Mary Irvine’s Blog: Review of Warp and Weft by Ann MacKinnon

Balloch poet, Ann MacKinnon writes poetry in both Scots and English. Her previous pamphlet was ‘Modren Makars: Yin’, a collaboration with two other powerful Scottish poets. Finola Scott and Irene Howat.*


warp and weft

In her lates pamphlet ‘Warp and Weft’ Ann has gone solo with a selection of some twenty poems, some in Scots, some in English but all inspired by the Great Tapestry of Scotland.**

When asked how she decides in which language one of her poems will be written her reply is ‘The poem decides.’ It was hard to decide which poems I would write about, but finally settled on four. I did not deliberately choose two in Scots and two in English. That’s just the way it happened.

Scotland via Poetry

The first poem, ‘The Great Tapestry’ is a poetic overview of the history of Scotland, from the first line to the last.

‘Scotland’s story is sewn.’

‘ …the cross stitch of history

in Scotland’s Tapestry.’

Between these lines, in a few words, is a very evocative drawing of the landscape and peoples who made Scotland.

Evoking Memories

A poem that speaks to me is ‘The Pu o the Sea’. Initially because it brings back vivid memories from childhood, when the herring fleet would call into the port of Hull. The herring lasses would walk along my road, down to the docks.  Ann’s poem re-creates the sight of the guts on their once white overalls and ‘The waff o the brine’ which ‘hung aboot’ them. As with many of the panels a moment in time is captured by the poem.

Disaster Made Personal

My third choice is a more specific moment from history. On the 31st of December 1918 The HMY Iolaire sank, in sight of land, off the coast of Lewis, killing some 200 servicemen returning home after WW1. The title,‘They Brocht Me His Cap’,  sums up the personal grief of a mother, happy that her son had survived the war, preparing to welcome him home. She had used:

‘…the last o ma rations

tae mak a denner fit fur ma boy.’

This poem has a poignancy so strong that no-one can but be moved it.

In praise of Scotland

My final choice, also happens to be the final poem in the collection, ‘The Surge of the Sea’ is a sustained metaphor where Ann praises all that is worthy of Scotland – a hymn to its wealth  of wild, natural beauty, its heritage, its history.

‘The eternal tide of her culture is sewn in every thread.’

– a definite link with the workmanship on the tapestry and bringing us back to the feelings of the first poem. A feeling that everyone has for their own land. There is so much beauty in this pamphlet that it is deserving of a wide audience.                  The title is well chosen, reflecting the workmanship of the Tapestry. The pamphlet is beautifully presented. The stunning, cover artwork (Gerry Cambridge) clearly reflects both the Tapestry and Scotland.
A lot of lockdown pieces of writing have emerged of late. ‘Warp and Weft’ is one of the very best. In the words of fellow poet, Catriona Malan

‘Ann has fulfilled her clever idea of memorialising The Great Tapestry of Scotland, and at the same time showing us in her beautiful, vivid and often moving poems, both in Scots and English, how the panels awakened in her both emotional and personal memories.’

Warp and Weft by Ann MacKinnon, published by, and available from, Red Squirrel Press at £7. Free postage within the U.K.

* Great Tapestry of Scotland – for the history of the making and how o view it.  Facebook – Great Tapestry of Scotland 

If you can’t get to Galashiels then you can buy the book on Amazon, although not all the panels are illustrated. The Great Tapestry of Scotland: The Making of a Masterpiece Paperback by Susan Mansfield and Alistair Moffat, pub Barlinn Ltd, 2013

The Great Tapestry of Scotland Hardcover by Alistair Moffat  pub, Birlinn Ltd. 2021 is available in hardback for £25. It does show all of the panels in full colour, as well as details of each panel, including lists of the stitchers.  There is also a colouring book available in paperback at £6.99 – The Great Tapestry of Scotland Colouring Book, by Andrew Crummy, pub, Barlinn Ltd,  2021

** Modren Makars’  published by and available from, at £10 + p/p

Mary Irvine March 2023

Jim Monaghan at Bru
Creative Conversations: Isis Semaj-Hall

This section: Book and Event Reviews, Books, Talks, Poetry and Creative Writing Events, Mary Irvine: Writer and Philhellene

Written by :

Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

Comments are closed.

Copyright Glasgow Westend 2009 thru 2017

Contact Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End | About Pat Byrne | Privacy Policy | Design by Jim Byrne Website Design