Baws on the Slates

For your entertainment I humbly submit a Covid poem written in broad Glaswegian, about a broad Glaswegian.

As devotees of this distinctive dialect are few and far between,  I’ve also added a few explanatory notes and, more importantly, a translation into English.

Background and Introduction

These humble verses were inspired by the ghosts of three Scottish poets: Robert Burns, William “Topaz” McGonnigal and the recently lamented Tom Leonard. These three poets, plus an anonymous internet post, guided the trembling hand of Dr Cameron as he penned his emotional ballad describing ordinary Glasgow folk as they continue to defy the impact of COVID-19 on their day-
to-day lives. It is a story of bravery in the face of adversity and of remarkable stoicism combined with a liberal dose of Glasgow’s gallow’s humour.

Many people will be familiar with Burns and perhaps even McGonnigal (think the world’s worst ever Victorian poet and his “epic” poem the Tay Bridge Disaster), but few will have read any of Professor Leonard’s work. So for those that are interested in further self-improvement in these testing times, here is a link to Tom’s Wiki entry: Link

In the main, my poem follows Tom’s distinctive Glaswegian voice. Words become wurdz as vowels and word endings are swallowed to phonetically reflect the distinctive Glaswegian patois, and particularly its preponderance of glottal stops. And as if that was not enough, this accent’s cadence and rhythm demands that technically separate words are often rolled into one. For those that find West Central Scotland dialect impenetrable, a translation into English has been provided. All things considered, it may be best if everyone reads the English version first!

By way of background, in Glaswegian parlance the Baw’s on the Slates is an aphorism. It means that the game’s over, as the football ball is stuck on the roof (the slates).


In Januri we didni ken
Yir name or much abootyi
But much has changed since then
So we realli must salutyi

Yir spreadin oot is quite intense
Yir feedin like a gannet
The chaos caused is so immense
Yir shakin oor wee planet

Corona usetae be a beer
Itwiz awewiz served wi limes
Butnooitz filled uzawewi fear
These dayz are scary times

Nae shakin haunz or peckin lips
Iz whit radocs adviz
But scrubem weel right tae the tips
Thatz how weelawe suvive

Jist keep inside yir ain wee hoose
Nae sneakin out firstrollz
Get used tae bein a real recluse
An follow ra controlz

Nae tempted scapin till rairz a drug
Or perhaps a majik cream
Anawe cauz aoriz wan wee bug
Itz enough tae make yi scream

Evin wir holdayz urrawe pitaff
If you cut thru awrair pattir
So pitoan yir thermals hiv a laugh
An heid aff doonra waatir

Bouts oboredom will soon appear
Say start to read or doodle
Plan yir menu fir New Year
Irn Bru wi fried pot noodle

Then itzafftae ra toonz foodbankz
Coz a change would be so nice
Therz beanz and pasta in serried rankz
And twenty tunnz orice

But dinnae think that yill wipeuzoot
Jistcoz wir peely-wally
Yir nae wurz than the athletes foot
So bring on your finale

Yi think yir oan a grand crusade
As yi jump frae cup-tae-cup
But when wi get oor vaxeen made
Yir nineteen number’s up


In January we didn’t “ken”
Your name or much about you
But much has changed since then
So we really must salute you

Your spreading out is quite intense
You’re feeding like a gannet
The chaos caused is so immense
You’re shakin’ our wee planet

Corona used to be a beer
It was always served with limes
But now it’s filled us all with fear
These days are scary times

No shaking hands or pecking lips
Is what the docs advise
But scrub them well right to the tips
That’s how we’ll all survive

Just stay inside your own jailhouse
No breaking out for strolls
Get used to being a grumpy spouse
But follow the controls

There’s no way out till there’s a drug
Or perhaps a magic cream
And all because of this one small bug
It’s enough to make you scream

Even our holidays are all put off
If you cut thru all their snide
So don your thermals and head off
For a wander down the Clyde

Bouts of boredom will soon appear
So start to read or doodle
Plan your menu for New Year
Irn Bru with fried pot noodle

Now off to the town’s two foodbanks
As a change would be quite nice
There’s beans and pasta in serried ranks
And twenty tons of rice

But don’t think that you’ll wipe us out
Just ‘cause we can’t be pally
You’re no worse than that athletes foot
So bring on your finale

You think that your on a grand crusade
As you jump from cup-to-cup
But when we get our vaccine made
Your nineteen number’s up