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London Caithness Association 

      London Caithness Association     London Caithness Association History Index

James Budge

 No diamonds black from lighted tunnels deeps
But skivers from the miry moorland moss,
Where tusker spade turned out the seeping sods,
From banks, that ‘neath the dowey heather lay.
A silhouette, ‘gainst rump of Morven peak,
Embodiment of toil and native skill –
The peat stack, rising pentwise from the ground,
Proclaims the lowish ramparts of the Pentland shore.

In memory still we watch the scaling team
As, arm in arm, they spread on driest knolls
In serried pattern and with practised ease
The soft and supple products of the bog.
The cutter, focal member of the team,
From pockets depths withdrew his secret hoard
Of pandrops and of peppermint,
To soften women’s work with toothsome goad.

A month or more, and seared by searching winds,
Hill tracks resound to hooves of garron horses,
And rattling over springy heather knowes,
The loaded cart adds motion to the moor.
And architects, unskilled in arts of line,
Find scope for roughened fingers in patterns sure and true,
As, gathering winter’s fuel ‘gainst the Northern chills,
They build another buttress in solid Caithness style.

So from the deep and moss-embalming beds,
Mid roots of trees that once did Caithness grace,
There rise the ashes of primordial woods
To fan again the fires of hearth and home.
‘Twas ever thus: that dust to dust shall yet return
That recreated youth may sojourn through the years
To frame the circuit of unending time
That bridges life and death, yea heaven and home.

Where’er a child of Caithness finds abode,
Beyond the Ord and furth the oceans wide,
There rises through the mists of time and space,
A vista of the level crofting rigs,
Where house and steading snugly cluster round,
Axis and symbol of their life and warmth,
Where cares and comfort come and go on wing
As spirals from the tinder of the old peat stack.