catriona urquhart, 1953-2005

Five years ago today my friend Catriona Urquhart died. At the time we all said it could be no accident that she’d left us on May Day, that turning point of the year she’d always celebrated for being about everything new and green and promising. I’ve previously written about Catriona on the Artlog, but this post is to honour her on the anniversary of her death.

Catriona’s The Mare’s Tale, with illustrations by me, was published by The Old Stile Press in 2001. (The image below, although done for the book, is dated 2002 because it’s from a stand-alone edition of the illustrations made the following year.) Most of the poems are written as though they are recollections by my father. This first one, Iron Horse, begins the story.

Iron Horse


Today I am a train.

I steam into the churchyard.

Hooting cheeks puffed up

with self importance,

I chuff-chuff through the gravestones

of my gentle forebears.


My pistons surge

and with one bound

from Tegwyn Hughes

to Ezra Jones,

I travel all of Wales.


The Principality is mine alone:

the Crumlin Gorge,

the Menai Straits,

there’s none can tame this iron horse.

My power is crushing, absolute,

relentless as I

blow my top and



Miss Francis raps the window

with her crop.

She glowers and threatens,

promising a hiding.

Deflated now, I hiss and puff


and stop

and clank a bit

and idle in a siding.


Aunt Gertie’s grave holds emeralds of moss.

I halt and make a station of her cross.



Catriona Urquhart

Reproduced with the kind permission of the poet’s estate.

5 thoughts on “catriona urquhart, 1953-2005

  1. Fond remembrance of Catriona from many years ago. Only recently learned of her passing. Recollections of her personal warmth, passion for the people around her, and infectious smile and good humor are yet an inspiration.

    • It’s now over seven years since Catriona’s death (two since I wrote the above post), and barely a day goes by without my thoughts drifting toward her. She was a marvel and I miss her still. Always will.

    • Oh you would have got along famously. She was grand company. There was always much laughter wherever she was. I remember once an exhibition opening at which Catriona and another friend of ours, Francesca Kay, met for the first time and got on rather too well. They were like two badly behaved schoolchildren hatching plots and giggling in corners, and I got terribly cross with both of them. They knew they were in trouble from the looks like daggers I was shooting at them, and of course that just made them worse. But I could never be cross with Catriona for very long, even when she was at her most naughty! I’d give a lot to have her around now, making me cross and then reducing me to helpless laughter

      • Ah, that’s a funny-lovely memory! I didn’t know that she died on May Day. I do think people often hold out for significant days, if they can… You were a good friend and co-conspirator on some memorable books. A good thing to remember…

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