Means Writers exists to support and promote creative writing south of Aberdeen. It meets twice weekly, in Inverbervie of Monday evenings (7pm-9pm) and in Stonehaven on Thursday evenings (7pm-9pm). The Doric Literature Portal is delighted to have some of the group's work available on this page.
Mearns Scrievers heists up creative scrievin tae the sooth o Aiberdeen. It hauds gaitherins twa times a wikk, ain in Inverbervie on Monday nichts (7pm-9pm) an ain in Stanehive on Thursday nichts (7pm-9pm). E Doric Scrievin Ingang is affa gled tae some o the wark o the Mearns Scrievers on the es page.
mons graupius at the end of the battle marka rifat
Far’s yer spears noo, sodger loon? Far’s yer chieftain noo, fa’s caad the Fairmer, fa’s plood ma hail kin inta the grun? Fae Bennachie, Ah seen ye aah glowand ben the haar, yer airmour like tae a foo meen. On ye cam, mair an’ still mair, bit we wis not afeart on oor mither hill. Ah seen ye makin aye stracht on shammelt lan, sodgers, aye an wytin shilts, like timmer.
Then, oh the bliesh o’ bleed, the skoils, the skraichs. Ma ain kin and kin o’ aa lans cut tae the been. The Diel’s lang hairst lowsed on aa gweed sowls.
Fit say ye, diel? Yer vice is watter on sma steens. Yer wirds are wind, ben this wid. Yer slubberin braith is snell an techt. Fit wye d’ye rax fer ma hair, dis it Mind ye o’ the lowes o’ hame, hine awa? Yer blak skin an skirsp hair minds me o’ stormit barkit cloods that Hurl rain fit tae claa ye raw.
Chiel, Ah wid tak yer life, bit it is gaan.
peterhead in winter (INSPIRED BY BURNS SINGER) ALISTAIR LAWRIE
Nae doot the drifters dunced aroon that May, my granda’s boat a shape among the shiftin clinkin forms that linkit at it, heelin bows neist starns that joukit in a reel o ropes like haudin hands. Their dark against the deeper oily black o water treadin wi the lichts. An files the lichthoos like as nae wid cast its sober watchfu ee owre aa they did like elders micht tae mak clean sure nae drink was teen nor ony orra silken queans had breeched the toun’s clear sense o fit was richt for folk tae dae, in public onywye. That mist still haps it peaceful like at times but loomin through its mirror glare are thae imagined elephants. Great clumsy brutes, they squat ootowre the harbour maistly in the bay in hungry smug self certainty. They purse their lips like settled nets, significant o somethin come that’s emptied nae just seas o fish but herts o hope. I mind ae time my granda’s twa gweed brithers baith pokin fun at his aal drifter, him speirin fit their sons wid dee.
DOOKERS John Wigham shirt
Beasts gaither at i watter laik Parisienne dookers black and white flanks dapple i eldered banks bellying i silkie watter ‘at slaw winds taewart a glentit sea, ripplin upon i faur easins
Abuin, benon a beehived belfry chitterlin swallaes swoop an a sleeperie bell tolls ootowre a gladed glen cawin i faithfu, lang gane, amang thaim, James Leslie Mitchell, umwhile o’ this pairish faur cusshie doos caw at sundoun
drouket steen sandy inglis
Ghaist-like, low lyin fingers o caal sea haar sairch for a wye by i cleavins an rivocks at split i sea crags reachin up fae i foreland fur sun warmit claver strawn braes Malies, pirries, scorries, hing athoot moovin a wing in i steady, up blast o cauld saat air. Thir greetin screich, cowpin up an ower i roch, owerhingin ness an elderin heuchs. Gorblins courie in ticht agin age cracked clint, haud fast tae fitewashed ledgins be instinct an blin luck thir yirnin vyces droont oot be i brattlin swash o breakers hurlt haurd on drouket steen far alow.
ANNA'S BRUCIE ALISTAIR LAWRIE
We kent that Anna’s Brucie wisna richt even as bairns. He smiled owre muckle files an somethin saft like lounged aboot his face tae hing his lips an keek fae oot his een, aa timorsome yet hungert for oor ploys. An fine he was tae hae aroon, aye willin as he was tae dae aathin he was tellt but mind we garrt him dae some affa things like fin he showed his cock tae Mistress Bruce or like the worm he swallaet haill an wrigglin, yirdit wi dirt. Ae sunny efterneen fin dogs were watchin fae the shade, tongues hingin oot, sae het that tar was meltin on the roads, its fat wet bubbles targets for oor sticks – that was the day that Brucie came tae play bare nyakkit. Of coorse at first we looked an snichtert till oorsels at sic a feel but then ere lang the tar’s sweet scent had catcht us wi the sticky sense o daein wrang so naebody noticed Brucie till he sat his dowp full squat richt in amongst the tar. An syne he rolled aboot till that his face, his airms, his legs, his hair were clartit. Aa the time he slochtered there he lacht an yowlt wi fit we took for joy, aye so much so that we aa stared an wished we could but kent we couldna dare, fine though it was tae watch. We heard his mither’s gate an ran an left him there, her anguished shoutin trailin us alang the street tae haim an far beyond. An still I hear her greet, an still I see him pleiter in the glaur o tar, an still can feel that freedom that he felt, that we were feart o then as now. It was that year that Brucie jumpit oot his faither’s car’s back door tae dee aneth a van. Aa doors were possibilities tae Brucie; we still look the other way or run awa in fear an tremmle at their near approach.
M ILKING GRAINNE SMITH
Quayet they wait, biding their time.
Aye aye quines. Standing in the doorway, he pauses. They turn as ane, shiftin fae hoof tae hoof, waitin tae be first in the line. Smell o sharn, warm hair, bodies restless, lowing, lowing, waiting their turn for his heid against ribs, caal fingers tae stroke and pull the teats, squeeze and release, squeeze and release.
Aye aye ma quine. Rhythmic milk-shoots to fill the pail and a half circle o cats gaither in the dim to watch the splatterin, splooterin. Then an arc o white reaches Moggy One rising, stretching its tongue to schloop midair. On doon the line the pail and cats move, hands stroke and pull, pull and stroke tae fill the pail wi frothin.
At the door I pick the shy flowers telling o the nearly-there end o winter faan the cows will forget their standin in byre awaitin their turn in the line for the hands and the pail.
FIT'S FLEEIN ABOOT FAR IN OCTOBER? SUSAN MILLER
Fit’s fleein aboot far in October? Pink-fitted geese, ye say? Foo mony? Forty thoosan? Awa! Far fae? Greenland? Michty!
Fit else is fleein aboot in October? Dyooks, ye say? Nae forty thoosan’ an aa? Mair than a puckle tho? Fit’s at ene wi the pinty tail? A pintail? An at boorach wi the shovel moos? Shovellers? Weel, nae muckle imajinins there.
Fit’s at fleein aboot oot yonder? Whooper swans, ye say? Fae Iceland? Tae Crimond? Are they wise? Ooh, a wee fechty! “Bide awa fae ma wumman!” Same the warld ower.
Fit’s fleein aboot ahin ere? Tree sparraws, ye say? Scarce, are they? An at wee crater forbye? A merlin? Bird o prey? Mair like mait tae ene, I’d say.
So that’s fit’s fleein aboot far in October. Ye wid hardly credit it - Aa thon in oor wee neuk fae oot an aboot, flockin tae oor dune loch. Feel? Nah! Sound.
WRANG SIDE O THE BED NICOLA FURRIE MURPHY
In the aul days, being Scots was the giftie o enlightenment. Coorie-in the beddie wi thon fine fellas fae the Athens o the North.
Maxwell’s colourful numbers, Burns’ troubadour tales. Heids o steam and pneumatic vision embedded. Landmarks o reid engineering launched and bridged forth.
Then polymath beams dipped an wits flickert oot. Box beddies and steamies nae mair. Nae three but twa estates; schemes an grouse, bundled thegither but nivver the twain shall meet.
Fa ar we noo, beyont the stereotypes? A ginger army that gangs naewye since nineteen oatcake. Branded keepers o the uisge beatha flame. ‘Step we gaily, on we go’ - a for Madge’s wedding.
The cheer o the devolution crib wi a new chiel in the millennium. Andy Murray’s thrawn hert Smeddum. A world class winner heiding up Team GB.
Oor marrit bed o white roses Pride in our union, then Indy Ref. We took conter positions, me, aye, You no, thanks - to your Yorkshire roots. But politics did not thistle our relations. A knightly bosie afore dwamming, alane.
Lying in the bed o a second referendum. The gruelling groundhog day o nae mair porridge. An fit aboot tday, being Scots? Stills feels like oor first foot oot is aye on the wrang side o the bed
gurdin snaw-hoosie john wigham shirt
It wis a cauldrif blashie day an i wind wis blaain a hoolie. An affa caul day nae mistak: i snaw wis deep on i grund bit it’s an ill souch yon blaas naebody ony braw. Ay an on ah thocht tae brave i slag an daunder owre tae Gurdin an step by i herbour fur fry straicht fur i boat, a dram. As ah lockit i cottar hoosie i corn-craws wis makin an. affa rackit protectin thir gorblins. Ah saw mair snaw sittin at i Cairn o’ Mount awaitin tae skite on me napper. In i dykes a vraithe o snaadrapps an daffies kivert i flooir. wytin on Persephone’s passage. Crossin i road ah stappit ontae i brig n i wind it howl’d wi fearful thuds; ah wis bowlt owre birled an bluffert as ah brav'd i caul. I pad wis ice-shoggly; ma beets slippit aroon on i slidey grun. Ah joukit upby Cowgate an owre i Mercat square tae bield fae i houlin o wind. Beliv ah cam inaboot i paith tae Gurdin. Noo i snaw wis aa kauvie coatin i forelund an parks, hirsels o stirks, cuddies an aw.
E’en a flaucht of doukie divers ootby wis turnt white wi i snaw. Ah haed ma heid doon sae law ah sawna milesteen-inspectors slootchin by i loanin, sawna dug walkers daunderin by i roddin bit, as ah cam tae Selbie warks, ah saw dusty Howie o’ the Mill aby Govie i fish mannie’s shappie an ma pal Sandy aby the Maggie Law museum bit thay wis like snaw-ghaists. Few fowk wis gaan aboot; it wis eerie an gowstie. Ah gaed tae i herber bar whaur ah kent it wud be wairmer tae bide fur i boats cumin in fae i kreels Bunter, mine host, wis ahint i bar wi a welcome pint an dram. I fishermen wisnae lang caiperin an banterin wi a guid cautch sae ah fillt ma cairier an peyed up. Thareoot i snaw wis on agen an i bairns wis makin a snaw-hoosie, taundin likie a Bennachie bap bit wi ’oot a ruif - a snaw-hoosie in Gurdin!? Aye weel er is i shortcome o’ hooses hereawa!! Bit jings we’ll hae polar beirs neisten!!
HAUDIN DOON I DAYS JOHN WIGHAM SHIRT
Ivery sunny day thay’d gaither, last o i spinners an weavers, daen wi towe an jute an weavin, last o i mohicans, chawin i fat an caiperin on i days agin i gable-end o a bothy at i dowp o kirkburn - faur saft ocean swall, sweelt i bonnie peebly strand, an ilie steidy brattle, jist aside faur quinies taen thair lifes, by bervie stance; for a life o sweit an tuilye, at selbie an craigie warks; een fesht i rowies, anither fesht a flaskie; it wis a placie o lauchter an loss an cheenge; nou i mills wis gane, an ‘luxury’ hoosies biggit insteid, thair darg taen awa tae furrin pairts, leavin thaim tae haud doon i days; nou even i peerie bit thay haed wis taen awa’ fae thaim - even i days!!
SHOO'ER GRAINNE SMITH
Hale watter runklin doon the lane, stair roddies stottin aff the tar, branders hotterin, bubblin foo, an ma soakit feet rinnin, rinnin tae get hame. The roadie’s dryin, risin steam. Blin storm gies wye tae a singin singin sky. A splashin splooterin draas ma een - starlins haein a dook in a reemin watter spoot.
WINTER MORAG HILL
aathin scunnerin cauler nor caul girnin hingin willin Spring in lichtless leafless smeerless haemerin hail an sneavilin scoolin dreepit skitin seggit Winter awa wi ye
E HINMaist train john wigham shirt
hissing steam amidst e buzz ah onlookers / e hinmaist train stands riggit tae depart / generations gether tae pey homage tae e great beast towering oer e birn / spilt oot ither side ah e track / pucklie boys haun in haun wi fathers/ bairns held aloft aa tae see e special/ fowk waving fae upstairs windies level wi e coaches sax aa telt/ packed like sardines wytin fur the flag tae drop an e fussle blah/ geets sink inta bouncy seats/ hinging oot ah windies while a stray dug an lone bobbie keek oddly oot ah placie / noo e loco chuffing panting an flexing like a circus strongman eases awa fae e plettie tae begin its scowp doon e coast / slowly heize speed wi a rhythmic clickity click clickity click ah e wheels oer e rumble ah e tracks an e clanking ah e couplings / langsyne shilts in paddocks an stirks in parks / langsyne wavers on primrosed banks / langsyne e sea sparkling turquoise blue an mochie / langsyne shags drying their wings on fingered rocks/ in single compartments excited travellers clasping their tickets despite nae collection / an breathe in smoke steam an sparks thro vents market div nae open ayont here / noo slowing fur e flax works in Gurdin / halting aat birnie road wi a blast ah e fussle an aa hiss ah e brakes / on langsyne e boats steek in bi johnna/ on tae wheaten parks an e kirk aat st cyrus /slow agin fur e north satty bree viaduct wi its frichtome views ah e river neth
COMPENSATIONS GRAINNE SMITH
I’m wearied o winter, the lang dark, the caul. I’m wearied o winter, it’s sic a lang haul.
I’m wearied o winter, the dreich creepin licht. I’m wearied o winter, nithin feels richt.
I’m wearied o winter, soughin an wheekin. I’m wearied o winter, aye shivrin an greetin.
I’m wearied o winter, aye happit in layers. I’m wearied o winter, banes achin an sair.
I’m wearied o winter, o dark tales an malice. I’m wearied o winter, aa gossip an spite.
Cam – draa the curtains gainst grey win an sleet. Cam – dra the curtains, we’ll mak oor ain haet.
Shut oot the winter, shut oot the dark, Shut oot the caul, we’ll baith mak the spark.
Forget aboot winter, forget aboot sighs, Enjoy the lang dark – the spring’s on it’s wye.
A measure o STANDIN SUSAN MILLER
The spik o the playgrun as the hairst rolled in. ‘Fa are you pickin for this year?’ wis fuspered an speired an craa’d an blaa’d: a measure o agricultural standin wis at stake.
‘Fit are they peyin?’ wis socht neist. Nae pint in stallin. Teens tak nae prisoners. ‘Ye’d get mair back on a Hay’s bottle,’‘ wis a loss o standin.
The rolls Royce o them a, Slackies. Nae a float fae the Square at sivven, but at acht, a landie fae the gate: a richt measure o standin wis a Slackies pick-up.
‘Will we shift the dreel pegs a bittie?’ wis aye tried. Pitches paced oot were shoogled an swicked an swyted an blighted. A measure o daily standin tae beat the Fordie.
The Slackie het buttery meant fly time. Wi lunch ahin a strae bale, stretchin wir backs ower its arch. A measure o a tattie picker wis sair beens.
‘Will we choke the digger wi stanes?’ wis dared by some. Rotten tatties hurled ben as pickers ducked an lobbed an skirled an birled: a pitching airm wis a necessary measure.
The hale wikk, boo’ed ower, clarted, liftin marises an coupin baskets til lowsin time on pey day. A measure o standin wis tattie pickin siller.
Ma pints is louse - SUSAN MILLER
“Ma pints is louse, Miss.”
It wis wee Sandy Tough fae the lower class. He’d taen the lang wye roon fae the cludgie, likely tae gie the beasts the once ower an mebbe thocht he’d try his han in the uppers, kennin fine Sooky Sooky Pandrop wid draw in the air afore spittin oot her sooked in, stottin crabbitness.
Aa een cam up fae the slates, the screivins jinin the air. Fit wis oor new teacher gaun tae mak o this? She wisna fae here aboots - her spik wis naethin like in oor north-east neuk. She didna ken a sark wis fit ye wore aboon a simmit, or that sheen were for yer feet, nae fit some spit an polish wid mak. She didna ken that a pailin post hid naethin ava tae dae wi gettin a bucket fae the postie or that een hid twa meanins nae neen. She said it wis jist as weel she kent some German. German? Doric wisna German. Doric is jist the wye we spik. She said at fly time (weel, she didna say ‘fly time’, we’ll leave at een fur noo) on her first day fan it wis speired if she winted mair tae, she cud say aye as it’s jist the same in German - nae the spellins tho. She tellt us thon Germans pit silent ‘h’s intil their wirds an twa wee dots caaed oomlouts ower some vowels tae chynge the soon a bittie. Weel, Jimmy Tocher went an said his faither pits mony a silent ‘h’ intil his vocabulary an some nae verra silent eens an aa that fairly chynges the air, an his mither’s jist fair deen in wi it. But fan Jimmy dis the same the only oomlout soon he hears is the dingin fae the clout roon his lugs. We wis hopin maybe Mrs Lindsay jist got aboot fower, five wirds o that tale.
She’s only bin a twa, three days but it wis as if she hid a tawny’s een that could search oot ivry misdemeanor o the day. An she can smell ill trickitness. Foo she hid seen Bobby Coutts stap his snochers in the inkwell or the muckle stane in coorse Eddie Fowlie’s pooch he’d taen tae stot aff Alfie Hay’s thick skull efter the bell, we’ll nivver ken, but she did and they kent aboot it. We aa kent aboot it. Nae in a ging aff her heid like a heifer lowin or a stirk bin denied too lang. But in a quaet wye that let aabody ken she wis in charge. Nae sign o the tawse neither. We were eesed tae the palm-landin stingin dirl o the double strap or the slap o the slipper on wir docks fan we were thocht gey young yet for the leather. But Mrs Lindsay, she got the culprits to pint oot themsels fit they hid daen, fit wye it wis wrang an foo they were gaun tae better themsels fae this day forrit. An I ken she’ll haud them til’t an aa.
Like Monday mornin fan Willie Milne sauntered in aboot half ten. An here’s anither thing we hiv in common wi thon Germans: the wye we cry the half hoor on a clock. Maybe this new teacher fae oot aboot could teach us a thing or twa. Weel, she fairly taught Willie Milne a thing or twa aboot turnin up in her lessons half an hoor late. There wis a fair few o us loons were affa gled to see him get a dressin doon. Nae ither teacher hid iver crossed young Willie, nae fan his aul man wis Bill Milne the bigsie fairmer an ‘contributor o Dronac Skweel coffers’ (fich we aa kent peyed the dominie’s Friday nicht drams). Fit a drouth that man hid developed in his time poorin ower oor multiplications an spellins an flooer scratchins. Willie wisna lik the coo’s tail the next mornin either, or the day. It’s him that’s haudin in noo.
Anither tactic she his is she learnt wir names quicker than a futret gaun doon a rabbit hole. Nae like dottery aul Duncan fa coodna tell a yowe fae a gimmer maist days. She sat us in alphabetical order an hid the hale-jingbang minded afore we supped wir milk at playtime. Aa 38 o us. But moosie Daisy Gordon, she hid hardly heard the soon o her name bein caaed in aa her time at the skweel, an got sic a fleg fan she wis tellt tae han oot the straes she scaled her ain milk an Beldie Masson’s aside hers an aa. Fit a sotter. Puir Daisy wis black affrontit.
Black affrontit is a state I dinna think Mrs Lindsay is acquant wi. She lookit doon at wee Sandy Tough then rested her een on his heid. So that wis her tactic. Heid tae fit. There wis naethin adee up tap – weel, nae that the ee culd see at ony rate. Shooders aricht. Oxters, weel, she wis a clivver wifie and she didna dwell on that body pairt ower lang (or at aa in fact). Belly wis stickin oot far his briks didna quite meet his full sark, but that’s fit he aye looked like, happit thegither. Doon the leg o his bricks til her een clapped on the culprits. There they were. As she booed ower, a wee bit smile cam across Mrs Lindsay’s face.