Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Makar pens poem tribute to binmen in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Makar Christine De Luca Image copyright City of Edinburgh Council
Image caption Edinburgh Makar Christine De Luca penned Strictly Street Dancing after spending a morning shadowing bin men out collecting rubbish

Edinburgh Makar Christine De Luca has paid tribute to the capital's refuse collection service with a poem.

The poet penned Strictly Street Dancing after spending a morning shadowing bin men out collecting rubbish.

It will now be added to Edinburgh Unsung, a collection of poems by various writers celebrating the important work of those in the capital "which goes largely unnoticed".

It includes poems about carers, grave-diggers and night bus drivers.


Strictly street dancing

for Edinburgh's Waste & Cleansing Department

  • Bins lurk in starlit chill.

Fifteen tonners rev,

beams sweep tarmac.

Rotas are ticked,

men leap aboard,

double gloved, high vis'd.

  • There's a mix of new Scots and

Edinburgh-through-and-through Scots:

crews with two loaders, and a driver

skilled to reverse up cul de sacs,

wind past parked cars,

leave side-mirrors intact.

  • They watch out for each other,

know the drill to make it flow:

grab two bins, birl them, make a pair,

nudge them to the cradle, check and

trundle them back, grab two more…

it's a Dashing White Sergeant

  • it's a repertoire, with rhythm

and precision, a get up and go.

Bins dance in sequence too:

handstands, a wobble, balance, then

down to waiting hands, while

the hopper compacts and gobbles.

  • Stop, start, stop, start. Keep your cool

with drivers in a hurry. A gap: a minute

of banter, snatch of song, drive on.

They know their route by heart:

each cobbled street, each judder, jolt,

each turning place, each missing bin.

  • And a cheery wave to the child who,

like the boy awaiting the lamp-lighter,

watches at her window:

their momentary attention

their brightness

their beaming smiles.


Ms De Luca visited the staff she had shadowed on Thursday - Robert Gyorfi, Trevor Kelly and Kevin Manson - to present them with a framed, signed copy of the poem.

Image copyright Christine De Luca
Image caption The three binment have been presented with signed copies of the poem

She said: "I was delighted when many other Edinburgh poets agreed to help me create an online anthology of poems celebrating those who daily undertake some of the lesser-seen jobs in our city, jobs like waste water and sewage management, looking after the civic clocks, doing the laundry in care homes, driving the night buses.

"For some unknown reason it proved difficult to get a poem for the waste and cleansing department in time for the launch.

"However, that has now been put right.

"I was delighted to be allowed to join a crew on one of the big 'motors' for an early morning shift, well before winter set in. It was a fascinating journey.

"The resulting poem may seem light-hearted but it has serious intent, to pay tribute to those who daily, and sometimes in appalling weather and traffic conditions, keep our city much cleaner and safer than it would otherwise be.

"The little girl in the poem reminded me of the young Stevenson in his well-known poem The Lamplighter."

Lesley Hinds, City of Edinburgh Council's transport and environment convener, said: "Our waste and cleansing staff carry out an essential and challenging job here in the capital, which so often goes unnoticed and unappreciated.

"That's why I'm delighted to see their efforts recognised by Christine De Luca's wonderful study, 'Strictly street dancing'.

"The poem not only captures the detail of their day-to-day duties, but sheds light on the people beneath the hi-vis jackets."

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