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George Bruce

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  • George Bruce

    Scots language and literature lose a pillar of strength
    By Paul Scott; The Sunday Herald, 28th July, 2002.

    THE death of George Bruce on July 25 leaves a gap in the lives of many people and in the cultural life of Scotland generally. In the course of his long life he was such a pillar of strength and inspiration that it is difficult to think of Scotland without him.

    George was born in Fraserburgh in 1909, in a family long established in fish processing, and was educated at Fraserburgh Academy and Aberdeen University. From 1935 to 1946 he taught English at Dundee High School, although, it is said, scouts from leading teams did their best to persuade him to become a professional footballer. He then became a BBC producer, first in Aberdeen, then, from 1956 to 1970, in Edinburgh. For more than 20 years he produced with Maurice Lindsay Scottish Life And Letters and Arts Review, both of which were an illuminating response to all aspects of the arts in Scotland.

    He was, above all, a poet, the uncrowned but acknowledged laureate of north-east Scotland. His native country was seldom far from his thoughts or his verse, from his first volume, Sea Talk, in 1944, to Pursuit, in 1999. He never lost his facility for spare, evocative verse which captured the feel of people and place. In March 1999 he probably achieved a record in holding a party in the Royal Scottish Academy to celebrate simultaneously his 90th birthday and his latest book of poetry. Not only that, the volume went on to win the Saltire Award for Scottish Book of the Year.

    It was through the Saltire Society, of which he was a stalwart supporter, that I first met George. He became a valued friend and colleague for more than 20 years. He put his BBC experience to good effect in helping to produce the programmes which the Society contributed to both the Edinburgh Festival and the Fringe. He gave sound advice on Saltire publications. In 1986 he wrote a history of the first 50 years of the society, To Foster And Enrich. He did a similar service to the Edinburgh Festival with his book Festival In The North, and to the Cockburn Association with Some Practical Good, both published in 1975.

    Our most extensive collaboration was over A Scottish Postbag, an anthology of Scottish letters from the 13th century to the present, an excellent idea which was put to us by Martin Cummins of the Scottish Postal Board. Because of the quality of the letters -- for it includes such splendid letter-writers as Hume, Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, and many less well known -- the book was an immediate success and was soon reprinted. George sent me two short poems in which he said how much he had enjoyed our joint hunt for letters and the book itself, which he called 'a minor classic'.

    Since the book has long been out of print, but is still in steady demand, we were asked a year or two ago, again with the encouragement of the Post Office, to bring out a new and updated edition. We were working together again on this project in the last year of George's life. The new edition is now in the press and it will be published in September.

    Of course, that is not the end. One of my favourite of George's poems is Urn Burial, which is about the supposed death of the Scots tongue. At the last minute it escapes: 'She's Jinkit again/ The *****/ Said the man wi' the spade.' So it will be with the example and inspiration of George Bruce and his poetry. They will not easily be forgotten. A Scottish Postbag, edited by George Bruce and Paul Scott, will be published by the Saltire Society in September and launched at the Wigtown Book Festival at the end of that month.

  • #2

    no more are you the bastion that you were
    resisting and denying access to the sea's force
    ('Cliff Face Erosion')
    100% Air a dhèanamh ann an Alba.


    • #3
      Sorry George

      A wee bit late, bit a jist fun it.

      Urn Burial by: Bruce, George

      It wis hardly worth pyin fur a casket,
      the body wis that peelie-wallie,
      nae bluid in't
      luikit like a
      scrap o' broun paper
      papyrus mebbe?
      nae gran eneuch
      for that,
      but there wis some gran mournerrs, the
      Editor o' the Scottish National Dictionary,
      Heid o the Depairtment o' Scot. Lit.,
      President o the Burns Federation,
      President o the Lallans Society,
      President o the Saltire Society,
      a' present in strict alphabetical order
      ane/twa orra Scots. Nats.
      Syne cam a fuff o win
      an liftit it oot o the bowlie
      an hine awa.
      a wee bird sang.
      Dew dreep't
      on the beld heids
      o' the auld men
      stude gloweran
      at the tuim tomb.
      'She's jinkit again,
      the b*tch!'
      said the auld man wi the spade.
      100% Air a dhèanamh ann an Alba.