Posted by: pirliebraes | March 17, 2018

More James Hay Poems

James Hay

James Hay, the Flotta poet, had several booklets of his poems published, the first one in 1926.  Our copies of these turned up yesterday when I was looking for something else and so it seemed like a good time to print a selection.  We have already mentioned James Hay in the blog, back in 2011.  He was born in Flotta, and spent most of his life at the Old School, although he lived for some years outside Orkney and his dialect is more Scottish than Orcadian.



My only hope in life is hope
That Hope will come to me,
I fondly hope, this glorious hope,
Hope realised will be.

Sweetest and loved and treasured Hope
Hope comes with thoughts of thee,
And without hope of winning Hope
My life would hopeless be.

O Hope give hope and endless joy
By giving hope to me,
And fondly will I ever hope
My darling Hope for thee.

Hope springs eternal, and I hope
That ne’er will come a day
When hope will shattered be by Hope
Taking all hope away.

Hope with cat (not Moses!)


Our cat he has gone out again
Midst snow and storm and wind and rain,
And sad I’m sure our hearts will be
Till our Mosie again we see.

I wonder whaur the lad has gane,
Tae Whilloquoy or Stannin’ Stane;
Or maybe ower tae the Dam,
Then cross the fields tae cousin Tam.

The lady cats a’ roon’ aboot
Hae set their caps withoot a doot
Tae win the heart o’ oor young chiel,
And so entice him tae the deil.

Yon ane fae ower the way, my fegs,
Comes ower the park wi’ her broon legs;
Then gadds aboot, and capers so
That Mosie is compelled tae go.

And coort wi’ her for twa-three oors,
When Tam’s white ane comes through the flooers,
Neep shaws an’ a’, entraps the lad,
And fairly leads him tae the bad.

Flotta Choir Hymn Book

In Kirks the Noo

In some Kirks noo the folks just sit and listen while the choir
Rant aff some quick newfangled thing that gaes ye the desire
Tae up an’ rin far far awa, to some deserted place,
Whar ane can worship God as auld, wi’ reverence an’ grace.

If Ministers wid only hae the gumption for tae see
That folks come to the Kirk tae sing, an’ no a’ listeners be;
They’re there tae worship God ilka ane, tae sing His worthy praise
And want the same auld bonnie tunes they sang in earlier days.

Young Clergymen, avast! give up these hateful rantin’ things
That minds ane o’ a Ragtime Band when they are playing springs;
Stick to the guid auld Psalms and tunes our fathers used to sing
In God’s own house, on His own day, through summer, winter, spring.

If service in the Kirk was held the same way as o’ auld,
I’d maybe yet take part in it, before I get more bald,
And sing as in my youthful days, let angels prostrate fall,
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of All.

Flotta Kirk

In Switha’s Isle

Twenty long years had passed and gone,
When by the grace of God,
Upon its shores once more I stood,
And o’er its pastures trod.

Fair Switha’s green and lovely Isle,
Where as a little lad
I often roamed in joyful glee
’Long with my dear old dad.

In twenty years no change I saw
On hill, or shore, or dale;
Each crag and rock seemed just the same,
In spite of storm and gale.

The day was that on which the sheep
Were for the winter brought
To where they could be housed and fed,
When storms their havoc wrought.

No change in Switha’s Isle I saw
But what a change there was
In workers with the sheep that day,
As by me they did pass.

Young women now who then were babes,
Young men grown up from lads,
Whilst many a well remembered face
Of mother, son, and dad,

Were not in Switha’s Isle that day,
Another sound they’d crossed –
Not Switha Sound, but Jordan’s flood,
On its dark billows tossed,

To peaceful haven where no care,
Or grief can them dismay,
There Jesus with His loving hand
Wipes every tear away.

I looked across to Northern Isle,
And on its Churchyard gazed
With awe and wonder as I thought
That from it would be raised

One day those friends with whom I mixed
Twenty odd years ago,
On Switha’s Isle sheep shearing day,
Who since were called to go

To the good shepherd in whose care
Not one can ere be lost,
And there we’ll meet them all again
When we like them have crossed,

Not Switha Sound, but Jordan’s wave,
Upheld by Christ’s own hand,
Pardoned, redeemed, and glorified,
In Heaven, our fatherland.

Switha Sheep Shearing

Switha Sound

***   *****   ***

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