Gable Ender - Angus was a centre of Scottish literary culture

Back in the 1920s, Angus was at the centre of the Scottish Renaissance Movement when Hugh MacDiarmid (Christopher Murray Grieve), the driving force behind it, worked for the Montrose Review.

Saturday, 12th March 2022, 3:00pm
Gable Ender - Angus was a centre of Scottish literary culture

Montrose was also home to two of the finest Scottish artists of the time in Edward Baird and William Lamb, both of whom died at an early age; Baird aged 44 and Lamb at the age of 58.

Baird, born 1904, was a perfectionist, spending long periods on minute parts of his pictures. In his painting, ‘Montrose from Ferryden’, every pebble on the beach is individually painted. Lamb, born June 1893, was more prolific. Having lost the use of his right hand due to a shrapnel wound in World War One, he taught himself to sculpt and paint using his ‘wrong’ hand.

In 1925, Lamb had work displayed at exhibitions by The Royal Scottish Academy, the Royal Academy in London and the Paris Salon and in 1931 was elected as an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy. On his death in 1951, his studio and contents were handed over to Montrose Town Council and is now a museum.

The county provided other literary figures, with the Angus poets to the fore. This select group consisted of Violet Jacob from Dun, Helen Cruickshank from Hillside near Montrose and Marion Angus. Marion Angus had been born in England of Scottish parents but lived for most of her life in Arbroath.

Jacob, born Violet Kennedy-Erskine, was renowned for her novels, and her family history entitled ‘the Lairds of Dun’, although it is probably for her poetry, written in Scots, she is most celebrated. Among her best known poems is ‘The Wild Geese’, given a new lease of life after being set to music by Angus folk singer Jim Reid.

Marion Angus was not particularly taken with MacDiarmid’s use of Lallans (Scots) and was not afraid to say so. Despite the fact that MacDiarmid was often touchy about criticism, he seemed to take her opinion in good part, writing in a letter that he’d given her her "first boost”.

Writing in ‘The Thistle Rises’ in 1984, MacDiarmid said: “In a very real sense in the Twenties Angus (and particularly Montrose) was the cultural centre of Scotland. These were great times in Montrose and will live in Scottish literary history.”

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