edition o 300. The langest poem is ‘Grouse’. Hershaw’s perjink cratur fits in weel amang the lang tradition o sic poems in Scots:

Imagine the presumption o a tinky, fleppan craw,
Addressing me, in his auld bleck jaicket,
In his jakey’s rasp, as if he was ma social equal!

The craw warns o whitna weird lies aheid come August, but the grouse winna believe it:

‘Ma dear Sir,’ I lauched, ‘Ye’ve affordit much mirth,
But servants hae kent tae obey me since birth,
The thocht o sic murder wad never occur,
For it’s no in their breeding tae rebel or demur …’

The craw, syne, ‘wasna there ataa’, and as the reader kens fine, the grouse will likely no be there muckle langer either!
The shorter verses can be humorous or, as in the case o ‘Sparrae’, bricht wi beauty:

Fae oot a yoke
o eternal silence and fozzy licht,
Tae burst through a membrane waa,
Tae flee doun a haa,
Atween quick sun shafts and shadows
Afore the daurk enfauld and infaa.

I’m a great admirer o William Hershaw’s poetry. He affen seeks new weys for the auld leid, but also has a skeelie graisp o the tradition an a braw technique. Here’s ‘Eagle’:

A speck i the sun, King Gowden Ee
Stoops tae touch airth: becomes
The Guidman o Ballendreich.
I micht add that there’s a surprise richt at hairt o this pamphlet, amang ‘Eagle’ and ‘Fish Eagle’:

The King’s Ain brither,
Haill saumon lifter:
Lord o the Western Isles

but I’ll no tell ye whit it is, or it widna be a surprise!
Raymond Vettese

The Twelve, Alexander Blok, owerset intae Scots by Frances Robson, Mossrigg, Edinburgh, 2017, 32pp., £5.00

We’re back in Aistern Europe afore the Iron Curtain gaed up, wi this braw owersettin bi Frances Robson. It’s warth notin that Frances haes twice wan the Leid Associe’s John McPhail Law Tassie for owersettin intil Scots. Sae that’s an indication o the quality o her wark. Blok’s poem tells o a time whan Russia wis ruled bi a Tsar an the ordinar fowk wis nae mair nor slaves awned bi the aristocarcy. Blok yaised symbols tae get his meanin across, an the reader maun jalouse the trew meanin: wis the ‘Twelve’ the Twelve Disciples o the New Testament an wis thair leader Christ? Cuid the Jesus o the Tsarist Orthodox Kirk be fechtin in the Red Gairds? Blok leas us tae mak up oor ain mynds.

Frances’ owersettin is gusty an authentic sae faur’s I kin tell. The Russian vairsion is on the richt side whill the Scots is on the car han side. Gin I cuid read Russian I cuid tell but I canna nor kin I jalouse the Cyrillic letterin it’s prentit in. Laein aside the quastion o the owersettin’s veracity, this Scots vairsion is a braw read in its ain richt, wi bonny wee illustrations throughoot.

See abuin yon hausebane, Karl,
A knife has left a scaur.
An here’s anither fresh yin, hen,
Belaw yer breist somewhaur.

Gaun yersel an jig awa!
Yer hurdies are sae sleek an braw!

Blok didna resile frae violent an bluidy eimagery an Frances Robson haes gien us a braw owersettin.This raelly suid hae been furthset in a mair polished buik; it desers tae be in a glossy an heich-bendit volume.

David C. Purdie