Ralphie (April 1984)


, , ,

In the glaur of a back office

below the Law

a shaky colour screen flickers to life,

a latter day Roman Colosseum,

and a people’s club two up

on the European rich.
For twenty second-leg minutes of edgy nil

there’s belief in such Scottish European Champs

and then Milne must score but…and the rest is…

Jim McLean’s still a joiner from Larkhall

who’s done a carpenter from Nazareth.

Knowing a thing or three, Fergie too signed Milne.


Ally’s Airmy (Hampden Pairk 1978)


Oot thonder wiv a wheen o’ fitbaers

daein laps o’ honour tae fowk seengin,

tummlin cat ma, and rowtin like kye noo.

But we’re mair like yowes forbye wiv nae gemme,

nae bliddy ba gemme tae keek at the day.
Ally’s brocht impidence, gabs a guid gemme.

Tho takin the cup hame’s guid conceit no?

Dinna ken aboot youse but hae ma doots

that the Argentinians or ithers

are fashin thaimsels aboot the Scots ken?
Hud a gemme here agin Argentina.

Thay’v a wee laddie Maradona wha’s

no sae muckle a diamant in the glaur,

juist a diamant thir no bliddy uisin!

Nae mair cantie Scots faces gin simmer.

Gillie (April 1964)


Off a quiet Arbroath Road

in a forest of crowded houses,

we sit round a Logie Baird screen,

awed and connected to. Hampden Park

a hundred and odd thousand away

from five million at home.
Only seat edges are occupied.

Seventy something minutes in Gilzean,

leading man out of Bonnie Dundee,

leaps above the English defence

like a Tay salmon.

One nil and three in a row Auld Enemy.



‘Mind the Time’ is an anthology of poetry to support Football Memories Scotland. It’ s edited by Perth based poet Jim Mackintosh and produced in association with Nutmeg Magazine. The idea is that talking football could be used to help those experiencing memory loss. After a June launch at Hampden Park Glasgow just before Scotland again did ‘glorious failure’ against England the anthology is on the road so to speak for the rest of the year. It will be appearing among other places at Wigtown Book Festival, Tynecastle Park, McDiarmid Park the Dundee Literary Festival and more. And my confession is…I have three short poems included. Here’s one of them : –

GILLIE (April 1964)

Off a quiet Arbroath Road

in a forest of crowded houses,

we sit round a Logie Baird screen,

awed and connected to a Hampden Park

a hundred and odd thousand away,

from five million at home.
Only seat edges are occupied.

Seventy something minutes in Gilzean,

leading man out of Bonnie Dundee,

leaps above the English defence

like a Tay salmon.

One nil and three in a row Auld Enemy.



Beneath the Castle

beachcombers heckle fibres

of river, a warp and weft

of green, ochre and a touch of red.

Who would have thought old stones

had so much blood in the?
Rough wooings and Auld Alliances were here –

Marie de Guise watched on the far shore

but only the wind woos roughly now.

The tide returns to the Tay’s womb

to be born again another day.

White flowers and refugees aye welcome.
There’s driftwood shaped like a coelacanth.

Where were you hiding these million aeons?

Surviving evolution among grains

glistening from a sandy eternity

of life among the dead?

White flowers and refugees aye welcome.
Animated Lowry figures

 jog out of a pure horizon.

Children’s laughter scythes sadness –

Praise be the Weather Lord.

The city lies long and littoral.

White flowers and refugees aye welcome.

The Roar of the Greasepaint…the Smell of the Crowd


It’s not writing poetry which has made me perspire recently but rather writing a play…and producing it and acting in it and making the coffee and various other things. ‘O Halflins an Hecklers an Weavers an Weemin’ by moi is a historical take on the City of Dundee and the Golden Fibre as Jute was sometimes known. It’s quite a story including characters as diverse as William Wallace, William McGonagall, James Bond, Winston Churchill, Mary Shelley, Mary Slessor, and even Mary Queen of Scots! And indeed the beautiful poetry of Dundonians Ellie MacDonald and Joe Lee the City’s ‘forgotten War Poet’. However it’s also a very modern tale in that it encompasses Globalisation, Immigration, the Status of Women, the Treatment of Children, Technology and the Environment does Jute.

Then when the original cast had to withdraw with a few weeks to go the director (alter ego my wife) and I had to get the band back together pronto in the shape of a theatre group we used to run years ago and which we’d thought was past it’s sell-by date. The group was called Shoestring on the basis of doing quirky productions on an er…shoestring budget! (Sorry can’t think of alternative less cliched image here). Hence all the extra perspiring over recent weeks.

But we did it in the beautiful setting of the High Mill at Scotland’s Jute Museum Verdant Works Dundee to very appreciative audiences. The show was enhanced by the beautiful music of the late Michael Marra sung by the Loadsaweeminsingin and Lochee Linties choirs directed by Michael’s daughter the one and only Alice Marra – aka female vocalist in Dundee Indie band the Hazey Janes. Who incidentally have recently worked with Scotland’s former maker (National Poet) Liz Lochead. Which brings us back to Poetry and the perspiring thereof to which I’m about to return. Though we are hoping to repeat ‘O Halflins an Hecklers an Weavers an Weemin’ in Verdant Works next year. Watch this space!

UNBEAST* (Mary Shelley to Frankenstein)


Friend or foe? Who went hence?

Begotten of whaleback

in loins of fancy

by a silvery Tay,

prompted by happy night

and restless morning.

Quo Vadis my child,

my dissenting unbeast?
Speak to me if you would

out of friendly fire

with whaling industry

and of textile towns.

Anything, any thing,

any damn blessed thing?

There lay carved initials.

Friend or fiend? Who went hence?
*In Scots – monster



…Theatre Company are holding auditions for and will premiere ‘O Halflins an Hecklers an Weavers an Weemin’ by er…John Quinn in the lovingly restored High Mill at Verdant Works Scotland’s Jute Museum in Dundee this June. To be precise the dates are 23rd 24th and 25th. That’s two evening performances and a matinee. The show is more than a couple of months away but I’m excited as all self respecting big bairns should be. I’m excited at seeing something I’ve worked long and hard on come to fruition of course but I’m also excited by the opportunity to work with ZeroThreeFifteen.

They’re young graduate actors out of Dundee and Angus College’s excellent Acting and Performance school – where my daughter was a student a few years ago – so we’re talking talent and skills in the craft and boundless energy and ideas. (That’s enough for now – Ed.) And you know ZeroThreeFifteen am was around the time I finished the first draft of the script one morning around a year ago. If you think about it three fifteen am is roughly where the early bird meets the night owl! Maybe some things are meant/written in the stars etc. You pay your money and pick your cliche.

Tickets are now on sale via Verdant Works’s Eventbrite Page or over the counter at the museum shop. Check it out! But whether or not you can manage – Lang Micht Yir Lum Reek as we say in Scots. It’s an idiomatic expression wishing good health on the listener. Literally it means may your chimney continue to smell and it’s an expression used in the play. But as to how it got from one meaning to the other – best not ask!

Great Tapestry Two


‘O Halflins an Hecklers an Weavers an Weemin’ by moi (or eh since we’re talking Dundee) will be performed by ZeroThreeFifteen Theatre Co. in the High Mill at Verdant Works Dundee this coming summer. But once the show is over we’ll need to strike the set etc (not difficult since we’re going minimalist) sharpish. The reason? The Great Tapestry of Scotland which played to around ten thousand people over a several week run there last year is set to return shortly afterwards. To sort of quote a spicy mix of General Douglas McArthur and the Governator Arnie Schwarzenegger ‘I shall return and be back!’ And if that qualifies as fake news I shall not retract.

Last time there wasn’t room for the whole Tapestry from the great forests of eight thousand years ago to the present pass whatever the hell that is. This time the plan is to exhibit those parts that didn’t reach us last time. And I further understand that the panel which was pinched in Kirkcaldy last time round has been re-embroidered and replaced for the Verdant Works gig. Therefore if any residents of the Kingdom of Fife ever read this you’ll need to understand me not recusing myself from reaching for a long spoon!

A Free Annual Pass means that one ticket purchased covers as many visits as the purchaser wishes over a twelve month period, one ticket covering entry to both the Tapestry and the Museum. If you are in Dundee over the summer check out these and a cornucopia of other things happening.