Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Joan Cairns - 89 and still going strong

Joan Cairns alias Mrs Roll-Mops and some of her friends!

Ten years ago, when she was a sprightly 79-year old, the Yorkshire Dales poet Joan Cairns published her chapbook: Fell Dancing ... remembering Alec, a 40-page collection of her poems. A signed copy recently arrived at the Poet-in-Residence residence.

Regular readers of these pages and the poetry2010 project will be acquainted with a small selection of Joan's work and will know the quality to expect.

In her covering letter Joan Cairns writes: Leyburn Writers Group was started last year and we are just a small rural concern, but through them I have found some kindred spirits and the desire to go on writing ...

Today, at the ripe young age of 89, Joan Cairns is assembling her volume of work which is straggling about and waiting to be licked into some sort of shape. Yes, it's incredible, but Joan is bringing together a collection of her finest poems to mark her 90th year.

Old Cat

Years ago you came with banners flying
hanselling the house,
pricked up to curiosity
and mischief.

You are our household Familiar
imprinting us
with your elegance
and your distinctive cry.

Now old age needs my lap
for stiff joints
and fading light
yet sometimes

a half remembered instinct
draws you
flowing from me like water
out into the night

Joan Cairns 2000,2010


  1. What a find--this blog and Joan Cairns. Thank you for doing this good work. Give me more.

  2. I agree with Poet in Residence that OLD IS GOLD. Joan's poem is a real gem.
    R K

  3. I have already rung Joan to tell her that you are featuring her today. This afternoon I am taking her to our Poetry afternoon, where about a dozen of us get together to read our favourite poems and discuss them - it is always wide-ranging - Donne to Morgan and all stages in between.
    She is thrilled to be featured in blogland!
    "Cat" is dead now, of course. His name was Romeo and he was an absolute character - her poem brings him alive. Hernext cat,
    Ellington, is just as much of a character Last week he came home flea-ridden so she has been active de-fleaing the whole house!
    As well as being a poet Joan was also a member of the BBC Chorus for many years and has been a professional musician all her working life. She still plays piano regularly and is busy rehearsing for the local Christmas Pantomime. She is the only person I know who can transpose a piece into any key immediately - and all without any music.

  4. What a great flow to this poem. More power to her pen in 90th year and more.

  5. This is a fabulous piece of writing, Joan. I've popped over by suggestion of our dear Weaver of Grass, and I'm so glad I did!

  6. glorious.

    old cats are a quiet treasure. young ones are cute but annoying.

  7. Thank you to KD, RK Singh, Gordon, Willow and Clowncar for your comments and a special thank you to Weaver (Pat) who put me in touch with Joan Cairns and who first brought her poetry to my notice. In the 48 hours since I published Joan's post more than 200visitors have been here to read the poem Old Cat. Well done, Joan!
    ps-Joan does not have a computer and does not blog.

  8. Dear Poets in Residence,
    I'm Gus Cairns, Joan's son, and sadly I have to tell you she died this Saturday 18th June, on the 13th anniversary of her husband's death. Her house is full of poems and memoirs and we intend to publish some in the future. If any of you knew Joan and read this in time, her funeral is at 1pm on Friday 1 July at St Oswald's church, Askrigg.

  9. Thank you Gus, and I should mention (thanks Pat!) there's a tribute YouTube video featuring Joan at her musical and lively best - simply enter Joan Cairns in the usual YouTube searchbox.


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