Family Stories


Poems written by local people about their town and friends. Some of them are unattributed. Let us know if you know who wrote them.


About people from Skares


When I scan thro your letters I see noo an then

Some life long acquaintance has passed frae oor ken

Like the ice on the river in a gentle spring thaw

They slid frae their moorings an drifted awa

There’s auld Rabbie Dykes “Hail fellow well met”

He laid past his gairth and gaed aff tae his rest

His big hearty laugh will be missed frae the raw

Syne Dykie depairted an slippit awa

The fech o’ the Shirkies – Ned, Rabbie and Mick

Wullie an Stuart hae laid doon their picks

Rode the last tow, ta’en their pin frae the wa’

Blew oot their Glennies and slippit awa

Then wee Jimmy Donald and auld Davie Brown

Hae ta’en their last ride frae Skares tae the toon

Auld Mungo Duncan, Tam Phillips an a’

Hae gaen the same gait an slippit awa

Jimmy Holland, Wull Torbett an auld Baldy Hodge

Wee Johnny Morrison, Joe Rutherford, the belles

Michael, Jim Johnstone, Tam Campbell an Graw

Wull an Jim Kelly, a’ deid an awa

The douce Aggie Shirkie, sae patient an kind

Jeannie Lochead ta’en awa in her prime

Wee Maggie Rutherford sae brisk an braw

Like the flooers o’ the forest are a’ deid an awa

Christine Barrie writes: My great uncle John Anderson left Cumnock for America when he was just 16 it would be another 30 years before he came home.
On his long journey home he wrote this poem.
When I was just a wee bit boy my mither said to me
When you grow to be a man John what would you like to be?
And I told her all I’d like to be and all the deeds I’d dare
For I was then a dreamer building castles in the air
I had the urge to travel in those days so long gone by
For I was young and full of life and all my hopes were high
I’d sail across the ocean and my mither she would greet
But I’d bring Hame lots o treasures and lay them at her feet
My memory always takes me back through all the years thats sped
As I listened to my mither and this is what she said
you may sail to places far away and riches you may gain
But you’ll hunger for the treasures John
You left behind at Hame
Now the years are far behind me and my mither she is gane
And I seek no more adventure for I am coming Hame
When I come Hame to Cumnock and I flee across the sea
Nae man in aw this wide world will be happier than me
Now I Dream of all the things I’ll dae an all the scenes I’ll view
For the day I land in Cumnock will be a dream come true
And nothing will annoy me in the noises that I hear
For the humming o the engines will be music to my ears
It will seem to me they’re saying as they’re singing their refrain
I carry precious cargo I’m bringing Johnnie Hame
An they’ll aw be there to meet me my freens an aw my kin
Waiting there to greet me when the plane is coming in
My you’re looking weel John I ken that’s what they’ll say
An you hivnae changed a bit John in the years you’ve been away
And when I pass through Mauchline I feel like I could cheer
For I’m almost in my ain toon when Auchinleck is near
Then coming down through Auchinleck
Wi my patience nearly gane
The longest mile o any journey is the last mile Hame
And when at last my journeys ended then I will declare
This is the finest place on earth
For this is Cumnock Square
I’m thinking o that last mile as I write these lines today
When I journey to my ain toon three thousand miles away
And speaking o that last mile this truth I’ll always claim
The longest mile of any journey
Is the last mile Hame
John Anderson
The Tup Inn Grand Ball
I don’t know if you will believe this
It almost made me stop and think
As to whether I should go tee-total
And give up the demon called drink
This happened to me one late evening
As I sat in my big easy chair
I had been to the Tup for a drink with my pal
And I think I had more than my share.
As I gazed at the mantelpiece before me
I was feeling more drowsy by far
For the clock and the ornaments suddenly seemed
Like the gantry behind the pub bar.
In the distance the barman was calling
Just when the drams felt so fine
“Come along folks,drink up please,
It’s way past closing time”.
So I lifted my glass
And I swallowed it down and waved a “cheerio”
Goodnight Sadie, see you Chick
And homeward did I go?
The last of the customers are leaving the pub
Chick steals a wee glance at the clock
A last look around as he closes the door
Then turns the key in the lock.
So now the pub is silent
The minutes slowly pass
There’s not a sound,but wait-
Was that the clink of glass?
And sure enough up on the bar the tumblers start to pair
And off they danced along the top
As singing filled the air
The whiskey bottles on the shelf
All shouted one and all
“Hip hooray! It’s time once more
To hold the Tup Inn Ball
And so the band got started
Behold it was a sight
While you and I were fast asleep
They danced away the night.
On the floor came the Cognac
And the Cointreau with her fan
Then kicking their legs high in the air
They did the French Can Can
The Bushmills and the Guinness
Didn’t seem to care a fig
As they turned and twirled around the floor
When they did the Irish jig
Whyte and McKay and Johnny Walker red label
Sat back and enjoyed all the scenes
The lagers and the Sweetheart Stouts
Were all the best of freens.
Next came a spot of singing
The applause brought down the house
The song they sang was ” Scotland Forever”
The choir The Famous Grouse.
The Tartan Specials took to the floor
And started doing their thing
“Best set in the hall” and ” Hoogh” they went
As they did the Highland Fling!
Two gatecrashers from Boddingtons
From the land of the sassenach
Were ordered to leave by the bouncer
A bottle the best Glennfiddach
Booths Gin and Bristol Cream Sherry
Creme de Menthe and Advocat
Made up a wee circle and did the slosh
And shouted “here’s where it’s at”
A six pack of Extra Strong Carlsberg
Pushed their way onto the floor
And did a stirrring display of the polka
So the crowd all yelled “give us more”!!
The glasses and the bottles all took to the floor
And the band played rock and roll of a sort
And the spotlight picked out a peculiar sight
A boogie woogying bottle of port.
Then everyone looked at each other
In question and seemed to be vague
For nobody knew what the dance was
Except a dimpled bottle of Haig!
When the orchestra sounded a horn pipe
It just made you think of the sea
Bacardi ,Black Rum and white rum
Did you ever enjoy such a three.
Smirnoff and Valdivar Vodka
Were down there among the great throng
Their acrobatics were a joy to see
And they sang for us the Volga boat song.
And so it went on until morning
And the sun was beginning to shine
So they gathered around in a circle
And they sang “For auld Lang syne”
The whiskeys the rums and the port wines
The glasses the long,short and tall
Tiredly made their way back to the shelves
‘Twas the end of the Tup Inn Grand Ball
But maybe they’ll meet one more evening
Just when the drams are feeling fine
And the barman is calling “time gentleman please
It’s a long way past closing time.”
Perhaps I had one too many
I maybe imagined it all
Was I really at home in that big easy chair
Or was I here, at the Tup Inn Grand Ball !!!
Bobby Kelly 1981
A Boyhood Dream

Woodroad park 2021

Ma story stairts fur whit it’s worth,
An exiled Scot just trevellin North,
The wife an twae weans in the car,
Their hieds stowed fu’ o’ Cumnock lore,
O’ hoo their faither, as a boy,
Ne’er wantit ony shop bought toy,
For nature in her ain sweet way,
Provided a’ his needs in play.
….twas cried the ‘Widroad’
Frae the signpost oot the Auchinleck Road,
Up past where each year stood the ‘Shows’,
Abint it there the auld pit bing,
Wild strawberries tae the side did cling,
The Lugar Water doon by the road
Sae peaceful yet sae wild in flood,
And then like mony a postcard scene,
Tennis courts, the pool, and the putting green.
… scenic ‘Widroad’
The Swimming Pool as I recall,
Expertly ran by Kier McCall,
The Cumnock Miner’s Swimming Club,
Wi’ Andra Duncan at its hub,
An’ at each school gala we’d be true,
Tae colours Red, Yellow, Green an’ Blue,
Like Hampden’s roar the cheers rang oot,
For Hillside, Boswell, Glaisnock an’ Bute.
…..pairt o’ma ‘Widroad’
Oor carnival; the Big Parade,
Ev’ry bairn got a ‘bag’ an’ lemonade,
Each year dressed lorries ever present,
Frae the Barrhill Brae tae Latta Crescent,
Twa hunner weans dressed up that day,
The skirlin’ Pipers leadin’ the way,
Doon through the toon tae the park came trudgin’,
Fur the Provost’s speeches an’ the final judgin’.
…..Ma splendid ‘Widroad’
Fur miles aboot on bikes they’d sallie,
Tae Cumnock’s annual cyclers rally,
The accents telt o’ distant places,
A’ there for the weekend o’ fun an’ races,
Wi’ hieds weel doon an’ hinner ends up,
They raced roon an roon fir a wee Silver Cup,
Yet at the end o’ the day it wisnae the winnin’
But a’ friendships renewed an’ new firendships beginnin’.
…..The Cyclers ‘Widroad’
Then came a time when life wis guid,
That strange new stirrin’ in ma blood’
Wae Skilling, Gracy, and Jim McGeogh,
A’ coortin doon the park we’d go,
We walkit miles up an’ doon the Glen,
Like struttin’ peacocks efter hens,
The sweet lassies names ah’d never tell,
For here in ma hairt each one still dwells,
…..A lover in ma ‘Widroad’
Gang past the wee road cried ‘The Rigg’,
An’ ower the concrete bankend Brig,
There she stood in a’ her glory,
The Glen, the reason for this story,
Her magic names ma hied wid fill,
The Riflemans; the Quarry Pool,
Where strike bound miner’s howkit coals,
The Big an’ Wee Devita’s holes,
…..Ma mysterious ‘Widroad’
Doon in that Glen the pine trees stood,
Sae tall an’ prood as they rightly should,
There in a clearing the echoes sing,
O’ miner’s gethered in a ring,
Twa pennies burlin’ in the air,
They prayed tae land a hieded pair,
In the gloamin they went hame, pockets emptit,
Never again wid they be temptit,
…..Doon ma ‘Widroad’
O’ Widroad Glen a place of joys,
For full grown men, an’ wee bit boys,
For coortin lads and a’ their lassies,
Their hidden niche amang the bushes,
The swimmin’ picnics doon the burn,
Hoo skimmer stanes wid turn an’ turn,
Of’t hae a cursed the hingin’ trees,
When fankled wi’ ma fishin’ flees.
…..Ma carefree ‘Widroad’
Wi’ Greenwells Glory, Lark and Grey,
Ah fished the Glen maist ev’ry day,
Ma teachers o’ the fishin’ game,
Were auld ‘Slug Cameron and ‘Johnny Graham’,
Maisters baith wha’ felt nae need,
For the bramble worm or jars o’ ‘bead’,
Tae watch them cast wae inbred ease
Roon great big boulders or unner trees,
A gentle rise the rod tip bend
Anither troot its life tae end.
…..Ma sportin’ ‘Widroad’
O’ the flora and fauna that filled the Glen,
Wi’ latin names ah never did ken,
Tae me it wis the Stuckie, Cushie, the Hoodie Craw,
Mavies, Shulfies, Blackies an’ a’,
Beardies an’ streamers in the burn,
Scurs an’ strawmen if the stanes ye turned,
The big Dockin leaf that soothed the nettle’s bite,
Primrose and Bluebell that made Spring sae bright.
…..Ma natural ‘Widroad’
Full twenty years hae lang since passed,
Wi’ ma twae boys ah’m hame at last,
Ma nephews Darren an’ Paul they came alang,
But ah wis leader o’ that gang,
An’ so we set forth up the Glen,
Just five young boys an’ nae grown men,
Ah’d show them sichts they’d never seen,
Ma Glen sae fresh an’ flushed wi’ Green.
…..ah’m hame ma ‘Widroad’
O’ foolish mortal dream a’ ye can,
But don’t forget yer fellow man,
For when ye turn the Viaduct bend,
Yer boyhood dreams will shairly end,
An’ ther ye’ll staun wi’ tremlin lip,
Yer Glen looks like Garralan Tip,
Auld burnt oot cars, ye’ve countit three,
They hivnae left a single tree.
…..Oh where’s ma ‘Widroad?’
Kier Hardie men whit hae ye din,
I’ll ne’er forgive ye for this sin,
Ye’ve plundered there like ancient thugs,
Tae sell yer wee big bag o’ clugs,
Ye’ve hacked and sawed wi’ a’ yer mettle,
An’ left ahint a Glen o’ nettles,
Ah turned awa wi’ tears o’ sorrow,
Thank God for the past for there’s nae tomorrow.
…..Farewell ma ‘Widroad’
Noo I cannae condemn for we a’ bear some shame,
Mine’s the years o’ neglect, tae baith ma ain folk an’ hame,
But like a’ born dreamers I just will nae grasp,
That this presents called livin’ and the past’s lang syne past,
So tae ma ain folk, and Cumnock I beg but a thought,
O’ hoo I stood in ma Glen wi’ a great lump in ma throat,
O’ hoo I paid for every leaf o’ each tree wi’ a tear,
For ev’ry minute o’ each day o’ ev’ry lang lonely year.
…..Since I played doon the ‘Widroad’
But noo ah’m back near Norfolk Broads,
Wi’ miles o’ fields an’ lang straight roads,
When asked aboot ma trip tae tell,
I lie masel’ richt intae hell,
My Widroad’s there as it’s always been,
Sae wild, sae fresh as in ma dreams,
Where misguided men wid never plunder,
Sweet nature an’ her place o’ wonder.
…..Yer there forever ma ‘Widroad’
“Tae oor Darren, a kindred spirit.”
Thanks to Kev White for typing

It was posted through the door just after Tottie died and the minister read out at his funeral


Nellie Shirkie and Geordie too

There never was a finer two

For whit you did for wee Sam

Wis for beyond the wit o’ man

You took him into your humble hame

No for money no for gain

It wis for love and nae ither

Could have been a finer mither.

I use to meet him in the street

He’d look down at his nate wee feet

A tear wid fau fae oot his eye

Aye Nellie Shirkie’s guid tae me

Tae the kirk maybe you seldom went

But better Christians ne’er were Kent

Aye Christian folk are no the tattie

They cannie make a body happy

On Sunday morning they are in the pew

One day God will ask what did you do?

No one of them could ever say

took wee Tottie for a day

And now that he has gone to rest

You did for him your very best

Your name will go in his Hall of Fame

Aye NELLIE SHIRKIE is your name.

The Poacher King (thanks to Jean Walker for typing). George Hawkie Graham 

In a miners raw, up in the mairs

in a little village, the name o’ Skares

There lived a chap o’ weel kent fame

His cronies caud him ‘Hawkie Graham’


In his young days poor folk were driven,

to beg and slave, just to make a livin

Cheap claes, bad food and seldom meat

Whiles frozen cauld, wi’ nought to eat


When greed and grasp for power existed,

Nae kindness to the poor existed,

The country’s wealth sae ill divided,

The pair folk – for the rich provided


The maisters treatment o’ the slaves

Drove countless souls to early graves,

Tae this man Hawkie, God was guid,

He gifted hm wi poachers bluid


An lang before he left the schuil,

he helped to fit the grocers bill,

At catchin pheasants, rabbits, hares

Of knitting nets and settin snares


His equal ne’er wis gaun aboot,

He was the Poacher King, nae doot,

An mony a a hungry mooth he’d fill,

A tribute to his unborn skill.


At any form or type o’ poachin

He never needed any coachin

For sauntrin thru the fields and glens,

He’s kicked the hares richt oot their dens


While mony a pheasant he did choke,

and mony a rabbit’s neck he broke,

His famous caurry haun an fit

Tae fill the pot hae din their bit


Frae Mill O’Fleck tae Target Hole,

His trademarks always there,

Doon thru the rocks, weel past Slatehole,

Wi forked sticks everywhere


Along the brae’s o Ballochmyle

Tae the runnin’ streams o Ayr

He’s plodded mony a weary mile

His feet both tired and sair.



O’er heather hills and rugged glens,

Wi scenery saw braw,

The Don the Tay the Dee the Spey

He’s visited them ‘a’


He’s netted many rivers frae

Their sources tae the sea,

In broad daylicht or pitch black nicht,

Sae dark ye’ couldnae see


A fine exponent o’ the craft

Nae better could ye get,

An money a salmon, grilse or troot,

He’s fankled in his net


When’er the Lugar came in spate,

Oot on the dyke he ran,

The water spraying oot his pate,

He seldom missed his man


His skill made other cleekers hate him

They hid’na got the speed to bate him,

And any yin that wid be master,

Unsually ended wae disaster.


Wae a neat wee shove, and well aimed bit,

They rummilt tummilt, tae the fit

At fishing wae the smiddy flee,

Set line or bead an a’

There’s mony and angler envied him

As master o’ them a’


Nivh after nicht, they’ve plodded hame,

Scunnert thru and thru

Whilst in their baskets there wis nane,

His wis reemin foo.


And tho mony a pheasant, rabbit, hare,

Has ended up as roast,

Accordin tae statistics known

The fish did suffer most


For not content wi killin’ them

He made them cannibals as well,

Wi feedin them big chunks o’ bead,

He made them eat theirsel


The police and Judges honoured him,

In their own respective ways,

Wi’ money or their holiday camp

Ten bob or thirty days.


And yince or twice thru oot the year,

When he, went oan a spree,

He’d spend a nicht or twa wi’them

His Bed and Breakfast free


Wi’ the fishin season nearly gone,

The king had business in his haun,

He donned a pair o’ his auldest breeks,

The picked the sherpest o’ his cleeks,


Off he set wi a’ his pith,

Tae the upper reaches o’ the Nith,

Where torchligh scenes on thos occasions,

Looked mair like Blackpool illuminations.


Fillin his poke wi’ salmon bellies,

He made a B line straight for Nellies,

 Oan his way hame he checked his snares,

Finally arrivin back at Skares


Spendin his time the next few days,

Spreadin his bead tae dry on trays,

Tho’ he preserved it a’ his sell,

His secret cure he wid’na tell,


Then a month before the season started

A procession fromSkares departed,

They caud at Proberts for a dram,

Then through the fields tae Ochiltree dam.


Where mony a happy hoor was spent,

At this poachers big event,

The Poacher King wis there hissel’

Wi Ned an Rab an Bulk as well,


Fat Dye, big Wull an a’ that creed,

A’ professionals wae the bead,

They booked their stances in their turn

Fae Burnock mooth tae Tilework burn.


They kennelt fires wi’ piles o wid,

Tae bile their drums and heat their bluid,

The king then took an auld payslip,

Oot frae the pocket o’ his hip


He held it up, an then began,

To read the rules tae every man,

Noo Gentlemen dae we a’ agree,

Tae bar – the minnow, worm and flea.


An ony yin caught fishin fair,

His punishment will be severe,

Its written here and clearly stated,

That a’ his bead is confiscated


As each man put on his lead,

He issued them wi’ jars o bead,

At every cast you heard the plump,

As it struck the watter wi’ a thump,



Then thy a’ sat doon beneath the trees,

Tae reekit tea an scone an cheese,

Their scarves tied up aroon their lugs,

They ate their piece and watched for chugs,

An’ every noo an then a batter,

As rod tips dipped below the water,


But time goes on’and dark mus fa,

Twas time to pack and make awa,

As each man emptied oot his catch,

They piled it up in yin big batch


Then up throug Penny tae the Skares,

Where a’ folk got their equal shares,

Most birds o’ prey that were his freen,

Congregated near the scene


The Buuzards, hawks and hoodie craws,

Came glidin doo in yins and twa’s,

Wi polished beaks and sherped claws

Their breakfast laid aboot the raws,


Every year frae far and near,

The fermers held their binges,

They hooched and swung and leapt and sprung

Till doors fell aff their hinges,


As fiddles groaned and squeaked and squealed,

And dancers jumped and jigged and reeled,

Till it looked just like the Derby field,

Bumpin and borin bawling and roarin,



John Barleycorn wis doing his stuff

As they began tae blaw and puff,

Things were getting’ kinda rough,

And whiles quite ootrageous,

That ony lass that ventured near,

Wis really quite courageous,


They wet their thumbs, pulled up their breeches,

Grabbed their partner an’clung like leeches,

Then geein some loups and lettin oot screeches,

Frichted the wits oot o Alloway witches,


As the dance raged on weel through the nicht,

They hooched and swung wi’ a’ their micht,

Their big spley feet scythed left an’ richt,

Tae ony tune at a’

While dung flew aff their ootsized bits,

and plastert evey wa’


At last the MC caud a halt,

And bade them a’ sit doon,

Twas time tae hae an interval,

Cos tea wis comin’ roon,


They a’ went quiet oot thru the hall,

As they recognised the soons,

For every time they held a ball,

The poacher did nis roons,


But Barleycorn now held their sway,

So they drank his health and a’,

And hoped they wid ne’er see the day,

He should gang awa’,


For though he stretched a neck or twa,

Werever he had been,

They saved tenfold in hay and straw,

And their grass grew longer green.


Noo poachers are human like the rest,

They like a nicht oot, donned up in their best,

So a’ gether fur the ball,

Held in the local village hall.


The king as usual took the chair,

An welcomed everybody there,

He hoped they’d a’ enjoy their fling,

Get oan their shanks and dance and sing




Wi tables set most everthing,

A banquet fitted for a king,

He bade thema’ tae take their fill,

Cause at the end there was nae bill,


Chicken broth and bugler soup,

Taken from the Marquis’s coop,

Roasted partridge, rabbit pie,

An loads o’ snicesters there forbye,

Tatties, carrots and turnip tae,

Howked fae the field the previous day.


Salmon smoked and pickled troot,

The net marks still aroon their snoot,

Whisky, gin and beer galore,

Missing frae the pub next door,

And legs o’ lamb locally reared,

Wha frae their flocks had disappeard.


But before the start o, operations,

the king read oot the presentations,

First prize went tae big Wull Reid,

A hame made gaff, twa jaros o bead,

Second and third tae Ned and Rabby,

A case of beer tae keep them happy,


The special for the heaviest troot,

Wis held back tae some dispute,

Wee Bulk got up and solmenly swore,

That his wis caugh the nicht before


The speeches bye, they start the doo,

They eat and drink till their a’ foo

As music echoes through the hall,

They raise their glass and toast tae him,

The man who catered for the Ball,

:Hawkie Graham: The Poacher King,











Tee Cee is Thomas Cockburn  

He was a bus driver at the time/

Tee Cee is Thomas Cockburn

by Thomas Cockburn

Theres’s an auld thacket hoose for lang years has stood,
We’el sheltered at the end o’ a big fir wood
Through the wood a wee lade winds its way doon,
Tae the auld mill dam where the whins whiles get broon,
Noo, Johnnie Gibson lang stayed in that hoose,
Wi three sons a dochter and a wife kind and douce,
In my youth, many happy ‘oors I did spend
Playing and roving, wi’ the boys of Woodend.
There was’na a hoose roon the hale countryside,
Where ony man lieved in and took sic a pride
The hoose was we’el thacket, a straw ne’er was seen
On the we’el soopet close that aye looket clean
A we’el keepit gairden wi fluers looket braw
Big, black and red currants grew thick on the wa’
The branches wi apples and plums they did bend
on the trees at the auld thacket hoose o Woodend.
The Glaisnock wee burnie gangs rinnin close by
When us boys got tired by its side we wid lie
For minnows and beardies we’d guddle the burn
We kent every stane in’t, we kent every turn
There was scarcely a nest ere built on the trees
But we kent as we’el as the wasps and the bees
Gie often big holes in o’or troosers we’d rend
Wi climbing the trees wi the boys o Woodend.
Ah noo whit a change has come ower the place
It wad maist mak the tears tae rin doon your face
Auld Johnnie, his guid wife sons and dochters at rest
In the land o their faithers where they are blest,
The Gibsons are oot, newcomers are there
The place is neglected an’ a things look bare
On a richt guid welcome yin aye could depend
In lang bye gone days in the hoose at Woodend

Hugh Anderson Cameron

t goes here

Toggle Content goes here

‘Address to Bob Patterson’ (Farmer at Cawhillan)
Last night I dreamed a goodly dream,
It brought a longing sigh.
I saw two men work in a field,
Beneath a cloudless sky.
There two men wrought in harmony,
And nature smiled to see.
That men could work in sweet accord,
And no one bow his knee.
These two men from their labours stopped,
And shared a simple meal.
With bread, cheese and sweet cow’s milk,
Their happiness was real.
These two men when their toil was o’er,
Walked home through gleaming grey.
And tired, stretching on their beds, thought,
This was a perfect day.
Last night I dreamed a goodly dream,
That brought a longing sigh.
I saw two men work in a field,
Those men were you and I.
John Morrison, Ochiltree,1993.
Auld Grannie
The bride and the groom were just married,
She looked lovely in her gown of pure white,
The groom smiled pleasingly into himself,
At his prospects for later that night.
Soon the time came to leave the reception,
With well wishers to see them away,
For this new man and wife,the first time in their life,
At her granny’s that night they would stay.
When the taxi pulled up at auld granny’s,
She met them,a glint in her e’e,
She said ” just ben you go to the front room,
And I’ll make us a wee cup o tea”.
So they had them some tea an a blether
And everything seemed to be fine,
When the long faced groom drew back his coat sleeve,
And said ” jings! Would you look at the time”
They both said goodnight to auld granny
And she bid them good luck and best wishes
Then sauntered on through to the kitchen
And sang softly as she washed the dishes.
Upstairs the groom was quite nervous
And the bride was all quiet and shy
As they tried to disrobe without notice- but-
With embarrassment in each other’s eye.
Now, the bride was all ready and waiting
When the groom sat down on the bed
She said ” John dear, please tell, what’s the matter ?”
And his face turned a deep scarlet red.
Said he ” Jean, I don’t know how to say this,
But misfortune was cruel to me,
A bad smash down the pit has left me like this
Not the man that I once used to be.
Then he took off the shoe from his right foot,
And in horror she gasped when she saw,
That one side o his foot was still with him
But the other was no there at a’.!!
She fled down the stairs fair heartbroken
And her granny said ” Oh! dear what’s wrong?
And while she was trying to console her
She thought” By Jove, that didnae take long !.
“Oh granny ” she said sobbing loudly
And as the auld yin her tears she wiped off
” He’s handsome I ken an the brawest o’ men
But he’s just got a fit an a hauf!!!!
The auld granny stood silent for a minute
Then she gave a wee pat at her hair
She said ” here hen just you dae the dishes
An I’ll away oan up the stair !!!!!!!
Bobby Kelly
This is a poem by John Anderson about leaving his home when he left for America
Where the burn runs by
Farewell tae auld Scotland,its rains and grey sky
It’s rivers,it’s glens and it’s mountains sae high
And I’ll say goodbye tae Cumnock wi mony a sigh
When I think o Wylie Crescent
Where the burn rins by
But I’ll come back tae Cumnock in the summer o the year
Tae see the bonnie Glaisnock wi its water running clear
Then warm and bright the sun will shine an blue will be the sky
And I’ll see the bonnie braes where the burn rins by
And when I sit beneath the viaduct,fond memories will return
Of days gone by,when but a boy I guddled in the burn
An I’ll walk down through the Gorbals, and up Munns Brae I’ll hie
Tae a house in Wylie Crescent where the burn rins by
I said goodbye to all my friends,when I was leaving Hame
And maybe there are some o them I’ll never see again
But let’s look to the future with hearts and hopes that’s high
And we’ll meet in Wylie Crescent
Where the burn rins by
John Anderson

From The Herald Magazine

Ayrshire poet Rab Wilson introduces today’s choice. “Johnny Stariski was in charge of the powder magazine (supply of explosives for blasting purposes underground) at the Barony Colliery, Auchinleck, in the mid/late 1970s early 80s, when I worked there. His family emigrated to Scotland before the First World War, when there was a huge influx of Poles to Scotland. His family had been boot and shoemakers.

Johnny was of short stature – but possessed of a marvellous physique. In the 1960s he had followed the famous Charles Atlas body building course and was also a champion high-board diver. These attributes no doubt played a part when Johnny did his famous handstand on the top girder of the Barony Colliery ‘A’ Frame at Auchinleck (now a monument to the Ayrshire coal-mining industry).

Johnny in 2017 photo by Laura McMeekin for CHG

2023 by David McMeekin

I have a filmed conversation with Johnny where he tells his story of this remarkable happening. It is this actual event that is celebrated in my poem, The Great Stariski.

The Great Stariski

(A legend o the Barony Colliery)

The Great Stariski maks his entrance bow,

Poised oan the Cross-beam o the vast ‘A’ Frame;

He aiblins sees imaginary crowds,

Gawpin at his daith-defyin stunts.

Mair’s a hunner feet up in the air,

Nae spider’s wab o safety-net is strung,

Tae sauf him frae unsocht oblivion.

The Great Stariski luiks tae aa the airts,

Sic magick tricks depend upon their ritual,

An curtly bobs tae each pynt o the compass;

Tae the north, Ben Lomond’s silhouette,

Tae the west, Goat Fell oan Arran’s isle,

Tae the east, ayont Muirkirk, Cairn Table,

Tae the sooth, Sweet Afton’s bonny glen.

The Great Stariski birls an pirouettes,

Then, tae admirin glances frae ablow,

Syne gangs tapselteerie, heelstergoudie,

Stauns oan his haunds, disdainfu o the risks,

An lauchs oot lood in life-affirmin joy

At aa thae wee black specks doun oan the grunn.

The Great Stariski, balanced oan his girder,

Seems tentless o his parlous circumstance;

Up here he’s free, can rax an touch the heivins,

An feel the wuin an rain upon his face.

The Great Stariski leeves athin the moment,

Taks in his queer inversion o the warld,

Syne wi some skeelie dancer’s gracefu mien,

Lichtlies doun as saft as thistledown;

Dichts doun his stoorie, creashy overalls,

Sets at a jaunty sklent his auld pit helmet,

Recoups his yirdlie equilibrium,

Descends the ledder – an’s mortal aince agane.

Rab Wilson

Alexander Barrowman 1842-1913 on Cumnock Connections

The Stevensons were tenants of Avisyard in 1891 and 1901 censuses.

Reproduced in the Cumnock Chronicle in 1931, photographed by Bobby Grierson

Dae Ye Ken Auld Cumnock

Can you tell me where boo-d Scotland is

And whaur is Cumnock Cross

Or tell me whaur the Reenie is

An whaur is Caddie’s Close

Tell me whaur the Gorbals is

An whaurs the soor milk Raw.

If ye dinna ken the answers

Theres no much ye ken ava!

Whaur awa is Peden’s Thorn

That blooms in summer fair

Whaurs the twa divities

Hae ye sat in the aul airm chair
Can ye tell me whaur

the Kye Road is?

An whaurs McLatchies Lann

Whaur awa the Cleyslap is

Hae ye walked doon Cumnock Stran!

Where aboot is Calston Heids

If in Cumnock ye did dwell

Whaur awa is Raikeens Green

Hae ye drank fae Robin’s Well

Wha composed the Cameron Men

A ballad o great fame

Tell me whaur the spoot Raw is

And whaurs the Auld De’il Stane

Oor Madgie’s family

Tho I’m far away frae Scotland

Tho I’m far across the sea

I’ve memories o Cumnock

As I backward cast an e’e

And among the folk in Cumnock

That in memory I scan

There is a happy family

Led by Madgie and her man

An I enjoyed each moment

To be dull there’s no excuse

For there’s always fun and laughter

In our Madgie’s house

The eldest yin is Annie

She’s small and trim and light

An she’s just like her granny

For her name is Annie White

Next to her is Nessie

She’s also away wee

In character and appearance

I think she’s just like me

Then there’s Madgie’s eldest boy

I’m awfie prood o him

A credit to the family

Is Oor Madgie’s Jim

I’ve great pride in the second boy

And Douglas is his name

And every time I see him

My faither lives again

I’ll no forget another yin

An aw his carry on

A loveable wee rascal

Is oor Madgie’s John

Then there’s Bobby and there’s Ian

The youngest of them a’

They are so fu’ o fitba

They break the Sunday law

But playing on a Sunday

Is no crime I can see

For as long as they enjoy themselves

That’s all that counts by me

With many thanks I write these line

For every kindness shown

By a’ oor Madgie’s family

Tae their Uncle John

Written about 1925 when the Council had plans to move the cross

To the Cumnock Cross

Auld Cumnock Cross! We ken ye fine,
Your steps are worn by Faither Time;
Wi’ you oor freenship we aye seal,
Nae maitter though the cauld we feel:
On Hogmanay at twal o’clock
We staun below the Auld Kirk nock,
An’ wi’ a hottle in oor haun
We drink tae freenship ower the laun.

It’s no sae very long ago
Oor Bailies said that you maun go;
Since motors no the Kirk go roon,
They couldna hae you in oor toon:
An’ made tae shift you oot your place
As if you had been in disgrace.
They thocht that they couldna be seen,
And clean forgot aboot McQueen.

Oor Doctor, whae we ca’ McQueen –
Nae better doctor could be seen –
He heard the Cross was in a plight;
Says he, “By jings. for you I’ll fight;
Though Bailie’s heids are made o’ wid,
I’ll tak’ frae them a pint o’ bluid;
Tho’ a’ the Bailies should start greetin’,
O’ toonsfolk I will ca’ a meetin’.”

I met him on the meetin’ nicht,
He left his rooms, took tae the richt,
An’ up Munn’s Brae he went wi’ speed,
The sweat was drappin’ aff in beads.
Whaur he was gaun he ne’er let on,
A big, thick stick was in his haun,
His lips were movin’ awfu’ quick
As on the wa’ he tried his stick.

The Toon Hall could haud nae mair
The time the Doctor took the chair;
The Bailies on the platform shook,
They meant McQueen’s big stick tae jouk:
For noo he met them face to face,
An’ saw each ane kept in their place,
An’ telt them that they a’ kent fine
The Cross was built wi’ Benston lime.

He made them leave the Cross alane,
An’ daured them touch a single stane;
He swore that motors must steer clear,
Or else frae him they sune would hear;
An’ sent the Bailies tremblin’ hame –
He daured ony ane tae try again;
The “vandals” were very gled tae get oot,
They thocht McQueen meant bluid, nae doot.

We gie the Doctor a’ oor thanks
For cuttin’ short the Bailie’s pranks;
It didna tak’ him long tae settle
They wadna mak’ the Cross road metal.
An’ may he aye hae time tae spare
Tae view the Auld Cross in the Square;
For though it noo is auld an’ worn,
Tae save the Cross the Doctor’s sworn.

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