This year marks the 25th anniversary of the National Lottery. Through buying tickets, those who play the Lottery have given millions of pounds, which has benefited countless good causes. The Scottish Poetry Library should know – we were one of them.
When the founding Director of the SPL Tessa Ransford decided in the 1990s that the Library needed a place of its own, she applied to the Scottish Arts Council, who, thanks to National Lottery grants for capital arts projects, was in a position to contribute to the campaign to provide the SPL with its own specially-constituted building. Prior to that, we operated out of premises we rented in Edinburgh’s Tweedale Court. The SPL’s application was in fact ‘Grant 001’. Our Chair leading the application was Colin Will. The new building, designed by Malcolm Fraser Architects, was opened to the public in June 1999, and won several awards for its distinctive style. We’ve never looked back since that opening and we thank the National Lottery for the part it has played in giving our collection a home.
We are not alone in having benefited from National Lottery funding. Over the past 25 years, more than £3.1 billion has been invested into over 64,000 good causes in Scotland. National Lottery players have raised £10.3 billion for charities across the UK over the past 25 years with 80 per cent of grants going to smaller charities. Over 44,000 theatre, dance and music projects that support the development of the performance arts sector in the UK, have been made possible thanks to National Lottery funding over the last 25 years.
As a way of recognising the importance of National Lottery funding and as a way of giving thanks, the Scottish Poetry Library has commissioned award-winning poet Roseanne Watt to write a poem. Watt is a poet, filmmaker and musician from Shetland. In 2018, her debut collection Moder Dy won the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award; Moder Dy is also nominated for the 2018 Saltire Society Poetry Book of the Year Award. She lives and works in Edinburgh.
Whan du telt me hoo du thowt o ‘luck’
as nae mair as chance, de happy hubbelskju
o aentropie, I thowt onnly o de ben-end
o my grandmidder’s hoose an aa her talismans
o tat. Inbi, luck wis acht an lenned lik coins,
hot fae de löf. Dere wis wyes aboot it:
a sixpence fir de scratchcairds; tree skoilts
o a gingernut wid gie dee a wish; a dram
onnly ivvir gied sungaets roond de room.
Ee time, ower supper, shö telt me hoo shö won
an aamos fae a haafman; a beaded bag
fir a skurtfoo o her luck at sea. I browt him
tae de dance dat week, but someen took him
fae de cloakroom. Less. Dere’s joost some tings
dat du canna keep a haad o. Dat’s true enoff.
It seems tae me wir luck his aye been wattir
cupped by hands at prayer, in a langwich
at his mair wirds fir ill-luckit tings as fair.
Nivir leet, shö says. De lotto’s demoarn.
Can I git dee a gingernut?
When you told me how you thought of ‘luck’
as nothing more than chance, the fortunate ricochets
of entropy, I thought only of the ben-end
of my grandmother’s house and all her talismans
of tat. In there, luck was owned and lent like coins,
hot from the palm. There were ways about it.
A sixpence for the scratchcards; three broken pieces
of a gingernut would grant you a wish; a dram
only ever went clockwise round the room.
One time, over supper, she told me how she won
an aamos from a fisherman; a beaded bag
for an armful of her luck at sea. ‘I brought it
to the dance that week, but someone took it
from the cloakroom. A shame. Some things
you just can’t keep hold of.’ That’s true enough.
It seems to me our luck has always been water
cupped by hands at prayer, in a language
that has more words for bad luck than for fair.
‘Never mind,’ she says. ‘The lotto’s tomorrow.
Can I get you a gingernut?’
Lukkie: a familiar form of address for an elderly woman
Aamos: a gift promised in the hope that a wish will be granted to the donor. The donor is said to ‘lay on an aamos’ and, if the wish is granted, the person who was presumed to have brought the luck is said to have ‘won’ the aamos.