5 QUESTIONS TO RACHEL WOOLF
Rachel is a wordsmith who devised the textual content of the Meadows Mural.
1. What was your brief?
To provide text which could be interpreted visually and would reflect the history and character of the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links and appeal to the wide variety of folk who use the Meadows as a thoroughfare and a place of recreation.
2. What was the inspiration for your poem, ‘A Throng of Folk’?
One of my lullabies is inspired by the names of all the stations from Waverley to North Berwick and, in the same vein, the names of four of the walks on the Meadows gave me an intriguing starting point.
Weaving a story round the names of the walks resulted in a fairy tale about the Coronation of the May Queen. It focuses on her Carnival procession from her Jawbone Throne up Middle Meadow Walk to the stone unicorns, which date back to the grandeur of the 1886 exhibition, and have stood guard ever since.
3. Why did you choose the quote from ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ by Muriel Spark for the Middle Meadow Walk wall?
I felt that this major piece of public art should draw on some of the great writers who have a connection with the area. Muriel Spark was an obvious choice.
I was amazed and delighted to find that she had had the same vision - a child hopping to a chant made up of local place names! And right on Middle Meadow Walk too.
‘Edinburgh, Leith, Portobello, Musselburgh and Dalkeith.’
It was a glorious discovery.
I had strung the names of the Meadows Walks in sequence,
Boys Brigade, Middle Meadow, Coronation, Jawbone
This has a jaunty rhythm and can be chanted as a skipping or hopping rhyme by children as they make their way on foot across the Meadows, just as the Brodie girls did.
This led me to PROCESSIONS as the title of the mural – one for the May Queen and one of a line of school girls and their teacher – each crossing the Meadows from Jawbone Arch to the Middle Meadow Walk Unicorns.
4. You have also used a few lines from a Robert Burns poem
Absolutely! The story is about a great celebration with much music and merrymaking, and, in Scotland, such an event always includes Burns. But also it is reputed that the Bard’s father worked on draining the quagmire of the Burgh Loch, some years before the land was eventually drained and set out as a park.
A contemporary document tells us that the ‘fashionables and Literati’ liked to promenade there and take in the fresh air above the smoke of the Old Town. Perhaps Burns was among them.
Also, I wanted to bring in a bit of romance and his tender words about love on a windy lea, or meadow, hit the spot.
5. You have also drawn on folklore. Please tell us more about this theme.
- The May Queen is a figure who has the qualities of a Goddess of Spring when the flowering cherry trees on the Meadows are at their loveliest.
- The dew-drop ring refers to the belief that to wash your face in dew on the 1st of May promises a beautiful complexion for the whole year.
- A rowan for fortune; the rowan tree is thought to ward off bad luck and bring good fortune.
- The crescent moon threaded with clarsach strings is an addition to the folklore of the magical 1st of May on the wide expanses of the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links; though if you were to gaze at the moon on that very night and listen you may find it is not imagination.