Although we have travelled to very many places in the UK over the years and further afield – even to the other side of the world in New Zealand – as I look through my collection of poems there are far more inspired by this corner of Dumfries & Galloway than anywhere else.
Here we have the sea and so many different types of coastline where we enjoy sandy beaches, clifftops carpeted with nature’s own patchwork of spring squill, thyme, saxifrage , bluebells, celandines and then there are miles of merse, salt marsh or inks as they’re known locally. Here in winter, we get huge flocks of geese grazing.
A version of the following poem was published in an anthology ‘Singing Over the Bones’ in 2010 to celebrate Wigtown Women’s Walk.
Salt Marsh Defined
They call it merse, salt marsh, inks
where there’s the boardwalk and a stone
marking the two Margarets’ death.
That black sulphurous layer
they call merse, salt marsh, inks.
A feeding ground for Greenland’s geese;
land for grazing Galloway cattle;
where granite marks the deaths
of one eighteen, one sixty three,
they call it merse, salt marsh, inks.
Margarets Wilson and McLaughlin
Eleventh May 1685.
Now we hear the cries of birds,
shiver in cold sun, remember them
by the merse, salt marsh, inks.
The martyrs’ stake marks the spot
So we remember how
By the merse, salt marsh, inks
These women stood defiant,
Proud of their covenanters’ vow.
The Martyrs’ stake commemorative stone was surrounded by sea after an unusually high tide.