Monday, 31 October 2011

Hills of the ancestors, townscapes of artisans

And unless I've missed someone out (which is entirely possible) this beautiful beginning from jenny Blain marks the last of our "chapter postings' for this Blog...We haven't posted the poetry pieces as posting half a poem feels a bit pointless and if we posted the whole piece y'all might not buy the book!

Jenny has a blog, here: Landscapeself and you can find out about Jenny's books there

But there is more to come, so after this taste of Dundee cake, do come back for more appetisers

Hills of the ancestors, townscapes of artisans
Jenny Blain

For the last ten years, or thereabouts, I’ve been working on papers looking at how people and place interact and the meanings developed there. Much of this has been about the ways that Pagans inscribe sacredness in landscape (or does landscape inscribe sacredness in them?). But this developed in association with another passion: the hills and towns of my recent ancestors and why they ‘matter’ to me.

These thoughts provoke a series of seen and heard representations to me. Not only do the memories of places matter, but how these memories are given. And so, immediately, there are two, which both relate to my childhood in Dundee, and both hold much wider appeal beyond my associations with place.

The landscapes of Angus, painted by James McIntosh Patrick, matter to me. Not because they are copied and re-copied in people’s living rooms and over the Internet, and hence are all that many people know about this countryside, but that he was a family friend and I grew up with his name as a component of family discourse and family identity. ‘Pat’, my mother called him. There is an ‘Angus-ness’ inherent in the quality of light and in the detail of composition, which means the images are instantly recognisable wherever they are found. In pursuit of my ‘Blain’ ancestors from the other side of Scotland, I walked into a bed-and-breakfast in Stranraer and said, ‘That’s a McIntosh Patrick’ of a picture on the wall. Which it was.

The poetry my father recited included verses which still make my heart pause and my imagination fly to the braes of Angus: not least those of Violet Jacob, on ‘The Wild Geese’. Again, the impact is not only that of the poetry, but of knowing the landscapes that the poet summons. I will use those words to pace this chapter.

"O tell me what was on yer road, ye roarin' norlan' Wind,
 As ye cam' blawin' frae the land that's niver frae my mind?
My feet they traivel England, but I'm dee'in for the north."
 "My man, I heard the siller tides rin up the Firth o' Forth."

and, as ever, if you want to read the rest of this piece, contain yourself in patience, and watch for The Wanton Green (the book) as the leaves fall, or with the first frosts or maybe when the snow hits...who knows!  Wanton is as Wanton does, but the moment draws closer!


  1. Thank you for the fantastic article. The place else could anyone get that kind of info in such a perfect means of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am at the search for such information.

    1. Rashed
      thanks for your message - for more writing like Jenny's article, I hope you've seen the rest of Wanton Green! You could also look at some of Emma Restall Orr's other writing and maybe the Orkney posts on my own Creeping Toad blog.
      A wider search on "Bioregional Animism" might give you more stuff to work with