WITH just over three months to go to the end of the centenary commemorations of the First World War, it has been announced that a monument to Scotland’s poets of that war is to be erected in Edinburgh’s Makars’ Court.

Lines selected from six poems by six different poets will be presented to the public to decide which quote is to be carved on the monument, a Celtic cross that incorporates in its design a pen.

The monument will be unveiled at a special ceremony in mid-November. The cross will be the first standing monument in Makars’ Court, where tributes are usually inscribed on paving slabs.

The project is a collaboration between City of Edinburgh Council, Edinburgh Napier University, University of Aberdeen, the Scottish Poetry Library and Dignity Funerals who donated the cross monument.


MOST Scots will know of the works of English war poets such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, but it is not often known that Scotland had its own during the 1914-18 war. The organisers hope that the poll will help raise awareness amongst Scots of their literary heritage.

The Scottish war poets’ work was chronicled by Lizzie MacGregor in the book Beneath Troubled Skies – Poems of Scotland at War, 1914-1918.

She has chosen the six quotations by poets who included a soldier who died in the conflict, the author of the Para Handy stories and a Gael.

Lines written by a female poet are included – it was only in the early 1980s that it was proved that some 500 women published poetry in the UK during the First World War.


IN strictly alphabetical order the poets are David Mackie (1891-1956); Murchadh Moireach/Murdo Murray (1890-1964); Neil Munro (1864-1930); J B Salmond (1891-1956); J E Stewart (1889-1918); and Mary Symon (1863-1938).

Ayrshire man David Mackie was a journalist before and after the First World War and became the editor of The Southern Reporter newspaper in the Scottish Borders.

Moireach (Murray) was born in Back, Lewis, in 1890. He volunteered in 1914, and joined the 4th Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders spending most of the war in the trenches until 1918 when he was badly wounded in the arm.

Argyll-born journalist and author Neil Munro is best known for his Para Handy tales. He visited the front line in the capacity of war correspondent and the war touched him personally when his son Hugh was killed during the Battle of Loos.

J B Salmond was a journalist, poet and novelist who served in the First World War, then edited The Scots Magazine for over 20 years and wrote acclaimed histories. In 1917, Salmond was treated for neurasthenia at Craiglockhart Hospital and during his time there he edited the hospital magazine, The Hydra, with Wilfred Owen as his sub-editor.

Glasgow University graduate J E Stewart was a teacher in Coatbridge and an officer in the Border Regiment during the First World War, with one book of poetry published in 1917. He took over command of the 4th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment in April 1918 and was killed on April 26 at Kemmel Hill in the 4th Battle of Ypres.

Mary Symon from Dufftown is acknowledged for her poetry about the effect of the war on Scotland’s people. Her poem The Soldiers’ Cairn brought her to public notice, and remains much anthologised.


MACKIE: “Will you forget?/Like those in other wars,/The soldier and the scars –/Will you forget?” taken from Will You Forget?

Moireach: “Dùin suas an dachaigh ‘s fàg an neòinean àillt/A’ seinn am beus san deothaig mhilis chiùin;/‘S mar chuimhneachan tog crois air laoich a bha.” (“Close up the dwelling, and leave the lovely daisy/To sing their virtue in the sweet breath of wind;/And raise a cross as a memorial over warriors gone.”) taken from Na Mairbh san Raoin (Geàrr-Luinneag). Translation: The Dead in the Field.

Munro: “Sweet be their sleep now wherever they’re lying/Far though they be from the hills of their home” from Lament For the Lads.

Salmond: “ ... still we hear the music across the poppied corn/Across a world of sorrow the ghostly pipers blow” from Twenty Years Ago.

Stewart: “ ... make our story shine/In the fierce light it craves” from Revisiting the Somme.

Symond: “Lads in your plaidies lyin’ still/In lands we’ll never see,/This lanely cairn on a hameland hill/Is a’ that oor love can dee” from The Soldiers’ Cairn.


THE online poll is launched today by the Scottish Poetry Library and will run until Friday, August 17, with the result announced on the library’s website. We’ll post the relevant survey details on The National’s website when it goes live.