Amulets, Charms & Totems

Talisman Reveries

Some places distinguish themselves,

first glance,

part curve & coastline roll,

nothing more,

still, slow

lift the veil

Rubha na Caillich

glimpse deeper,

feel texture, smooth unique forms,

practice geological crafts,

caressed ocean rise & fall


torso twist & turn,

with millennial restlessness,

some settle,


in slumber,



flocks, herds, names & stories

Flocks and Herds

hover, rest, soar & plunge,

surge in your liminality,


flow land & sea


sinuous figure,

washed & soothed,

rise paps,

taste cloud & rain


rest upon her


with gifts returned


dive deep





macabre collections,



offer chitin charms

share exoskeleton


Paint box  1.JPG

upon her flanks,

now she bares

palette pools








mix & wash


with cumulus brush

cyan coating

maritime hues


in time

we can drown,


draw down,


wash & wave

Paps of Jura


solar bleached





first flurries

Feather Flight









The distinctive point, Rubha na Caillich, is a weathered rock outcrop on the coast of the Kintyre peninsula.

To the north, the seascape soon leads to the Corryvreckan (Cauldron of The Plaid) Whirlpool,  where it has been said the Caillich washes her cloth at the end of Autumn and when cleaned becomes the white winter snow covering the land.

To the east, across the Sound of Jura, are the Paps of Jura (Beinn an Òir, Beinn Shiantaidh and Beinn a’ Chaolais)

Immediately, to the south of Rubha na Caillich, is Dun Cragach, where a small community dwelt beside the Caillich figure about 2000 years ago.  I am sure they would have recognised the distinctive form next to them and would in some way have incorporated her presence into their ceremonies and stories of the landscape they inhabited together.

They would have also interacted with the other birds and animals of the landscape, with perhaps different perspectives from today : how they understood, otter (or diving sea birds), who brought sea urchin and crab to eat on her flanks, leaving exoskeleton amulets, would be fascinating to explore further.

Travel south a further kilometer and you reach Carraig nam Bodach but that is another journey together.





Poetry of Sculpture – journey through the south west

HushBefore I visited Cairnsmore of Fleet, National Nature Reserve, I probably anticipated my experience would be dominated by the ‘natural’ and that I would encounter a wild landscape.  However, even as I arrived it became rapidly apparent that the landscape was significantly marked by cultural activity.  Not only is much of it dominated by significant areas of coniferous plantations but the Big Water of Fleet Viaduct was a striking cultural relict (apparently featuring in the 1935 film version of John Buchan’s 39 Steps).

Forests and Viaduct

In fairness I was drawn to the site because I knew there was an artwork by artist Matt Baker and poet Mary Smith: a collection of five sculptures and poems (Scene Shifters, Ocean, Hush, Heart and Erratic) which responded to the landscape of Cairnsmore.  In amongst the buildings of the working farm is a small (but excellent) visitor center with interpretation about the landscape and the art works.

Cairnsmore InterpretationIt was there that I collected five posts cards which were to guide me on my journey of discovery.  To discover the sculptures at Cairnsmore there are five clues, one on each of the post cards, which lead you consecutively to the sculptures.  The first to Ocean reads –

from the visitor centre before the river is bridged, don’t get your feet wet !

I am not going to show you all the sculptures (sorry, but they are wonderful), as I want you all to have your own journey of discovery at Cairnsmore…..

Over the next four hours or so, I followed the clues and was surprised and delighted by what I discovered.  The individual pieces are beautifully sculpted, all imaginatively and sensitively located in their landscape, evoking many cultural and natural references, but it was the way in which they were blended into a journey of discovery which was most joyous to experience.

Parts in a SceneGuiding PostcardsDiscover SculptureFound it

Landscape today is not an end result,

but only a single frame

in a long-running, slow motion movie.

How well will we act our parts in the next scene?

(From Scene Shifters by Mary Smith)


I did not want to give too much away in this post (as I would encourage those who are lucky enough to visit Cairnsmore of Fleet to undertake the journey of discovery which these artists have so elegantly staged for the visitor) but I hope I can give you a flavour of why I found this to be such a great artwork. I was left reflecting on what our landscapes would be like if every one was subject to a similar process of artistic exploration. 
Not least that these artists also produced a Cairnsmore Poems ‘passport’ for the two gateway communities at Creetown and Gatehouse which were distributed at opendays, workshops and talks:
Cairnsmore Poems‘The idea was to give the poems to local people and offer them the chance to find the sculptures in the landscape in the hope that knowledge of the artworks would grow outwards from within the two communities’