I can clearly remember leaving Kilcreggan, waiting for the ferry to take me across the Clyde and from there to the airport to fly to Montreal. A leaving, it certainly was, but not a permanent one. I was leaving on a research trip to Canada and the United States to retrace the steps of all those Celts who have crossed the Atlantic to emigrate.
I have emigrated – from Ireland to Scotland. It may not seem like a big deal – and we speak the same language after all, but Scotland is not Ireland with all that that implies, and so....I don’t really belong.
Now more than any time in recent memory the issue of migration and national identity looms large in the political arena and in the daily lives of so many in our communities who are either accommodating people from another country who are trying to fit in here, or who are trying to fit in here, having come from a different country.
My new exhibition at Art Pistol in Glasgow opens tomorrow on this theme. This is the work I have produced in the wake of that trip across the Atlantic.
I wrote about not belonging in Scotland a wee while ago now, but it seems appropriate to quote it here.
My heart is squeezed and hard pressed Wrung out like an old bell
That never had a clapper;
Clapped out like the rungs
Of a rotten ladder
Cause I live in Glasgow
And I don’t belong.
Although you too have
Satsumas and holly,
Mangoes and cabbage
Kumquats and those pot scourers
That don’t do and much damage as Brillo All clamouring just the same
In Drumchapel as in Saintfield
I can’t sing the song
I don’t belong, I don’t belong