Hugh MacDiarmid

'I lo'e the stishie
O' earth in space
Breenging by
At a haliket pace'
('Somersault' from 'Pennywheep')

Born in Langholm in Dumfriesshire, Christopher Murray Grieve was a man of genius who asserted the poet's role as a transformative force in society. His dictum was 'not precedent, but innovation'. In the 1920s he spearheaded a revival of Scots as a vigorous poetic language capable of sounding notes in all registers – philosophical, political, erotic, religious. He adopted the 'alter ego' Hugh MacDiarmid in 1922. His first book, 'Annals of the Five Senses' (1923), was followed by the 'golden lyrics' of' Sangshaw' (1925) and' Penny Wheep' (1926) and his impassioned satirical masterpiece, 'The Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle' (1926). During the 1950s he was at the centre of the group of friends – including Sydney Goodsir Smith, Callum Macdonald, Norman MacCaig and Robert Garioch – who met in Edinburgh's legendary literary pub, Milne's Bar. MacDiarmid's 'Complete Poems' was published in 1976. The following year Gordon Wright published 'MacDiarmid: An Illustrated Biography'. Gordon Wright first photographed MacDiarmid for 'Catalyst' magazine in 1967, and on many occasions thereafter; his 83rd birthday portrait was taken at Brownsbank Cottage near Biggar, where MacDiarmid lived for many years.

Hugh MacDiarmid

Hugh MacDiarmid's 83rd birthday portrait, 11 August, 1975, at Brownsbank near Biggar.

© Gordon Wright. For permission to use this image or to order a print or digital copy, email Gordon Wright.