13th September

The Gaelic Poet

for Aonghas MacNeacail

‘The bloke in the leather jacket,’ Alex Mather said. ‘No, over there, by the newspapers. With the satchel thing. Isn’t that the Gaelic poet?’

‘What Gaelic poet?’ Jill Mather said, taking the last of the groceries from the trolley.

‘You know, the famous one. Not the really famous one, he’s dead. The one with the beard. Cooshie Doo they called him, when he was young. Then his beard turned white so now they call him Cooshie Ban. “Doo agus ban” – that’s “black and white” in Gaelic. Isn’t that him, with the beard and glasses?’

Alex was now openly pointing at somebody.

‘I do see a man in a leather jacket,’ Jill said. ‘And with a beard and glasses.’

‘Aye, is that him, the Gaelic poet?’

‘He’s also wearing a turban.’

‘Aye, that one.’

‘Alex, he’s wearing a turban. He’s a Sikh.’


‘Would you like some help with your packing?’ the lad on the checkout asked Jill.

‘No, it’s all right,’ Alex said, already in position. He began piling tins, bottles and fruit into their bags for life.

‘Can you not be a bit more careful?’ Jill said.

‘So, what are you saying?’ Alex replied, easing off a little on the packing frenzy. ‘He’s a Sikh because he’s wearing a turban? That’s quite an assumption you’re making there. I mean, you could legitimately argue he’s wearing a turban because he’s a Sikh, but not the other way round. Doesn’t follow. That’s like if you saw me wearing a kilt then I’d have to be a Scotsman. I am, of course, but not because I’m wearing a kilt, which I’m not. Are you with me?’

‘Unfortunately, yes,’ Jill said. She put her card in the machine and entered the PIN number.

‘I’ll just nip over and check.’ He was off before she could stop him.

She shook her head at the checkout lad. ‘Don’t ever grow into one of those,’ she said.

Alex caught up with her at the exit, where the charity bucket people lie in wait.

‘No, I was right,’ he said. ‘ “Camera ahoo?” I said, but I didn’t get any response. Clearly doesn’t speak a word of Gaelic. It’s not him at all.’

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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