Rock the boat

Janette with Vietnames boat people
Janette (holding child) with members of the Vietnamese community

While celebrating Burns Night, we want to give special attention to another inspirational poet who has done a lot for our community.

Janette Husband, nee Valentine, was an activist, community worker, singer, songwriter, poet and baker who dedicated her life to supporting the people around her and to making a difference in the world.

Her list of contributions to her community is long. She worked as a youth worker as well as the general secretary of the Carlisle Council for Voluntary Services, and she was involved in the settlement of the Vietnamese refugees in Scotland. She was also the secretary for a local LGBT group and she opened up her home for right to work marchers, runaways to Gretna and women escaping abusive relationships. She was also fundamental in the formation of Carlisle Women’s Aid.

After retirement, besides setting up a Burns centred theatre group, driving route 66, and touring New Zealand on a motorbike, Janette published three collections of poetry. We are honoured to have been given the permission by her family to post one of those poems today.

DINNA ROCK THE BOAT (Janette Valentine, from Poems and an odd song, 1990)

From the time that I was young,

I looked around to see

All the sorrows in the world

And the inequality.

In simple childhood innocence

I voiced that this was wrong,

But I was taught to ask not why

And to heed this little song.


Dinna rock the boat, lassie,

Dinna rock the boat,

For all is well

We want no swell,

So be sure don’t rock the boat.


But still in work and play I questioned

As I’ve gone through life,

As I’ve witnessed all the poverty,

The cruelty and strife.

I thought of folk like Shaftesbury

And Wilberforce of yore:

If the establishment had silenced them,

Our burdens would be more.


So rock rock the boat, lassie,

Rock rock the boat,

For all’s not well,

We need that swell,

So be proud to rock the boat.

Janette passed away on November 18, 2018. She is survived by her four children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Scottish Refugee Council is deeply touched by Janette’s story and inspired by her contribution to society. We have received generous support from the Husband family in Janette’s name and for that we are hugely  grateful.


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