Document 755

Sanstane an Steel

Author(s): Andrew McNeil

Copyright holder(s): Andrew McNeil



Continents tae explore,
Glacial smooth sand invitin ye,
Ye're wary as ye leave land faur ahint,
Creels noo exposed, transportit,
Haudin fast the captured sea cod
Or e'en young conger.

I clamber ower haill couters o taangle,
Mindin the vices on fingers fae partans,
Aye feart the planet wull revert,
Disappear unner water.
I touch surfaces, een reflectit
Reaching ayont masel
The iron cleek howkin oot debris.

Aye destruction when the twa-leggit


Siller hips lik western holsters
Thon auld prams wid wheel
The aboot-tae-be mairrit.

Paradit roun Ainster
Maukit in chocolate an treacle
Passin the whale jaw banes
Elemental rites fae the Atlantic.

Whaur afore faimlies hid
Ain patterns on fishin jumpers
Makkit tae defeat winds
Threatin tae empty Fifies o mankind
Noo ither rituals.

Through it aw
The May
A ticht drawn chalk fist
On the horizon -
Cumin intae view
As they pass ower the Dreel
The burn suppin lazily roun Steppin Stanes
Jinin the incumin sea.


Every twa year cum hame:
As lang as she cuin dae this
They'll be happy in the States.

Pop ower fae America
Whar awthin is bigger
Aye! Standart o life is better.

Staunin thair it blinds me
What kin o life?
Whase standarts?

She'll no see the young growe
Deid - claes in her min will cover
The thoosand weys they an aw us
Gang forrit:
Personal, local an national daeins soak us
Mony ettlin fer better days aheid
Especially noo.

Yon red squirrel I seen speed across the Muchty road,
A nip o fragile broon beauty framed
Bi the Lomonds - twin baps in ever changin licht
They ur lost tae her.

The faimly walk doun the High Street
Ignorin the exhibition poster
Fae Agricola tae Chatelard unner Queen Mary's bed
Sex an deith hae starrin roles in braw waa panels.

Danderin on fitsteps echo
Unseen up a close, souns like spirits tappin
No shair o the wey.


"Ye telt us fower o'clock."
"The bus would arrive at three thirty at the latest."
"I ken but the letter said somethin aboot fower..."
"We've had them back for twenty minutes."

Granfaither an teacher:
The ane, finger still rock-calloused.
Lang since idle fae wark in a Fife mine;
Th'ither, fantoosh as his Apple Mac
Whaur yon note fer thair trip wis ran aff,
Reflections o cooncil hooses
Temporary fer near fifty year noo
No seen throu his windae.

The hill ahint the schule luiks like the Bastille -
Heavy, earthen-haunched,
Barefit ledges oot fae gorse-skirts -
An open-moothed winter stare.

He leaves thankin the heidmaister,
Five bairns o various heichts skirl aroon
Cries held fer a second
In the late November air.


Parasols next tae a nicely bricked
Vomitarium jist alang fae Asda:
Some o the sichts on the road tae work.

Noo an again on the same road
I pass it - cyberspace graphic fish
Fleein past ma car.
A new look fer the Pittenweem fish van.

I can mind the fish barra,
Its minder tall an sharp-jawed,
Bonnet placed on his heid,
Pushed alang oor road
Painted green yon ancient green:

Jist like ma Gran's back door,
The ane I wid hing on
Listenin -
Raspin, dyin breaths,
Ma mooth half-imitatin.
Restin ma palms on her window-sill.


The blue his a spirit o its ain
Lappin aff the white cliffs
Seen fae Ainster lik cloods.

Awthin is paced oot fer human feet
Frae larach tae cliff tae the beach;
Fowk sharin the island wi rock an gull.

Gien sum maumie winds
A sun makin gannets hyter on ledges
Thon group maun be takin a hairst
A hairst sae deep rootit in the first element.

Yon chiels ur the diggers fer banes
No the monks an invaders o yestereen.

They mibbe dinna ken the saut
The yammerin fae shore an sky steys

Steys, steys an rests:

Eneuch tae defeat granite
Thrumple marble
Seep throu steel.


The 1976 heatwave
A glorious summer.

Lyin on liquorice
Five o uz bathe in a gowden
Licht - the sea
Licks sanstane doun
Yonder at the Gyles.

Universes, countries
Dissolve amang the haze.

Back an re-baptised
We mak wattery second sels.


Dinna ken whaur this itch comes fae -
Sae sair sometimes I cuid mak
A conger eel weep.

Shivereens of infancy.
Micht be 1967.
There I am a wee nyaff,
Wi a Yankee accent.

Like ma whelkin days,
Heave some muckle rocks deep.
(I'm nae Scots Pegasus enabler.)
I hae tae splash aroon.

Sae whit aboot this itch?
Lookin deep intae the pool
I see twa selves,
Ane at ease on shores
Deep in massacred kelp an tangle,
The ither far awa, beyond
The May Island,
Whaur noo they dig fer the past,
Satisfyin oor itch in the present.

This work is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

The SCOTS Project and the University of Glasgow do not necessarily endorse, support or recommend the views expressed in this document.


Cite this Document

APA Style:

Sanstane an Steel. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 23 February 2024, from

MLA Style:

"Sanstane an Steel." 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., "Sanstane an Steel," 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 755

Sanstane an Steel


Text audience

Adults (18+)
General public
Audience size 100+

Text details

Method of composition Handwritten
Year of composition 1996
Word count 811

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