'The Spear of Amergin' was commissioned as part of THE WRITTEN IMAGE exhibition at Edinburgh Printmakers, a collaboration between artists and poets

Background to ‘The Spear of Amergin’: Alexander Hutchison (1943 - 2015) and David Faithfull
David Faithfull and Alexander Hutchison decided they shared an interest in throwing things: Faithfull being part of the team that won the international stone skimming championship in 2011 on the island of Easdale (Eilean Eisdeal) in the Firth of Lorn, and Hutchison a javelin thrower – a basic spear chucker – at school, then university.

The image in the print ‘The Spear of Amergin’ was inspired by two main sources: first, the cache of eight spruce and pine throwing spears found in an open-cast lignite mine near Schöningen in Germany in the 1990’s. These were well preserved, just slightly smaller than modern day javelins, and left near the remains of horses (equus moschabensis), red deer and European bison. The evidence of organised hunting, and even ritual use, is remarkable, since the weapons were dated up to 400,000 years old, and even recent estimates give the emergence of homo sapiens at below 200,000 years. Modern replicas were thrown by athletes out to a distance of 70 metres.
Comparisons may be drawn between these finds and our second main source, the Clacton spear tip, made from yew and discovered in interglacial deposits in the south of England in 1911. This was estimated to come from a similar time frame – the Lower Palaeolithic – and is still reckoned to be the oldest wooden artifact ever found in these islands.
The text is based on lines from ‘The Song of Amergin’ in the Book of Leinster – one of the most important sources of medieval Irish literature, genealogy and mythology –set down as the words of the Milesian bard and judge Amergin when he invoked the spirit of Ireland and laid claim to it. Amergin there links himself to all sources of natural and prophetic power and skill.


Image: Alexander Hutchison and August Kleinzahler in 1981 (taken from his website: http://www.alexanderhutchison.com/)

Sandy and I shared a love of throwing things.

We had started carving spears from ash saplings we'd both collected in Pollok Housel Woods in Glasgow.

We'd aimed to have a throwing competition and hurl them on a football pitch.

Sandy reckoned he could still hit a target half way up the itch from the goal line.


Chronicle of the hunter of forms:

Of the white stag killed in the off-eye; grain struck

            dropped from the husk.

Given the distinction between what one does and what one is.

Between the world ignored and reckoned new;

Between perfect technique and perfect attunement;

Between this here now and everything else.

Willow and river-sand, rain-bangled water.

By Grantown fleet and Rothes to Fochabers' iron bridge,

And bothies tar-streaked by Tugnet at the mouth,

Sheer the Spey shifts.

Wind flattens grey-headed grasses,

Gulls lag or lapse to a sable sea.

Looking back to real beginnings, felicitous,

When the mind goes like a skipping stone across the water,

Planets at each dip, sun and simple air at every rise –

That man the master of hawks enjoyed his land free,

Had a hand-breadth of wax-candle to feed his birds

And light him to bed.

When he hunted, hawk and hunter shared the prey.