Wigtown 25

Hugh McMillan

24 January 2024

Wigtown 25


Doon in the Machars naur the Sulway Firth

wis a toon that had tynt its sense of wirth,

a fousome past had turnt tae dearth,

but it’s a toon that has been turnt aroond.


The map of Galloway reveals the names

of the Scots and the Vikings and the Gaels,

the scattered stones still mouth the tales,

of these rich and vibrant times.


Rivers and sandbars, hidden glens,

cormorants, otters, flocks and skeins,

where the fairies left Scotland and the Wickerman flamed, 

the place is holy ground.


But joabs were scant, industries dyin,

the maist muckle export was their ain children flyin,

quattin the laund as aye to mak a try in 

the ceeties, or itherwhaur in the wurld.


 So a book town was chosen near to the sea:

a close run thing: not everyone’s idea

where such an important institution should be,

in Galloway! But there it was born.

The Festival followed in short measure,

there were cynics of course, as there are ever,

they didn’t see the scope, or the treasure,

in taking a risk of this kind.

Naething steys the same, things are aye changin,

naebodys aye happy gans withoot sayin,

ye cannae hing on tae things that are agin,

or things that hae withert or dowd.

Audiences appeared, bookshops abounding,

cafes took root, the cakes were astounding,

even the bitterest folk in the pub were loud in

saying something special’s begun.

Not just here, but all over the region

the fingers of the adventure were spreading 

the town was a hub that was always bleeding

into places that were usually let down.

We aa ken the celebrities, the scrievers world wide

who ilka year traivel  here an bide,

they were sometimes scunnert but mair aften


bein here in this bayous toon.

Writers in schools outreach in prison,

mini festivals for kids, poetry competitions,

a town was reborn but now there was vision,

to spread the love far and wide.

 From Mc Nellie to Hunter to Alastair Reid

they’ve celebrated the history the poetry and leid,

they’ve legacy built but they’ve paid heed

to the legacies that have mattered before them.

Somethin rare was makkit here, centret roon readin,

in a wurld fu o fechtin that’s hungert an greedy,

the doucest airt is the yin that’s maist needit, 

an ho this toun mad its name.


Here’s to the organisers and workers and sponsors

those who’ve coped with plagues, egos and losses,

who’ve still kept the dream alive in their heads as

twenty five years have gone down.


So raise your tassies, drink deep an herty,

theres hauf an hoor ye can carouse at this pairty,

till next year’s programmin needs tae be stairtin:

in the miracle that is Wigtown.

Group of men and one woman standing in front of Mercat Cross, Wigtown, unveiling a plaque to commemorate the launch of Scotland's national Book Town. In the background bookshops, cars and people with one women dancing merrily.
Group picture of Wigtown Book Festival staff and volunteers standing in front of Wigtown Bay smiling and holding up Festival brochures.