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

Mr. Freeman speaks in Faed's painting.

I'm standing here in my best jacket.

Livery, it's called.

Buttons on both sides,

a red shirt beneath.


Look at my face. How unsure I look.

Can't you see my situation?


There's the children, white, free, happy.

I know there's one behind me, right now.

Mocking me.

Best to say nothing.

Don't upset the Master and Mistress.

They're patrons, see. Rich.

Don't get me wrong. They're good. Caring.

Shoes for the girls. Frocks.

Books, slates. Soup if they need it.


We'll catch the little boat home.

It's tied to a rusting iron ring

down by the river bank.

Home we'll go. And then my work will start.


'Fetch the tea. Bring more coal.

Fill the log basket. Light the lamps.

Polish the boots. Take my bonnet to the maid for starching'.

Endless. And all the time I smile.

I must.


Questions sit silent on my lips.

When will I be free?

Am I doomed to be their manservant

till I'm old and frail?

I want to leave this Estate.

Venture out, back to my own country.

A free man. No-one to boss me.


I'll call myself Mr.Freeman.


Note: a replica of the Faed painting, 'The visit of the Patron and Patroness', can be seen in Cally Woods in front of the old school. See the map of Cally Estate for its location.


Liz Niven


In Cally Woods

I found a Time Capsule in the Woods.

It told of times gone past.

Victorian ladies walking out,

With grace, and slow. Not fast.


I saw the Drover guide his beasts

Along the winding paths,

Beneath a ceiling dense and green

Below a sky so vast.


I heard the children laugh and cry

When teachers let them play

Along the old school garden

Whose shell still seen today


I wonder not what I would hide

If asked to bury Time.

What memories and stories heard

To put into my rhyme.


Would I hear the voices

Of visitors to the Woods?

Laughter from some hotel guests

A blackbird song, the craw of rooks?


Or would I capture silence,

In the lonely stone-filled dark?

The ghosts of Time still dreaming

Of the mysteries of the Park?

Liz Niven


Imagine a dark wood with paths of choices

There is one to the left,

Light; sun searching its way through

Shady thick treetops.


There is one to the right,

Dark, overgrown,

Perhaps least taken.


Imagine this Wood

Is your imagination.


Take yourself down the paths.

Light? Potential? Optimism?

How well can things go. Sometimes.


Lead yourself to days

Or dark nights, perhaps.


How badly life might turn out. Sometimes.


Now leave the Wood.

Enter the clearing.

Look back.



Drover's son

How high the trees must have looked

to the drover's son.

Fern and lichen tickling his toes

on a hot summers day.

Running along light-streaked forest paths

to that old school for boys.

Wondering about his Father's day,

driving cattle to the south.

Wishing he had the stick in his hand

instead of school slate.

Prodding cows to cross the miles

instead of words across a page.

Dreams of sun or even rain

touching his face,

instead of staring through

high school windows,

or feeling hissing coal heat,

from the communal fire.

Liz Niven


Three Poems for the Temple Project, by members of the public, collected during Gala week.


A ruined temple in the forest stands

Built by many, many hands.

Home to a drover, not the usual shack,

Posh at the front, plain at the back.

One man's ostentatious whim

And now Gatehouse people

Pay to immortalise him.



There once was a tumble-down folly

Which the locals thought rather jolly

So they had a whip round

And enough money was found

To repair it, and all said 'O, Golly!'




Late light touches the Temple.

Bats chitter. Cars on the bypass.

Roar. Human folly!


Alan James

Restoring Cally Temple

Every lapsing ledge of this ruined folly has been colonized by something.

Herb Robert flourishes on a sandstone staircase of slabs gripped in a wall.

Like the caged motorway embankment, nature encroaches where people

don't go. Here are all the offspring of the wood: sycamore winning battles

between tall and tumbling, honeysuckle the tussles between sprawling

and straight. If the temple must be mended, let the wilderness shift

to the poet's heart, let sonnets free severed ivy to wriggle up crumbling

walls like escaping snakes and perfect villanelles reflect the raindrops

catch the sunlight, hold the skeleton leaves and snow.

Clare Phillips


A Walk in Cally Woods

We walked a way in woods today, where once were witches...

We walked where once a drover drove

Where once a master dallied

We walked where water tumbles still

Eroding manmade ditches

We walked  a way in woods today, beside a manmade lake,

We walked where still a Folly stands

And wondered at man's pride

To strive to tame these wondrous woods

And all for grandeur's sake

We walked a way in woods today, where war was waged on wild

Wild won...

Katrina McCready

Where does the wind come from
That whines around your stairs?

And the stars framed above your grey quadrant
Were they there before you?

Were they waiting for the mason and the navie
To catch and enfold that place in the night sky?

And was the moon placed thus
Before you were known?

Were its beams shadowing there in the wood
Before your life began?

Sheena McCurrach

Cally Woods Temple Couplet Questions

When the stone was quarried
From where did the dressed granite come?

When winter snow engulfs the gothic folly
What birds and other wildlife does it enfold?

The Temple built to be seen from the Great House
Does it feel the lack of its original purpose?

Why have they enclosed this grand Folly
Meant to be a splendid vista from afar?

Beverley Vaux

Cally Woods Dog Poo Haiku

Why scoop your dog’s poo
Tie it neatly in a bag
Then festoon a tree?

Beverley Vaux

When the wind blows through the Temple

does it hear the voice of William Todd?

Are there black cattle grazing there

Beyond the ever growing trees?

Granite blocks which hold the corners secure

Who placed you there; where did you come from?

David Steel

When Todd lived there
What sounds would he hear?

Would he hear the deer
As they cantered through the fern?

Would he hear the birds
High up in the trees?

Would the trees be high?

Would he see the distance
As his children walked to school?

Would he smell the rain
As we did today?

Jane Richardson

When mist pearls the air, the sky full and heavy,
what secrets are hidden in the grass?

As twilight seeps across sweeping parkland
how many swallows nested here?

Before autumn leaks to wind-wailing winter
who remembers the first days of spring?

As you drift off to sleep in the hum of night
whose name do you call, who captures your soul?

How many cattle have you driven through here,
how many hoof prints on woodland paths?

Can you smell the rich green breath of the trees
when the owl flies low catching prey?

Kriss Nichol

The Cally Temple or It's a Dog's life

There was an old man from Ramsay Wood
Was out for a walk with his dog one day,
While picking up poos, in a bag, as one should
Came across an old ruin, what it was, who could say?

It wasn't a mosque, synagogue or a kirk
The map said a temple but to whom and for what?
Not a barn or a farm, just a folly, of fate a mere quirk
Who would repair it, and the cost? Well? a lot!

Would people contribute, when and how, if they could?
What if it's haunted by Charley the dog
Lifting his leg, in the night, on a rotten old log
Thought the old man, with his dog, in the Wood.

DOGgerel - Trivial or irregular verse.



Temple Mesostic

by Bakehouse workshop writers

to the temple

we are quarrying into our landscape
digging into the past
unearthing histories
before they are lost
we are felling trees in the forest
cutting our way through the growth
telling stories and legends
of people and times long ago
we are walking into the woods
treading paths together and alone
asking our curious questions
seeking answers from silent stone

Liz Niven

The Temple: Diary

Find us on Facebook