This photograph of our tree I took either last year or the year before. We’ve had it for 26 years and each Christmas I’m outvoted when I suggest dispensing with it. And so any time now, my job will be to bring it down from the attic and try to get in the way as little as possible while Jean puts it together and does the decorating and lights.
We also have a small fibre-optic tree, plus another small one which belonged to my parents and must be about 40 years old!
When I was a young boy, I looked forward every week to the day my comic The Rainbow arrived, and it was a special treat if the Annual was among my Christmas presents. I remember the comic had a picture story which ran for years about a boy and his father who lived in a submarine and had adventures all over the world. The front page featured Tiger Tim and his friends, and here are a few of them.
This poem is in broad Scots, but I’m hoping the general meaning will be clear to everyone. The writer was Sir Alexander Gray (1882-1968), a Scottish civil servant.
Twas a cauld, cauld nicht i' the back o' the year;
The snaw lay deep, and the stars shone clear;
And Mary kent that her time was near,
As she cam’ to Bethlehem.
When Joseph saw the toon sae thrang,
Quo' he: “I houp I be na wrang,
But I'm thinkin' we'll find a place ere lang,”
But there wasna nae room for them.
She quo', quo' she: “O Joseph loon,
Rale tired am I, and wad fain lie doon.
Is there no a bed in the hail o' the toon?
For farrer I canna gae.”
At the ale-hoose door she keekit ben,
But there was sic a steer o' fremmyt men,
She thocht till hirsel': “I dinna ken
What me and my man can dae.”
And syne she spak: “We'll hae to lie
I' the byre this nicht amang the kye
And the cattle beas', for a body maun try
To thole what needs maun be.”
And there amang the strae and the corn,
While the owsen mooed, her bairnie was born.
O, wasna that a maist joyous morn
For sinners like you and me?
For the bairn that was born that nicht i' the sta'
Cam doon frae Heaven to tak awa'
Oor fecklessness, and bring us a'
Safe hame in the hender-en'.
Lord, at this Yule-tide send us licht,
Hae mercy on us and herd us richt.
For the sake o' the bairnie born that nicht,
O, mak’ us better men!
The following verse, part of one of Alexander Gray’s poems, can be seen on the Canongate wall at the Scottish Parliament.
This is my country,
The land that begat me.
These windy spaces
Are surely my own.
And those who toil here
In the sweat of their faces
Are flesh of my flesh,
And bone of my bone.
This video is “Christmas Pipes” featuring Celtic Woman at the Helix Centre in Dublin. They are Chloe Agnew, Lisa Kelly, Orla Fallon, Meav Ni Mhaolchatha, and Mairead Nesbitt the violinist.
Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to
the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the
old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport
the traveller back to his own fireside and quiet home!