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Alex Fergusson by broad daylight - Click for larger image  

And she gave them a strict moral lecture, pleading to her son:

‘An warn him, what I winna name,
To stay content wi yowes, at hame.’

The poem’s words contain so much more than a final entreaty to ensure that her offspring are raised properly. They contain a vision for the enlightenment of man, for the benefits of a loving home and of living a lawful life and a warning against giving in to temptations, all of which we hear echoed today. Finally, Mailie pleads of her offspring:

‘An when ye think upon your Mither,
Mind to be kind to ane anither.’

If you add in tongue, or country, or even earth after the word Mither, you’ll see what I mean.

It’s about standards, it’s about success, security and sense of worth and decency. It’s pure Burnsian brilliance and it’s absolute magic.

Alex Fergusson MSP - Presiding Officer

Text © Alex Fergusson

Alex Fergusson by broad daylight 'as others see us'

click image to enlarge

The Death and Dying Words of Poor Mailie, the Author's Only Pet Yowe, an Unco' Mournfu'  

As a sheep farmer of some 30 years experience, I can verify there is nothing more ‘unco mournfu’ than coming upon a ‘cowpie’ - a sheep stuck on its back in a hollow or ditch – a situation that will invariably lead to its death through suffocation unless it is righted timeously. The risk is greater when the sheep is in full fleece and, if death results, the shepherd will have motherless lambs to rear.

This was the gruesome fate that befell poor Mailie, grazing only within the confines that her tether would allow. And that tether proved her downfall, literally, as she tripped over it one day and stumbled into a ditch, falling fatally onto her back. Hughoc, a neighbouring farm labourer, happened upon her, and the poem relates the words that Mailie spoke to him with her dying breaths.

Of both her offspring she entreated:

‘And may they never learn the gaets,
Of ither vile, wanrestfu’ Pets!


“ And now, my bairns, wi' my last breath,
I lea'e my blessin wi' you baith :
An' when ye think upo' your Mither,
Mind to be kind to ane anither ”

Robert Burns