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Sadly, Allan is no longer with us. We send our condolences to his family. The only words of comfort we can offer are these:

He was a lovely man!

Allan's Almanac



The Winnipeg Goose

She Never Came

Motorway North

Conversation Between Husband And Wife

Whose Paradise?

Where to die

Guts, Real Guts!

West Highland Morning

Free Verse


Night Train Home




Eclipsed ©

Beneath the crimson moon
the brown earth ebbs
and waves of trees
and swells of grass and corn
retreat from purple sands
To oceans wide and green
where colours fade and glow
as ebbtide turns to flow
and lunar shadows go



Night Train Home ©

London station noises ... A lurch . . . And then we're off!
Away from the swarming city, into the evening.
There's a glow in the west where the day departs.

We talk an hour, then . . . drowsy . . . fall asleep.
One wakes and hears . . .
The wheels click over expansion joints,
Slowed by a cross-wind as the course diverts,
Or echoed hollowly by station buildings,
Or drowned by the roar and rattle of a freight.

He who has waked looks round.
Rushing light from empty stations flits over faces fast asleep.
Dreaming of their journeys' end.
Perhaps they live it now?

But, oh, for an end to the 'clickety-clack',
The restless dozing, the aching back.
On and on, and into the dawn,
Passing the grey towns, the brown hills, the steel mills.
Then . . . slowing . . . and grinding on intersections,
Rousing the sleepers to half-awake actions,
Making them lean to the retardation
As platforms rise to their unfocussed eyes,
And twelve long coaches enter the station.
Station noises . . . Scottish voices ... A lurch,
And we're home!


Where to die ©

I wonder where I shall die
and where might my body be.
On land? …or in the sounding sea?
Or shall I die at home, in bed
with mother
or lover
by my head?
Or maybe in some distant land
far from the haunts of men
with the cackle
of a jackal

my only requiem!





West Highland Morning ©

in the early dawn
shiv'ring and chill
I listened to the silence.
And saw in the silver water,
still, in the Highland morning,
of the lumpy islands. And my own
gave thanks for it all


Ships ©

Whit dae ye dae when yer gran'weans say,
'Where does my daddy go all day?
Why does he never stay and play?
Jimmy's dad never goes away.'

Och! Whit a question, my wee man!
That's hard for ye tae unnerstan'.
But, here, come tak yer granny's han',
an' coorie-doon at granny's knee
an' see if I can tell it t'ye.
It's a' tae dae wi' ships.

Your daddy has a job, ye ken.
That's no' like a' the ither men.
Jimmy an' Patrick's dads' has nane.
It's a' tae dae wi' ships.

Ye'll min' yer Gran'pa Duncan, son.
Remember Gran'pa Duncan's han's?
Jist like mony anither man's . . .
'Buncled an' scaured wi' the rivettin' gun.
Buildin' braw ships was whit he done.

But no' for yer dad the biler suit. He went tae the schule . . .
an' soon stepped oot in moleskin coat wi' gowden braid
an' sailed the ships yer Gran'pa made.
He watched that the engines ran a'richt.
An' saw that the boat had the 'lectric licht. . .
Left haun' red, an' richt haun' green,
an' power tae the captain's wireless screen.
An' a' things runnin' smooth th'gither
sailed safely hame tae Glesga's river.

But noo that the ships has sailed awa'
an' don't come back; there's mony a prood man ta'en his fa'.
The bookie's ... an" the billiard ha' ... the whuppet track!
Jimmy an' Patrick's dad's like that. God help them a'.
They've scarce a jaicket tae their back, come rain an' snaw.

That's ma' lesson, son. Tak' heed.
An' stick wi' a job that buys yer breed.
Though the shipyards' days is past.. .
An' Linwood caurs, that didna' last,
There's plenty that's new.
They'll be something for you.
Tak' haud o' it fast!



Heroes ©

The tank sits wheel-deep in the yellow dust
Of the shell-shattered farmstead over the town.
Stubble-chinned heroes slouch round, swapping jokes
And rolling black strands into spindly smokes.

They've been sitting for weeks, with no leader, no orders,
Since their forces advanced from the eastern borders;
Living in boredom, tormenting the town
With occasional tank-shells to keep the heads down
And trap the poor townsfolk in shivering fear.
The only reply an occasional round
From a futile Kalashnikov to the high ground
Where the heroes in tanks shout jeers at the sound.

Then, no-one knows how, but the word gets about
That someone's arrived. And the tanks must dig out
And advance on the town.
So the stubble-chinned heroes have action at last,
Old and new buildings come under their blast.
The shellfire shatters a Communist tower
Of sordid flats where the people cower
A century's skills in the builders art
In a church of God are blown apart.
A hapless family's hopeless hut shivers asunder under the shot

And an innocent mother's torn remains
Slump in her children's dark bloodstains!



Guts, Real Guts! ©

Guts . . . real guts . . . don't show in a grittin' of teeth;
Or loud-mouthed boasts . . . 'I'll do it! I'll do it!
I know I'll do it!'
And so, if one day there's a call for you
to show your mettle,
you'll see it through,
if you don't rush to settle old scores,
or throw the gauntlet down,
and challenge the whole town
on how well you'll do.
I know. You see, some years ago
I had a nearly fatal blow!
It seemed I'd not pull through.
But, later, when I did, it was mate that said,
'It's guts . . . real guts . . . you had!'
But, no, he's only halfway right.
The will to win in any fight
is there. But don't
claim all the credit, or you won't!
Though guts is what some day might save us,
they're something that the Good Lord gave us!



She Never Came ©

long years ago, a man with this concern
would pace…….
and fret…….
and listen for the horses' hooves along the lane,
which never came;
or crunching of the carriage-wheels upon the drive,
which don't arrive.
That man today,
in an ordinary street in an ordinary home
awaits the ring-ring of an ordinary phone;
an ordinary phone . . . not like the twitter
of some fancy phone that goes
in upmarket houses or in bungalows.

But just the same . . . she never came.




Motorway North ©

Would they believe ... in Watford, say,
The frantic road upon which they frustrate themselves
to work each day could take them, in a few short hours,

Away . . . through places, to the South a joke,
Like Wigan, Stafford, Crewe, or Stoke,
whose busy mills and decent folk
supplied a mighty Empire in a civilising world
until so-called 'enlightenment'
the whole in bloody tumult hurled.

Motorway north on a sparkling day,
when one-by-one the counties slip away,
away behind and out of mind.
Depart the frantic South and pray for calmer places,
open spaces and rolling hills.

where the looping highway
lies like a noble order, proud on the shoulder of Shap
and the free winds of Cumbria
ruffle an ermine of late-spring snow.
Would they believe, down there, that north along that road
a few short hours, a few long miles
that worthwhile prize ... a better England . . . lies?


The Winnipeg Goose ©

The goose that swallowed Winnipeg, (as everybody knew,)
Had bitten off a great deal more than any goose could chew.
The time had come he should migrate to warmer climes in a distant State.
In skeins of four, and six, or eight
the other geese honked overhead
on training flights, to strengthen wings,
agree their cruising speed, and height,
and who should lead,
and suchlike things.
But Greedy Goose had problems, for his weight
with Winnipeg inside him was too great!
Beside the Royal Mint, the longest of the lakes
provided just the distance that it takes, for lift-off run;
but climbing to the sun, in Manitoba's morning, was no fun.
Though he could fly, he knew he could . . . not ever reach
the cruising altitude of that stupendous flock;
a spectacle of wonder in the eyes of all
who witnessed the migration in the fall, of all the geese . . .
. . . aye, all the geese, bar one!
For, having eaten Winnipeg, his weight
was far too great!
To put that right
he'd have to ... defecate?



Free Verse ©

I don't think it's for me
this free-verse thing,
For how can a painter paint
with comprehension?
How can his landscape lie with any truth?
How can his portrait-work
express a frown, or smile
or wistfulness, or beauty
if there are no rules
and any daub will do?
Is writing, like a youngster's clothes,
some trendy fashion
from Body-Shop to Next
and back? Indeed, what's next?
Why do we read our Shelley or our Keats?
Or do we? Who does?
A thousand years on, who reads John Donne?
I do. Do you?
Please God, I pray
that what we write, or paint, or build today
will not be
towerblocks of tomorrow.



Whose Paradise? ©

Don't talk to me of Caribbean lands
as idyllic islands in the sun.
Sure, that's how they are in travel agents' hands
with set-up photographs of empty sands
and glamour overdone.

The palm-fringed islands in a sea of blue
are there, but relatively few
are uninhabited. That seems
to be the defect in the dreams
of paradise.
For it is true
that Caribbeans have a merry name
for smiles and gaiety.
And so they do
with blue-rinsed Yanks, at ports,
who jabber off the tourist-boats
in chainstore shorts
to buy their tawdry hanks
of plaited straw and lumpen pots of clay
and sail away.



Conversation Between Husband And Wife ©

WIFE 'It's Tuesday again, but ye're doon tae the label'

HUSBAND The label o' what?'

WIFE 'Yer boatle o' Grouse. Ye're tryin' tae gie up,
But ye havna' been able.
Ah'm thinkin' ye havna' the guts o' a louse!
Ye bocht it last Friday tae last ye a week.'

HUSBAND That boatle, ah tellt ye, has sprung a wee leak.
It's dreeblin' awa' while it stan's in the press
An' that's how the whisky is drappin' tae less.'

WIFE 'Ya joker! Deceiver! Ya leear! Aw heck!
A leak in a boatle is aye at the neck.
If the whisky's gaun doon It's gaun doon yer ain throat,
An' that wullna' help things a helluva lot.

But you'll get a scunner, ya boosy auld swine
If the lips o' a boatle is better than mine
That's a' ye'll get kissin'
F'r a helluva time!'

'If ye're offrin' a choice then,
A'll show ye some sense.
A'll mak' up ma min' an' get doon aff the fence.
A boatle, a wummin, gi'es comfort as well

But there's diff'rences tae
An' ye said it yersel'
For the mooth o' a boatle gets shut wi' a stapper

But the mooth o' a wummin jist goes on like a clapper!'


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