At The Loch Of The Green Corrie - Andrew Greig - Quercus 2010
Updated: Oct 22, 2022
Nan Shepherd once wrote on the poetry of Hugh MacDiarmid - "The sound may not sing but the meaning does"
Poetry has a long and proud tradition in Scotland - the gaelic songs, the bothy ballards, Burns, Scott - the list is endless and their cultural importance immense and the Scots language sings with meaning.
This is a beautifully crafted piece of prose; for what else can I call it? I do not know. It is neither novel, poem or essay. Andrew Greig's writing both sings and resonates meaning as he explores his soul in search of the essence of his being. This is a Poet writing about Poets and using the melodies of time, place and people to unravel the self.
The book revolves around 2 fishing trips to the Loch of the Green Corrie in the Assynt wilderness in Sutherland. Asked by his friend and mentor of sorts - the poet Norman MacCaig just before his death to visit the Loch and fish there - he sets out first with 2 male Friends and then finally alone as he catches up on his own life. However the Loch is simply a metaphor for "soul searching" and around these two visits, the author explores moments and events from his life that have shaped him as a person.
From Assynt we are taken to Edinburgh, London, Sheffield, The Himalayas, San Francisco and the Orkney Isles and asked to reflect on the author's thirst for knowledge in every domain; fishing, camping, geology, the Scottish renaissance, politics, land ownership, whiskey, marriage, to a point where Crieg himself writes: "sometimes the more you know the less you see" The book is his attempt to join up the dots outlining his own life. MacCaig sent him to this Green Loch not to catch trout but to get him simply to fish the ripples of his own "loch".
Andrew Crieg is a Fifer with looser roots to the essence of Scottishness than the Gael poet MacCaig. This plays on his mind - when he is asked - "who are your people" by a fellow poet of MacCaig he is as much perplexed as he is wounded by his inability to reply in any coherent way. He is not bred from the "Gàidhealtachd"(the highland Gael World) but he admires its people and beyond doubt their culture. This belonging plays out through the narrative and by the end, as he listens to the old stories of the Assyntians living on some of the oldest (geological) rock, he finally grasps what it means "who are your people." It is more akin to being of the same state of mind rather than being tied by any blood relationship.
This is a fine piece of writing by a man deeply sensitive to the world he inhabits as he comes to terms with his place within it.