The Scotsman Sessions #281: Hollie McNish

Welcome to the award-winning Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on, with introductions from our critics. Here, Hollie McNish reads her poem Heirloom, written for her gran

“’Cos life is unfair, that’s why,” is poet Hollie McNish’s mostly joking answer, when asked why she wasn’t raised around Stepps and Kirkintilloch, where her extended family still live. “My dad set up a computer company with a few of his friends from Glasgow, so they moved it down to Slough trading estate – where The Office was set, the exact place.”

The 2016 Ted Hughes Award-winner loves Glasgow, though, and spends half her time there, either visiting family or her boyfriend in the West End. “Hopefully one day I’ll live there, after my daughter doesn’t need to be near school,” she says (they’re about 20 minutes north of Cambridge).

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Her short but incredibly sweet poem for the Scotsman Sessions is Heirloom, written for her gran, who died during the first lockdown, although McNish feels a certain contentment that she was able to see her one last time before the country closed down. “Honestly, my gran went on for about two years, ‘you’ve got to choose a piece of my jewellery that you want’,” she remembers. “It’s always the most expensive thing, isn’t it? She left me her wedding china and cutlery, it was all still in the boxes.”

“But I didn’t want that – I’ve got her butter dish. When I told my friends, it was quite comforting, they’d all taken weird objects from loved ones, not the things we think of as treasures. There were other butter dishes, as well; it seems lots of people remember grandparents from spreading butter on a piece of bread.”

“I took a handful of the red stones out of her driveway, too. I’ve got a few things from both my grandmothers that really remind me of Scotland. As soon as I see the hills, and then when houses start having gravel on the outside and red stones in the driveway it’s like, aw – I’m back.”

*Hollie McNish’s latest poetry collection Slug… and others things I’ve been taught to hate is published by Fleet, £14.99. For details of live dates, see

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