Resources - Moments


Read Watergaw Alison Stirling from Kirkcaldy High School in Fife.


Sleekit broon hair
She cowped me ower
Wi her lown muckle een

But the coories were cauld
So she went to the warld
And she left me alane

The muin at midnicht minds me o ma lass
Her hair siller an tousie noo
As a think o her
Unner the watergaw

Now read Alison's poem again.

And again.

And once more.

Any Scots words catching you out? Sleekit is smooth, cowped means knocked over, muckle big, coories embraces, tousie dishevelled and watergaw is of course Scots for rainbow.

What information does the poem gives us? Who could the speaker in the poem be? What do we learn about that person's situation? Their personal history? Their emotional state?

Can you identify any contrasts in the poem? Consider word choice and imagery. Think about light and physical appearance.

What is the significance of the poet's choice of the word watergaw? Is if effective? Read the poem without the word watergaw? Does the meaning change? Does the image of a watergaw add to the meaning of the poem?

Alison demonstrates skillful use of Scots. What do you think of her choice of language? Would the tone or meaning change if Watergaw was translated into English?

Watergaw is a beautifully made lyric poem in Scots. It moves seamlessly from the personal to the universal in three short verses. It uses the imagery of light and water as a painter would use brushstrokes for a painting. The natural world and human emotion are one in this poem and like all good lyric poems it captures a moment and makes that transient disappearing moment unforgettable.

Further reading:

Eunice Buchanan

William Hershaw

Hugh MacDiarmid