Research your town’s Scottish connections, past or present, and write a poem about it.  Then, if you are up for it, make a short video of folks in your town reading lines from the poem.

Scots in New England will review your completed projects and might even post them on our website!

Where did we ever get such a daft idea?!

The other day, I was performing my daily Mesmer-ation by scanning my Google search for all things Scottish when I stumbled upon a gem.  Seems John Hodgart, a terrific poet in Ayrshire wrote a wonderful poem of celebration about his hometoon, Dalry Scotland, and 150 citizens then recited it in a YouTube video. WHAT FUN!An old person sitting on rocks at the beach

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So, I was thinking… what if we had a wee contest (being we have very little budget, there would, of course, be no prize… very Scottish ☺ )… let’s see if anyone wants to write a poem and then have folks in your town recite it just like the Toon of Dalry did.  The theme would be to exalt the town AND to find as many Scottish connections as possible that could be referenced in the poem… sort of like joining poetry and detective work in celebrating our Scottish culture in New England.

What a great way to celebrate our Scottish heritage and our towns.

In any case, here is more about the wonderful poem by John Hodgart and the love the Toon of Dalry put into producing the video.

The Hilltap Toon video by the Dalry community

The Hilltap Toon Poem by John Hadgart

Bypass Art Town of Dalry Facebook page

The Bypass ART Group 

Julie Wales, chair of the Bypass ART group, said: “Dalry is a lovely town to live in but we thought people might bypass it. We have got such a lot of history which deserves to be known.A group of women standing in front of a sign

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A short film based on a poem by John Hodgart, called The Hilltap Toon, brought together 150 members of the community, including school children, locals and even the town’s football team Dalry Thistle.

Hodgart, who wrote 64 verses on Dalry through the ages, was delighted to see the story of his town… brought to life.

“I’ve never heard of a community getting involved like that reciting a poem about their community’s history and story,” he said. “It’s a folk history in the language of Ayrshire Scots, the one I grew up with in Dalry.

“I think it really sparked off an enthusiasm for being involved in this. It’s a great medley of voices of all ages, who brought their own character, humour, personality to each bit they delivered. It’s a wonderful record of the community now as well, which has made it very special to me.

“There’s folk who were at school with me, and people I taught. Some of the oldest and youngest folk in the community.

“I found it very moving, I could hardly put words together after watching it. It’s in a way a love poem to a place.”


28th August 2023 By Neil Smith, Chief ReporterA person sitting at a table with a cup

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North Ayrshire writer John Hodgart has been announced as a joint winner of the prestigious James McCash Scots Poetry Competition.

John, 75, who is best known as the author of ‘Bessie Dunlop the Witch o’ Dalry’, penned a poem called The Passing O’ A Queen [EDITOR’S NOTE: the poem follows this article], about the media frenzy following the death of Queen Elizabeth II last year.

He shared the major award, sponsored by our sister titles Herald Scotland and Glasgow University, with five other poets, after the judges ruled that they were all worthy of a share of the £500 prize.

John, who is Dalry born and bred but now lives in Ardrossan, said: “I feel quite chuffed. It is not a huge award, but it carries a lot of kudos in Scottish writing circles. Last year, I was a joint runner-up.” 

Alan Riach, professor of Scottish literature at the University of Glasgow, described John’s work as “an ironic, irreverent yet compassionate salutation on the death of the Queen”.

John told the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: “Although some people might see the poem as an anti-royalist satire, it isn’t intended as such.

“It is simply an ironic comment mainly on the excessive media coverage of the late Queen’s death and her funeral, when you could have been forgiven for thinking that nothing else was happening in the world for over two weeks.

“Of course, it was an important national event and the late Queen was deserving of respect, but what we saw emerging during that period was, in my opinion almost a kind of mass hysteria, whipped up by the media and exemplified by the speaker of the House of Commons who actually said it was the most important historical event ever, a comment that was quite simply deranged.

“My poem is about that kind of loss of perspective, especially when all sorts of horrific and evil things were happening elsewhere, especially in the Ukraine.”

John’s play about the legendary Dalry ‘witch’ Bessie was turned into an audio book earlier this year, with performances in Dalry and Beith.

It became one of Amazon’s top 10 selling audio plays. 

The McCash Prize is an annual competition, endowed by a former engineering graduate of Gilmorehill, James McCash, who had himself won an earlier Herald poetry competition in the 1970s.

In the last 20 years it has become a major landmark in Scotland’s cultural calendar.  

Leslie Duncan, one of the judges, said: “What an energetic mixter-maxter of material reached us from the 99 poets who responded.

“They did so in all sorts of variants of the Scottish language, a fine stramash of tongues, from the classical and MacDiarmid’s Lallans to Doric and Burns’s Ayrshire cadences, and of course the smart patois of the city vernacular.

“It’s clear that the language remains vibrant and widely used in spite of all the push to conformity generated by the mass media, online and other.”

The other winners of the award were David Bleiman for Ma Makaronic Manifest; Raymond Burke for How to Speak Glaswegian; Robert Hume for Simmer Storm, Winter Warm and Sheila Templeton for Winter’s Hansel.


Wi her passin, an onding o pieties,  

Droonin maist o the land in grievin,

(Tho shunnin ony improprieties) 

Tae wing her on the wey tae Hieven,

As if we aw had lost oor mither,

(Queues roon streets for miles weavin)

As weel as oor sister an oor brither.

Jeez oh, it’s faur ayont believin

An I’ve neer kent o’t for anither,

While mony puir folk gied up breathin.

But mibbie for Lizzie it wis a blessin

She didnae see whit she’d become:

Gey near a saunt I’m kinna guessin,

Wi obsequies tae lea ye dumb 

An neer-endin encomiums, 

Some fu o guff, some fu o unction,

Some haudin the whiff o opiums,

As gabblin geegaws, lackin gumption,

Thocht it was, by God’s ain will,

The maist important thing eer seen.

As if the planets shid staun still

For the passin o a queen.

Yet ither things I daurnae mention,

In case ye think I’m on a rant,

Noo that we’ve witnesst her Ascension;

Her coffin, the Ark o the Covenant.

While Putin’s war aye grinds awa

An Ukraine’s battert, bluidy an raw.

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