AH hud a braw stairt tae the week when a frien emailed me tae lat me ken ah’d bin nemmed joint first prize winner o this year’s McCash Poetry Competition, rin bi Glesga University an The Herald newspaper. Ma winnin poem, Ayont The Sun, wis prentit in Monday’s edeetion o The Herald.

As readers o this column micht ken, the ettle o it is tae presairve, encourage an gie a platform fir the written Scots leid in a national newspaper. The McCash Prize hus kindae the same ettle an it is the main poetry prize gien in Scotland fir poetry screivit in Scots.

The prize wis foundit in 1973 bi James A McCash of Gallowhill, BSc 1924, in memory o his brither William Martin McCash, MB 1921, and o his sister Margaret Stewart Lithgow McCash, MD 1929 – the McCash family hud strang links wi Glesga University. It is awarded annually fir the selected best poem in Scots oan the recommendation o a commattee appynted bi the heid o Scottish Literature o the University o Glesga. Ony form o Scots language usage wull be conseidert.

The prize may be dividit or may be withhauden in ony year gin in the judgement o the selection commattee nae poem of sufficient merit is pitten forrit. Sae, aa in aa, tae be the recipient o the McCash Prize is a muckle honour an is a stievely focht contest in the Scottish leeterary calendar.

The judges this year wir the estimable poetry editor o The Herald Lesley Duncan, Professor Alan Riach, the current chair o Scottish literature at Glesga Uni, an the National Library o Scotland’s Scots Scriever in Residence, playwright an dramatist Hamish McDonald. Alan Riach, himsel an accomplished poet, wull be launchin his new collection, The Winter Book, this verra evening in the Scottish Poetry Library, at Crichton’s Close, Embra, at 6.30pm, sae gin ye’d like tae hear some braw modren poetry get yersel alang tae this! Alan wull be readin alangside masel at an event at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum oan Sunday, June 4 – ah’ll ettle tae provide mair details o this later.

Ah share the McCash Prize wi the kenspeckle Scots makar Sheila Templeton. Sheila wis brocht up in the nor east o Scotland an her ain naitrel leid is the braw Doric Scots o that airt. She alsae hus the maist mellifluous vyce an is a byordnar an captivatin reader o her wark – try an get tae hear her readin sometime gin ye can!

Nou ah ken there’s a wheen o sad fowk oot there fir wham the Scots leid seems tae be a mystery tae, an aften oan Twitter an Facebuik they wull be makkin bourachs o theirsels an behavin in embarrassin fashion due tae their sad ignorance o written Scots. This column an ploys sic as the McCash dae their best tae educate an enlichten sic fowk but alas, aftimes we dinnae succeed an these fowk conteenue tae frolic oan insanity beach!

As stated here afore, Scots language is ane o the keystanes o Scottish culture; raicent political events anely gang tae unnerscore the centuries o hairm an erosion that haes bin dealt tae the Scots leid throu the Union wi England. Frae the general uptake o an English language version o the bible in the 16th century an the feck o early prentit warks bein produced in Englis; throu the Union o the Crouns in 1603; the Union o Pairliaments in 1707; thair haes bin a lang, slae devale o spaken, an mair sae written, Scots in oor kintra. Thenkfully, Scotland’s "unacknowledged legislators" (tae quote the Englis poet Keats) – oor poets an makars – hae aye bin the drivin force tae keep the Scots leid alive.

Tho sairly stigmatised, Scots haes bin championed bi a lang an conteenuin leet o fawmous poets; from the 18th century we hae Alan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson and Robert Burns. In the 19th century. Walter Scott an James Hogg. The early 20th century saw a radical renaissance in Scots, wi Hugh MacDiarmid, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Violet Jacob, Marion Angus, etc. In the late 20th century we’d Robert Garioch Sutherland, Edwin Morgan, Tom Leonard an Liz Lochhead.

Nou, in the 21st century we hae Scots Makar Jackie Kay, Don Paterson, Kathleen Jamie, Sheila Templeton, an e’en masel. This cuttie leet is bi nae means exhaustive; thair are hunners o nems that cuid be addit tae it! But aa these makars hae duin an are daein their bit tae keep Scots a leevin, braithin, virr an gleg language. It’s anely the likes o thae puir puggies in the Twitter trees that wid disagree wi this!

An sae ilka year the McCash Poetry Competition an prize (an the siller is nae deif nits fir a poetry competition!) is advertised an attracts poems in aa sorts ae Scots frae aa ower the warld. There hus aye bin some weird glamorie that seems tae compel us Scots tae write poetry; be’t a bit o rhymin doggerel tae celebrate a frien’s retirement, or handsel in a new wean; else new makars makkin that lowp frae bein a glorified ryhmer tae tryin their haund at serious “on the page” poetry; tae established Scottish makars wha are writin the poems that a thousand year frae nou wull pent a picture in wirds o the times that we leeve in.

Sae why no hae a go yersels!? Poetry an poets hae tae stairt somewhaurs. There’s clubs, an poetry magazines, an readins an events at buik festivals; we hae the braw Scottish Poetry Library in Embra. Acause somebody oot there wull see their nem oan the McCash Prize neist year. It micht be you!

Rab Wilson is a Scots poet and health campaigner