The Golden Fleece of Arran
By Roddy Scott
Aince lang ago, when jist a gleam in ma maw’s een,
I was telt the tale o’ Jock the Shepherd an’ his Golden Fleece.
In the autumn, he wuid drap a sheep’s fleece
intae a burn- a certain burn- oan the Isle o’ Arran, knowing
that when the spring cam an’ the laird’s man cam speiring his dues
the fleece wuid be full o’ fantastic flecks o’ Scottish gold….
He wuid trauchle up the hill in the daurk
crackin’ ice-holes sunk in the sod by Heilan’ kei
wie his clods o’ boots, ‘es neb drippin, his breath billowin’ oot,
Rab the sheepdug pantin’clouds of dugsbreath caught in the torch’s beam
an’ Pickles the Pony snortin’ ‘es general disapproval o’ dugs in the nicht-
at last he wuid staun at the water’s edge n’ drag wie aw his micht-
for thone fleece wuid weigh a ton in ‘es hauns, bein’ full o’ flecks
o’ glitterin’ Scottish gold, sodden wie guid burn water-
an’ cowp the fleece intae a bag an’ ontae Pickles’ back…
Doon thon brae in the daurk afore dawn, so that no wan
cuid observe whaur he’d been nor whit he he’d done and thieve
‘es God-gied gift o’ trawled treasure frae the braw Ben’s
burn, he wuid step intae his croft an’ his wife Deli an’ he wuid sift
through that fleece, gently pickin’ at the gold.
An’ that is how they paid thur rent an’ tax, long long ago
whin Scots wurr freeborn , ingenious in the auld ways an’ spun legends
lik’ the shannachie afore the bleeze at nicht afore the Scot
John Logie Baird hisself it wiz who inventit the television, an’ spoiled it aw.
Jock an’ his fleece are ae there oan Arran, in the glow
aw the bleeze late at nicht when the wind blaws and the sheep wander
and the folk peek an’ peek haurd to recall where it might be that oan his last bed,
wie his last deein’ breath, his spouse wiz telt the secret burn’s location-
for Jock’s last fleece was never found
and Jock’s gold is no stuck underground
but oan the fleece in a chucklin’ burn
who chuckles at we humans an’ laughs by turns.
The Golden Fleece of Arran: This is a narrative poem (written originally in English, but changed to Scots for Paisley) about a story I heard when I was a teenager from my brother’s friend (my brother Fin claims he can’t remember…) Apparently a bit of a ‘rural myth’, or legend, how shepherds on Arran knew good spots where a fleece, left all winter, could gather enough gold to pay for their rent, etc. Indeed, there is, according to what I’ve heard over the years, actually gold which can be ‘panned’ from the burns in Arran, like a few other spots I know of in Scotland (see Internet- well-known). It seems to me, there’s always a ‘fleck’ of truth in any local ‘legend’. – Roddy Scott