Poetry: Watershed, Jim Carruth’s poem for Arria, Andy Scott’s Cumbernauld sculpture, and a selection of his other poems

by Guy Sangster Adams

The Cumbernauld Sculpture talking shape

The Cumbernauld sculpture taking shape

Watershed is a new poem written by award-winning Scottish poet, Jim Carruth, which is now being inscribed on Arria, Andy Scott’s 10 metre high steel sculpture which is due to be unveiled in late summer 2010, overlooking the A80 northbound, the road which bisects the Scottish New Town of Cumbernauld. The sculpture, which is a female form, features two, large swooping arcs, the inspiration for which came from the original Gaelic name for Cumbernauld, ‘Comar nan Allt’, which translates as ‘coming together of waters’.

The public artwork is at the heart of the Cumbernauld Positive Image Project, created by Campsies Centre Cumbernauld Ltd (CCCL), which is a North Lanarkshire Council company set up to facilitate the redevelopment of Cumbernauld. The aims of the project are to create a distinctive image of Cumbernauld, increase residents’ pride in their town, raise awareness across Scotland of Cumbernauld’s attractiveness as a destination to live, work and play, and create a sense of place and provide a positive statement about the town.

Jim Carruth (left) and Andy Scott (right) with one of the early designs for the Cumbernauld Sculpture

Jim Carruth (left) and Andy Scott (right) with one of the early designs for the Cumbernauld sculpture

Scott’s portfolio of public art covers over 60 commissions both across Scotland and internationally, including the Falkirk Helix Water Kelpies, the Heavy Horse on the M8 motorway, which has become a Glasgow landmark, and The Thanksgiving Square Beacon in Belfast which has become representative of the regeneration of the city as whole. Of his new work, Scott says, “Cumbernauld has had its detractors but we hope this sculpture will go some way to changing the outdated perception of Cumbernauld and prove something of a watershed for the town.”

Carruth was born in 1963 in the West-Central Lowlands of Scotland in the town of Johnstone in Renfrewshire, and grew up on his family’s farm close to the nearby village of Kilbarchan. After spending a number of years in Turkey he has returned to live in Renfrewshire. In 2009 Jim won The Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship and the James McCash competition. In June 2010 “Grace Notes 1959″ a poetry sequence commissioned by the Glasgow Jazz Festival was launched. He has three collections of poetry published to date. His first, Bovine Pastoral, published in 2004 was runner up in the Callum MacDonald memorial award. The follow up, High Auchensale, was chosen as one of the Herald books of the year in 2006.

For Carruth it was important that his poem sought to “capture the pride local people have in their town and the importance of listening to their voice”. In taking the ‘meeting of waters’ as his start point, Carruth wanted to, “to give a voice to the statue, the tributaries and the community and create a poem that would talk of the central and national importance of Cumbernauld.” He continues, “I have been disappointed by the negative, unfair focus that Cumbernauld has attracted over the years, as the town has such a lot to offer. I have countered this in my poem by trying to capture the pride local people have for the town and the importance of listening to their voice.”

The Cumbernauld Sculpture taking a dip at Highland Galvanizers

The Cumbernauld sculpture taking a dip at Highland Galvanizers

The poem, which is included below, followed by a further selection of Carruth’s poems, will be inscribed in dynatomic font, reflecting the 1960s influence which Scott has incorporated in the sculpture’s design. Each letter will be cut individually and the poem will wrap round the base of the sculpture encouraging visitors to walk round its base and appreciate different aspects of the public artwork.

WATERSHED (Comar nan Allt)
by Jim Carruth

The first sounds spoken

from the spring’s core

are of a new beginning

of people and place

a poetry that bubbles

and gargles to the surface

to leave this watershed

flow east and west

in a rush of words

that tumble and fall

to join the conversations

of two great rivers

a voice calling out

I belong I belong

adding to the language

of sea and ocean.

A further selection of poems by Jim Carruth


i. workmanlike

Standing behind the shearers
Fleecing their moment for verse

ii. salt licks

Long tongued cattle
lick loose copper

hollow small blocks
to season their days

Should we value salt licks
less than a Henry Moore

or wonder as much
on their practical forms

as at Easter Island’s
weathered heads.

iii. RS

You drew me in
with honest detail
hardships in grim valleys

though I struggled
to free from a priest’s severe verse,
empathy for the peasant.

to balance your cold
distance from man
with a nearness to God.

iv. 300 Spartans

Another field, another stand
remnants close ranks

huddle by a hedge
strong heads bent down

their hunched backs
knuckles of clenched fists

drenched hides, russet shields
against incessant rain.

v. ploughman without honour

Aye that’s as maybe
but he wis nae fairmer

didnae mak the maist
o his faither’s place

sic a waste o
aw thit guid gruin.

He didnae hae the hairt
fir the haird win hairst.

vi. poor harvest

Seeding your verse with epigraph
will never green your barren land.


I shepherd
will not pick up a shield
or swing a sword

but because your roar
drowns the words of this land
I’ll reach out

pluck pebbles
from the throat of the stream
a small flock

each one smooth as birdsong
hard as rams’ horn
a bright clarion call

I pull back and let fly
seed my country’s voice
deep in your forehead

(A village elder’s advice on) THE WHITE CROW

Why do you search
for false auguries of hope?

Nothing followed the triple rainbow,
last winter’s one wild rose

Now this feathered messiah.
Can I speak plainly here:

a white crow is still a crow;
a lifeless sheep is still a corpse;

a bloated corpse is still a meal
for your white crow.

It still rises with its flock
flies with its flock

still falls with the black
on the weak and the dead.


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Jim Carruth

Andy Scott

North Lanarkshire Council/Campsies Centre Cumbernauld Limited

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