3 Aunt JuliaNorman MacCaig was influenced by visits to his mother’s family in the Highlands of Scotland, even though he was brought up in Edinburgh.
4 Stanza 1Aunt Julia spoke Gaelic very loud and very fast. I could not answer her — I could not understand her.
5 Stanza 2She wore men's boots when she wore any. — I can see her strong foot, stained with peat, paddling with the treadle of the spinning wheel while her right hand drew yarn marvellously out of the air.adverb
6 Hers was the only house where I've lain at night Stanza 3Hers was the only house where I've lain at nightin absolute darkness in a box bed, listening to crickets being friendly.
7 Stanza 4Personification to suggest something about her characterShe was buckets and water flouncing into them. She was winds pouring wetly round house-ends. She was brown eggs, black skirts and a keeper of threepennybits in a teapot.Metaphors to define her hard life
8 Stanza 5AlliterationAunt Julia spoke Gaelic very loud and very fast. By the time I had learned a little, she lay silenced in the absolute black of a sandy grave at Luskentyre.
9 Stanza 5 continuedBut I hear her still, welcoming me with a seagull's voice across a hundred yards of peatscrapes and lazybeds and getting angry, getting angry with so many questions unanswered.
10 Key pointsThe poet pays tribute to his aunt who lived a hard life on the island of Harris in the Western Isles of ScotlandShe had a spinning wheel for producing the famous Harris TweedThe poet uses power of observation to describe her and the settingsShe spoke Gaelic which he could not understand
11 Content – 1st stanza A child’s memory of his aunt– Aunt Julia Main recollection is her language – Gaelic –which he could not understand
12 Content – 2nd stanzaDescribes his aunt and how she seemed strange to him – barefoot, or wearing ‘men’s bootsHis description gives an insight into her way of life
13 Content 3rd stanzaHe recalls the strange experience of sleeping in a box bed but he feels safe there
14 Content 4th stanzaVivid images and metaphor capture aspects of her life: carrying buckets of water as there is no running water
15 Content 5th stanzaBy the time he learned some Gaelic, it was too late to communicate with his Aunt: she had diedHe feels frustrated and ‘angry’ that he was too late to get the chance to chat with her and really get to know herShe could be angry because she didn’t ever experience a life other than her own and didn’t get to know him either.
16 Tone and language Some language is plain and factual The two opening linesMetaphors define her hard life‘She was buckets’Personification is used to suggest something about Aunt Julia’s character‘flouncing’
17 Tone and languageHer ‘seagull’s voice’ is a metaphor to describe her loud, incomprehensible voice!Scottish dialect is used in the poem‘lazybeds’
18 Tone and languageThe repetition of ‘getting angry’ emphasises his frustration at never having talked to herDark images are used throughout the poem to illustrate how basic and bleak things were on the remote island – ‘stained with peat’ ‘absolute darkness’ ‘black skirts’ ‘absolute blackHer loud, fast Gaelic voice is the most memorable thing about her; when she is dead she is ‘silenced’
19 Other cultureMost obviously the Gaelic language – it seems alien as it could not be understoodDescription of features of the landscapeThe spinning wheel used for generations to make Harris tweedThe traditional box bedThe use of an actual place name: Luskentyre
20 WRITTEN TASKSTry your best to work through the eight questions about, ‘Aunt Julia’. Make your answers and detailed and as mature as possible. Use your notes and use the words metaphors and personification!Imagine that you are the young narrator laying in your box bed listening to the friendly crickets, writing a diary entry about your visit to see Aunt Julia.
21 Extension TaskIf you have time, why don’t you try to draw Aunt Julia, and illustrate some of the metaphors around her to show your understanding.