Seeds in the Wind, book review

Ian Comrie is a West Lothian character.  He recently celebrated his 70th birthday.  With his family he has managed Houston Farm Riding School, at Dechmont, since 1962.  Ian Comrie is also a poet.

He has had poems published in various anthologies and collections.  He has also honed his skills through the West Lothian Writers’ Group.  Seeds In The Wind (Stirrup Cup Press, Houston Farm Riding Centre, Uphall) is Ian Comrie’s first published collection.  It is a beautifully produced anthology and a pleasure to the eye.

Above all else, it is a countryman’s insightful view of the world around him and of people he has met.  Ian has a cabin with double-glazed windows from which he can view Binny Craig.  Much of his poetry springs from those views.  He compares his pleasure at the robin in winter with his pleasure at the blackbird singing in spring.  He is touched by the grace and energy of the peewit.  In Food For Thought, he observes the split-second capture of a blue-tit by a hawk and asks how many such sights he has missed in life.  Even though angered, in Price of Peace, at a crow’s slaughter of one of his doves, he feels regret when he has killed the killer.  This is thoughtful, reflective writing, some of it in English, some in a clear understandable Scots.

In If I Was Abroad he memorises his local sights, the Brocks Burn, Binny Craig, Burnhouse Farm, as a tourist might photograph foreign equivalents, and knows that he will recall these memories for midwinter therapy.

As well as observing nature, Ian Comrie observes human behaviour.  In the Bramble Gatherer, he mourns the fact that after twenty years of always meeting the same woman, gathering brambles, each autumn, this year, she has not appeared.  Like others in the book, this poem comments wistfully on the passing years.  Change is sometimes regretted but there is a quiet hopefulness in the whole collection.  The Clearance reflects on the small mementoes that see us through life and their disposal at death.  He welcomes a beggar’s courtesy  in Dog Lovers and considers how a few brief words can convey infinite meaning.

Ian Comrie proves that poetry can relate directly to the real lives of ordinary folk.  The hunger for words to express feelings and hopes is still powerful.  Poetry is not the preserve of a small intellectual elite.  For all these reasons, this collection, partly in English, partly in a finely rendered West Lothian Scots, is a little treasure.  Magi Gibson, West Lothian’s former writer in residence, provides the introduction and invites us to walk through the pages of Seeds In The Wind, and get closer to Ian Comrie and his poetry. As she says, he’s warm, with a ready laugh and quick wit.

Copies are available (£7.99) from Elizabeth Comrie, Houston Farm, 01506 811351.

Alex. Wood

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Alex Wood

Alex Wood has had a varied career in education. He started as an English teacher at Edinburgh’s Craigroyston High School in 1973 and completed his school-based work as Head Teacher at Wester Hailes Education Centre in 2011. In between he worked in community education, was a Learning Support teacher, headed a behaviour support unit, was Head of a special school and worked in Edinburgh’s Education headquarters. He is a member of the Education Committee of St George’s School. Alex is now an Associate at the Scottish Centre for Studies in School Administration (SCSSA) at Moray House and is Secretary of the Scottish Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society (SELMAS) as well as being a free-lance writer. His experience however ranges well beyond the worlds of schools and education. For seven years in the 1980s he was an elected member of Edinburgh District Council and he retains a keen interest in the political world. He has a long involvement in genealogy and family history, as a researcher, teacher and writer. He is a member of Edinburgh Common Purpose’s Advisory Group and of the committee of Linlithgow Book Festival. Although he has lived in Linlithgow for over 20 years, and in Edinburgh for the previous 18 years, he remains a loyal fan of his home town football club, Brechin City.

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