The Last Home-Coming


The Reverend Thomas Alexander

Come when l’m lying
Restful at last:
Come when I’m dying
ls all over past.
With bearing-trees come
Down from the hill
All silent and still.
Carry me home
Where the breakers roar,
For l’m wishing to be
By the sound of the sea
For evermore.

Over the streaming
Rush of the Sound,
Sea-birds screaming
In circles around,
Over to Rousay;
I know l will feel
The lift of the keel
As you sail me to Rousay
Again as of yore;
For I wish to be laid
Where my forefathers prayed,
Near the shore.

Sailing from Rousay,
Leaving her there;
Leaving her sleeping
In hallowed ground.
By the edge of the Sound,
Where billows are leaping
And breakers roar,
We have laid her to rest
In the dust she loved best
Till time is o’er.

Mr Alexander wrote that poem in his Manse at Evie one January day in 1926. He had just returned from the funeral of Annie Leonard of Lowlands, who had been taken by boat to Rousay to be buried beside her husband in the Wasbister kirkyard. The verses were simple and spontaneous, and one can sense in them the deep impression that winter journey made on the sensitive mind of the author. The very rolling of the boat, getting nearer and nearer the island and then returning, worked itself into his poem.

[Thomas T. Alexander was Minister of the Free Church of Evie and Rendall, 1923-1926]

Inscription on the family tombstone in the Wasbister Kirkyard:

Erected by the Leonard family in beloved memory of their father
John Leonard who died 12th March 1912 aged 31 years,
their mother Annie Gibson who died 2nd Jan. 1926 aged 43 years,
also their brother James Marwick Leonard
who died 6th Oct. 1908 aged 4 months.

John Leonard was the son of James Leonard of Quoygray, later Cruannie, and Ann Marwick of Tou. Born in 1879 he married Annie Gibson of Langskaill, daughter of David Gibson, latterly of Hullion and Ann Sinclair of Newhouse. John and Annie had six children: Ann; Estelle; John, who died in infancy; Rose, who went to America; Peggy, twin of Rose; and James, who died at the age of 4 months.


My thanks to Tommy Gibson, owner of the original poem, for allowing its reproduction.