Tarbert poet honoured at Makars’ Court

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One of Tarbert’s finest wordsmiths has been honoured in Edinburgh after his words were set in stone on the streets of the city.

Edinburgh’s Makars’ Court has now welcomed George Campbell Hay, 1915-1984, to its illustrious ranks with the unveiling of a memorial to the famous Scots poet.

Makars’ Court, described as Scotland’s answer to Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, pays tribute to Scottish writers by preserving the words of the country’s finest writers in stone in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Campbell Hay was brought up in Tarbert where, after studying at Oxford University, he returned to develop a lifelong love of the Gaelic language and culture.

He was a multi-lingual poet and was a champion of Scots and Gaelic literature, though little of his work was published in his lifetime. Although a member of the renowned Scottish literary renaissance, Campbell Hay was more interested in the Gaelic literary tradition and linguistic development, rather than folk tradition.

Renowned as a passionate nationalist, Hay begrudgingly joined the British Army in the Second World War and served in North Africa –an experience which gave rise to some of his best work. Mochtar is Dughall, an epic about a Highland soldier and a North African Arab in the Second World War, is perhaps Hay’s best known work, though it was never finished before his death in 1984.

The flagstone at Makars’ Court, acknowledges Campbell Hay’s influence and lasting legacy in Scottish literature.

Anne Artymiuk, who sponsored the tribute to George Campbell Hay, said: ‘He was a major Scots poet of the 20th century, one of the few writers Scotland has had who wrote, and wrote well, in all three of Scotland’s languages. His profile has been low, probably because after the Second World War, which inspired some of his best work, he struggled with mental illness.’

The commemorations have been created with the support of the Makars’ Court committee of the Scottish Saltire Society and sponsors Anne Artymiuk and the Friends of the William Soutar Society.