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Document 612

Interview 02: Jim McGonigal on "Passage/An Pasaiste"

Author(s): N/A

Copyright holder(s): Prof John B Corbett, SCOTS Project

Audio transcription

M608 Okay, Jim McGonigal, thanks for, very much for er coming in to talk about "Passage" today. er this was published, wh- in the past week or so?
M078 Yes. uh-huh
M608 It was //launched at the//
M078 //erm//
M608 Scottish Poetry Library.
M078 Last week, and yes er Hamish usually br-brings things not hot off the press, but wet off the press. //[laugh]//
M608 //[laugh]//
M078 And if you're lucky you get one where th- the ink has dried.
M608 uh-huh
M078 So, er no it was fine, er yeah, during the summer I think. And er it's a production of poets really, in er in the sense that er Gerry Cambridge, the the the poet, he did the typesetting, and Joe Murray, also a poet, he did the the cover design, which is very good.
M608 It is. //It's er//
M078 //And.//
M608 Paddy's Milestone.
M078 Yes, that's right, or as Edwin Morgan said, Paddy's Hump. I'd never heard that before. //And er//
M608 //I'd never heard// that; that must //be a Glasgow one.//
M078 //[inaudible]// Yes, and they seem to be quite sectarian too, //[laugh]//
M608 //[laugh]//
M078 about the, sort of, dishevelled, crippled Irish, as they were. er but, yeah, that is, must be a Glasgow one; I've never heard it.
M608 Paddy's Hump?
M078 Paddy's Hump. It's horrible.
M608 Yes it is; I pref- I prefer Paddy's Milestane.
M078 M- Milestone is better, yeah.
M608 Aye.
M078 Yes. And, actually, funnily enough, I er pass- passed it er the, the night I had to give the first r- reading of this, erm because it was part of a, er the, my, well it was my entry into a long poem //competition,//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 and the, the winner was to be announced at the Scottish, er central Scottish Library, what's it called? The one in Edinburgh.
M608 The Scottish //oh eh//
M078 //The National Library.//
M608 The National Library of //Scotland.//
M078 //Yeah.//
M608 oh right.
M078 er, so I was on holiday in Ireland, so I had to, kind of, come back, eh //eh for//
M608 //uh-huh//
M078 for eh for that event, and passed er Paddy's Milestone, so it was very nice.
M608 That's nice. //Yeah, yeah.//
M078 //Yes, it was, it was good.//
M608 How long have you been working on it? I mean, it's a, it is a long poem.
M078 er yes, erm, I would say for quite a long while, as part of er coming to terms with different aspects of my ancestry and heritage, which includes a language heritage as well.
M608 uh-huh
M078 Or a lost heritage in this case.
M608 mmhm
M078 erm, so I would say, probably, probably, erm over about s-s- six to to eight years. Bits of it were //were//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 were building in, until there was the occasion of that erm eh competition.
M608 Yeah.
M078 erm, and it's made up of [exhale] various kinds of aspects of [exhale] Scots-Irish history, Irish immigrant history in Scotland, and family history. And language history as well. er, in the in in the various languages: personal language history erm from my own erm background, and also languages that I'd learned and studied at at school and since. And, translations that had been //made of//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 my work and so on, so there was a whole aspect of that. //erm//
M608 //Did you e-// did you always have a l- long poem in mind when you started off? //Or a se- or a//
M078 //er no.//
M608 sequence of poems?
M078 erm m- more eh, more, more sequences, and in fact, eh, just in the kind of spurious way that that that er poets do, erm youm- you make things of, you make something of bits of fragments that are lying around. //I mean//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 essentially, the the the the "Passage North to Armagh", which is the the the third of the the big long passages,
M608 mmhm
M078 That was a reworking of something that I wrote, erm wr- wrote quite a long time ago. erm and I changed the form a bit and I tightened it up and //er just//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 disciplined it a little bit. But yes, that's something from about, er, probably about five years ago now.
M608 mmhm
M078 erm, and then some of the the the poems, which are, you know, separate at the end, you know it's a kind of epic eh structure, //erm,//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 which then, as it nears the present, begins to fragment a little bit //into//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 perceptions, rather like the the sense of culture or Irishness, begins to alter, once the people come to Scotland. [click] And then, the ability to, even to to make a large statement or to be part of a culture, actually, breaks down into separate little poems, but they're to-fro poems, bu- some set in Scotland, in Glasgow, some set in eh Northern Ireland, ne- in Ballycastle mainly, but also, erm
M608 mm
M078 eh, other parts, in fact in Donegal, Glencolmkill is where the last bit of the poem is is is headed, where of course Columba left from; it's the glen of co- er St Columba, one of the places where he, eh, you know, he had eh left Ireland on the way to Iona.
M608 mmhm
M078 So, erm, you know there's th- the sense of of that voyage er starting out again, //at the very//
M608 //mm//
M078 end, but of course it's also a poem about dying and
M608 mmhm
M078 just the, just, just the sense of of of easing into, er, into another sort of water, erm, at at the end, er in
M608 Yeah.
M078 reasonably, sort of hopeful or or
M608 mm
M078 relaxed or exhausted [laugh] //way! [laugh]//
M608 //[laugh]// //[laugh]//
M078 //[laugh]// I always tell the story about eh wh-wh- where that poem came from, and this is er er //[inaudible]//
M608 //Which one is this?//
M078 It's the very final one.
M608 Okay.
M078 er, regarding water. //er//
M608 //ah//
M078 It was my money-making poem! //The one that [inaudible] [laugh]//
M608 //[laugh]// //The one that won the prize.//
M078 //[laugh]// Aye, the one that won two prizes //[inaudible] I'm//
M608 //Two prizes!//
M078 ashamed to say. It won a prize in, er already in Ireland,
M608 uh-huh
M078 as part of the er Davoren Hanna a- award.
M608 uh-huh
M078 erm and, eh, so, it it it it made money there. And then I shoved it in again at the end of of of this, and it- it's a kind of clinching thing.
M608 mmhm
M078 But it it arises from a time when, er you know, I was absolutely exhausted by the kind of erm treadmill approach to working which I tend to adopt.
M608 mm
M078 Probably from my peasant ancestry, just, er you know, just getting harnessed up and
M608 mmhm
M078 eh going on it till I collapsed. And this was in Easter time when I was very very tired, sitting beside this little loch, Loch Esk, just outside Donegal town, and eh, I was just so tired that I just wanted to to die really, to read the paper and die. //[laugh]//
M608 //[laugh]//
M078 And it, you know, it was not too bad, actually, it was it was a very luxurious er hotel that //we were in,//
M608 //mm//
M078 by the the lochside, so it was a pleasant place to die, but, erm, nevertheless er just that sense of exhaustion was was very real. //And//
M608 //mm//
M078 So that's where that came from, but it's quite near Glen- Glencolmkill; that's another of the Gaeltacht areas of of of of Donegal.
M608 mmhm
M078 erm, and part of the poem at least is about the kind of language I would have spoke had my ancestors not come here.
M608 Yeah, one of the things I wanted to ask you is, I think one of the earlier titles for the sequence, or o- one of the working titles, was er Poems in-, "Poems for a now-abandoned language". //Is that right?//
M078 //Yes, erm// er yes, these, th- //[inaudible]//
M608 //Or poems// to be translated into an abandoned language.
M078 Yeah. Poems written for translation, erm, into an abandoned //language.//
M608 //Abandoned language.//
M078 I've forgotten the Irish for it, but //I could//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 find it and let you //know, it's//
M608 //mm//
M078 The poem's, yes, //[inaudible]//
M608 //But that// but that struck me as an interesting and curious title. //Because it//
M078 //oh yeah.//
M608 it
M078 mmhm
M608 it it immediately assumes a sense of distance from the language that you're writing in. That it's not an end-product, that it's a process, to to be translated.
M078 Yes, yes, erm, and this was my, one of my earlier attempts, probably about [cough] maybe four years, maybe five years ago, erm, to come to terms with with with Gaelic writing, or G- or Gaelic writing, because I was really aware that I was kind of attracted to erm Gaelic writing, but I didn't know very much er Gaelic, erm [inhale] And I would always gaze at it, and then I would go straight to the translation; the Gaelic's usually on the left-hand page, the translation's on the right, and I would read the translation and gaze at at the other, and this was a kind of foreign language. So it, I thought I would try to write poems ou- out of that sort of consciousness, kind of in translator-ese //language.//
M608 //mm//
M078 erm, what's nice about translations is the kind of er slightly tangential er view that they have of reality, and the grip on language is often not, you know, quite as firm as as as it should be. But the consciousness, oh kind of foreignness, tends t-t- to come across, and there's often a kind of ungainliness or or strangeness. And, so, I thought I would write poems in English, directly to be translated back. It was the kind of, a Gaelic
M608 mmhm
M078 version of English, as as it were, or a Gaelic take on the world. And it was me as I imagined, poems that I imagined I would write, had I never come here, and having //grown//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 up as er bilingual. //[inaudible] Irish Gaelic.//
M608 //So you're talking about Irish Gaelic?//
M078 I I I wasn't at the time, but Roddy Gorman took them, and and he's he's not trilingual, or you know, he writes in Scots erm Gaelic sometimes and Irish Gaelic other times. And he translated them straight away into Irish Gaelic, which really er I found very touching. [cough] and and and strange and I've made attempts since to, you know, to learn er a little bit more of of Irish Gaelic. //So,//
M608 //c- can you tell// me a little more about that partnership, because did you have actually much input into the Irish version [inaudible] //the Gaelic versions, no?//
M078 //No, no.// No, nothing, cause I I my my own Gaelic is so //absolutely//
M608 //mm//
M078 limited.
M608 mmhm
M078 er, he thinks I know more of it than than I do.
M608 mm
M078 But I don't. erm No, I just met him s- eh somewhere and told him what I was doing, and he thought he would quite like //to//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 transl- to try translating them back, and I was delighted at that. //And he put//
M608 //mm//
M078 work in, and I haven't really done much since. They they have been published, and people found them attractive. v-v- //[inaudible] they've been published//
M608 //Have they? Yeah.//
M078 separately. //[?]A series of them had[/?]//
M608 //oh I see, [inaudible]//
M078 been published separately: they weren't written for this. //They were written//
M608 //oh I see.//
M078 as a separate sequence of about, er, there's probably about ten or fifteen poems at //at that//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 time. I did one section of about eight, and then, you know, eight or, eight or nine poems. And, erm, then a a second follow-up ones of about four or five poems.
M608 mm
M078 which I don't think were quite as good, erm. But, they have, most of them have actually been published here and there, separately.
M608 That, that's interesting, because you do incorporate some of these back into the sequence //[?]don't you?[/?] Yeah.//
M078 //Yes, I do, I do.// Because they were part of that coming-to-terms with the, this erm cultural dimension of of my life, you //see.//
M608 //mm//
M078 erm, I've very very struck by th- the way in which people from m- my background, although mine mine is is is mixed, Scots and Irish, and that that's a very typical mixture eh within eh Scotland, the West of Scotland. m- My erm great-grandfather came over here probably in about the eighteen-seventies. [inhale] Eighteen-seventies, to work in eh industrial Lanarkshire, at ehm in iron-stone foundries work, and from there to coal-mining and and and different things like that, erm so these people had been here for over a hundred years. And longer in some cases. You could, you could track back some of them, actually, yeah, //back//
M608 //mm//
M078 to the, back to the eighteen-fifties. ehm a a a a Campbell who who was a Smith. And, and, he was eh over here working, staying with his daughter I think. ehm. And, Catholic Campbell.
M608 mmhm
M078 [click] [inhale] And, ehm. This sense that people could have been in Scotland for a hundred and fifty years.
M608 mmhm
M078 And, I still feel, actually, different from a lot of what is the known ideology of Scotland. I don't //think//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 like a Scot: I don't, I don't necessarily have the same sort of values. Part of me does, because my mother came from that, eh, eh, Presbyterian er Protestant work-ethic background, although she became a, she became a Catholic, so some kind of erm, I think there was some kind of spiritual dimension to her, but basically,
M608 mm
M078 er, she, she has a, you know, a strong work-ethic, a a a driving force, erm, and, so I understand that part of Scottish //identity.//
M608 //mm//
M078 But, part of me, erm, and part of me er works towards that identity, I work tremendously hard at at at things, I think. erm, but another part of me realises that there's a difference; a difference in //the way//
M608 //mm//
M078 I speak, a difference in the way I think. It's partly religious background, and er //the cu-//
M608 //mm//
M078 the cultural er set of references that you get from that,
M608 mmhm
M078 which are, hugely different I think from from //from//
M608 //mm//
M078 from the norm. ehm, [click] so, part of the, er, part of the th-th-th- the poem is an attempt to come to terms with these different ways of thinking, this, different aspects of this cultural heritage.
M608 mm
M078 And, this s-s- sense of searching for what I might otherwise have been. er, you know, had n- had not my people become Scottish, eh, wh-wh- was part of this, and so this sense of personal exploration
M608 uh-huh
M078 was mirrored by, ah, linguistic exploration; not //just//
M608 //mm//
M078 of English, Scots and Irish,
M608 mmhm
M078 or, English, Scots and and and and and and Gaelic, //Celtic,//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 but also the other foreign languages which I had eh learned at school.
M608 mmhm
M078 erm, large number of of of these, as I could in those days, by by dropping eh, science and and maths and so on. [click] ehm //So//
M608 //mm//
M078 [inaudible]
M608 cause there's there's a, there are embedded into the the sequence
M078 mmhm
M608 translations from from other writers as well.
M078 y- Yes, yes
M608 Yeah.
M078 and little references and ways of, ways of using, [?]I mean[/?], foreign, foreign language in in that way.
M608 Don't you think it's kind of a paradox in a way, that in a very personal exploration of your own identity and your family history, you're actually using effectively a kind of gestalt series of voices, er that in order to explore language,
M078 mmhm
M608 you're u-, well not using, but you're collaborating with a translator, who's then bringing the the language back to the poem? What, what do see the status of the the English and the Gaelic er versions? //[inaudible]//
M078 //Of// the poems written for translation
M608 Yeah.
M078 into an [inaudible] language? //[inaudible]//
M608 //In which way// [inaudible] primary, or is, or is that a daft question?
M078 erm I would say that, at an artistic level the the English version was primary, in the sense that what I was trying to get was a way of describing, a way of looking at the world.
M608 mmhm
M078 But that was partly a manufactured //way//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 of looking at the world. The fact that it then became er an Irish, er, poem [inhale] er delighted me tremendously, because that seemed to give a kind of validation, or an authenticity to this first glancing experimentation as to whether, er you know, I could actually construct that.
M608 Yeah.
M078 erm, and I had to trust Roddy that he that that he that he got it right.
M608 mmhm
M078 er, what is one of the funny things about it is that I learned why Irish had been abandoned //[laugh]//
M608 //[laugh]//
M078 It had, erm, it had, eh, it takes twice as long to say the same line. The the length
M608 uh-huh
M078 of of each line is about twice as long in the Irish //as it is [laugh]//
M608 //I think, I think we all knew that Jim.// //[laugh]//
M078 //[laugh]// //Well I I I I well I//
M608 //[laugh]//
M078 I didn't eh, no- so so much, until, you know, I saw the two things side by side.
M608 Right.
M078 ehm, there's also, you know, there's partly a little r-r-r-r-r- was it a religious or cultural reference there, because ehm, Scotland eh within the Dominican Order is called 'Provincia Deserta'. An abandoned province.
M608 Yeah.
M078 There used to be a, there used to be a a Scottish province of of of the Dominicans, which is actually radically different and in a way more Protestant than the English Dominicans.
M608 Yeah.
M078 That's to say that they they went back eh to the original er premises of the order and and and so on. And they, going for poverty, and eh you know, hard work, the way that the Dutch Dominicans did as well, where the where the soft English er province allowed themselves to earn extra money and so on, and they they only worked to their own priory. The Scots were much more radical, erm, and they, you know, they went back to the the the the origins of the order and so on, But of, and they were the ones that were first attacked, at Perth, by John Knox's mob. So //that//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 suggests that they were some sort of force that he recognised that had to be er, you know, pushed aside. But anyway, Scotland then became an abandoned province. [inhale] Now, an abandoned language
M608 mm
M078 erm, suggests to me, erm, a kind of, yeah, something deserted, something something erm, something of a loss.
M608 mmhm
M078 er, a cultural loss.
M608 mmhm
M078 Perhaps personal. But also, I think, in a way to to, erm, maybe to to S- to S- to Scotland, and certainly to the individuals concerned, these first people who were translated in that other sense; carried across //the//
M608 //mm//
M078 water, ehm, and having to lose contact with family and so on, although there was a fair bit of to and fro, because the ferries were going every day and twice a day, so there wasn't, it it wasn't impossible, but it was very easy to lose touch with who you were, because you had to merge, and one of the ways that you do that is you you you abandon whole //aspects//
M608 //mm//
M078 of yourself //which are//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 carried in the language and the way of understanding.
M608 mmhm
M078 And I do think, that, or that, erm, the way that you use language, erm, shapes the way that you think about things, and there are aspects of my language, I think, which are still quite Irish in a way. //I don't know where I//
M608 //mm//
M078 got that, but it's the inability to to be simple, or inability to say y- yes or no, //you know, this//
M608 //mm//
M078 notion of the Irish for 'no'; there is no Irish for 'no'. Er, they don't have a [inaudible] //say it is//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 not //or [inaudible]//
M608 //mmhm yes.//
M078 so I'm I'm I'm very very tentative with my language and, kind of fluidity, is is is maybe something there, I don't know whether there is or not.
M608 mmhm
M078 I often wonder, eh what what there was about it. I grew up in Dumfriesshire, er, speaking, er presumably [inaudible] in the playground a rural, rural Scots, and whenever we came up to visit my grandmother, who was still in this [inhale] eh, same, eh miners', essentially mining community, and listened to her, a-a- and presumably my father, speaking this Lanarkshire
M608 mmhm
M078 erm, Scots, which I think was kind of Irish-inflected, certainly in in in a way of expressing //oneself.//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 I was very conscious of of of the difference there, //very conscious//
M608 //mm//
M078 of of the linguistic difference, of, not just of sound but of ways of, erm ways of of of putting words erm in order. Just one wee bit which I, you know, which I which I I'm I'm I'm aware of it, is where the, it's the it's the grandfather's voice erm
M608 mmhm
M078 er, the one who was killed in er the pit accident in about nineteen thirty-one or thirty-two, and he talks about his own back; he was he was a big man, and in this accident, the long back twisted out of line utterly: "the long back twisted out of line utterly". Now it's the placing of the "utterly". [page turning] erm, I remember my grandmother er eating ice-cream.
M608 mm
M078 once from the van which came round, and saying "I shall be fat as a fool directly". //"I shall be fat as a fool directly".//
M608 //[laugh]//
M078 And it's the the use of "shall", //and that//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 it's "I shall be", //I//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 er, which I think is old //[inaudible] Scots.//
M608 //Is Old Scots, yeah.// mmhm
M078 "I shall be", but "fat as a fool", meaning as a a Downs Syndrome //person,//
M608 //Okay.//
M078 I think,
M608 mmhm
M078 the village fool: "I shall be fat as a fool directly". //That word//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 "directly", //and the//
M608 //mm//
M078 placing of it, //you know,//
M608 //mm//
M078 that, er seems to me to be different from anything I've ever heard el- elsewhere.
M608 mm
M078 I don't think it's quite Scots. But anyway, I was trying to echo some, erm, some //of that little//
M608 //Some//
M078 er, thing, but er, I don't want to be sentimental about this, but
M608 mmhm
M078 I just, I've I've heard people say that, for example, Coatbridge speech //is//
M608 //mm//
M078 recognisably different - I don't know if anybody has studied it linguistically - but is recognisably different from Airdrie speech,
M608 mmhm
M078 along these kind of religious divi- //lines.//
M608 //Be interesting, yeah.//
M078 erm, the guy who said that was that awful eh [laugh] wild man of Scottish [laugh] Scottish literature, sorry I've forgotten his name. //eh, [laugh]//
M608 //[laugh]//
M078 [laugh] erm
M608 That narrows it down. //[laugh]//
M078 //Yes, [laugh]// His name will come back to me. er, I should have brought along [?]"The Cross o Water"[/?] cause he's in that.
M608 mm
M078 And it's there that he erm, it's there that he he he talks about that.
M608 uh-huh
M078 erm, it's the one who's erm, [taps pencil] er, Des Dillon. //Des Dillon is his name.//
M608 //oh, Des Dillon, oh yes, okay.//
M078 He was a wild man, and er now living down in Wigtownshire, I suppose, //getting//
M608 //uh//
M078 his dose of Dumfries and Galloway Scots.
M608 Yeah.
M078 But anyway, he he talks about that, //and ways//
M608 //mm//
M078 of ways of expressing yourself, which
M608 mm
M078 probably come from that sort of cultural background.
M608 Thinking when I was reading it, and this is partly because of my poverty of references, er, I mean I was very struck by, simply because it's in the four compass points. //[inaudible]//
M078 //Yes, er.//
M608 erm it reminded me of a lot of things, like the Four Quartets, the Quaker graveyard at Nantucket, and //in the//
M078 //Yes.//
M608 sense of, er there's a kind of pilgrimage there as well //as//
M078 //Yes.//
M608 a a transition.
M078 Yes.
M608 er, it's a very very spiritual
M078 mmhm
M608 er, sequence in many ways. There are, [click] direct references obviously to God, and and and and kind of echoes of er Gerard Manley Hopkins and people like that. //[inaudible]//
M078 //oh, is there?//
M608 Yes, er, yes.
M078 [laugh] Didn't know that.
M608 erm, I think so in terms of er some of the rhymes and the rhythms.
M078 ah
M608 er, I think, I know, I know that again it's probably knowledge, [inaudible] translating Gerard Manley Hopkins into //Scots.//
M078 //Yes, yes.//
M608 erm,
M078 Yes.
M608 And er, [inaudible]
M078 uh-huh
M608 but I, these are not things that you were aware of, er, //[inaudible]//
M078 //erm, not in,//
M608 if you're reacting with //surprise//
M078 //uh-huh//
M608 to them?
M078 er, not in particular. erm But, yes, th- maybe, oh certainly in terms of the structure: I knew that a long poem had to have a structure. And, I I knew that the best structure was a kind of voyage, or epic voyage. And this, this was the o- voyage of which I'm one result.
M608 mmhm
M078 A voyage which has never been documented because the people were of- often came over here illiterate into a highly literate, at least ideologically literate Scottish culture. The school in every parish and so on, as as as the, you know, the mark of of the Reformation. The idea that you've got to be literate to read the Bible, so you can interpret it according to your own er sense of of your own [?]lights[/?] and that sort of thing. erm, the Irish didn't come out of that background at all, erm, so, erm, that voyage was never documented. When they came here
M608 mm
M078 er, they were so busy working that there was no time for the sort of writing that I was, the sort of writing that I er am able to do because of the benefits of education and background, so in one sense, er very strongly, I was eh speaking for the tribe, er like //the epic//
M608 //mm//
M078 poet, trying to tell a story of this this this tribe of what could come over, often into an inchoate er and painful //experience//
M608 //mm//
M078 of, er, deracination, and eh, foreignness of culture, erm, bigotry, poverty, being pushed around. On the other hand, it was better to do that with with with with food in your stomach,
M608 mmhm
M078 than to be pushed around e- elsewhere, in in Ireland. //You know what I mean, so//
M608 //Okay, yeah.//
M078 I'm not saying that they got nothing from here; they got everything from here. Their life, and so on, er a a means of earning it, erm, but their voyage was never told. //And so I had this//
M608 //Yeah.//
M078 tremendous sense of actually trying honestly to tell not just a family story, but eh a a story that had never really been //documented.//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 Not in this way. //It's beginning//
M608 //mm//
M078 to be documented historically, obviously.
M608 mmhm
M078 But, just in some sense that encapsulates, through the rhythms and sounds, something of the authenticity of that experience. And loss of language was was part of it, but gaining language was part of it as well, //or gaining//
M608 //mm//
M078 aspects of Scots, gaining aspects of culture.
M608 mmhm
M078 Gaining a sense of being able to to be, to be more mobile really; //within that//
M608 //mm//
M078 upwardly mobile and //sideways//
M608 //mm//
M078 mobile. So, ehm, I'd also as you probably know, ehm eh, for my own, eh, doctoral studies, had looked at the structure of the English modernist long poem.
M608 mm
M078 Particularly, Basil Bunting's //er//
M608 //mm//
M078 poetry, So, I I knew, a fair bit about what the poem should, kind of, look like.
M608 mmhm
M078 And, so the structures were there which I then filled in,
M608 Yeah.
M078 with various bits of of of in-filling.
M608 mmhm
M078 erm, and, eh, some newly-written and newly-invented, and others coming out of that erm experience of erm personal and also artistic growth, erm, which I had been engaged in for, you know, probably the last erm, th- the last ten years or so, er, last decade of of of my life. erm, so, erm. Yes, there's no, it- it's not surprising then that it's that it's that it's got those resonances, erm, interesting that //Basil Bunting//
M608 //Yeah.//
M078 was a Quaker as well.
M608 Yeah. I was interested in the Gerard Manley Hopkins, because there's obviously an- another kind of line of, a kind of blood-line there, in so far as H- Hopkins was a Jesuit in Glasgow, Edwin Morgan //has written//
M078 //Yes.//
M608 a sonnet about //er,//
M078 //Yes. Yes.//
M608 Manley Hopkins in Glasgow.
M078 mmhm
M608 And, one of the things that you sometimes get in Manley Hopkins is an assertion of spirituality against a background of, er, kind of terrible circumstances, and things like the wreck of the Deutschland, //for example.//
M078 //Yes, yes.// //Yes.//
M608 //And I wondered if that was// [inaudible] //there is a very//
M078 //uh-huh//
M608 strong assertion of spirituality amidst the //the//
M078 //Yes.//
M608 the hardships that are, that is going on here.
M078 Yes, yes, that's that that's that's true, erm, and Hopkins of course couldn't h- handle the Irish at at all. //[laugh]//
M608 //[laugh]//
M078 erm, that, well certainly in Liverpool. //erm//
M608 //Yeah.//
M078 The Glasgow ones were better; I think he got on better with the Donegal people, because they seemed to have a, s- a wee bit more respect for him.
M608 mm
M078 er, yes, there is a spiritual language; I was trying to count up the languages, and, you know, there seem to be nine or, nine, or ten or so, But, but then er you could add th- this one. //er//
M608 //mm//
M078 th- the language that angels speak, th- //which is the//
M608 //mm//
M078 language that ash trees speak in a breeze, so what is angelic language like, and also what is e-language like, there's reference at the end to swallows typing, swallows in the sky typing emails to heaven. //er//
M608 //[inaudible] bit of// text at the beginning as well. [laugh] would
M078 Well, yes, yes, uh-huh, in order to to get that sense of of of //narrowness, yes, that's right, uh-huh,//
M608 //[inaudible] go on stretching, and then stretching,//
M078 yes, stretching it, //eh,//
M608 //mm//
M078 stretching it out.
M608 mmhm
M078 erm, yes, all sorts of tricks there. erm, yes, the Hopkins thing is is interesting; I'm, er I suppose, well p- people are in Scotland now still, interested in in Cel- what's called Celtic spirituality, erm, because, the religions, the religions, the official religions on offer, er both er Protestant and Catholic, erm, are open to severe criticism, erm, you know, in, you know by anybody looking at them, er, from from from the outside, in terms of their ability to to erm to be meaningful, r- religions to people, er, and the sense of of of young people, you know, still having some sense of, you know, spiritual dimension to life. The the Irish in in Scotland eh were often quite radical about the Church that was on offer. Actually, erm, okay.
M608 mm
M078 erm, there was this sense of Irish piety. The importance of the spiritual life of the the world of nature, very very ancient in Celtic, of of holy places that you're //that//
M608 //mm//
M078 that you go to. er, the rosary is mentioned. erm, these senses, this sense of of of prayer as aligning you with eh both heaven and earth, the the holiness within the landscape. er wh- which is there in holy places, the idea of going on pilgrimage, the the //great, the//
M608 //mm//
M078 the very interesting I think, passage north to Armagh.
M608 mmhm
M078 erm which goes through County Down, through Downpatrick, and St //Patrick there and//
M608 //mm//
M078 so on. erm, these things erm these things eh, do speak a sort of spiritual language.
M608 mmhm
M078 I hadn't thought of er Gerry Manley Hopkins within that because er partly I think because he was a c- comrade, and it always seems to me that the Jesuit spirituality was kind of the wrong one for for him; he should have be- //[laugh]//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 he should have entered another order, but he he he constantly chose the the the hard route. //Hardest//
M608 //mm//
M078 route that he can possibly have taken. erm, er, but may- maybe maybe it is there, er maybe the resonances are there.
M608 mmhm
M078 em, eh,
M608 I can tell you what lines. //[inaudible]//
M078 //Yeah, that that [inaudible]//
M608 It's on page twelve [inaudible]: "What drives us? Work does not seep or sleep but gouges out a course like water, and soon is endless, as the air we gulp, midnight or noon".
M078 oh yes, I see what //you mean.//
M608 //[inaudible]// //It's a bit//
M078 //uh-huh//
M608 like, it's got the rhythms of the world discharged from the grandeur of the god; it's got those kind of
M078 Yes.
M608 assonances. //erm, and//
M078 //Yes, yes.//
M608 also the, the kind of the, erm, [click], the [?]delighten[/?] sound, I think //is//
M078 //mmhm//
M608 is is //the//
M078 //Yes.//
M608 erm
M078 Yes.
M608 But also that kind of questioning about er the meaning of experience, I think you'll find in in Hopkins, you know, looking for, looking actively for for Go- evidence of God in in the natural world and in and in various kind of natural processes.
M078 Yes.
M608 mm
M078 Yes, yes, //that c- that that could well be right.//
M608 //mm mm mm//
M078 Part of the the consciousness erm which is speaking eh in that first section, "Passage East", is this erm, this this priest, er James Quigley,
M608 mm
M078 erm, who may be a- an an ancestral presence on my wife's side, er, and who was the last er Catholic priest to be to be er hanged in England, hanged in in in in Kent. //bec-//
M608 //So far.//
M078 Yeah [laugh] //[laugh]//
M608 //[laugh]//
M078 [laugh] //Yes, and then bring back the death penalty just especially.//
M608 //[laugh]//
M078 erm, so, h- he was an interesting man, part of the United Irishmen movement. //And//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 you know that it it starts erm oh with the escape and disappearance into Scotland of some of the survivors of the United Irishmen rebellion of of of 1798. ehm [click] eh, James Hi- Quigley was was making his way to Paris,
M608 hmm
M078 erm, in order to try to enlist the help of of French revolutionaries. [inhale] //er he was//
M608 //[inaudible]//
M078 caught with another, an e- quite well-connected aristocrat. erm, but James er Quigley, er took the rap, for it; //the other//
M608 //mm//
M078 guy got away with it. And I think er documents were planted on him. There's no doubt that he was going to Paris to get Fr- French revolutionary help, for the United Irishmen's rebellion. But, erm, the United Irishmen became the United Scotsmen; they g- they g- they got involved in early radical movements in //Scotland to try//
M608 //mm//
M078 to g- eh get the votes and trade unions and a- all of that kind of businesss, so erm, the idea of of a [inaudible] priestly presence is a radical priest, //More//
M608 //mm//
M078 radical than Hopkins was; he was very //middle-class//
M608 //mm//
M078 ehm person. And, that priest, erm because of his eh h- his links there, was actually speaking out for, em, much more of a a a dialogue and understanding between eh religions //than//
M608 //mm//
M078 against sectarianism. //erm//
M608 //Yeah.//
M078 You know, the the brotherhood of affection. //A union//
M608 //Yes.//
M078 of sentiment; these are the great //these are//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 the great, er, ehm, radical ehm, expressions of //brotherhood and so on.//
M608 //mm yeah.//
M078 erm, the United Irishmen was the only time, when for er a fortnight [laugh] Catholics and Protestants [laugh] were fighting on the same side in Northern Ireland, //before the//
M608 //mm//
M078 the British government played the orange card, and used the the Orange Movement to break it break it up. //And//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 and and it it it fragmented. James Quigley, a remarkable man; very, very good writer, //and//
M608 //mm//
M078 very learned and so on. Very badly treated by his own family; badly treated by the the Orangemen in in Armagh. But then anyway, that- that's by the by, th- there is that sense that if there's a spiritual guy looking at it he's also a political guy.
M608 mmhm
M078 And he's the one, I think, that's that's looking out and and and watching, thinking about the angels and and so on, as he moves, but he's also speaking about, er, he's also speaking about people under-, er you know, [cough] you kn- j- just for understanding. And, n- not for that, er you know, just erm [click] confrontation; how ignorant then, or how wicked, must that man be who attempts through interested motives to make his enemies for religion's sake? That //Those are his//
M608 //mm//
M078 words, //they're they//
M608 //mm//
M078 they're they are not my words. Just as you have the the Scottish erm eh politician; again I've forgotten his name - I would need to check it up. [inaudible] saying we still have swarms from Ireland, but I've sent back as many indeed more persons //than in//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 strict law we are authorised to do. But we must not stop at at rifles. This was the the the the the Lord who was the the equivalent of the Scottish Secretary at the time, //writing//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 to London. er, running his groups of spies, not able to track down who were these rebels coming in.
M608 Right.
M078 Maybe cause they //didn't carry passports,//
M608 //mmhm mmhm//
M078 They might be looking for work and so on. So you're getting all sorts of people coming across, and this was of course seventeen-ninety-eight. //This is//
M608 //mm//
M078 people think that people are just coming because of the famine, //and they were just//
M608 //Yeah.//
M078 coming, er, hungry. They were coming for for other reasons, and, you know, helping to change the face of Scotland, //you know, er,//
M608 //mm//
M078 mm inter- industrially, technologically. But also, I I would hope, in offering something eh, which w- was part of Scottish rad- radicalism. er, and and wasn't something piously, piously eh different, or actually suspect. eh, to, for those reasons, those misunderstood reasons, //to//
M608 //mmhm//
M078 erm, the Scottish religious culture of of the time.
M608 [click] We're going to have to call a halt there; that was really interesting, so //[?]it was[/?]//
M078 //[laugh]// [laugh]
M608 Think we'll just
M078 Okay.

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Interview 02: Jim McGonigal on "Passage/An Pasaiste". 2021. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved January 2021, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=612.

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"Interview 02: Jim McGonigal on "Passage/An Pasaiste"." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2021. Web. January 2021. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=612.

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Information about Document 612

Interview 02: Jim McGonigal on "Passage/An Pasaiste"

Audio

Audio audience

General public
For gender Mixed
Audience size 1

Audio awareness & spontaneity

Speaker awareness Aware
Degree of spontaneity Spontaneous

Audio footage information

Year of recording 2004
Recording person id 608
Size (min) 34
Size (mb) 132

Audio medium

Other Recorded for SCOTS Project

Audio setting

Education
Recording venue Lecturer's office, University Gardens
Geographic location of speech Glasgow

Audio relationship between recorder/interviewer and speakers

Friend
Professional relationship
Speakers knew each other Yes

Audio speaker relationships

Friend
Professional relationship

Audio transcription information

Transcriber id 718
Year of transcription 2004
Year material recorded 2004
Word count 6283

Audio type

Interview

Participant

Participant details

Participant id 78
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1940
Educational attainment University
Age left school 18
Upbringing/religious beliefs Catholicism
Occupation University lecturer
Place of birth Dumfries
Region of birth E & Mid Dumfries
Birthplace CSD dialect area Dmf
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Glasgow
Region of residence Glasgow
Residence CSD dialect area Gsw
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation F.E. Lecturer
Father's place of birth Cleland
Father's region of birth Lanark
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Lnk
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Primary School teacher
Mother's place of birth Midcalder
Mother's region of birth West Lothian
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area wLoth
Mother's country of birth Scotland

Languages

Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes Work and home
French Yes Yes Yes Yes Used occasionally
Gaelic; Scottish Gaelic No No No Yes Very limited vocabulary
German Yes Yes Yes Yes Used occasionally
Scots No Yes Yes Yes Work (language study) and creative writing
Spanish; Castilian Yes Yes Yes Yes Used occasionally

Participant

Participant details

Participant id 608
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1950
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation University Professor
Place of birth Ayr
Region of birth S Ayr
Birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Bridge of Weir
Region of residence Renfrew
Residence CSD dialect area Renfr
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Insurance Broker
Father's place of birth Auchinleck
Father's region of birth S Ayr
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Dental Receptionist
Mother's place of birth Ayr
Mother's region of birth S Ayr
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Mother's country of birth Scotland

Languages

Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes In most everyday situations
Portuguese Yes No No Yes When trying to communicate with my in-laws
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes In domestic/activist circles; reading literature

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