Auld Mortality

Statue to “Old Mortality” at Balmaclellan.
Robert Paterson (1715–1801), known as "Old Mortality", was a stonemason who took it upon himself to travel around lowland Scotland carving inscriptions for the unmarked graves of Covenanters martyred in the 17th century. Walter Scott made him a principal character in his novel Old Mortality (1816).

Auld Mortality

Ye left yer mark
in mony a Gallawa graveyerd.
Yer wirk wis weel kent
by yer steady haun,
by the nummer o letters
ye could carve in yin line.

A maister mason, nae doot,
an a Cameronian, a Covenanter
tae yer very banes.
Sae much, ye left wife and bairns
fir ten lang years,
an a tae save martyrs names.

Scott raised ye up,
but when yer mortality ran oot,
ye wir penniless, flung intae
an unmarked grave at Caerlaverock,
miles fae hame again,
wi nae gan back this time.

Wis it worth it?
Whit did ye say tae yer boye
wun he wis sent tae fin ye?
They built statues in yer name,
but wis yours a beatin hert,
or wis it a hert o stane?

Derek Ross
Roberts gravestone i Caerlaverock Churchyard. The stone was raised in 1869, sixty eight years after his death.

By photos,poetry and haiku by Derek Ross

I am a photographer/ poet from Dumfries in South West Scotland. I concentrate on minimalist images and prefer using an iPhone these days. As far as my writing is concerned, I usually write short poems (some in Scots dialect), hence my interest in haiku and related forms.

1 comment

  1. Thanks Derek. Great photo too, and interesting to compare this version of the sculpture group with that up at the Museum.


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