An Ayrshire poet will soon realise a lifelong dream — when her works are published in a new book.
At the age of 86, Josie Neill has been described as one of Scotland’s “most neglected” poets.
However, Josie will finally see her first full collection of work published — in a book entitled ‘There’s Ma Mammy Wavin.’
In the book Josie recalls her idyllic childhood in the village of Muirkirk.
And although she’s lived in Dumfries for many years, it’s the Ayrshire village that has inspired her to put her poems to paper.
Mostly writing in Scots, she recalls people and events from the 1940s and 50s, including wartime refugees arriving and local miners, skin deeply ingrained with coal dust, heading home to wash and eat after shifts down the pit.
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She said: “It was a wee, isolated village among the hills. And it was a very close knit small community. I loved it.
“I loved it as a child, as a young person growing up. I loved the language, it was an inspiring kind of language. And I loved the people – there was a true humanity.
“Some of what I’ve written about were the everyday things, like the miners heading home – and the way their handsomeness showed, even through all the coal dust. And then there were the unusual things like the refugees arriving, coming there from Glasgow.”
There’s Ma Mammy Wavin’ is the fourth publication from a new imprint called Drunk Muse Press which has been set up by a group of writers including the well-known Dumfries and Galloway poet Hugh McMillan.
It will be launched on Sunday, September 26 at Wigtown Book Festival.
Josie hopes to be present and to read some of her work if her health allows.
Hugh said: “Josie is one of the most neglected poets in Scotland and I’m really pleased that a full collection of her poetry is being published at long last.
“She’s a highly respected figure and writes in a rich, beautiful and vibrant Scots.
“I think she has been overlooked for several reasons – one is that she was a woman writing in a very male dominated world, writing mostly in Scots at a time when it was very marginalised and also because she was living in Dumfries and Galloway.
“But I see this as one of the most important publications in Scots of the last 20 years.”
According to Hugh, she was held in high esteem by the likes of Willie Neill.
He was a major contributing voice to the Scottish Renaissance. Sadly he died in 2010.
Indeed, Josie is the only woman to be seen in a line-up of poets photographed in circa 1992 for Willie Neill’s 70th birthday – where she is seen in the company of fellow poets Tom Pow, Hugh McMillan, Derick Thomson, Norman MacCaig and Iain Crichton Smith.
This year’s festival is a bumper one for poetry and includes the presentation of the awards for the annual Wigtown Poetry Prize.
There will also be an event called Dead Guid Scots on September 24 by Roncadora Press, which will see the unveiling of a highly unusual exhibition – a model church and graveyard designed by Hugh Bryden in which every headstone carries a poetic memorial to a deceased Scot.
A pamphlet designed by Bryden and edited by Hugh McMillan and featuring 35 of Scotland’s finest poets will also be launched at the event.
Hugh McMillan will be having his own event at the festival on September 27, which will involve the launch of a new collection of Scots poetry called Whit If?, by Luath Press, which is an often humorous look at a host of historical micht-hae-beens.
For example, what if King Alexander III had access to Twitter on that fateful day when he and his horse plunged over a cliff – and plunged Scotland into the Wars of Independence? Or what if singer songwriter Jacques Brel had joined The Corries?
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