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TITLE
'The Old Fisherman'
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_GEORGE_CAMPBELL_HAY_03
PLACENAME
Tarbert
DISTRICT
Kintyre
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
ARGYLL: Kilcalmonell
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
George Campbell Hay
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1322
KEYWORDS
poem
poems
audio
literary landscapes

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The poem, 'The Old Fisherman' was written by George Campbell Hay. It is read here by Angus Martin by kind permission of the Trustees of the W. L. Lorimer Memorial Trust and the heir of George Campbell Hay. (Image courtesy of Angus Martin.)

'The Old Fisherman

Greet the bights that gave me shelter
they will hide me no more with the horns of their forelands
I peer in a haze, my back is stooping;
my dancing days for fishing are over.

The shoot that was straight in the wood withers,
the bracken shrinks red in the rain and shrivels,
the eyes that would gaze in the sun waver;
my dancing days for fishing are over.

The old boat must seek the shingle,
her wasting side hollow the gravel,
the hand that shakes must leave the tiller;
my dancing days for fishing are over.

The sea was good night and morning,
the winds were friends, the calm was kindly -
the snow seeks the burn, the brown fronds scatter;
my dancing days for fishing are over.'

George Campbell Hay was born at Elderslie, Renfrewshire, in 1915, the only son of the Rev. John MacDougall Hay, minister there and author of the acclaimed novel of nineteenth century Tarbert, 'Gillespie'. After his father's death in 1919, George and his sister Sheena were brought to Tarbert by their mother, Catherine Campbell. Though educated at Fettes College, Edinburgh, and later at Oxford University, George's vacations were spent in Tarbert, where, as a boy, he acquired his life-long interest in the culture of the small Lochfyneside fishing community.

In Tarbert, too, he began learning Gaelic from the last generation of native-speakers there, and many of his poems were inspired by trips to sea with the local herring-fishermen and by solitary walks in the hills around Lagan Roaig.

As an ardent Scottish nationalist, he opposed World War II and hid out in the Argyll hills until arrested. After brief imprisonment, he submitted and joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. If military experience drew from Hay his finest work - the war poems in Gaelic - it also damaged him mentally. The latter part of his life was blighted creatively and socially, but his earlier poetic achievement has earned him high status as a Gaelic writer, though his significance in Scottish literature generally - he also composed in English and Scots as well as in several other languages, including Arabic - has so far been undervalued. His work was collected and edited by Michel Byrne and published in 2000 as 'Collected Poems and Songs of George Campbell Hay'.

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'The Old Fisherman'

ARGYLL: Kilcalmonell

2000s

poem; poems; audio; literary landscapes

Am Baile

Literary Landscapes: George Campbell Hay

The poem, 'The Old Fisherman' was written by George Campbell Hay. It is read here by Angus Martin by kind permission of the Trustees of the W. L. Lorimer Memorial Trust and the heir of George Campbell Hay. (Image courtesy of Angus Martin.)<br /> <br /> 'The Old Fisherman<br /> <br /> Greet the bights that gave me shelter<br /> they will hide me no more with the horns of their forelands<br /> I peer in a haze, my back is stooping;<br /> my dancing days for fishing are over.<br /> <br /> The shoot that was straight in the wood withers,<br /> the bracken shrinks red in the rain and shrivels,<br /> the eyes that would gaze in the sun waver;<br /> my dancing days for fishing are over.<br /> <br /> The old boat must seek the shingle,<br /> her wasting side hollow the gravel,<br /> the hand that shakes must leave the tiller;<br /> my dancing days for fishing are over.<br /> <br /> The sea was good night and morning,<br /> the winds were friends, the calm was kindly - <br /> the snow seeks the burn, the brown fronds scatter;<br /> my dancing days for fishing are over.'<br /> <br /> George Campbell Hay was born at Elderslie, Renfrewshire, in 1915, the only son of the Rev. John MacDougall Hay, minister there and author of the acclaimed novel of nineteenth century Tarbert, 'Gillespie'. After his father's death in 1919, George and his sister Sheena were brought to Tarbert by their mother, Catherine Campbell. Though educated at Fettes College, Edinburgh, and later at Oxford University, George's vacations were spent in Tarbert, where, as a boy, he acquired his life-long interest in the culture of the small Lochfyneside fishing community.<br /> <br /> In Tarbert, too, he began learning Gaelic from the last generation of native-speakers there, and many of his poems were inspired by trips to sea with the local herring-fishermen and by solitary walks in the hills around Lagan Roaig.<br /> <br /> As an ardent Scottish nationalist, he opposed World War II and hid out in the Argyll hills until arrested. After brief imprisonment, he submitted and joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. If military experience drew from Hay his finest work - the war poems in Gaelic - it also damaged him mentally. The latter part of his life was blighted creatively and socially, but his earlier poetic achievement has earned him high status as a Gaelic writer, though his significance in Scottish literature generally - he also composed in English and Scots as well as in several other languages, including Arabic - has so far been undervalued. His work was collected and edited by Michel Byrne and published in 2000 as 'Collected Poems and Songs of George Campbell Hay'.