The Shepherd’s Day

As a young lad, my father had it drummed into him by his father, that as soon as he awakened, he should get his feet onto the floor. The whole idea of a long lie, or even just an extra five-minute snooze before getting up was not to be entertained.

As a result, my father became from an early age a compulsive early riser. Throughout his life he could never understand people who were not up with the lark. When he retired from his home in the glen down to a house in the village of Comrie, his neighbours were horrified to be woken at 05:00am by the sound of Dad out cutting his grass.

He never quite grasped why they were so upset with him. But being an early riser was all part of his life as a hill shepherd. “The work won’t get done lying in your bed!” he would often say.

As the shepherd on Tinto Hill, one of his favourite things was to set off before dawn, and enjoy a smoke of his pipe sitting on Tinto’s huge cairn, watching the sunrise. Now, this was in the days before most houses had central heating, and one of the first things people would do when they got up, was to light the fire. From the cairn, Dad could look down on the villages of Symington and Thankerton. On a still morning he would see smoke start to rise from chimneys in the villages. These smoke signals told him that certain households were up and about, and he would check his watch for the time.

Sunrise from Tinto Cairn (Photo by Paul McGee)

Over the next few days, as he encountered some of the locals, he would make a comment along the lines of, “I see you were having a wee lie-in yesterday. I thought you might have been up before 7 o’clock. You missed the best part of the day.” He never let on as to how he knew when people got out of bed, and he relished in their puzzlement.

Now, the early morning gene was one that he never passed on to me. I am an owl, a creature of the night, and have never ever been a lark. As a teenager, I do recall an occasion when I was rudely awakened at 04:00am. Dad had woken, got out of bed, and looked out of the bedroom window. To his horror, there was a large hare in his garden, munching on some plants. He got his shot gun and gently slid the bedroom window open. Whatever the hare was eating, it was it’s last ever meal. I can confirm that being roused from deep slumber by a double barrel shot gun being fired in the adjacent room is no way to start your day.

So, with the idea that Dad’s day started hours before anyone else’s, I wrote “The Shepherd’s Day”.


The Shepherd’s Day

No alarm clock rings, but his eyes open wide

His wife still asleep in the bed by his side

In the sky only starlight, no sign of the sun

But the shepherd’s day has begun

In the crisp morning air, there is only one sound

His tackety boots on the hard-frozen ground

And the earliest birds, they have not yet sung

But the shepherd’s day has begun

His dogs are excited to be off to the hill

His faithful companions, Queenie and Jill

They’re raring to go now, they’re raring to run

Now the shepherd’s day has begun

And through the darkness they climb, past heather and scree

The cairn is the place he is aiming to be

To welcome the dawning, of a new day’s sun

And the shepherd’s day has begun

Up on the cairn, he finds his favourite stone

The King of this Mountain sits down on his throne

He lights up his pipe as he always has done

When the shepherd’s day has begun

And in the eastern sky, the first light of dawn

A rosey red glow, tho’ it won’t last for long

And he ponders the work, that waits to be done

Now the shepherd’s day has begun

Looking down in the glen, he sees mist start to form

Lit up by the light of this cold Autumn morn

The world is awakening, the night it is done

But the shepherd’s day has begun

He taps out his pipe and he puts it away

Stands up from his throne, walking slowly away

His sheep graze below, there is work to be done

And the shepherd’s day has begun


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