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Red Rebecca

(A Song of the Hebrides)


That black pig McLeod

shat in my water.

All my bairns drank it.

It was the death of my daughter.


My wee white hen Camille

strayed over on his croft.

He took to her with a hatchet.

No more eggs in my hen loft.


They call me Red Rebecca

because I’m consumed with rage.

I do my work, I tend the beasts.

Forgiveness I cannae manage.


That long streak of piss McIver

took  the books with me on Monday.

Down on his knobbly knees on the floor

as if I didnae keep the kirk on Sunday.


Praying to scare the Red from me!

He’s away with a flea in his ear

(as well as mud, and worse, on his trousers)

to give McLeod a taste of the fear.


My milking coo took sick and died

and I just knew who it was killed her,

black-hearted heathen that he is

and wicked his tongue that felled her.


I’d eaten poor headless Camille

and I buried my daughter that died.

When I gutted fair Elspeth the coo

that was the day I cried.


My man told me to haud my wheesht!

What with him in a constant gloom,

Piety McIver wringing his hands

and old Mad Margaret prophesying doom,



I saw red. I SAW RED. Went haring up the hill

swinging my new whetted cleavers

and in his filthy midden of a hoose

I sliced that pig into rashers.



Floor awash, walls spattered,

myself dyed red with his blood,

they call me Red Rebecca

because I did for that pig McLeod.


The Minister wailing and weeping

thundering out warnings of Hell

turned the whole kirk against me

with a Shunning: candle, book and bell.


But I don’t give a rat’s arse about them,

I’m for an orgy of hating,

watching black McLeod on a spit

turning and turning to bacon.


They call me Red Rebecca

for the flames of Hell  – as if they matter.

The one thing I know is:  anything’s better

than that black pig McLeod’s

shit in my water.



Rosemary McLeish is an artist and a poet. She has previously published poetry includes ‘Arabesque’ in Confluence 6, April 2018, ‘Somewhere in the Netherlands’, Strix 4, 2018, and ‘My Mother’s Scars’, Anti-Heroin Chic, September 2018.

Judge Carol Ann Duffy said:

The poem I selected for second prize was ‘Red Rebecca’ by Rosemary McLeish. I love the salty relish and brio of this poem, and its narrative quality. The voice of Red Rebecca is very exuberant and funny. And there’s a hint of archaic authenticity about it, as though it’s a translation of an old Gaelic song.




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