The naked rambler

On Thursday 22nd of January 2004, a dreach winter day, I was attending a writing class at DACE run by Donny O’Rourke, and as I was about to leave, it occurred to me, for no apparent reason, to ask if there had been any news of Naked Rambler (Stephen Gough), who set out from Land’s End early in the summer, but had fallen foul of The Law on more than one occasion, each offence resulting in a prison term. Nobody there had any news of him, but half an hour later, his arrival in John O’ Groats was announced on the National News. I presume that this was a case of subliminal perception, that I must have heard or seen his name without conscious attention. This apparent coincidence boosted my interest in the man, his aims and his reception. In view of the fact that Burn’s night was three days off, the Scottish Nation might have been expected to revel in his achievement, but if they did there was no public sign of it.

His exploits and punishments continue to occupy the National Press, and at the time of writing he has apparently served the equivalent of six years at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. It would be of some interest to know whether a National referendum would support or condemn such a use for public funds.

A man for all seasons

Here’s to the man who walked alone

without a stitch of clothing on

to show that each can hold his own

in any weather

and does not need the mobile phone’s

Unceasing blether.

The only one who ever planned

to go the length of this raw land

with nothing on, but in his hand

his gnarled staff

when some contend he should be banned,

while others laugh.

He’s crossed The Wall and coming to

the place, if all he’s heard is true,

where hospitality shines through

and folk all say,

‘ye’ll stop for a wee dram or two’,  

then on your way.

So armed with powerful expectation,

we cannot guess his desperation

when greeted by the Scottish Nation

with disregard

and cries of righteous indignation

from each backyard.

For, like so many past marauders,

he had barely reached the borders,

when he received his marching orders

‘Pull on your pants

or you will bear  the weary warder’s

woeful glance’.

You know that walking in the nude

is not desired by Holyrood,

your motives could be misconstrued

and will not please

unless they’re legally approved

by MSPs.

The Journalists, who like to think

they know how low a man can sink,

thought they had found the ‘missing link’,

but showed no shot

(although they had been tickled pink)

of what he’d got.

Now officers, the thin blue line,

said, ‘Here’s a very heinous crime’

and one we are inclined to find

much worse than thieving.

If we can see him doing time,

we’ll not be grieving.

So he was banged up in the nick

with bars of iron and walls of brick,

but oh his skin was much too thick,

when he came forth

with only boots and hat and pack,

he marched on north.

They said, whatever way you view it,

there’s no way we can let him do it,

because the Tourist Board could sue.

It’s clear as day

there’s no commercial angle to it

for the SDA.

Before he walks another mile,

incarcerate him without trial

and keep him there in durance vile.

Then at New Year

release him with a twisted smile

in winter gear.

But all this did not do the trick.

He walked from Dingwall on to Wick,

though January’s snow was thick

and it was sleeting,

but all the folk who were not sick,

were there to greet him,

saying there cannot be a reason

to come to Caithness out of season

unless he finds it rather pleasing

to rape and pillage

and that is why he has no clothes on

in town and village.

But then! He looks so full of beans,

he is the answer to our dreams

to bring some cold-resistance genes

to John o’Groats;

so let us show him what it means

to be good hosts.

They said, no effort should be spared;

he’s here to celebrate the bard

and now we’ve seen his calling card

we know that he has earned the right

to reap his very just reward

and toast the lassies day and night

And so, with every grievance mending

the story has a happy ending,

for all the folk, there’s no pretending,

were quite delighted

to learn the PM was intending

to see him knighted.

Was six years at the Queen’s own pleasure

unjustified by any measure?

But now she’s severed this long tether;

and, glancing down with regal eyes,

has dubbed the nation’s latest treasure,

‘ Bold Sir Rambelar Arise!’

and all the guests were heard to say,

He is the man who leads the way

to teach us how it is to stand

bare at the throne on Judgement Day.

The Naked Rambler