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Elphinstone Kist   Maakers, History, Education

    by: Symon, Mary

Hing’t up aside the chumley-cheek, the aul’ glen’s Muster.Roll
A’ names we ken fae hut an’ ha’, fae Penang to the Pole,
An’ speir na gin I’m prood o’t — Josh! coont them line by line,
Near han’ a hunner fechtin’ men, an’ they a’ were Loons o’ Mine.

A’ mine. It’s jist like yesterday they sat there raw on raw,
Some tyaavin’ wi’ the ‘Rule o’ Three’, some widin’ throu’ ‘Mensa’;
The map o’ Asia’s shoogly yet faur Dysie’s sheemach head
Gaed cleeter-clatter a’ the time the carritches was said.
‘A limb,’ his greetin’ granny swore, ‘the aul’ deil’s very limb’ —
But Dysie’s deid and drooned lang syne; the ‘Cressy’ coffined him.
‘Man guns upon the fore barbette!’. .. What’s that to me an’ you?
Here’s moss an’ burn, the skailin’ kirk, aul’ Kissack beddin’s soo.
It’s Peace, it’s Hame — but owre the Ben the coastal searchlights shine,
And we ken that Britain’s bastions mean — that sailor Loon o’ Mine.

The muirlan’s lang, the muirlan’s wide, an’ fa says ‘ships’ or ‘sea’?
But the tang o’ saut that’s in wir bleed has puzzled mair than me.
There’s Sandy wi’ the bristled shins, faur think ye’s he the day?
Oot where the hawser’s tuggin’ taut in the surf o’ Suvla Bay;
An’ owre the spurs o’ Chanak Bahr gaed twa lang stilpert chiels,
I think o’ flappin’ butteries yet or weyvin’ powets’ creels —
Exiles on far Australian plains — but the Lord’s ain boomerang
‘S the Highland heart that’s aye for hame hooever far it gang.
An’ the winds that wail owre Anzac an’ requiem Lone Pine
Are nae jist a’ for stranger kin, for some were Loons a’ Mine.

They’re comin’ hame in twas an’ threes; there’s Tam fae Singapore—
Yon’s his, the string o’ buckie-beads abeen the aumry door —
An’ Dick MacLeod, his sanshach sel’ (Guidsake, a bombardier!)
I see them yet ae summer day come hodgin’ but the fleer:
‘Please, sir,’ (a habber an’ a hoast), ‘Please, sir’ (a gasp, a gulp,
Syne wi’ a rush) ‘Please-sir-can-we-win-oot-to-droon-a-fulp?’
..Hi, Rover, here, lad! — aye, that’s him, the fulp they didna droon,
But Tam — puir Tam lies cauld an’ stiff on some grey Belgian dune,
An’ the Via Dolorosa’s there, faur a wee bit cutty quine
Stan’s lookin’ doon a teem hill road for a sodger Loon a’ Mine.
Fa’s neist? the Gaup — A Gordon wi’ the ‘Bydand’ on his broo,
Nae murlacks dreetlin’ fae his pooch or owre his grauvit noo,
Nae words o’ groff-write trackies on the ‘Four best ways to fooge’—
He steed his grun’ an’ something mair, they tell me, oot at Hooge.
But owre the dyke I’m hearin’ yet: ‘Lads, fa’s on for a swap?.
A lang sook o’ a pandrop for the sense o’ verbum sap.
Fack’s death, I tried to min’ on’t — here’s my gairten wi’ the knot—
But — bizz! a dhubrack loupit as I passed the muckle pot.’
...Ay, ye dinna ken the classics, never heard o’ a co-sine,
But here’s my aul’ lum aff tae ye, dear gowkit Loon o’ Mine.

They’re handin’ oot the haloes an’ three’s come to the glen —
There’s Jeemack ta’en his Sam Browne to his mither’s but an’ ben.
Ay, they ca’ me ‘Blawin’ Beelie,’ but I never crawed sae crouse
As the day they gaed the V.C. to my filius nullius.
But he winna sit ‘Receptions’ nor keep on his aureole,
A’ he says is ‘Dinna haiver, jist rax owre the Bogie Roll.’
An’ the Duke an’ ‘s dother shook his han’ an’ speirt aboot his kin.
‘Old family, yes; here sin’ the Flood,’ I smairtly chippit in.
(Fiech! Noah’s Na — we’d ane wirsels, ye ken, in ‘29)
I’m nae the man tae stan’ an’ hear them lichtlie Loon o’ Mine.

Wir Lairdie. That’s his mither in her doo’s-neck silk gaun by,
The puddock, so she tells me, ‘s haudin’ up the H.L.I.
An’ he’s stan’in’ owre his middle in the Flanders’ clort an’ dub,
Him ‘at eese’t to scent his hanky, an’ speak o’s mornin’ ‘tub’.
The Manse loon’s deffin’ divots on the weary road to Lille,
An’ he canna flype his stockin’s, cause they hinna tae nor heel.
Sennelager’s gotten Davie — a’ moo fae lug tae lug —
An’ the Kaiser’s kyaak, he’s writin’, ‘ll neither ryve nor rug,
‘But mind ye’ (so he post-cairds), ‘I’m already owre the Rhine.’
Ay, there’s nae a wanworth o’ them, though they werna Loons o’ Mine.

...You — Robbie. Memory pictures; Front bench, a curly pow,
A chappit hannie grippin’ ticht a Homer men’t wi’ tow —
The lave a’ scrammelin’ near him, like bummies roon a bike.
‘Fat’s this?’ ‘Fats that?’ he’d tell them a’ — ay, speir they fat they like.
My hill-foot lad! A sowl an’ brain fae’s bonnet to his beets,
A ‘Fullerton’ in posse, nae the first fun’ fowin’ peats.
An’ I see a blythe young Bajan gang whistlin’ doon the brae,
An’ I hear a wistful Paladin his patriot credo say.
An’ noo, an’ noo. I’m waitin’ till a puir thing hirples hame —
Ay, ‘t’s the Valley o’ the Shadow, nae the mountain heichts o’ Fame.
An’ where’s the nimble nostrum, the dogma fair an’ fine.
To still the ruggin’ heart I hae for you, oh, Loon o’ Mine?

My loons, my loons! Yon winnock gets the settin’ sun the same
Here’s sklates and skailies, ilka dask a’ futtled wi’ a name.
An as I sit a vision comes: Ye’re troopin’ in aince mair,
Ye're back fae Aisne an’ Marne an’ Meuse, Ypres an’ Festubert
Ye re back on weary bleedin’ feet — you, you that danced an’ ran —
For every lauchm’ loon I kent I see a hell-scarred man.
Not mine but yours to question now! You lift unhappy eyes —
Ah, Maister, tell’s fat a’ this means.’ And I, ye thocht sae wise,
Maun answer wi’ the bairn words ye said tae me langsyne:
I dinna ken, I dinna ken. Fa does, oh, Loons a’ Mine?’

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