Scottish poet to launch first book at Wigtown festival - at age of 86!

A poet from Scotland is set to launch her first book at the Wigton Book Festival - at the age of 86!

Josie Neill, described as one of Scotland’s “most neglected” poets, will finally see her first full collection of work published, in a book entitled There’s Ma Mammy Wavin’

Josie has lived in Dumfries for many years, but lots of the poems in the book recall her childhood in the Ayrshire village of Muirkirk. 

Mostly writing in Scots, she recalls people and events from the 1940s and 50s, including wartime refugees arriving and local miners heading home to wash and eat after shifts down the pit. 

Lots of the poems in Josie's book recall her childhood in the Ayrshire village of Muirkirk.

She said: “It was a wee, isolated village among the hills. And it was a very close knit small community.

"I loved it. I loved it as a child, as a young person growing up. I loved the language, it was an inspiring kind of language. And I loved the people – there was a true humanity. 

There’s Ma Mammy Wavin’ is the fourth publication from a new imprint set up by a group of writers including the well-known Dumfries and Galloway poet Hugh McMillan. 

It will be launched at Wigtown Book Festival and Josie hopes to be present and to read some of her work if her health allows. 

Hugh said: “Josie is one of the most neglected poets in Scotland and I’m really pleased that a full collection of her poetry is being published at long last. 

“But I see this as one of the most important publications in Scots of the last 20 years.” 

According to Hugh, she was held in high esteem by the likes of Willie Neill. Indeed, she is the only woman to be seen in a line-up of poets photographed in 1992 for Willie Neill’s 70th birthday – where she is seen in the company of Tom Pow, Hugh McMillan, Derick Thomson, Norman MacCaig and Iain Crichton Smith. 

A lineup of poets, featuring Josie Neill, 1992.

This year’s festival is a bumper one for poetry and includes the presentation of the awards for the annual Wigtown Poetry Prize.  

There will also be an event called Dead Guid Scots which will see the unveiling of a highly unusual exhibition – a model church and graveyard designed by Hugh Bryden in which every headstone carries a poetic memorial to a deceased Scot.

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