jan 2013 - dec 2012


January 31st

referendum 1707 450



January 30th

scottish national



January 28th



quay 3


My mother was born in Quay Street Saltcoats in 1907. After her death for a while I used to collect some old postcards of Saltcoats where she was born. The top left view of Quay Street is taken in 1903 the others are undated but seem to be from the first decade of the twentieth century. I suspect the children with the shoes at the front of the large photograph are the photographer's.



January 27th

I live at the bottom of this street just out of shot. Top photo an old postcard, second a photo taken last summer.


gibson st 1906

Gibson Street 1906


gibson 2

Gibson Street 2012




January 24th

Part of a letter I was working on in discussion with a friend about the referendum and suchlike.

That I regard Westminster as a cesspit with three competing neoliberal management structures doesn't mean I think Holyrood is the golden dawn beckoning the parliamentary road to socialism, or even a decent undismantled welfare state.

I'm no nationalist, though I have no problem in seeing myself as Scottish, that's a fact that is so basic a fact as to be not worth discussion. But what constitutes "being Scottish" or "feeling Scottish" is another matter entirely. So much of "essential Scottishness" apart from such icons as kilted and piped militarism or whisky, tends to consist of an intellectualised sublimated adherence to an assertion of Presbyterian heritage dressed up as pioneering egalitarianism at which the world supposedly gasps in wonder and admiration. Sometimes the Scottish Enlightenment is dragged into this conveniently forgetting the welter of contextual bigotry that such as Hume and Fergusson had to put up with.

I can support a nationalist cause only when it is the cause more expressly of a countercolonialism; but the case here is more complex and less pointed, and the present case in Scotland is not in any way a “revolutionary situation.” In my introduction to Radical Renfrew I said that the immigrant working class of the nineteenth century in Scotland constituted a colony within a colony. That binary has not gone away, and too often the assertion of a personal “core Scottishness” is a masked triumphalist assertion of an identity supposedly inherent in the Scottish people at the beginning of the eighteenth century in despite of the Act of Union of 1707 or the immigration that followed in subsequent years.

January 21st

Shortly before his death in 1974 my father-in-law Thomas O'Brien put together a collection of his poetry with a view to publication and taped himself informally reading some of the poems privately as part of the process. The recording was amongst a few family cassettes I have been transferring this past couple of days to CD via my computer.

As mentioned before in this journal Thomas O'Brien aged 23 went from his native Dublin to fight with the International Brigade in Spain in 1938. The East German Marxist researcher and cultural historian H Gustav Klaus—who has specialised in tracing and historifying working-class writers in Britain and Ireland—sought out my late father-in-law’s son Michael in his pursuit of Thomas O’Brien’s surviving work. Michael had taken over the publishing firm his father had set up in Dublin, and in 1994 Klaus’s edition of essays on the Irish scene and the Spanish Civil War, together with a selection of Thomas O’Brien’s poems plays and letters from Spain, appeared under the title Strong Words, Brave Deeds.

The two poems Thomas O’Brien reads here, “Run Run” and “The Deserters All Three” reflect war experience. It was an experience he rarely if ever seems to have spoken about in his private family life.



January 18th

Sean Fallon who played for Celtic in the fifties and was later assistant to Jock Stein as manager, has died today aged 90.

In the fifties as a boy I used to cut out photographs of Celtic from the newspapers and keep the occasional programme I got my hands on. Below is the programme for the 1954 Scottish Cup Final in which Celtic beat Aberdeen 2-1, together with two photos of the game from my cuttings albums. Fallon scored the winner for Celtic.

sean fallon



January 13th



Poster being circulated in advance of council meeting to close care centres. I intend to go along to this a week on Wednesday.




January 1st

Am awaiting final go-ahead later this month on a project commission first put to me earlier in 2012 in respect of the founding anniversary of a large psychiatric institution. How I welcome the opportunity to get started on this in the near future, leaving the sane to fight it out amongst themselves over The Future of Scotland.



December 29th

my home is in my breast



December 26th

boxing day




December 25th

All this talk of Scottish essentialism. As an artist, I have never felt so alone in my life.


December 23rd

Besides the visit to South Tyrol, this was the reading I enjoyed giving most this year. 



Off to London now for a week for Christmas.



December 17th





December 10th

The NC Kaser lyric poetry award event on Thursday will include some of my poems translated into German and some of the dialect poems read in the local German dialect of the South Tyrol in Lana near the Austrian border in northern Italy. Before I do my own reading (There will be an interpreter with me) there will be a talk by Øyvind Rimbereid who has in the past translated my poetry into Norwegian and Stavanger dialect.

This is an audio file sent me of eight of the dialect poems translated into South Tyrol dialect and read by the translator poet Josef Oberhollenzer. Click bottom right for fullscreen.


If you can read German a description of the Kaser lyric poetry award is here ending with a German translation of "June the Second".

Off to Italy on Wednesday. Pity it isn’t earlier in the year or we would have stayed for a holiday.


December 4th

Two books that appeared earlier this year provide useful informative perspectives on the war in Afghanistan: An Enemy we Created: The Myth of the Taliban/Al Qaeda Merger in Afghanistan 1970-2010; and the poetry anthology Poetry of the Taliban.  Both books, published by Hurst, are the work of the writer-researchers resident in Kabul, Alex Strick van LInschoten and Felix Kuehn.

The  anthology of translated Taliban poetry quotes praise from William Dalrymple amongst others on its cover, and as the editors point out, if a withdrawal is soon to be made from Afghanistan then recognition that the “enemy” is human might facilitate this.

The two poems produced here were both written in 2007 and are from the final section of the anthology titled "The Human Cost". The first is attributed to Hejraan the second is unattributed.





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