A Fool's Mind


a fool’s mind

I could scatter
the clouds over
Monadh Ruadh

blow the thistle-
off Tom

shine every last leaf
on the birches of
Coire nan Craobh-bheithe

pluck you a flake
of sharp

plait you the tale
of a crepuscular tiger
in Fluich Adagan

look away if you
get a rise out
of Clach a’ Bhodaich

wrap the stone
with new wool
by Allt nan Cuigeal

the White Calf
in the snows
of The
Brown Cow

gather the rose
from the fold
Allt Fileachaidh

carry you safe
the Water

find where hazel grow
by the fleet-water
of Allt Challa

but mending a fool’s
mind’s something
I cannot do


Composed after Andrew Schelling’s translation of a poem by the 14th century Kashmiri poet Lal Ded.

The place-names include: Tom Chluaran, the hillock of the thistles, on the lower slopes of Sròn Dubh, the black snout. Coire nan Craobh-bheithe, the corrie of the birches, west of Lochnagar. Blar-nan-Saighead, (now Blar-nan-Saighde on OS maps), the arrows moss, in Glen Feshie. Fluich-adagan (correct spelling Fliuch-adagan), the wetted rush-stooks, also in Glen Feshie; rushes were used for roofing material. Clach a’ Bhodaich, the stone of the old man, or, more earthily, the old-man’s pintle, a ruined farm named for the crag above it, which have may been associated with fairies, spectres, or warlocks, thought to use such sites for leaping from. The crag is also known in Scots as Clash-vottach, the carle’s knowe. Allt nan Cuigeal is the distaff burn, which flows into the Pollagach Burn. Distaffs are wood spindles for winding wool onto, though Peter Drummond notes that Edward Dwelly gives the Gaelic guigeal as a distaff hand-rock, in his Dictionary. The Brown Cow's White Calf is a long-lasting snow wreath in the corrie of Brown Cow Hill. The hill name is unsual because the English is a direct translation of the original Gaelic, Bho Dhonn. Allt Fileachaidh is the pleat burn, or burn of the fold, possibly referring to the bending corrie beneath Creag na Slabhraidh, the little rocky hill of a chain, in upper Glen Muick. The Water Splash is where the road crosses Allt a’ Mhadaidh-allaidh, the wolf burn, in Glen Lui. Allt Challa, the fleet burn, is named for for its fast flowing water, or the Gaelic caltainn, hazel tree, or, relating it to the house, Invercauld, as I will discuss later. Macdonald suggests Invercauld is the confluence of the narrow part of the strath, from Inver Caoil. The Allt Challa rises on Craig Leek, the rockslab crag, and flows to the .


William Alexander: The Place-Names of Aberdeenshire
Peter Drummond: email to Alec Finlay
Richard Perry: In the High Grampian
Andrew Schelling: Love and The Turning Seasons
Adam Watson: The Place Names of Upper Deeside
Adam Watson: Place-names in much of North-east Scotland
Allt Challa name-label: Alec Finlay, 2015
Allt Fileachaidh name-label: Alec Finlay, 2015
Thistle: Hannah Devereux, 2015

Gathering was commissioned by Hauser & Wirth, for the Fife Arms Hotel, Braemar; the project was launched in 2015 and will conclude in 2018.

The artist residency at University of Aberdeen is funded by The Leverhulme Trust; the project was launched in July 2016 and will conclude May 2017.