Beira and Bride

It’s #NationalPoetryDay 2022 and as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories we celebrate the bonds between traditional dance and poetry with a new Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland commission. Beira and Bride is a newly-commissioned poem by Donald Smith, an Edinburgh-based storyteller, novelist, playwright and performance poet. He is an author and contributor to numerous books, including The Anthology of Scottish Folk Tales (The History Press, 2020).

Donald’s poem is the starting point for a new screen dance reimagining the mythological worlds inhabited by the Celtic and Egyptian mothers of Earth, including Beira and Bride. Expect a beautifully compelling and vital piece of storytelling and movement for the screen. Follow us for more behind the scenes stories, including the announcement of our screen dance award here.



Donald Smith


From the city, weary work and toil,

Follow the river, climb the glen

Till we reach the high hills

Where from the Cailleach’s cave

Light spills out before winter’s dark.

There old mother Cailleach milks her deer

Sacred hinds of the mountain.

And beside her the old bodach

Father of time and season

Tends the fire and makes dreams.

Scatter, cast, catch

Those precious sparks, dream makers.

Photo by Bjorn Snelders/unsplash


Lined weathered wise – winter

Changes Cailleach’s face to hard

Beak nosed Beira.

Like a giantess she strides the land

Washes her cloak in the whirlpool

Lays it white and frozen

Mantling frost, snow, ice

Covers, smothers all sign of life.

Beira locks her daughter

Gentle Bride of the springs and herbs

Fast in the mountain, rock beaten

Shut by iron blows,

She unleashes the storm blasts

Wild goats of the wind gusts

And the black swooping wings of death.

Photo by Edward Penna/unsplash


Now Bride is slave and skivvie

Sent out to wash the filthy fleeces

Breaking open icy streams

Hands chapped, chilled to the bone.

Till one cold sunrise she sees

Green cress below the ice

Then snowdrops nodding on the bank

Frail flower heralds of spring.

Soon ducklings bob in the melting stream.

‘Tell her, tell her’ says plant, and flower and bird –

‘Beira’s time is ending,

Her power is waning.’

Photo by Simon Berger/unsplash


But Beira will not yield, adamant,

She beats shut the rock hard mountain

She drives anew the wild storm’s rage.

She holds back the rising sun-

White horsed Angus in his golden prime

Forced back by sleet and hail.

Yet the primroses are pushing through

Tree buds stretch and strain

Till the mountain gates swing open

And Bride comes wandering free.

Photo by Patrick Hendry/unsplash


Goddess of Spring, and healing arts,

Bride spreads her cloak of moss and blossom

Mantling green seedful earth.

All shifts, stirs, rustles, reaches to the sun.

Bride will welcome spring and summer,

Life and love.


But Beira turns aside to ride

The failing storm to the last ramparts

Of rock and ice, the wailing wind.

With fading strength, a frail boat

She pushes out through lapping seaweed

Fronds, gulls wheel and cry.

Photo by Rosie Steggles/unsplash


Calming waves soothe, carrying Beira

Rise and fall, rise and fall,

Resting once more like Cailleach.

Harsh features worn softer

Old mother crone can slumber,

Under a crescent moon,

Until first grey dawning,

Far west, far shore boat bumps aground.

Out she crawls with last failing breath

To touch the well of the water,

Three drops of life on Cailleach’s tongue.

She will sleep and dream of milking deer

On the high hills

And mountain fire and bodach love.

She will return in season as gentle Bride

To begin the dance once more.

Photo by Mckayla Crump/unsplash


In August 2022 Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland was awarded British Council funding for a new screen dance commission. This autumn we were busy across Edinburgh and Cairo, choreographing and performing for the camera. The world premiere of the new screens dance is planned as part of our Pomegranates 2023 festival. The screen dance teaser will be released online during COP27 running 6–18 November 2022 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

Our screen dance commission is funded by the British Council’s Creative Commissions Egypt for COP27, designed as part of British Council Climate Connections programme.