Robert Maxwell Duncan

Robert Maxwell Duncan was born in Glasgow and brought up in Lumphinnans, Fife. A former writer for schools' theatre (Glasgow Citizens’), he was a television producer for thirty years. He has had poems and short stories published in various anthologies and magazines, including Poetry Wales, Magma and Southlight. He won the Wigtown Scots Poetry Prize in 2018 with 'The Threit' and was the runner-up for the prize the following year with 'Fower Attacks'. He is especially interested in reclaiming his Scots.

Headshot of Robert Maxwell Duncan against a background of a loch and hills


Wigtown Poetry Prize Showcase »

Listen to winners and runners up from the biggest poetry competition in Scotland

Fri 6 March | 13:00 - 14:00 | £4.50/£3.50 | Parliament Hall, South Street


Fower Attacks

The first attack ye didnae ken was yin:
runnin tae catch a bus in Burntisland
efter a winter’s shift, dovered ower,
waukent wi mune-gash faces whirlin about ye,
white hauns flaffin in front o your een like doos,
and vices: “Are ye aa richt?” “Can we help ye?”
But you – auld sodger, plater’s helper –
“Naw, I’ll be fine,” – straicht on tae the nixt bus,
hapt in your thochts.

The second, three year later, Setterday nicht,
hame fae the pub – I thocht it wes the drink,
reddin the bed-settee fast as I cuid,
breengin intae the scullery for a bowl,
feelin the wecht hit it as ye tuimed your wame,
and aa the while a wild luik in your een,
blinkin aroun the room, seemin thankfu
my mither and brither werenae there tae see ye.

The third – the very nixt nicht, stocherin in,
stane-cauld sober efter a twal-oor shift
ye shouldnae hae dune – wid never dae again –
wi that same luik, this time for us aa tae see;
and nae dout this time what your wild luik meant.

The last ane, six month later, midsimmer:
my brither struck dumfounert in the playgrund
by a wee lassie, “Billy, dae ye ken your dad’s deid?”
And me, a sakeless callant on the thrashel,
met by my mither’s reid, begrutten een.
Syne up the stair tae see ye, laid out,
a five-stane rickle o banes, your white pow
aa skull and skin, your wild een shut in peace,
and mine gowkin and govin, takin it in,
niver tae mistak yon luik again.


Robert Maxwell Duncan