Poetry Map of Scotland poem no. 1 - Coupar Angus

Wednesday 9 July 2014

Judith Taylor by Helena Fornells Nadal

Starting out at Coupar Angus ... and ending up ...?

We launched our Mapping Scotland in Poetry project at StAnza with a splendid array of poems, of which the final poem was Judith Taylor's wonderful homage to her home town. Our previous post on this topic picked up the baton to continue our own particular poetic tour of Scotland, so it feels only appropriate that we should start with Judith's poem, which we have learned she wrote specially for the project. For which our thanks!  Who knows where we'll end up by the time this project is finalised, but we know exactly where we're starting from.

So here it is. Do let us have your comments on your own memories of Coupar Angus, and even/or a suitable photograph. And keep the other poems coming in! 

Moments in the Great History of Coupar Angus

William Wallace passed this way,
didn't stop. Mary Queen of Scots stopped
but that's not much to sing of
she stopped everywhere. And the Duke of Cumberland…

is an embarrassment.
We were please enough to see him at the time
but now we'd like to think that we were
sympathetic to the Highlanders
before they were defeated and Romantic

so we don't mention him
and there's another story (totally fictitious)
that says we also had a visit from the Bonny Prince.

But our closest brush with history
was in 1917.
There's even a postcard of the aftermath:

the South Lodge at Keithick, on the Perth Road
the keeper and his wife
posed self-consciously on the doorstep
and a passing motorist, roped in to add

- well, who knows what he was supposed to add
but there he is, parked
right in the road
for as long as it took to get the picture

and none of them are looking at its focus.
That black hole in the roof, above the door

punched by a piece of stone the size of a human fist
the biggest fragment of the meteorite
that went to pieces (so we say)
when it realised it might end up in Coupar Angus…

really, though, it scattershotted all Strathmore
from Forfar to Collace.
Our one and only claim to distinction is
this visible piece of damage

and look again at the photograph:
it's faked. The hole's been scratched in on the negative.
It was February. Bitter weather.
1917, when folk had other things to think about

and who would wait around with a holey roof
for the photographer from Valentine's?
It was mended when he got there
so he improvised.

I doubt if anyone minded.
There are lots of disaster postcards:
in the ones of burning buildings you can see
the strokes of the pen that drew the flames in.

Anyway, this was Perthshire. We invented
selling history to the tourists.
We gave the world at least two (probably more)
phoney Stones of Destiny.

Why shouldn't Coupar Angus
have something to show for how close
disaster came?
We could have been a contender:
Scotland's very own Tunguska.

Instead, we're here
going about our business much as usual
only a little bit resentful when we think of how
history passed us by.

 

Judith Taylor
written for A Poetry Tour of Scotland
StAnza Festival, St Andrews
9th March 2014

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