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From Matt Baker

Foggy Beltie Cap

When the earths crust thickened and cooled deeply, it cracked and four avenues dropped neatly in lines: four invitations for four rivers – Annan, Nith, Dee and Cree. Water washing soil over the rock posted another invite – for a beast to graze the land, to break it with footprints for germinating seeds and to re-fertilise it with their dung.

We know the coos, slabbed together on a cold, damp morning their breath hanging together like the breath of the earth, or contented and dispersed across a summer field chewing in deep rhythm. We know them as part of the oneness of our place.

Our land is pasture land, home to a kinship between humankind and cookind that has spawned a million inventions with milk, meat and leather.

Our coos have been our wealth, their mobility precious in times that you couldn’t hide a field of barley from ancient raiders. Always moving from winter to summer pastures and to market over Nith, Annan, Dee and Cree.

Humans moved too, in tough times we spread far across the seas and as migrants found their feet they called for their coos to follow. Great Uncle Jimmy raised shorthorn cattle in Wigtownshire to send on boats to the Argentine. The canny exiles sent us meat home in cans. Corned beef is still the favourite food of one of Jimmy’s daughters and the other drank unpasteurised milk straight from the farm all her days.

We are Nithraid and this land is where we bide, so we race the tide up our river to release the salty spirit of Coo.


Nithraid was concieved as a public artwork to activate the riverside in Dumfries in the summer of 2013, and bring new focus and people down to celebrate the Nith. Now in it’s third year Dumfries is preparing to welcome sailors up river to the heart of the town when Nithraid 2015 will sail into town on Sunday, 2nd of August. Nithraid is free and open to all to attend, and last year saw crowds of 4,000 lining the banks to watch the winning boats cross the finish line. Find out more about this years Nithraid here

The discussion is open, and we invite contributions to our artistic conversations – whether you have been involved in Nithraid in previous years, are interested in the changing face of public art and when a sailing race is also an artwork, please get in touch via the comments box below or to send your contribution please email [email protected]

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