Johnny Craig

Background: ln West Lothian round about Bathgate, Armadale, Broxburn, Whitburn, Blackburn, they had their own pet bard – Johnny Craig. Now in his lifetime Johnny had published three books at his own expense. His first book and his last book were iust a load of rubbish, but his middle book, ‘The lmmoral Memory’; this was an illiterate diatribe against Rabbie Burns. So some friends asked me if I would write a poem about Johnny.

Johnny Craig

Wi’ reekin’ pipe and cosy nook
I settled down wi’ Craigie’s book
Page after page I read aghast -
Auld Scotia’s bard exposed at last.
Thro’ melting reverence was born
For Burns the hypocirte a scorn
Then shame; so blindly to revere
This fornicator without peer

Oh Craigie had the Lord been wise
We’d ne’er had blinders on our eyes
Contemporaries, you and Rab
Contemptuous, you’d hae shorn his gab,
But Providence, wi’ darkened way
Allowed the wretch to reign his day
Prolific wi’ his clever verse
Prolific more wi’ something worse.

Wi’ cooling pipe but thoughts aburn
The last enlightened page to turn
When creeping thro’ the creeping dusk
Enshrouded me the smell o’ musk
Wi’ startled gaze I searched about
And clenched pipe denied my shout -
The figure that companioned me
Was not for human eye to see.

Its ancient garb brought first my fear
‘Twas stylish nigh two hundred year
My terror knew its burning eyes -
The skill o’ Nasmyth wasn’t lies
lf life or death -’twas horror’s fill
This thing so silent and so still
But ere I could the Lord invoke
It slowly smiled and softly spoke

“Ah! freen my sicht ye mauna fear
Tho’ hairm a’ve dune am hairmless here
This yie sma’ oor frae ‘mangst the year
they gie parole
Frae Dante’s bield whaur souls they seer -
Yon Brunstane hole.

This oor is but a plan o’ God
Tae ease a wee oor sinfu’ load
Whaur faut is left, we tak the road
Tae mak redress
Arraigned no by some Whitburn clod
ln miners’ dress.

I’d like tae spier – wad ye permit
The charges my accuser writ
I thocht on me they’d a’ been fit
By Daddy Auld
But Whitburn Craigie’s deilish wit
Will shrive me bald.

Wi’ deep’ning frown he scanned each page
l shuddered thinking o’ his rage
But first a smile and then a grin
And then a mirth-provoking din
He roared wi laughter long and loud
To Laugh as hearty I’d be proud
But heaving sides began to tire
He spoke again wi eyes afire

“Ah’ Craigie think afore ye pen
Whit daffin nature’s done tae men
On ane the strength o’ ox she’ll sen
Prood chesty bull
Then scrag the bones o’ ither ten
Wi’ tyrant rule.”

“Wi’ some she lays a heavy haun
On pairts o’ man ye unnerstaun
An’ hae’in conscience as her pawn
She scourges sair
Then beckons Hell’s e’er widening yawn
wi’ chances Mair.”

“l’ll no protest against ma’ fau’ts –
The maist o’ them are jist your thoughts
A lusty natures baith oor lots
It gied me hell
But – stappit in the mind it rots
Ye’ll ken yersel’.”

“Ye ca’ me hypocrite as weel
Man ye’re a self-confessin’ deil
The wrangs we see maist in a chiel
Are but oor ain
While righteous nature gars us feel
O’faut’s we’ve nane.”

“An Atheist cauld” ye next accuse
Wi’ Realism as my muse
Such ignorance’ nane daur excuse
Wi’ sicht tae read
The proof’s my work – what e’re ye choose
Tae God I kneed.”

“Ye write o’ prophets preaching’ God
Men who wouldna slight a bawd
An’ dream o’ Craig as highly ca’d
As Baptist John
The only wey that ye applaud
ls the wey you’re gaun !”

“Then Craigie, scribble a’ yer daur
There’s waur than ye hae written waur
But dinnie dip the pen in glaur
Against the Deid,
Tho’ maybe natures gaun ower faur
An’ glaured yer’ heid.”

“There’s nae misdootin Craigie’s power
He tells ye plainly ower and ower
An’ dammit man the Deil wad cower
Wi his conceit
But Guid-nicht freen, I’ve steyed ma hour
We’ll maybe meet.

John Mallaghan