The Herald features poetry every day. We also have the pleasure, on National Poetry Day, to announce the winner of the 2020 James McCash Scots Poetry Prize, one of the premier awards in the Scottish literary calendar.

Sheila Templeton of Glasgow, wins £500 for her poem, The Clyack Shafe (meaning the last harvest sheaf), on this year’s theme, ‘Travelling Hopefully.’

This is the fourth time that the former history teacher, who comes originally from Aberdeenshire, has won, or shared, top prize in the competition since its inception in 2003. She is “over the moon” at this year’s success, she says.

Her winning poem deals with a wealthy expatriate, who is drawn back to the harvest-fields of his emotional inheritance. She was partly inspired, she says, by her railwayman father who worked for years in Tanganyika. The judges - Professor Alan Riach and myself - admired the accomplished conception and handling of the poem and its use of authentic rural Scots.

The runner-up prize in this annual competition, administered jointly by The Herald and the Scottish Literature Department of Glasgow University, is Lesley Benzie, whose powerful poem, Syrians Cairryin a Makeshift Bodybag, interweaves the tragedy of Middle East refugees with the covid nightmare.

Five highly commended prizes of £100 each go to Trisha Heaney; John Burns, Mary Spence, Ann MacKinnon; and William Bonar. Their poems range from the moral lessons taught by migrating goldcrests and Greta Thunberg, to a mystical voyage into the unknown, a scramble up Ben Lomond, and the sad fate of unwanted books which end up as road surfacings.

These lively contributions to this year’s competition prove how robust the Scots language remains, and how finely it adapts to contemporary issues as well as to evergreen themes.

The winner’s and the runner-up’s poems can be read in the Poem of the Day column on the Obituaries Page today and tomorrow. Other commended poems will also feature in the coming weeks.


Hame for his eeswal sax month leave

hine awa fae the bonnie hoose

reamin wi space, servans takkin tent,

sun-downers oan bougainvillea verandahs

– aathing he’d biggit up for himsel

waarlds awa fae far he’d stertit

– a vistin freen chanced tae say

Govalhill’s in sair need o a han wi his hairst.

Nae young, nae swack, but

Aye. I’ll be there the morn.

He’d nae idea his need wis sae fierce

his bleed dingin tae feel

the reeshle o skinklan corn

athort a lang-rigged park,

hard-nubbit siller-gowd

an stooks o hey lik roon breists

– aa the tyauve o a day’s lang darg

stiff shooders, oxters wringin weet

winnin tae the hinner-en, a hairst

weel-gaithert, the clyack-shafe,

seer again in his saa, his ain grun.