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‘It’s a huge freedom to be allowed to make things up in your head. I always loved that as a kid.’ Jackie Kay. Brendon Gallacher. By Jackie Kay. Read the poem. Stanza One. Lines – 1,2,5 ‘my Brendon Gallacher ’ is used like a refrain.

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brendon gallacher

‘It’s a huge freedom to be allowed to make things up in your head. I always loved that as a kid.’ Jackie Kay

Brendon Gallacher

By Jackie Kay

stanza one
Stanza One

Lines – 1,2,5 ‘my Brendon Gallacher’ is used like a refrain

Child-like language – a 6 year old – who is gossiping with childish pride

He was seven and I was six, my Brendon Gallacher.

He was Irish and I was Scottish, my Brendon Gallacher.

His father was in prison; he was a cat burglar.

My father was a communist party full-time worker.

He had six brothers and I had one, my Brendon Gallacher.

Cat burglar = a burglar who performs nimble jobs

stanza two
Stanza Two

He would hold my hand and take me by the river

where we'd talk all about his family being poor.

He'd get his mum out of Glasgow when he got older.

A wee holiday some place nice. Some place far.

I'd tell my mum all about my Brendon Gallacher

Brendon Gallacher dreams of getting his mum out of Glasgow for a better life – the speaker wants to tell her mother about Brendon – what might this suggest?

We learn more about Brendon – there is almost a childish romance as he holds the poet’s hand

stanza three
Stanza Three

How his mum drank and his daddy was a cat burglar.

And she'd say, 'Why not have him round to dinner?'

No, no, I'd say, he's not big holes in his trousers.

I like meeting him by the burn in the open air.

Then one day after we'd been friends for two years,

The last line leads into the next stanza – ‘one day’ is repeated in the next stanza

The speaker’s mother invites Brendon round for dinner but the speaker makes excuses

stanza four
Stanza Four

One day when it was pouring and I was indoors,

My mum says to me, 'I was talking to Mrs Moir

who lives next door to your Brendon Gallacher.

Didn't you say his address was 24 Novar?

She says there are no Gallachers at 24 Novar.

The speaker’s mother has been asking around and has discovered that Brendon does not live where the speaker has told them – at this point it is revealed that Brendon is an imaginary friend.

‘One day’ warns the reader that something big is about to happen

stanza five
Stanza Five

The repetition of the name in the last line emphasises the sadness the speaker feels at the ‘death’ of Brendon Gallacher

There never have been any Gallachers next door.'

And he died then, my Brendon Gallacher,

flat out on my bedroom floor, his spiky hair,

his impish grin, his funny, flapping ear.

Oh Brendon. Oh my Brendon Gallacher.

Brendon Gallacher then dies from the speaker’s imagination

It is only now that we are given details about how Brendon actually looked

things to notice
Things to notice
  • Brendon is very different to the narrator
  • He has a big family and is Irish
  • His father is in prison and his mother drinks
  • The narrator’s father has a serious job in politics
  • He dreams of taking his mother away to a better life – this reflects the narrator’s own aspirations for better – which is why she invented Brendon in the first place
jackie kay writes
Jackie Kay writes
  • The poem in a very straightforward manner – with some specific words to Scot’s English
  • The repetition in the poem mimics the way a child speaks
  • The repeated use of ‘he’ and ‘his’ shows the proud possessiveness she feels for him
this poem
This poem
  • Evokes a strong sense of the reality of childhood dreams and fantasies
  • Expresses a sadness at the death of a fantasy in the final line
  • Celebrates the imaginative powers of children
  • Shows a tolerance for those from different backgrounds
  • Brendon is attractive because his family life is so different from the narrator’s