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6 November 1986
... It is often late, by chance, and with sudden delight, that we find those poets who later become vital to us. I knew SorleyMacLean by reputation before I felt his authority. His renovation of a poetic tradition, his cross-fertilisation of love and politics, of metaphysical technique and traditional Gaelic modes, of dan direach ...

War Poet

Robert Crawford

24 May 1990
O Choille gu Bearradh/From Wood to Ridge: Collected Poems in Gaelic and English 
by Sorley MacLean.
Carcanet, 317 pp., £18.95, October 1989, 0 85635 844 4
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... The finest poetry written by British citizens during the years 1939-45 was produced by T.S. Eliot and by SorleyMacLean. Each was a British citizen in a very different way. Eliot, more interested in assuming Englishness than Britishness, had already taken the un-English step of giving himself a written constitution ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945

1 April 1999
The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... amount of poetry in its original Welsh, Irish or Scottish Gaelic, accompanied by parallel English translations. O’Brien is more Anglocentric: Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill is in facing-page English, but SorleyMacLean and Iain Crichton Smith, for example, occur only in English, and there is no Welsh-language poetry at all. On the other hand, O’Brien’s selection of English-language poetry casts a wider ...

Flytings

Arnold Rattenbury: Hamish Henderson

23 January 2003
Collected Poems and Songs 
by Hamish Henderson, edited by Raymond Ross.
Curly Snake, 163 pp., £9.99, March 2000, 1 902141 01 6
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... disqualify themselves. Yes, he would follow Blake – almost an article of faith at Our Time. After all, Blake was the only English poet noted in the Elegies, among Hölderlin, Goethe, Denis Saurat, SorleyMacLean, Dante and Ossian. Blake had written, ‘Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau’; Henderson: Fuck on, fuck on, Verlaine, Rimbaud You blissful buggers; fuck again – For on my heart as on ...
9 July 1992
Devolving English Literature 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 320 pp., £35, June 1992, 9780198112983
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The Faber Book of 20th-Century Scottish Poetry 
edited by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 424 pp., £17.50, July 1992, 9780571154319
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... Muir’s text is more dated than he allows for, but it was brave of him to reprint it.) As for Dunn’s even-handedness, consider his verdict on a disagreement between two Gaelic poets of our time, SorleyMacLean and Iain Crichton Smith, about a Gaelic poet of long ago, Rob Dunn (d. 1778). Judging from the poems in the anthology translated by themselves, I will trust MacLean’s opinion over Smith’s ...

Voices

Seamus Deane

21 April 1983
The Pleasures of Gaelic Poetry 
edited by Sean Mac Reamoinn.
Allen Lane, 272 pp., £8.95, November 1982, 0 7139 1284 7
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... since Hugh MacDiarmid, and in Ireland, since Sean O Riordain, there has been a renaissance of poetry in the old language. John Montague sees this renaissance embodied in the person and work of SorleyMacLean (Somhairle Mac Gill-Eain). Montague’s essay is a timely reminder that Ireland and Scotland are separated at their closest point by no more than 11 miles of water and they are connected and ...

Dialect with Army and Navy

David Wheatley: Douglas Dunn and Politovsky

21 June 2001
The Donkey’s Ears: Politovsky’s Letters Home 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 176 pp., £7.99, May 2000, 0 571 20426 0
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The Year's Afternoon 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 81 pp., £7.99, October 2000, 0 571 20427 9
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... its clutch of elegies and morosely ruminated poems of divorce, illness and solitude, an air of premature senescence hangs over The Year’s Afternoon. ‘Three Poets’ elegises Norman MacCaig, SorleyMacLean and George Mackay Brown, a list to which he has added Iain Crichton Smith in the dedication of One Hundred 20th-Century Scottish Poems (2000), a sampler from his earlier Faber anthology ...

The Atmosphere of the Clyde

Jean McNicol: Red Clydeside

22 December 2019
When the Clyde Ran Red: A Social History of Red Clydeside 
by Maggie Craig.
Birlinn, 313 pp., £9.99, March 2018, 978 1 78027 506 2
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Glasgow 1919: The Rise of Red Clydeside 
by Kenny MacAskill.
Biteback, 310 pp., £20, January 2019, 978 1 78590 454 7
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John MacleanHero of Red Clydeside 
by Henry Bell.
Pluto, 242 pp., £14.99, October 2018, 978 0 7453 3838 5
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... There was a belief that the people, once properly informed, would seize the opportunity to control their own fate: ‘We are out for life and all that life can give us,’ the revolutionary John Maclean said at his trial for sedition in 1918. George Square, 31 January 1919 My grandparents met at a Glasgow ILP branch sometime around the end of the First World War, and I’ve always had a rather ...
10 November 1988
MacDiarmid 
by Alan Bold.
Murray, 482 pp., £17.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4585 4
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A Drunk Man looks at the Thistle 
by Hugh MacDiarmid, edited by Kenneth Buthlay.
Scottish Academic Press, 203 pp., £12.50, February 1988, 0 7073 0425 3
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The Hugh MacDiarmid-George Ogilvie Letters 
edited by Catherine Kerrigan.
Aberdeen University Press, 156 pp., £24.90, August 1988, 0 08 036409 8
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Hugh MacDiarmid and the Russian 
by Peter McCarey.
Scottish Academic Press, 225 pp., £12.50, March 1988, 0 7073 0526 8
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... In this first (and authorised) critical biography Bold has done important work in assembling details of Grieve’s early life, so that we see, not only Grieve the friend of Red Clydesiders John MacLean and James Maxton, but also the Grieve whose Scottish nationalism was encouraged by his rejection by English girls. Heady on his home-brew of Nietzsche, John Davidson, and almost any other literary ...

Diary

Kathleen Jamie: Whale Watching

29 November 2001
... and a slice of lemon cake, I’m leafing through a book about the way the Gaels and the Gaeltacht have been portrayed in images ranging from Victorian paintings to modern TV. There’s an essay by SorleyMacLean and reproductions of paintings like The Last of the Clan and The Monarch of the Glen. There are cruel cartoons of troglodyte Highlanders, and endless hilarity concerning sporrans. One early ...
17 July 1997
John Muir: His Life and Letters and Other Writings 
edited by Terry Gifford.
Baton Wicks, 912 pp., £20, November 1996, 1 898573 07 7
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... wholly extempore and unrecorded sermons and prayers’ whose ‘astonishing wealth of imagery and illustration, sometimes sonorously eloquent and sometimes racily colloquial’, was regarded by SorleyMacLean as the ‘great prose’ of the (Gaelic) Presbyterian culture. Muir had escaped from the fundamentalist Christianity of his father. When they set brush fires in Wisconsin to clear scrubland ...
20 June 1985
Firing Line 
by Richard Holmes.
Cape, 436 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 224 02043 9
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The Right of the Line: The Royal Air Force in the European War 1939-1945 
by John Terraine.
Hodder, 841 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 340 26644 9
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The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book 
by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt.
Viking, 804 pp., £25, May 1985, 0 670 80137 2
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’45: The Final Drive from the Rhine to the Baltic 
by Charles Whiting.
Century, 192 pp., £7.95, March 1985, 0 7126 0812 5
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In the Ruins of the Reich 
by Douglas Botting.
Allen and Unwin, 248 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 9780049430365
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1945: The World We Fought For 
by Robert Kee.
Hamish Hamilton, 371 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 241 11531 0
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VE Day: Victory in Europe 1945 
by Robin Cross.
Sidgwick, 223 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 283 99220 4
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One Family’s War 
edited by Patrick Mayhew.
Hutchinson, 237 pp., £10.95, May 1985, 0 7126 0812 5
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Poems of the Second World War: The Oasis Selection 
edited by Victor Selwyn.
Dent, 386 pp., £12, May 1985, 0 460 10432 2
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My Life 
by Bert Hardy.
Gordon Fraser, 192 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 86092 083 6
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Victory in Europe: D Day to VE Day 
by Max Hastings and George Stevens.
Weidenfeld, 192 pp., £10.95, April 1985, 0 297 78650 4
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... intelligence and compassion in these pages, along with such recognised poets of high accomplishment as Gavin Ewart and Henry Reed, Norman Cameron and Robert Garioch, Roy Fuller, Hamish Henderson and SorleyMaclean – and many others wholly unknown to fame. It’s true that sensitive annotation of individual experience was the hallmark of their generation of writers. Owen and Rosenberg had, in a sense ...

Heimat

David Craig

6 July 1989
A Search for Scotland 
by R.F. Mackenzie.
Collins, 280 pp., £16.95, May 1989, 0 00 215185 5
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A Claim of Right for Scotland 
edited by Owen Dudley Edwards.
Polygon, 202 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 7486 6022 4
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The Eclipse of Scottish Culture 
by Craig Beveridge and Ronald Turnbull.
Polygon, 121 pp., £6.95, May 1989, 0 7486 6000 3
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The Bird Path: Collected Longer Poems 
by Kenneth White.
Mainstream, 239 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 1 85158 245 2
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Travels in the Drifting Dawn 
by Kenneth White.
Mainstream, 160 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 1 85158 240 1
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... a post-war doldrum. Canongate have published Alasdair Gray, most innovative of Scottish novelists, and made available at least an adequate, small bilingual selection of the chief living Gaelic poet, SorleyMaclean. Mainstream have brought into print again, after a long hibernation in the second-hand bookshops, the essays of Scotland’s finest journalist and social observer, Hugh Miller. It would have ...

The Ticking Fear

John Kerrigan: Louis MacNeice

7 February 2008
Louis MacNeice: Collected Poems 
edited by Peter McDonald.
Faber, 836 pp., £30, January 2007, 978 0 571 21574 4
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Louis MacNeice: Selected Poems 
edited by Michael Longley.
Faber, 160 pp., £12.99, April 2007, 978 0 571 23381 6
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I Crossed the Minch 
by Louis MacNeice.
Polygon, 253 pp., £9.99, September 2007, 978 1 84697 014 6
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The Strings Are False: An Unfinished Autobiography 
by Louis MacNeice, edited by E.R. Dodds.
Faber, 288 pp., £9.99, September 2007, 978 0 571 23942 9
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... In the Shetlands, Hugh MacDiarmid – praised by MacNeice in reviews – had published his Second Hymn to Lenin and would soon write his own prose book on the Scottish islands. In the Hebrides, SorleyMacLean had composed an elegy for MacNeice’s friend John Cornford, ‘marbh ’san Spàinn ’san aobhar naomh/is cridhe ghaoil mì-shocrach’ (‘dead in Spain in the sacred cause/and the heart ...

The Excursions

Andrew O’Hagan

16 June 2011
... at me. ‘That’s a great new word for us,’ he said. ‘V.S. Naipaul would certainly object,’ Karl laughed. We had a conversation about what constituted good company. ‘There was a thing about SorleyMacLean,’ Seamus said. ‘He would get very tired in drink after a certain hour of the night. One time he said to Norman MacCaig: “After a certain point at night, after a certain amount of drink ...

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