Ayrshire village poet’s childhood memories come to life in new collection of works

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A poet from Ayrshire will soon realize the dream of her life: when her works are published in a new book.

At 86, Josie Neill has been described as one of Scotland’s “most overlooked” poets.

However, Josie will finally see her first full collection of work published – in a book called “There’s Ma Mammy Wavin”.

In the book, Josie recalls her idyllic childhood in the village of Muirkirk.

And although she lived in Dumfries for many years, it was the village of Ayrshire that inspired her to put her poems on paper.

Writing mainly in Scottish, she recalls the people and events of the 1940s and 1950s, including arriving war refugees and local miners, skin deeply rooted in coal dust, returning home to wash and eat afterwards. shifts in the pit.



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She said, “It was a small isolated village among the hills. And it was a small, tight-knit community. I liked it.

“I loved it when I was a kid, when I was young. I loved the language, it was kind of an inspiring language. And I loved the people – there was real humanity.

“Some of what I wrote was about everyday things, like the miners coming home – and the way their beauty showed itself, even through all the coal dust. And then there were unusual things like the refugees coming in, coming from Glasgow. “



Josie is pictured in the center, aged 16, when she was crowned Queen of the Muirkirk Gala.  She is pictured with all of her participants
Josie is pictured in the center, aged 16, when she was crowned Queen of the Muirkirk Gala. She is pictured with all of her participants

There’s My Mammy Wavin ‘is the fourth publication from a new publishing house called Drunk Muse Press which was created by a group of writers including famous poet Dumfries and Galloway Hugh McMillan.

It will launch on Sunday September 26 at the Wigtown Book Festival.

Josie hopes to attend and read some of her work if her health permits.

Hugh said: “Josie is one of Scotland’s most overlooked poets and I am truly delighted that a full collection of her poetry has finally been published.

“She is a highly respected figure and she writes in rich, beautiful and vibrant Scottish.

“I think she has been overlooked for a number of reasons – one is that she was a woman writing in a very male dominated world, writing mostly in Scottish at a time when he was very marginalized and also because she lived in Dumfries and Galloway.

“But I consider this to be one of the most important Scottish publications of the past 20 years.”

According to Hugh, she was held in high regard by Willie Neill.

Ayr Academy alumnus Willie Neill was an Ayrshire-born poet who wrote in Scottish and Irish Gaelic, Scottish and English.

He was a major voice contributing to the Scottish Renaissance. He sadly passed away in 2010.

Indeed, Josie is the only woman to be seen in a series of poets photographed circa 1992 for Willie Neill’s 70th birthday – where she is seen with fellow poets Tom Pow, Hugh McMillan, Derick Thomson, Norman MacCaig and Iain. Crichton Smith.



Poet Josie Neill (third from left), pictured at a gathering of poets in the 1990s. Among the group are other poets Tom Pow (far left) and poet Hugh McMillan ( second from left)
Poet Josie Neill (third from left), pictured at a gathering of poets in the 1990s. Among the group are other poets Tom Pow (far left) and poet Hugh McMillan ( second from left)

This year’s festival is exceptional for poetry and includes the awards ceremony 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 very unusual exhibit – a model church and cemetery designed by Hugh Bryden in which each headstone bears a poetic memorial to a Scottish man. deceased.

A brochure designed by Bryden and edited by Hugh McMillan and featuring 35 of Scotland’s best poets will also be launched at the event.

Hugh McMillan will host his own event at the festival on September 27, which will involve the launch of a new collection of Scottish poetry called Whit If ?, by Luath Press, which is an often humorous look at a host of historic micht-hae-summers.

For example, what if King Alexander III had access to Twitter on that fateful day he and his horse plunged off a cliff – and plunged Scotland into the Wars of Independence? Or if singer-songwriter Jacques Brel had joined The Corries?

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