Frank McGillivray – On Hurlford Road

ON HURLFORD ROAD is a collection of six poems Frank McGillivray. Frank is a local Avondale poet and we’re delighted to be able to promote talent from the shire on Frets Words.


After the war
Prefabricated houses
were built up
then knocked down,
Now waste ground.

Behind a factory
A railway line; behind
The railway line a pond.

A fence between
The waste ground and the factory,
A second between
The factory and the railway line.

Gaps in the fences,
Where iron railings
Have not been replaced.

A row of garages.
In school grounds,
A copse of unkempt trees.

Near the school
A row of shops,
Beside the shops
A bedraggled park.
Dogs walk themselves.


Squeeze through the fence
At the factory, and the fence
At the railway line, to the pond.

Carry tadpoles home,
Leave them at the back door
to fend for themselves.

Lay on the tracks,
Listen for the hum
Of an approaching train.
Boys build dens,

On ghost crescents and flattened cul-de-sacs,
Joists of found wood,
asbestos and cardboard sheets,

Chimneys, light fires;
A laugh to collapse the whole with folk inside.


A girl brought in a letter
From Robert Burns to her ancestor,
Sent just before
He was set to sail
For Jamaica, but changed his mind.
It was passed round in a plastic sleeve.

My friend lived beside the school
And we’d access the playground
Through his garden
And climb trees.

He came to mine once
With a half filled bottle,
He offered, but i declined,
I didn’t like its hue,
He admitted it was piss.

Some time later,
He was climbing on his own
And slipped,
Hung there ’til he was found.

My grandfather gave me his war medals.
I sold them to a boy
Who seemed to recognise their value.
I lived in fear of being asked
Where they were.


I was the Wee Cooper O’ Fife
My mother adapted my father’s
Old brown dungarees
And I wore his tweed cap.
I affected to smoke my grandfather’s pipe.

A sheepskin, fashioned
From card and cotton wool,
Was placed on my wife’s back,

Following which
I thrashed her with a stick,
A consequence of her failure
To carry out basic household tasks.

It was only acting.
She submits, everyone sings,
Equilibrium is restored.

Our parents applauded energetically.
Girls in the class approached
The front of the stage
And threw
Hard boiled sweets.

It was safer to stay in at play time.
Older boys made darts
From straws, plasticine and needles.


I was sent a message to the shop,
I bought a book of Andy Capp cartoons
And stuff from the penny tray.
Whatever it was we needed, I didn’t buy.

I found three presentation books
Of first mint decimal coins
In my Father’s drawer. I spent them.

I told him I had taken them to school,
And they were in my desk.

I collected coins of mongrel
Mints and denominations,
Not knowing they were special coins I’d spent.

I handed my father the handful,
He was not fooled.

My aunt took me to the circus.
As we walked home past the park,
Teenagers shouted and whistled at her.


One Saturday afternoon
The boy with my grandfather’s medals
And I, climbed the wall
Into McConnechy’s Garage.

The sheds were locked,
Cars waiting to be repaired.
In an almost empty ice cream van

We found;
A box of wafers, an eagle shaped
ring, a pair of clackers and 3 whistles.

We ate some of the wafers;
We tipped the balance on the floor
And trampled them in.

I put on the ring,
Richard took two whistles,
We agreed to sell the clackers
And took them to a shop;

Asked for our money back.
They chased us up the street.
On the way home we blew the whistles,
Richard’s two, my one.

In the dark late afternoon
We’d hide behind his hedge
And throw stones at the buses.

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