He has held more than 20 different jobs over the years including a long stint at the iconic Valentine’s postcard printing company in Dundee, now defunct.
These days Dundonian Tom Jamieson, 71, finally has time to focus on his long-held passion for poetry and the Scots language.
His new poetry book, The Tam o’Shanter Trilogy (in four parts) an’ Ither Scrievins takes a humorous look at Robert Burns’ famous narrative poem.
Tom writes about the imagined aftermath of Tam o’Shanter’s ill-starred visit to Alloway Kirk, with its witches, warlocks, and sundry doers of evil.
His work also contains imagined comments from the perspectives of the main protagonists, including Tam’s horse Meg and the weel-kent witch Cutty-sark.
The “ither scrievins” (other writings) in the compilation provide a humorous look at different aspects of Scotland – times, events, places and people included.
“The aim of the book is not only to provide some light-hearted poetry for reading, but also to provide a new source of humorous poetry for recitation,” explains Tom.
“There are many performers who would like something new to recite at everyday events and occasions, as well as those celebratory times like Burns’ Night, Hogmanay, New Year and St Andrew’s Day.
“It is also important that it’s in Scots as I like to see efforts to maintain and build on our rich heritage.”
Subjects covered in the “ither scrievens” include a McGonagall-inspired poem dedicated to the V&A in Dundee, The Tale o’ Erchie an’ the Day he Left the Ferm, Wullie’s Holey Prayer – with Wullie complaining about the holes in his nichtsark – and lines Tae a Hielan’ Coo, as well as a piece about a gardener who loved an ingin’ in his mince.
As well as writing, Tom recites his work at Burns Night events in Montrose, where he currently lives.
He has written books sporadically throughout his life, starting in 1984 with a self-published effort called The Unofficial Guide to Dundee, a collection of stories from the city.
Writing and comedy
This was followed by The Unofficial Guide to Scotland in 1987, this time through a traditional publisher, and a further book of poetry in 1991, called A Load o’ Dross.
“I wanted the title to catch people’s eye!”, he laughs. “In 2011 I also brought out a DVD of comedy sketches. I’d say half of them were good and the other half….well, not so good! But I’m glad I did it. I wanted to see my own stuff on video and I achieved that.
“I’ve always been a writer, in a way. I was good at English at school. As I got to secondary school we started having some serious poetry thrown at us.
“I then started writing poetry of my own – it wasn’t that good initially, but it was mine! It was like everything else – the more you do it, the better you get. Nowadays I have a lot more time to focus on writing. Before that I was so busy working. I’ve had more than 20 jobs all around Scotland – Aberdeen, Montrose, Edinburgh, Dundee.
“I’ve been a milkman, a street sweeper, worked in shops and many other things. Also brought up two kids. I’ve been happily married for 17 years, and married for 44!”
Tom spent 25 years at Valentine’s in Dundee and was at a loose end when the company shut down in 1994.
Going to college
Instead of taking a “driving job” like most of his former co-workers, Tom decided to go to college to do a course in Communications and to continue writing.
Over time he became more and more interested in the Scots language, which led him to write his Burns’ night poetry.
“I admire Rabbie Burns greatly”, Tom muses. “He died at 32 but imagine what more he could have written if he’d lived longer.
“Eight years ago I was involved in a Burns Night in Montrose and I’ve been performing my poetry ever since. I’m not a fame seeker, I’m just happy I get to recite my work out loud.”