The Temple - Poems and Writing

Cally Temple by Lucy Hadley

An important part of the Cally Temple project is raising awareness through creative writing.  Starting  with an impromptu meeting with Gatehouse residents and visitors during Gala Week 2014, poet Liz Niven has since worked with a wide range of groups, encouraging them to think about the Temple and its setting in the Cally Woods through the medium of creative writing.  Liz has been to the Temple with a group who met afterwards at the Bakehouse in Gatehouse; she has taken Gatehouse Primary School children to visit the old school, where they worked on a tableau of school days long ago.  She has walked to the Temple with a group  staying at the Cally hotel and with postgraduate students from Glasgow University. the students had a follow up session back at the Crichton campus.  Most recently Liz set up a stall with National Scenic Area Officer, Anna Johnson at the Dumfries and Galloway Environment Fair, also at the Crichton campus and this created a lot of interest.
Meanwhile Gatehouse Development Initiative members have been carrying out research on the history of the Temple and other features of the designed landscape of Cally.  All this information has provided ideas for poems which are flooding in and enriching our understanding of the Temple and its surroundings.


As readers will see the Temple has inspired Liz and many others to put pen to paper.  If you have visited the Temple or Cally Woods and feel inspired to submit a poem, some writing, or a drawing or painting, please send via email to:


Drawing by Lucy Hadley

Temple bodie

Hey, ma bodie's a Temple, ken.

Fit as a fiddle.

A'm mibbe ower twa hunner year auld

Bit A'm in guid shape

A wee bitta lichen here,

Bitta ivy there,

An ma stone scabbles are a touch mingin wi moss

Naethin that a wee dicht o a spring clean

Fae Historic Scotlan couldnae fix.

Oh an clearin the decks a wee bit

O thae trees has fair helpt

Couldnae see a thing so A couldnae

They used tae could see me fae the big hoose

Thocht A wis the bees knees

Aw shinin an gleamin in the echteenth centurie sun.

A hid a drover livin here fir ten year,

An ladies whae lunch ower fae Cally Palace

Drinkin tea fae wee dinkie cheenie cups.

Oh aye, A wis big in ma day.

Noo folk dinna even ken A'm here

Jist burds nestin in ma nooks an crannies

An a'll have ye ken, A'm B listit

It wid be folly tae hiv left me faw tae bits

Ma bodie's a Temple, ken.

Liz Niven


The Ghost’s Picnic

If you go to Cally Woods today,

you're in for a big surprise.

If you go to Cally Woods today,

you'll hardly believe yours eyes.

The Patron and Patroness his wife

are visiting the School from a bygone life.

Today's the day the ghosts are having a picnic.

If you go to Cally Woods today,

you're in for a big surprise.

If you go to Cally Woods today,

you’ll hardly believe your eyes.

There's soldiers up at the forest Motte

discussing weapons and battles fought.

Today's the day the ghosts are having a picnic.

If you go to Cally Woods today,

you’re in for a big surprise.

If you go to Cally Woods today,

you’ll hardly believe your eyes.

There's dykers talking about their walls,

how best to build so nothing falls.

Today's the day the ghosts are having a picnic.

If you go to Cally Woods today,

you're in for a big surprise.

If you go to Cally Woods today,

you'll hardly believe your eyes.

The Drover is setting out on the track

his cattle won't be coming back.

Today's the day the ghosts are having a picnic.

Liz Niven

(To be sung to the tune of the Teddy Bears’ Picnic)


Cally Woods

Wonderful blue skies and sunshine

What a treat to wander in Cally Woods

Hear the rushing water and birdsong

This day, heard the nuthatch

Saw wood anemones, celandines, bees

And silvery bark of the birch

Steeped in history these ancient woods

The amazing temple, did ladies enjoy afternoon tea here

So many questions of how it really was

Cally Woods go and explore

Imagine and enjoy

A treasure not to be missed


Marian Donnelly


Cally Woods

Today at Cally woods the silence is so loud

Close your eyes and you can hear

The birds singing, the burn flowing, the bluebells bursting into bloom

Just as it has done for many many years

For not only is the forest rich in nature and fauna

But history

So much history lost but in Cally it lives on

Motte with its mysterious granite stone

For what reason? Who knows?

The reason is lost but the Motte is not

The temple why two floors?

The answer is lost but the temple is not

The sunken dyke for what reason?

The answer was clear

To see the beauty of the land without man

In Cally history lives on for all to see.


Kat (Forestry Commission)

Cally Temple

Solid grey buttressed against the beeches

blued stone steps and a frail metal banister

it floats on a raft of gravel amidst

the appropriate narcissi;

a pit spiralling down to watery stillness

crimson cups on dead wood

the tapering cones of moss

weak, insipid sunlight

among new green shoots.

Shadow of a deer ripples between

the sunlit birch and cracked,

splintered conifers.

A raven croaks catarrhally

and the seesaw song of great

tits skitter under a greying sky

Blocked windows, unseeing doors

on three sides, one face open

to the lost passers-by. No-one

left to impress, it turns a blind eye

to the traffic passing on the bypass

John Priestley


Gatehouse Cally Temple

The narrow track insinuates through the wood

The ground dark-stained below pale beech

Under a trickle of light, trace of mud;

The grey stone walls no broad landscape can reach;

Not the shadow of travellers passing by

The mud-soft sound of plodding feet, it feels

Abandoned now, no noise or echoing cry

No joy of living presence will it reveal

Just grey-blue-stone-blind windows, no roof cover

An emptied pit, red-cup fungus, spikes of moss

Tall tower walls block the cattle drover

His view obscured, shrouded, a sense of loss

And those who visit observe wistfully,

Don’t build to impress; its just a folly!

John Priestley


Contributed at the Temple Stall at the Environment Fair in Dumfries on 16 March.

Gentle friend as I approach

Silent space

And may I stay awhile

Quiet and alone

And take a little

Of your past

When I decide to leave.

Denise Zygadlo

The Empty Temple


February 2015


Square neat tower,

we’re led to you, told of your stories,

your change of purpose,

your facelift to live again.

Hopefully, your windows point to heaven.

Far off, a chainsaw sings of daily work unseen.

Creaking and groaning in the cold wind,

the tall slim trees all round now screen the folly,

replace the old long parkland-view,

working for new owners.

No longer to impress from a distance,

now you’re to be stumbled upon

by modern woodland wanderers

seeking enchantment.

We try to feel your past lives, use what we can find

to make the people real; see them, hear them, smell them:

the pleasant hot stink of the drover’s cows,

the polite clinking of ladies taking tea,

the raucous banter of the gentle-folk’s hunting party.

The happy boasting of the man who birthed you

to prove his worth by your fashionable being;

a transient desire made solid.

But the ghosts seem missing here, along with the ivy,

a ruin stripped of time’s damage, and life.

Ground around you scraped back to dark earth,

your inside floored with gravel, walls patched up

too clean, too new, the woodland tidied.

Stairs that,for safety, lead nowhere.

Your future hangs on a guessed-at history,

rebuilt from scraps of hunted down documents,

seeking a new identity in a different world.

I’ll come back once you’ve had a chance

to cover yourself, protect your modesty, decide what you are

–maybe the spirit will too.

Katy Ewing


False facade

Mud clings to the boots like memories here.
Out in the forest at the Temple,
Seventeen seventy nine construction.
Granite walls, arched windows,
castellated roof.
False windows on the side to face the mansion,
impress visitors.
Seventeen ninety three,
Burns 'greatly depressed by the values of society'.
(Some things don't change).
The wind sighed, lightning gleamed,
Burns 'fumed and raged' like the weather,
said his friend John Syme.
On the same day, Thomas Muir,
charged with sedition,
passed through Gatehouse town.
Led in chains to unfair trial,
later sentenced to fourteen years transportation.
Burns, compromised enough to hide allegiance,
a steady excise job,
a family to support,
penned 'Scots Wha Hae' instead.
An oblique means of protest.
'Wallace an allegory for the real hero'.
Mud clings to the boots like memories here.
Liz Niven



An empty sadness, dead space

A hole in the heart

Magic and life scraped off with trowels


A cold wind blowing across trampled ground

Water-logged mud, poisoned stumps, not yielding;

I huddle deeper into my coat


Grey granite gravel like a shroud

Around dank stones, a rotten tooth,

Witnesses to old wrongs


To think that not so long ago

This was a green place of wasps getting drunk on ivy flowers

Where striped spiders were hunted by wrens


Of blackbirds mick-micking, bats flickering

at dusk, and the small scratchings of mice

Whilst tendrils of growth wrestled it back to the earth


How long will it take to gather up the courage

To start again, disperse this bitterness

into a vibrant fecund wilderness?


Michael van Beinum

Return to River Path

I used to know these woods,

above, the bright sky patterned with bare branches,

below, the path well worn, dead twigs

and leaves packed down, an easy walk.


My camera-hand is chilled, at the ready

and my nostrils take in frozen wet ground,

green beginnings, my cheeks nipped.


I hear the river’s music from below, a fast flow

mingled with the motorway’s indifferent roar.

Above, a crow cries out.


Alone and safe, concealed here,

I want to run free on this childhood path,

and I do, find joy, forget myself.


Ahead, a well-remembered Ash all clothed in ivy,

has fallen, blocked the way, much larger than I knew.

Instead of turning it to firewood, someone has made

a way round, a bypass path, with fairy tale steps.


This is the mosses’ time,

the bare trees wait to start again,

buds not fat, but ready.


Katy Ewing


Cally and its Pleasures

The privileged classes

Must do their best

To maintain the illusion

Of effortless elegant living

They must concern themselves

Only with aesthetics

And keep hidden, at all costs

The mud and the mess

The dirt and stains

Of a graceful lifestyle

Can be dealt with underground

And the illusion protected


Jean Langhorne


Joseph and Anne

Like your patrons’ acres

at Cally, marriage

united your assets

fourteen girls and boys


schooled for gendered society

by their everyday, family life.

Was it harder for you Anne

with a house to keep


and a husband

who was also your

master? Nothing left

here now but the footprint


of a home drawn in daffodils

a fallen order returning

each spring to trumpet

nature’s hegemony.


Clare Phillips


The shortest day approaches

on Cally forest paths,

silver- edged ferns.

Soil is sugar icing coated.


Few furred creatures move.

Night falls on Christmas Eve.


A first star appears,

lights oak tree branches, escaped winter firs,

sharpens palace stone and roof.

Stillness fills the Temple.


A sense of waiting hangs,

as might have filled a stable once.


Emptiness sighs.

Carols faintly echo

from Gatehouse streets and kirks.


A twig underfoot snaps

like a Christmas cracker.

In townhouses,

children's dreams open like parcels.

Liz Niven


We went walking with hotel guests,

released from their three day conference.

Property Bond delegates

up to enlarge their portfolio,

adding the nearby old Coo Palace at Borgue.


Strolling the Cally Estate grounds,

freed from round table talk,

role play, consideration of financial figures,

the delegates breathed wood scented air,

donned sturdy shoes and outdoor clothes.


Fragments of chat filled the forest.

Vied with trickle and tinkle of

Asshouse Strand burn,

frogmarched from the lake

to channel water to town.


Between commissions and property sales,

the delegates learned of the

'recreational trees' classed as having,

'no great value'. I swear a sigh swayed

through the woods.


Some guests viewed the holly tree

ringed by rusted railings,

hazarded guesses,

'Was it a Jubilee Tree?' or,

'Could there have been dabblers in the occult?'


Others considered Laundry Cottage,

imagined lives and labours

from another time, another world.

Cloud-white sheets forest-ferried.


Guide informed, guests listened,

paired up with a colleague here,

caught up with a guest there.

pertinent questions back and forth;

like some green forest dance.


A red squirrel scuttled unnoticed

across the approaching party's path.

Evening dinner in china crockery beckoned.

In the woods, under star-studded Dark skies,

furred nocturnal creatures returned to the Temple.


Liz Niven


The Temple: Diary

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