OAN the anniversary o his birthday last Friday, a stane wis lain in Makars’ Coort in Lady Stair’s Close in Embra in honour o the great Scots Makar William Soutar. Soutar wis born in Perth in 1898 an wis o ma graundparents’ generation, the young men o wham focht in the First Warld War (Soutar served in the Royal Navy). Eftir a short life marred bi cripplin illness he dee’d in October, 1943.

Soutar wis nae dout ane o the best Scots poets o his time, revered an respeckit bi his peers – his posthumous collected poems wir edited bi Hugh MacDiarmid.

A naitrel Scots speiker, Soutar’s poetry in Scots is some o the best e’er written, tho MacDiarmid’s omission o aiblins Soutar’s best poem, The Tryst frae the Collected Poems, is a puzzle that aye-an-oan puzzles fowk yet. His poems fir bairns, humorous, observant, delychtfu are a staple o music an arts festivals throu-oot Scotland, an mony’s a parent wull hae listent proodly tae their young weans recitin Soutar’s warks.

The apenin address at the ceremony wis gien bi Councillor Richard Lewis, convener fir culture an sport at City o Edinburgh Council. He welcomed veesitors an attendees, an praised the wark o the staff wha admeenister Makars’ Court and the Writers’ Museum. Then Iain Mackintosh, chairman o the Friens o William Soutar Society, makkit repone bi thenkin Edinburgh fir giein permission tae lay a Soutar flagstane, an heizin Gillian Findlay an her colleagues in the culture oaffice fir organisin the stanemason (David Lindsay), plus admeenisterin an hostin the ceremony. Iain alsae peyed tribute tae Christine Davis, dochter o Bill Aitken (wha edited twa collections o Soutar’s warks) an a staunch Frien, fir providin the smeddum fir the project.

Sadly, Christine didnae leeve tae see the flagstane unveiled, but her husband Robin an their faimily wir present at the ongauns. Iain described the wark o the Friends, wha wid suin be celebratin their 10th anniversary in May.

Then we hud the stars o the show! Three Perthshire schuil weans wha recited Soutar Bairnrhymes. Leah Menzies, Moncreiffe Primary School, co-winner o the 2016 Bairnrhymes competition, recited The Wind; Morgan Patterson, Strathallan School, winner of the Soutar Unicorn at the 2017 Perth Burns Club Schools’ Festival, performed An Alphabet for Caledonian Bairns; an Charlotte Roach, Viewlands Primary School, co-winner o the 2016 Bairnrhymes competition, recited Bawsy Broon.

Much pleasuir wis seen oan the faces o the audience as they listent tae the timeless verse o Soutar bein brocht back til virr life bi these talentit young anes.

Dr Joy Hendry, editor of Chapman Magazine, (an a braw Scots Makar hersel!) wha hud delivert the Annual Soutar Lecture the previous evenin in Perth, gien an appreciation o Soutar as diarist, poet and man. Joy read swatches frae prose an poems and praised Soutar’s resolve tae owercam his illness an frustrations in order tae be “of some little service” tae his readership.

William Soutar fawmously kept a daily diary o his life-lang battle wi illness. He hud contracted a streptococcal food poisoning infection durin his service in WW1 this in turn haed led tae further complications causin spondylitis in his spine – a nummer o his vertebrae then bein fused bi rheumatoid arthritis. Fis the last 14 years o his life Soutar wis maistly confined tae his bed in the specially fitted-oot room his faither, a builder, hud made fir him in the faimily hame. The Soutar Hoose, at 27 Wilson Street, Perth, PH2 0EX, is nou unner the care o the National Trust for Scotland, an Soutar’s room can be veesited bi the public oan open days.

Soutar’s personal journal wis alsae publisht posthumously as Diaries of a Dying Man. It is a fascinatin read an a braw insicht intil a brave an determined human being wha ne’er loast his guid humour or dedication tae his art, despite the desperate challenges he faced. Thair a byordnar website dedicated tae William Soutar, his life an his warks, at http://www.williamsoutar.com/ that’s weel warth a luik.

Jim Carruthers, treasurer o the Friens, read Ballad (the poem frae whilk the engraved flagstane quote is taen) then Janette Soutar, the poet’s cousin, performed the unveilin ceremony, assistit bi Richard Lewis, liftin the Saltire which hud cuivert the flagstane. Janette said she felt privileged tae be asked tae perform this task, an commended the Friens fir aa their braw wark syne their inception.

Iain Mackintosh brocht the ongauns tae a close bi readin Soutar’s prescient poem Autobiography. Then the heivins theirsel gien assent tae ane o Scotland’s finest Makars, as the Sun bruck throu the cloods tae illuminate the immortal wirds cairven oan his stane:

I Thocht The Hale O The World Was There
Sae Sma in a Sma Room

Rab Wilson is a Scots poet and a health campaigner