A Shetland Connection


Poet's Corner
Bard & Monarch
Thrummy Cap
In Memory
The Antiquary
Ye're Deid
Laddies & Haddies
Shetland Connection
In my own words




This poem was written by the well known Shetland poet, Christine De Luca. As a child, Christine and her family spent their summers with the Dunn family at Portlethen Manse. Out of all the poems within the poetry section this one is my favourite.

I'm indebted to Marilyn Stronach (formerly Dunn) and her family for allowing me to use this poem here. Thanks are due to Christine as well. If, like me, you enjoy this poem you can find find out more about Christine and her work on my links page.


Pilgrim to Portlethen

For the Dunn family, formerly of Portlethen


Holiday snapshot

Portlethen was a solid village rooted

between cliff and moor where words

Like 'future', 'past' seemed arbitrary. 


For us on holiday it was mildest magic.

Mothers cooking. catching up.

Fathers with indulgent cars full

of comparisons of beaches, fair rides.


Mid July in the warm room at night, savouring

the muffle of distant trains. Even now

one at that time, that distance, and I am there

happy among four or five small beds

full of long and secret whispering

when we thought the day had stopped

because we had.


Ticket to ride

Here were buses we had never seen before

never dreamed of: double-deckers built

to impress, with a list of places to traverse

and a conductress who could slickly punch

a colour-coded ticket without looking

flick change into compartments of a pouch.

With her criss-cross leather straps

and snappy hat, this was a job to covet.

That would have been enough

but a ticket and a train journey

to Stonehaven and back

Was like riding to the stars.

And hours and hours were spent

on the bridge above the railway line

to stalk a big train, hear it far off

listen as its single thread of sound

unravelled; hold our breath

as it thundered underneath

dash across to count carriages

watch as it tilted out of sight

pulling a plait of sounds

tightly as it went.










The family has gone now. as ours

grown, scattered, made new alliances.

The oil boom has exploded myths

of timelessness. Superstores encamp

and factories have arrived

from distant drawing boards.

The rail-bridge arches its apology

across the line, looks out of scale.

It seems incongruous that guards

on inter-city trains announce

its imminence. For me, returning

is a pilgrimage of mind and heart.

I speak happily in past tenses

gentle syntax of so many futures.