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William Hendry Docherty Major

A Tribute

My father was a poet too, and a profound influence on my life and work.

In fact, you could say my experience of poetry leaps back over a hundred years of innovation and change, straight to the late 1700s and Robert Burns. That was because Dad wrote his own poems in Burns’ popular Scottish idiom – long narrative poems, in rhyme, with humour, pathos and a passionate concern for ‘the ordinary man.’

We were a working-class, immigrant family, not scholars. Dad was a house painter for many years and wrote his poems on walls during tea break, then painted over them. He  recited to us around the dinner table and at parties. I can remember his poems better than I can remember my own.

His poems were – and are – wonderful. But he always felt that somehow they weren’t ‘real’ poems. We knew that somehow they were not fashionable, not modern.

He called himself a ‘makar’ – the old Scots word for a poet. He meant it as a bit of a slight, an apology. To him, makar meant a simple versifier, unsophisticated. In fact, makar is an ancient word in the English language that got preserved up there in Scotland. And it means exactly the same as ‘poet,’ which derives from the Greek word for ‘to make’

Here are some of the poems I grew up with…

My faither’s faither’s faither

Valentine

 

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