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Mair Burns


There was a goodly crowd for the Scottish Poetry Library‘s flash mob outside St Giles this lunchtime. It was fun! I saw several lovely people I wouldn’t normally see of a lunchtime and was interviewed by a journalist, though I probably wittered nonsense away at her. There’s a video on The Scotsman website with footage of the song and a cuttie interview with good old Peggy from the SPL.

Here’s a video I took on my mobile phone. Peggy’s in front keeping us all in line. The man wi the mouthie is, unless I’m mistaken, Stan Reeves:

Aye, it’s not exactly steadycam, but it gives you a strong flavour of the moment. My mother texted me this evening to say she’d seen us on the telly so you might see us on “Reporting Scotland” after the 10 o’clock news (I’ll be watching to see!) or on the BBC iplayer, if you can get it there.  (UPDATE: there’s a BBC video here.)

The flash mob was a poetry book’s throw — not that I’d throw a poetry book around in the street, mind you — from my old office, which overlooked Parliament Sq. So, in honour thereof and of the Maister o the Standart Habbie, here is my Burnsian address to the pipers who frequent the plaza, with one in particular in mind:

on seein him crawl up the Royal Mile

Mishanter faw yer crabbit face,
great golach o the pipin race.
Afore St Giles ye tak yer place
wi ither gowks
there for tae blaw an pech an skraich
for furrin fowk.

When you stairt up, the lift shuid fill
wi groans fae them that has tae thole
yer total want o tunin skill,
yer connacht reeds,
the mankit time ye stamp out ill
wi muckle feet.

But naw: it’s photaes taen, siller skailt
intil yer gantin case that waits
for unsuspectin tourist bait
that cannae tell
gin whit ye play is worth its weight
or straucht fae hell.

I’v never heard sic constipation,
sic wersh, wanchancy emmanation
fae this braw emblem o ma nation
as you purvey.
Nou, this micht come as a revelation
but—ye cannae play.

The ugsome din ye pass for pipin
wid fleg an fash the fiercest Viking.
Nae maitter that he’s yaised tae skitin
gleg throu battle,
the pair auld craitur wid gang gyte an
sned his thrapple!

O wid some pooer the giftie gie ye
tae hear yersel as ithers hear ye!
I threap it wid dae nocht tae free ye
fae yer glaikit notions.
Truth is, I wid prefer tae see ye
faur ower the ocean.

Sae listen here: enough’s enough.
I dinnae hae tae thole sic guff.
An nou thir lines has caaed yer bluff,
juist haud yer wheesht.
Pack up yer pipes, syne bummle aff
an gie us peace!

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