by Hannah Beth Nicholson


Gansey (n) a jersey. [O.Sc. & E.dial. gansey (orig. garnsey): a woollen jersey, esp. one worn by fishermen; originally a garment of the sort from the island of Guernsey]

(From ‘Shetland Words: A dictionary of the Shetland dialect’ by Alasdair and Adaline Christie-Johnston)


As a Magnie in the city, I wear my Fair Isle knitwear

Like an extra skin. It sits cosy and warm

And protective across my shoulders, and proudly

It displays my heritage, a woollen badge of honour

Worn like a mantle. The patterned yoke

Adorns it like a mayoral medallion, the alternating

Snowflakes and fir trees like a Norwegian winter scene.

Carefully conceived by one more talented

And swifter of hand than I, the repeating motif

Is framed by the bright block colour surrounding it.


To me it is a symbol of the identity

That I struggle to retain, as I live

In a place unfamiliar where I was not born

And raised, when I have to put on airs

And affect my accent for the folk I meet.

Each time I feel my mother tongue slipping,

I pull it around me like a blanket

Instead of shedding it like snakeskin,

Clinging tightly to a constant remnant of home

And keeping my roots as close as I can.