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The Bard of the Braes of Balquhidder

Magi McGlyn, Balquhidder hermit, image from DC Thomson, Dundee Courier, 28/4/2014 While decluttering recently my wife drew my attention to an article by Derek Lambie.which she had kept from the Dundee Courier of 28th April 2014.

Derek reported that Magi McGlynn, the bard of Balquhidder, was worried that he would not be able to vote in the 2014 referendum as his ramshackle hut in Auchtubh, Balquhidder does not have a postal address.

Derek wrote that the bard who pens patriotic poetry about Scottish Independence from his reclusive hideaway in the woods of Balquhidder was pleading for assistance to ensure that he could have a vote.

Living rough in one of Scotland's most spectacular glens and habitually dressed in a grubby kilt, leather jacket and bonnet, Magi has been described as a modern-day cross between William Wallace and Robert Burns.

Since 1991, the poet, who calls himself the "Bard of the Braes of Balquhidder" has written hundreds of poems and songs from the shelter of his stone "bender", not far from Rob Roy's grave.

Yet Magi was concerned that he would be unable to cast his vote in the Referendum because his primitive dwelling might not qualify him to join the electoral register. So he asked election officials at Stirling Council to help him find a way to take part in the Referendum.

Magi McGlynn, who was born in 1954, said "I can vote with my heart, I can vote with my head, but that's not the same. For me, there would be no better feeling than to be able to put my cross in that box."

Mr McGlynn gave up a conventional life in 1991 to help establish one of Scotland's first organic eco gardens. A former apprentice glassblower, he set up camp with 50 other people in the township of Auchtubh, near the Kirkton of Balquhidder, but the landowner soon served eviction notices on the community. Magi said that the trauma caused his partner to give birth prematurely and their daughter died shortly after her birth on the banks of a stream.

Magi refused to leave and still lives on the same site in his makeshift home. He may not be technically homeless but he feared that he would not be able to vote as he does not have a recognized postal address. Electoral Commission officials said that registering as if he was homeless via a "declaration of local connection" application would be the answer. The official said that anyone can still have their say at any election or referendum even if they do not have a fixed address. The declaration allows an individual to register any location where they spend a large proportion of their time including, for example, a park bench. However, any final decision has to be made by the electoral registrar of the relevant local authority, in this case Stirling Council.

Magi is a well kent face throughout Scotland, and certainly one of our most active poets in Scots. He is also a musician and his performances of music and poetry are increasingly appearing on youtube. Musick Art and Dance is one of his favourite poems although it has never previously been in print. Magi is very much part of the oral tradition, being descended from the Williamsons and the Stewarts. This poem well expresses his heartfelt belief in the future of our country. -
Musick Art and Dance by Magi McGlynn

Magi's rendition on YouTube of "A Man's a Man For a' that", by Robert Burns

From the Dundee Courier, 23rd May 2023.

Magi (Rodney) McGlynn: Hermit and Bard of Balquhidder dies aged 69
Always dressed in a kilt, Magi styled himself as the Bard of Balquhidder and wrote hundreds of poems and songs, many in support of Scottish independence
He lived for 32 years in a stone shelter in the glen and battled authorities who tried to evict him.

Magi, who was born in Perth, raised a family in the glen which he sustained with organic gardening. His birth name was Rodney and he and his partner Gillian sent their three children to the local primary school when they were young. He is believed to have grown up in the Letham area of Perth and attended Goodlyburn Secondary, part of Perth Academy. Rodney was known to have been a bit unruly in his youth but changed his life completely in 1991.

He had worked as a glassblower in Perth but became part of a movement of people wishing to return to a simpler existence. Magi set up camp with around 50 other like-minded people at Auchtubh near Balquhidder. They built their own shelters and developed an eco-garden to supply food.

Always dressed in a kilt, bonnet and sometimes a plaid, Magi styled himself as the Bard of Balquhidder and wrote hundreds of poems and songs, many in support of Scottish independence.

Later in 1991, the then Stirling District Council, began legal action against the dozen or so families living in tepees, tents, stone shelters and old buses on the land owned by smallholder Albert Sauer. However, by late in 1992, the other families had moved on, leaving on Magi and Gillian. Their newborn daughter, Verily, had died in September of that year and was buried near their shelter. They went on to have three other children. The couple won the right to remain but when Mr Sauer moved away, council officials tried to persuade the new owners, Sandy and Cathy Noble, to throw the McGlynns off the land. For almost five years, Magi faced court appearances until, in 1997, the council announced it was taking no further action against the family. Magi said after his victory: “We wanted to stay here in the Braes of Balquhidder near the Mountain of God and the Mountain of the Fairies. “The last six years have been like living in the shadow of the Highland Clearances.”

The family’s shelter was heated by a home-made wood stove but after his court success and with a greater sense of security, Magi, re-roofed his home with thatch and developed a herb garden on the banks of a burn. Although their home had no sanitation or running water, the family kept clean by scrubbing in the burn.

The Courier report ended "It is expected that Magi’s funeral will take place in Comrie."
Magi McGlyn, Balquhidder exterior of hut, image from DC Thomson, Dundee Courier, 23/5/2023 Magi McGlyn, Balquhidder inside of hut, image from DC Thomson, Dundee Courier, 23/5/2023