The Soldiers’ Cairn

Poem By Mary Symon

Gie me a hill wi' the heather on't, 
    An' a reid sun drappin' doon,  
Or the mists o' the mornin' risin' saft 
    Wi' the reek owre a wee grey toon. 
Gie me a howe by the lang Glen road, 
    For it's there 'mang the whin and fern 
(D'ye mind on't, Will? Are ye hearin', Dod?) 
    That we're biggin' the Soldiers' Cairn. 

Far awa’ is the Flanders land 
    Wi' fremmit France atween, 
But mony a howe o' them baith the day 
    Has a hap o' the Gordon green. 
It's them we kent that's lyin' there, 
    An' it's nae wi' stane or airn 
But wi' brakin' herts, an' mem'ries sair, 
    That we're biggin' the Soldiers' Cairn. 

Doon, laich doon the Dullan sings— 
    An' I ken o' an aul' sauch tree, 
Where a wee loon's wahnie's hingin' yet 
    That's dead in Picardy; 
An' ilka win' fae the Conval's broo 
    Bends aye the buss o' ern, 
Where aince he futtled a name that noo 
    I'll read on the Soldiers' Cairn. 

Oh! build it fine and build it fair, 
    Till it leaps to the moorland sky — 
More, more than death is symbolled there, 
    Than tears or triumphs by. 
There's the Dream Divine of a starward way 
    Our laggard feet would learn— 
It's a new earth's corner-stone we'd lay 
    As we fashion the Soldiers' Cairn. 


Lads in your plaidies lyin' still 
    In lands we'll never see, 
This lanely cairn on a hameland hill 
    Is a' that oor love can dee; 
An' fine an' braw we'll mak' it a', 
    But oh, my Bairn, my Bairn, 
It’s a cradle’s croon that’II aye blaw doon 
    To me fae the Soldiers' Cairn. 

Mary Symon
Mary Symon

Several of the best-known poems telling of the awful impact of the First World War upon the people of Scotland came from the pen of a woman from Dufftown – Mary Symon, whose ‘The Glen’s Muster Roll’, and ‘The Soldiers’ Cairn’ brought her to popular notice, and remain much anthologised.

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