Akros Publications, 2006 - £3.00
This pamphlet is unusual in its content. It contains only four poems by its author, followed by six pages of biographical commentary, “confessions”, as background to the poems. Finally there are six further poems, each dedicated to George Philp, by Alastair Mackie, William Neill, Duncan Glen, David C Purdie, Elaine Morton and Rab Wilson.
The poems are in Scots. On the cover are shadows of thistles in front of what might be a wire fence. The effect is of a musical stave, and the poetry inside certainly has music:
At morn I stuid aneath an aipple tree,
heich and thrang wi the bummin o bees
hamewith eydent on soukin shairly
frae the skinklin tassies…
George Philp’s poems celebrate life, whether of landscape, people, or (particularly) the Scots language. He describes in ‘A Firsten Keik Intil Purves’ Chekhov’, how he hadn’t paid attention to Chekhov, until seeing a production in Scots, and “Than thon Thrie Sisters lowpt intil ma een/ Thair speik nae langer fremmit tae ma lugs”. This and ‘To Robert Ferguson’, a fine translation from the Gaelic and English of a Meg Bateman poem, were my favourites. ‘Thochts Anent Sangschaw and Penny Wheep’, while well written, meandered about too much before settling on its point. ‘Speyside Revisited’ (1954), his first ever poem, must have been included only out of sentiment.
The notes were useful, as much of the verse referenced personal events. These entertaining “confessions” enriched my reading of the poems.
The six dedication pieces ranged from appreciations of George Philp’s work in creating a sound archive of Scottish poetry and song, to a remembrance of Archie Gemmill’s famous 1978 World Cup goal. They were obviously heartfelt and well-crafted, a tribute anyone would be proud to receive.
Rob A Mackenzie