Round about the Round-O 1880. Arbroath's yesteryear in print

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POEM - 014
'The Big Round O'
G. W. Donald


HAIL ! dear memento o' langsyne ;
A thousand mem'ries round thee twine ;
'Red Lichties'* here or 'cross the brine,
In weal or woe,
Wad never, never like to tyne
Their Big Round O.**

Whether they skuff New Zealand's dews,
Or hunt Australian kangaroos,
Or nestle snug 'mang wild Zulus,
Their hearts will glow ;
Ae passing thought nane can refuse
The Big Round O.

For thee, thou fairy, mystic thing,
Gif that my dortie muse wad sing,
I'd spread thy fame like dews in spring
Where grass may grow,
Till hills and dales wi' echoes ring—
The Big Round O,

The sailor wha's been lang awa'
Will spurn auld Neptune's gurly jaw ;
When ance benorth the Berwick Law
He'll blithely throw
A glance, where brightest sunbeams shaw
The Big Round O.

Let landsmen wander far or near,
To meet wi' friends or cronies dear,
Amidst their mirth an' social cheer,
Or high or low,
For ae auld friend they're sure to speer—
The Big Round O.

I dreamed ae night aboon my head
I saw it like a robin-red,
Bedecked wi' names, alive or dead,
The world should know ;
But ere I woke the vision fled—
The Big Round O.

On cloudless days its form is seen
Frae sea or land, ower grove an' green ;
In summer sweet or winter keen,
When tempests blow,
It stands like some unwav'ring frien',
The Big Round O.

'Tis nae an O like ither O's,
Wha ne'er hae seen it may suppose ;
Your Omegas their een may close,—
For shape or show
Their shattered rims wad ill compose
Oor Big Round O.

The chields wha first its circle planned
Were bred on fair Italia's strand,
Where Nature kind, wi' lavish hand,
Her gifts bestow ;
Where art could raise the structure grand,
An' big Round O.

The Big Round O, we freely grant it,
Anee fell, while bodies fled an' pantit ;
'Twas soon restored, tho' nae besauntit
Wi' godly show ;
Its weel eneuch—we cudna want it,
The Big Round O.

Some lasses tell—I doubt they lee—
They 've climbed the darksome stairs wi' glee,
Syne gazed abroad ower land an' sea,
Without a jo ;
They werena fley'd wha speiled sae hie
The Big Round O.

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The sparrows round it hop an' chatter,
The jackdaws plume their wings, an' clatter
Like corporations ower their water,
Wha, soon or slow,
Must in a cipher end the matter—
A Big Bound O.

The blackbird through it tells o' spring,
Ere yet the larch her tassels hing,
Or e'en the snowdrops tidings bring
That flowers will blow,
While hoary mists hang o'er its ring—
The Big Round O.

It seems to watch the surging crowd,
Or catch its murmur low or loud ;
The bride's bright robe, the snowy shroud,
The friend, the foe,
Pass like a wave or sailing cloud
The Big Round O.

E'en 'neath its shade what crowds hae passed
To bear some brither hame at last ;
Wha e'en themselves hae sunk to rest,
In dust below ;
Wha round their hearth hae fondly bless'd
The Big Round O.

Lang may the sunbeams through thee glint
Thou magic ring, sae aft in print ;
The heart must be as hard as flint,
An' cauld as snaw,
For thee that wadna gae ae dint,
Thou Big Round O !

*'Red Lichties' - A ludicrous name sometimes given to Arbroath people, and having its origin, according to tradition, in the blunder of an ancient municipal magnate with regard to a harbour light.

The 'Round O' - A St. Catherine wheel window, twelve feet in diameter, in the upper part of the gable of the south transept of the Abbey. It was placed over the altar of St. Catherine, which stood in the south transept. This prominent window is so associated with Arbroath in the minds of its townsmen that its name—the 'Round O'—is occasionally used as a name for the town.

The window, which can be seen a long way off at sea, is a welcome landmark to sailors and fishermen. On the road from Beechwood to St. Vigeans, at a point near the road leading to Letham House, the Bell Rock Lighthouse, fourteen miles distant, can be seen through the centre of the 'Round O.'


Commentary extracted from 'Round about the Round O with its Poets', 1883.

Edited by George Hay
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