Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections: Bill Drummond

Bill Drummond | 10th December 2023

Bill Drummond reinterprets the Book of Revelation.

Verse One of Chapter 21 of The Book of Revelation

Find an audio version of this piece below:


21:31 Wednesday the 15th of November 2023 

Like that cheque and postal order…

Like those letters from the rich… 

And the poor…

And of course… 

That letter to the girl next door… 

I am on the night train crossing that border… 

As in on the train from Euston Station down in London, to Central Station up in Glasgow. 

Tomorrow morning, I will be attending the funeral of my sister’s husband. He was 93 and had lived a full and rich life. He had been to places (Saint Kilda) that I have spent my life longing to go to. And he had lived his adult life in Glasgow, which right now is probably the culturally richest city on these islands.


My sister asked me if I would do a reading from The Bible at the funeral service. I agreed without stopping to wonder what verses she might choose. Then I got the email. She wanted me to read Verses One to Seven of Chapter 21 from the Book of Revelation.

If you are someone with any experience of The Bible, you will know this to be the most mind-blowing and challenging of all the books in The Bible. So ‘mind-blowing and challenging’ that it hardly made it into the King James translation.

I love the Book of Revelation.


As stated, I agreed to my sister’s request without reading the words first.

But on this Night Train – with the letters of thanks and letters from banks and the letters of joy, from girl and boy – I have been reading these verses one to seven from the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Revelation, and something has been shifting.

My childhood, like many millions around the world, was filled by and inspired by readings from The Bible. Those readings framed my understanding of the world. They were our references points in so much of life, and in what life confronted us with. Anyone who had ever written a pop song, of any genre, knew they could make a passing reference to a story in The Bible, and every passing listener to that song, would get the reference. Or that was the case up until Punk and Disco. From then on, those references seem to disappear. They evaporated. I guess other references took their place. Ones that I might not get. Things move on, as they are supposed to do. If things did not move on what would the point of art be?

But in the past forty minutes or so, as I have been reading and re-reading those Seven Verses, I have found myself tampering with the words of my beloved King James Translation. I found myself challenging what I was reading. One of the things I love about the idea of The Bible is, it has been translated so many times. Translated more times than any book that has ever existed. It almost feels like The Bible exists to challenge you to translate it one more time.

And that is what I have found myself doing.

I did not bother with that academic thing, as in attempting to go back to whatever might be the historical roots of these words. Instead, I have run fast and loose with the poetry of them. But at the same time, I am hoping that I am staying true to some inner truth lurking within them. This of course is dangerous territory. But whatever I have been doing cannot be worse than the translation of the New Testament that was first published in the 1960. This translation was called the New English Bible. It was a book that dispensed with almost two thousand years’ worth of poetry, under the pretext, it was making the Word of God more readable for the modern man. It did the opposite. 


Now is not the time to go into the failings of the New English Bible. Now is the time to start translating those seven verses from Chapter 21 of the Book of Revelation, for my sister’s husband’s funeral in the morning.


In doing so, I have not been able to stop my mind racing ahead. Maybe I should not stop at just these seven short verses.


After completing The 25 Paintings twelve year world tour, I should use whatever bonus years and months and days and hours and seconds left, to translate whatever verses or chapters or books of The Bible that find their way to my pen.


What I write might be known as The Galloverse Translation. As for how are where this translation will be published, I will start by just scribbling it on street walls and the doors of public lavatories; inside phone boxes on flyposted posters. Out there and everywhere.


What follows is my first attempt at those seven verses from chapter 21 of the Book of Revelation – and yes, I used The King James as my starting point.

As for things being lost in translation, I am more interested in what can be found in translation.

1 And The People saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

2And The People saw a New Dawn, rising before them. And The People saw the Black Thorn Blossom of Spring as if for the first time. 

And The People heard a small voice from the Black Thorn Blossom saying, ‘Behold, The New Dawn is with The People, and The New Dawn will dwell with The People, and The New Dawn shall be with The People, and be their New Dawn’.

4 ‘And The New Dawn shall try to wipe away all tears from The People’s eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.’

And the first Swift of Spring swept across the sky. And the Black Thorn Blossom said to The People, ‘Behold, I make all things new’. And The Black Thorn Blossom said, ‘The Swift has returned, and the Rooks are rebuilding their nests’.

And the Black Thorn Blossom said unto The People, ‘It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will try to give freely unto you, the water of life.’

And the Black Thorn Blossom said ‘The People shall not inherit all things; but the New Dawn is rising, and The Curlew is calling, and The People shall be my children.’

And right now, I am actually crossing the border…

And tomorrow I will find some disused phone boxes and start the publication in earnest.

Verse Seven of Chapter 21 of The Book of Revelation