Document 754

Temples Fae Creels

Author(s): Andrew McNeil

Copyright holder(s): Andrew McNeil: With thanks to Kettillonia.


Visitin Ainster

Gey slippery in the Dreel Burn.
A crabbit wifie maks her wey across;
Sodden claes on anither dreich day.

That's the picters in ma heid
Conjured up fae the pub plaque ootside.
Yon wifie had cairrit a Royal,
A Stewart, ane o their kings.

Whaur ma journey, the real ane
Stertit wis by thae burns,
By shore ledges an rocks,
Feelin the raw spuckle
On Johnny Dool's Pulpit.

In scuil we done "Explorers" -
Amundsen, Scott an Cook.
But we got droukit aw the same
Inside an oot fae waves batterin
The walls on the shore an beyond.

An doun the street men
Grieved in cloth caps aboot
Silver Darlins now gone.

An noo whaur are thae?

The Regal

Amang waves tae split Atlas
A mairched on Rome
Defeated Napoleon
Took refuge wi Swiss Family Robinson.
The Regal cinema
Jist a skimmer awa fae the sea
Wis a hangar loadit wi planes
Aff tae the ootside an history.

Homer, the Aeneid,
Auld Reekie
Wir, as yet, mony
Dimensions awa.


Oor hoose on Shore road
Wis aye spuckled in spray
Fae waves that ripped san
Aff protective rock ledges.

Reek trails fae the Lothian side
Wid hing aboot Cockenzie
The power station
Opposite Fife's beach mantle;
Ony windae wis guid.

January wis special - waves
Slammin intae the harbour waas
Muckle white flares hingin
Afore rainin doun:
January ragin.


Richt next tae the slipway
We ran, waves lickin at oor feet
If Neptune threw a wobbly:
Yon seventh wave wis on its wey.

Deceptive it wis:
Blankets o wet fadin
When IT wid arrive,
Aw white froth an helpless stanes.

Behind wis a sheer wall,
No scarred wi clawin hands
O bairns: the despair o their folk,
Greetin the cauld thrill o sodden feet
Wi shouts o delighted grief.


Each ane -
Thon howkin oot the sile:
The "Tattie Holidays".

Up fae Ainster,
Roun the back o Pittenweem,
Splittin yer spine -
Get the piece done,
Pit doun tae fiery glaur hell
The birlin tractor
Layin intae its laps.

Echteen year fae it
Only the gulls,
The soople mulk-lik glaur
Stauns oot.
We wir aff,
Strainin each moment fer decades,
Raxin oot o the East Neuk,
Skiffin the Fower Winds.

The Pool

The auld ootside swimmin-pool
Absurd next tae muckle sanstane boilins,
Survivors o mony storms an gales.

Its watter,
Sic wondrous dark brouns;
Velveteen glory
O the colours metres beyond the surface;
Bladder wrack, seaweeds aw
In motion yet gless on the tap.

Bodies flat,
We wid be human divin-boards -
The real anes long gone -
Starin intae it beyond oorsels.
Wi orange lines an braw roun lead weights
Huntin began.

Greenies, shore crabs gluttons fer limpets
Soukin the life oot o shell-less bodies,
Legs scuttlin in the air:

Aince, bairn met forebear.
Feart an dumb wi bluid churnin,
Action fae instinct;
The conger itsel a young ane
Bent, whipped, thrashed on the waa,
Twa o us swallied by its een;
Hooked oorsels,
Baith fisher an fish released;
Escape, unmarked but bloodied.

Scuil library:
Those clock hands draggin
A hand tae Gunn's "Highland River":
Discovery - a master oot fer the hunt.


A stuid mair guilty than innocent.
Her heid dipped, spirit stoned
Unner oor wirds.
Scuil, ma scuil
A haill generation awa.

She wid rin intae her close,
A refuge fae bullets
O fear an spite
Aw fae her ain freens.

We aw saw the strangers,
Suits an briefcases,
Cam oot wi her wee brither.

Doun the Gyles
Wee swaws pulsin up
Tae a steep sandy slope,
A braw platform fer launchin
Shore-cured sanstanes.
Plish-plash skimmers
Fracturin white-crested waves
That instantly sealed again.

Lik oor name-cawin
The stanes wid lie heavy unner watter,
Cairns spreid oot
Like the misery in her een,
Magnified an deep.


Lik horizontal cannles
The electric bars o ma Gran's fire warmed us.

Her wee flet had a windae in the waa.
She wid open the hatch an gie us the news:
On tip-toe, staunin on the bottom stair step
Peer in -
Nae twa dugs on the shelf, awthin else
Ornaments, china flooers an the yella seat covers:
Her weys o trackin hersel fae Renfrew tae the East Neuk.

Illness an cancer -
Twa bastards that mak deith's shores
Nae fremmit lan.
Granfaither deed first:
Huntington's Chorea,
His jaw aften lik a meltit sick typewriter gaun back an forth.

Annie: Gran wis neist.
Returnin fae the Kirkcaldy hospital
On the bed
Lang, hivvie breaths sang intae oblivion.

Ane o the images that run is the crabs;
Twa partans cookin.
She kent -
Kent aboot creels ayont the sea waa,
Ma spring-tide piracy -
Weel-haundit wi her scoldin.

Short-ersed, twa-leggit,
She'd seen me fae her windae
Facin Ainster harbour,
Rings on the cooker glowin,


Chalmers Kirk is no there -
Either as lanmerk or place tae worship in.

Sumhoo whit wis a wee toun's focus,
Its een's cathedral, is nae mair.

Fowk's faith wis as certain
As the rauchled skin
Each bitin winter wind wid kiss
Ony year the fish still cam.

Ma time -
Lik dementit wee shore crabs
We scramblit fer siller
Efter the Reverend Crawford
Had mairrit them.

Thon wis an age
E'en afore a stranger
Spat oot nae such thing as society.

A wid mak her a liar yet.

Mary fae Burntisland
Mary Somerville, mathematicien, astronomer, classicist, 1780-1872

It wull ivver be thus
(Cum bio-chips in heids or genetic enhancement):
Ee o the individual
Spyin life-creation,
The shiver-reek o jist bein
Reels baith spirit an intellect.

"Didna aye gang tae the Kirk
When she gaed up the Kirkgate",
But ye wir near eneuch
On san, fuit soakin
A see yersel -
Ocean breaths
Maun mak ye stert.

No fer wumman
Aw thon learnin;
Whaur the minds o men fail
Sea an land tak ower.


The sign in the country park
Says tod an whaup are dialect
Wirds fer fox an curlew;
Gey queer whan baith birl roun
Tung an mooth ootside the waas.

Fleein ower the Net
A mixter-maxter o tungs meld.
Be cannie:
Dinna lose
Whan awthin micht be gained.

The Memorial Room

A kent the jiners that built it.
Sich care taken wi saw an haimmer.
Last cam velvet blue curtains
Sae dark next tae the plaques,
Sma brass plates fer boats lost.
Buckie, Aiberdeen, Peterheid.
Individuals, partners, faimlies,
Their kin, cam tae sign the buik
Unnoticed by tourists puzzled
By non-interactive models o herrin boats
Or gutters, clooties wrapped loosely roun
Their dummy fingers...

Each faimly had their ain weys
O makkin their young strang
In ports north or sooth.
Noo the lassies hae unreal smiles;
They wear layers o claes fer the cauld
Unable tae stap saut gettin intae cuts,
Their pain measured in thoosans
O guttit fish.


Her step lik the leid o the damned,
Raincoat a deid-skin tone
Bland as thae lamps o flesh
Deep doun in a Berlin bunker.

She is awa tae the shop wi a line,
Her bocht goods intae the credit buik;
Margaret ahint scrievin it in,
Curtains o sorrow flickerin ower her een.

Aince a week mibbe
Her or her sister gang past,
Plastic bags sae hivvie,
Baith airms torture-straicht.

"Faither raped thaim - baith o them."
Unremarkable it wis, this comment:
Wirds tummelt oot amang the hubbub
O bairns neivefu wi chocolate,
A queue as lang as yer airm.

It wis said, then
A went.

She is twal yairds doun
The brae.
Fer winter - a heid scarf;
Snawflakes para-glidiin in tae blanket.

It is judged jist richt:
Up fer messages then gey cannie on the return,
In afore ye really micht git hurt.

Thon ice is treacherous.


The damp is pairt o it
Settin her aff
Throat tearin retchin
Wi no a drap cummin oot.
Haudin yer ain breath
Willin lungs fou o oxygen
Mindin whit the G.P. said:
Her machine fae the hospital
Due back.
We ken we're lucky like
We dinna hae the growk
O bairns missin food.
Folk visit.
Cosy flet they say.
Toys plan the break-oot
Massed in the waa.
In a crowded corner
The telly sells ma car
The ane A dinna hae
Wi sex an status.
Watchin as mair "national" news cums on
We aye hope it's a guid nicht -
Less coughin
Her wee body at peace.

Bedouin Bairns

On St Andrews beach
Wisps o rattlesnake san
Draws oor child tae chase the air.

Unner fuit
A rummlin is felt -
The Links an dunes split open;
Muckle splayed wrists o earth
Doun gangs hotels, greens an clubhooses.

A shin bane is left staunin
Lik a razor shell on the shore
An an ancient cathedral pilgrim's
Is noo oors tae share.


Sae money echoes
As she rouns on hersel,
Last luik in on twenty-five years;
Her haun grasps it,
A muckle caird done oot in felt-tip
"To the best teacher".

Nivver-endin oceans
O paper,
Meetins wi Heidies;
Noo tap line-manager.

Real juice o it
Whan ye made a contact:
Theirsels bein an growin.


Whaur dae yer wirds cum fae?
Asks ma faither wha isnae.
Adoptit in Georgia,
Brocht back,
Gien this tung, splint
Fer the spine - bein
The real sel - me.

Genes - Irish, Cheyenne
An German -
They are pairt spittle.
Only noo A ken it.

Whit did mak me haill -
Bairns an bigger bairns:
Ainster's fowk -
Wirds fillin eneuch neuks
Tae cram the Peace Palace.


Fife's autumnal skin-leopard
Has breathed an raxed
Its lang spine.

The fields o cut stubble
Pierce cauld December air,
Heuch, wuid, lost dubs
Are threatened by
Lan souchin.

Neist tae it
A'm ane o a few
Warm in oor metal boxes
Lickin wet tarmac;
Licht gies transient shimmers,
Preein the muckle constants.

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Cite this Document

APA Style:

Temples Fae Creels. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 23 February 2024, from

MLA Style:

"Temples Fae Creels." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2024. Web. 23 February 2024.

Chicago Style

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "Temples Fae Creels," accessed 23 February 2024,

If your style guide prefers a single bibliography entry for this resource, we recommend:

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2024. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Information about Document 754

Temples Fae Creels


Text audience

Adults (18+)
General public
Audience size 100+

Text details

Method of composition Handwritten
Year of composition 1996
Word count 1663

Text medium

Magazine (e-zine)
Web (webpages, discussion boards, newsgroups, chat rooms)

Text publication details

Publisher Kettillonia
Publication year 1999
Place of publication Glenrothes
ISBN/ISSN 190294402X
Edition 1st

Text type



Author details

Author id 408
Forenames Andrew
Surname McNeil
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1960
Educational attainment University
Age left school 18
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism/agnosticism/animism
Occupation Teacher
Place of birth Toledo
Region of birth Ohio
Country of birth USA
Place of residence Dunfermline
Country of residence Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes
French Yes Yes Yes Yes Work, holiday, family
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes At work and at home