Meet Me in the Birch Wood

Acrylics on card, 42x30cm.

Meet me in the Birch Wood
Where the leaves are fa’ing doon,
One efter the other
An’ strewan a’ aroun’.

Orange and yellow wi’ bright red stalks
They litter the emerald green
Like confetti at our waddin’,
Discarded at the scene.

Ye’ll need tae wrap up warm now
An’ pit oan yer strippit scarf,
Fur there’s a snell wind blawin’
Ower the cauld dark earth.

Leave the Chanel in the closet
And pull on those long black Skinnys.
And fur-lined boots are the answer
Tae keep attached yer minnies.

For winter is almost upon us
With early falls of snow.
And frosty mornings whiten the grun
After starry black nights below.

Meet me where the Long-tailed Tits
And tiny Coals and Blue,
Pick their way through the high canopy
Of rowan and dark green yew.

Searching in every nook
For grubs to sustain them tight
In huddled roosts in sheltered cranny
Through the long dark night.

Don’t disappoint me my darling
For I need to see you once more,
To ask if you could ever still love me
Like you did wance ‘afore.


Down By The Riverside

Acrylics on paper, 42x59cm.

Down by the river by the boats
Where everybody goes to be alone
Where you wont see any rising sun
Down to the river we will run

When by the water we drink to the dregs
Look at the stones on the river bed
I can tell from your eyes
You’ve never been by the riverside

Down by the water the riverbed
Somebody calls you somebody says
Swim with the current and float away
Down by the river everyday

Oh my God I see how everything is torn in the river deep
And I don’t know why I go the way

Down by the riverside

When that old river runs pass your eyes
To wash off the dirt on the riverside
Go to the water so very near
The river will be your eyes and ears

I walk to the borders on my own
To fall in the water just like a stone
Chilled to the marrow in them bones
Why do I go here all alone

Oh my God I see how everything is torn in the river deep
And I don’t know why I go the way
Down by the riverside

Agnes Obel.


Shady Grove

Acrylics on canvas, 46x61cm.

Cheeks as red as the blooming rose, eyes of the deepest brown,
You are the darling of my heart, stay till the sun goes down.

Shady Grove my little love, Shady Grove my dear.
Shady Grove my little love, I’m going to leave you here.

Shady Grove my little love, standing at the door,
Shoes and stockin’s in her hand and her little bare feet on the floor.

Wisht I had a big fine horse, corn to feed him on,
Pretty little girl stay at home, feed him when I’m gone.

Shady Grove my little love, Shady Grove I say,
Shady Grove, my little love,
Don’t wait till Judgement Day.

I learned this traditional Appalachian mountain-song at High School (Rutherglen Academy) Ballads Club under tutelage of Norman Buchan, my English teacher. This version is from a boys point of view unlike the version linked here by Shelly Colvin live at Music City Roots at the Loveless Café in Nashville. Don’t know who her guitarist is but he sure does a fine job on that gee-tar!

Original charcoal sketch inspirations:


Bare Mountain


Last October this small mountain sported a full covering of deep dark forest but this year it has been stripped bare. At 224 metres Leac Gharbh is but a hillock and could easily be climbed if one was of the notion. But  having just come down from Am Binnein I would rather sit here on my little canvas travelling seat and sketch.

If I had made the effort I would likely have found a flat stone at the apex for that is what Leac Gharbh, translated from the Gaelic, means.

One thing is certain: it is not a place to be caught out on after nightfall especially around Halloween!

Am Binnein


Not the highest mountain on Arran (Goatfell at 874m claims that distinction) but at 662m it still was too high for me to climb to the top. The truth is I’m such a wimp at clambering up bare rock-faces I rarely go beyond the tree-line. I get vertigo just going upstairs on the bus.

This sketch was made, as you can see, just as the trees were thinning out and gasping for oxygen. Ach, no, that was me that was gasping given that I had never walked that semi-vertical route before from Corrie at sea level, up past High Corrie, and didn’t know there was a car-park half-way up!

Though I am not a Gaelic speaker I think Am Binnein  means ‘top, or apex, of the peak’. It certainly is an imposing lump of rock and I love the Gaelic place names that give me a deeper sense of their ancient Scottish history.