Anne Leith and Les Oman both live in the seaport town of Campbeltown in Kintyre and have played music together, in various combinations, (most prominently with Campbeltown folk-rock band The Wild Sarachs) for almost twenty years.
Back in 2015, the pair worked with Campbeltown poet Angus Martin on a small tribute event to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Tarbert poet George Campbell Hay. Although this was a small gathering, the duo was heartened by the response to their musical settings of several Hay poems and began to include them in their regular live set. In early 2016, A Night of Islands, selected poems by Angus Martin, was published and it seemed very natural for them to delve into this book, in search of further inspiration from Kintyre’s other significant poet.
There is a nice symmetry about having three new pieces from Tarbert in the north of the peninsula and three from Campbeltown in the south. As musicians, Anne & Les know that poetry can be tricky to work with as not everything works like a song lyric. Accordingly, they were both delighted and fortunate to find these six gems and hope you will enjoy them in the same way that they were inspired by the original poems.
The Fisherman Speaks is a forthright excoriation of the dual pressures of poor fishing and avaricious banks on families, community and self-worth.
The Old Fisherman recounts the thoughts of an old man regretfully reflecting on the end of his working life.
The Smoky Smirr o’ Rain is one of George Campbell Hay’s most evocative nature poems, which he also recast in both Lowland Scots and Gaelic.
The Hird’s Hoose is a ruin which was used as a landmark by fishermen when passing the Cock of Arran at the north of the island. The poet imagines its heyday when a shepherd (hird) would have been in residence and concludes that he wouldn’t swap his position on the boat with life on the land.
Dancers is an adult reflection of a young boy’s youthful hero-worship of the ring-net fishermen of Campbeltown and corresponding romantic notion of what life at sea entails.
The Tiller is a mysterious poem written from the point of view of what is essentially a piece of wood used to steer a fishing skiff. It ascribes very human emotions to the tiller following the death of the boat’s owner/skipper.