These Caledonians are giein it another try

The late William Neill was one of the greats of Scots poetry. A native of Ayrshire, he was an accomplished poet in English, Scots, and Gaelic. He loved words, he loved Scotland’s languages. His poetry he said, was for the small tongues standing up against the big mouths. “In Scots,” he once said, “satire has bite.”

Willie first received a wider public readership in 1970 with the publication of Four Points of a Saltire – poems from George Campbell Hay, Stuart MacGregor, William Neill and Sorley MacLean. He was ranked amongst the greatest in modern Scottish poetry, and throughout his years he kept the dream of an independent Scotland alive.

We are only here because we stand upon the shoulders of great men and women. In memory of Willie, and all those who kept Scotland alive in their hearts but who are no longer with us to share in these exciting days, here are two poems which have not been republished since first appearing in a small publication over 40 years ago. But they’ve perhaps never been as relevant as they are today.

These Caledonians are giein it another try Willie. An this time we’re giein it laldy.

Many thanks to Willie’s daughter Alisoun for kindly giving permission for these poems to be republished for the first time in over 40 years.


St Andrew’s Day, 1966

(When Barbados obtained independence, and the Scottish Home Rule Bill was jeered at in Westminster)

I sliced the top from off my egg and heard a plummy voice

Announce upon St Andrew’s Day, how other men rejoice:

Far over in Barbados the banners flaunt on high…

It makes this Caledonian feel we do not really try.


I hear that up in Lewis, the Tories have a man

Who speaks his native Gaelic to vaunt the Tory plan:

To perpetuate the Union, though Fingal’s race should die….

It makes this Caledonian feel we do not really try.


And up where die-hard Jacobites once paid their double-rents,

I heard that the MacIan’s grave must soon become a Gents:

That miles and miles of caravans would neath the Shepherd lie…

It makes this Caledonian feel we do not really try.


They’re not “Nazis” in Barbados, nor in the Maldive Isles,

But just “emergent nations” that Westminster greets with smiles:

But if we try to “re-emerge” it’s “Fascists” that they cry….

Which makes this Caledonian feel we do not really try.


There’s trouble in the shipyards, and eke in B.M.C.

The Tories and the Liberals shout “Tis Labour Policy!”

We can but thole their bickering with an exhausted sigh…

It makes some Caledonians feel we do not really try.


Ah, once we stood up proudly to what the world might bring,

When Scotsmen Scotland guided, not puppets on a string:

O, shades of Wallace, Bruce, Montrose, who led in days gone by….

Let’s make all Caledonians think it’s worth another try.


Build a wall

(On the occasion of the Liberal introduction of a Scottish Home Rule Bill, the member, dressed in the kilt, was greeted by jeers, and a cry of ‘Build a Wall!’)

Aye, Jock, yir banes are bare nou an yir skull grins

Oot frae the Lybian stour, and yir War’s forgot:

Ye dee’t at the hinner end, aye, peyed for yir sins,

Faur, faur awa frae hame, but ye dee’t a Scot.


Jock, gin ye’d kent, what wad ye say, I wunner,

Ging ye heard that they laucht at the kilt ye wore tae glory?

That some wee, shilpit, political Sasunnach scunner

Insertit his funny wee joke at the end of yir story?


Aye, they laucht and shoutit, an sneer’t that a Scot socht hearin

In Freedom’s cause in what THEY caa the Hoose o the Free…

Aye, Jock, owre the wunds o the desert I hear ye sweirin…

Gin ye ken’t man, ye’d ne’er gane sae bauldly be-kiltit tae dee.



27 comments on “These Caledonians are giein it another try

  1. Weegiewarbler says:

    Thanks for finding and sharing.

  2. cuddyback says:

    I was going to say “prophetic words”, then I realised they weren’t prophetic when he wrote them; he was describing his times, and those times haven’t changed. Yet. A fitting tribute to those fallen in combat during a long struggle.

  3. JimnArlene says:

    Their tactics haven’t changed much, though the jeering will stop; soon enough.

  4. macart763 says:

    The more things change the more they stay the same, or maybe not this time around.

    Thanks for the timely reminder Paul.

  5. Rearrange these words into a well known axiom

    Albion Perfidious.

  6. […] These Caledonians are giein it another try. […]

  7. […] These Caledonians are giein it another try […]

  8. diabloandco says:

    I watched with love from Scotland last night and found it sad.
    I read these poems this morning and found them sadder .

    Strangely both have also left me bloody angry helped by the fact that I’d just read two sneery/jeery articles in the Spectator and the Guardian

    • macart763 says:

      Don’t get mad, get independent. 🙂

      • diabloandco says:

        That would make a nice banner!
        And I’m doing my best – I’m still mad though!

        • macart763 says:

          Seems like mad is just how they want us these days. The articles are becoming that much more outlandish and hysterical. That much more dangerous in some ways too. They’re pushing in the hopes of getting their paws on smear worthy retaliation. Not goin’ t’work though. We’re onto it, and when you know the nature of a thing it loses its power over you.

          Let them slander, smear, patronise and stamp their ickle feet in tantrum. We’ve got better things to do, like discuss a constitution and prepare Scotland for its big entrance onto the world stage. We’ve got debates on laws and bills we’d like to see changed, abolished, enacted. Discussions on how best to move our sink estates back into working class estates. How to give people back their own pride and self worth instead of treating them like lepers and criminals because they caught the shit end of the stick in life.

          We can do it too. We just need to want it bad enough. 🙂

  9. More untapped Scottish gems, Paul. Thanks and keep ’em coming!😊

  10. Helena Brown says:

    Another day and another bit of education, sad they may be but many of us have never wavered. Surely this time,if not when? I do not want to be like my old friend who so wanted to see Scotland Independent and she did not.

  11. Stoops says:

    Read them both several times, then read them aloud. The dog thinks I’m mad. Thank you for sharing those wonderful words, how little has changed.

  12. Nana says:

    Loved these poems.

    I wrote a new version of the times are a changing and sent it to Jock Scott. He and the team thought it was fantastic and were going to give it a go for yew choob but time is getting on and it doesn’t look like it will get done.
    So I am looking for a singer…anyone???

  13. YESGUY says:

    A wee reminder that we all have work to do to get were we are going Paul. Another education and a wee smile too.

    thanks again

  14. TJenny says:

    Nana – I think all the Yew Choobers will be at the WOS night in The Newsroom, Edin on Fri 4th July – will you be there too?

    You could ask them how they’re getting on with the new version you sent them and if they need singers, I’d be up for it – if deemed not too melodically/ vocally challenged.

    • Nana says:

      Reply I got from Jock said he couldn’t find a female singer. Sadly I won’t be able to attend the WOS night [wish I could] so maybe you could nudge Jock for me.
      He has the lyrics and if you like I can send them to you. Need your email address for that or you can ask Stu or Paul for mine.

  15. TJenny says:

    Nana – thanks, will mention to Jock at the WOS night. 🙂

  16. macart763 says:

    Have you clocked this Paul?

    I suspect McDougall and Darling have just had the worst day at work ever. 😀

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