Billy puts his poetry where his heart is

Billy Gillies from Jedburgh with his new book of poetry. Pictured: Bill McBurnie.

Billy, well known in town and beyond for his vast knowledge of the Borders handba circuit, which sees ‘Uppies’ and ‘Doonies’ in several towns and villages battling for supremacy one day a year, waxed lyrical in the Jethart Festival magazine every year for over 40 years, and has now arranged to print a collection of his poems in his first book, entitled ‘The Boog and the Giant’s Grave and other poems’.

The 78-year-old told us: “When I was approached to write for the festival magazine, I found it easier to write in rhyme.

“The poems are all about my experiences: coming home to Jedburgh after serving overseas for three years with the KOSB and seeing the Abbey; what we did as children, playing keeper in Porthill, plunder each other’s bonfires; the monkey’s puzzle where the new school is.

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“All these places are still there, and you can still visit them, and there are many local people I have been friends with over the years mentioned, such as Hugh Hornby, who wrote the History of the Handba’; my pal Doddie Ferguson who I couldn’t visit for his 60th birthday so I wrote him a poem, and my friend Jack Wiffin who sang “Vera Lynn Evermore.”

And, of course, there’s plenty on Billy’s favorite subject.

He said, “Everything I do, the hand gets involved!”

“I had just helped Ian Landles and the Duke of Buccleuch launch their book on the Carterhaugh Ba’ at the book festival, and decided I would like to publish the poems.

“I had it printed at Footeprint in Jedburgh, and they did a great job.

“I printed 100 and there are already about 80 sold.”

Billy said he didn’t get into the writing game to make a profit.

He said: “I just want people who might be interested in reading these poems to have the chance to do so.

“I saved some time to get the book printed in the first place.

“The money raised from the sales will probably go towards printing another 50 copies, I’m not here for the profit!”

The book is on sale from the From Me To You shop in Jedburgh, priced at £5.

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