Thi watter taen yous oan a bonnie day,
north sea canny as a favourite dug,
naething tae fear fae hir bark ir bite.
Hir treisure laid bare fir thi takin.
Did yous hae a blether afore ye slippit awa,
a gaggle afore thi sea claimed yous?
A remember ye as thon laddie in class,
thi ane that could eyewis mak us laugh.
Noo yir name’s scrievet oan thi herbour stane,
I mark yir passin ivery time am hame,
look oot to thi sea still haudin oan
tae yir bodie in hir teith.
Translations of this Poem
The loss of the Westhaven
Translator: Lynn Valentine
The water took you all on a lovely day,
north sea gentle as a favourite dog,
nothing to fear from her bark or bite.
Her treasure laid bare for the taking.
Did you all have a chat before you slipped away,
a laugh before the sea claimed you?
I remember you as that boy in class,
the one that could always make us laugh.
Now your name’s written on the harbour stone,
I mark your passing every time I’m home,
look out to the sea still holding on
to your body in her teeth.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2021. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 24 poems, 2 of which are written in Scots, and chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor for poetry in Scots in 2021 was Sheena Blackhall.
The secunt poem I chuse wis Lynne Valentine’s: The loss of the Westhaven frae A glimmer o stars, Hedgehog Press. This poem wis screived myndin on the daith o Mark Hannah, ane o fower Arbroath fishercheils tint at sea fin their boatie snaggit on a ile pipeline in 1997. The sea keeps his corp yet:
Noo yer name’s screivet on the herbour stane
I mark yer passin ivery time I’m hame
Look oot to the sea still haudin oan
Tae yer bodie in hir teeth
I wrote ‘Thi Loss o thi Westhaven’ in memory of a primary school pal of mine, Mark Hannah. We had lost touch since school but I was shocked and saddened to hear that Mark was one of four fishermen killed when their boat, The Westhaven, snagged on an oil pipeline in the North Sea in 1997. Mark’s body was never recovered. The poem is straightforward and to the point. I often pause by the memorial to the crew of The Westhaven at Arbroath Harbour when I’m back visiting family.