Record

CodeNA8665
Dates1898-1943
Person NameSoutar; William (1898-1943); poet
SurnameSoutar
ForenamesWilliam
Epithetpoet
Activity William Soutar was born on 28 April 1898 in Perth, the son of John Soutar - variously described as a farmer or a joiner and contractor - and Margaret Gow Smith. He was educated at Perth Academy. He left school in 1916 and for the next three years served in the Royal Navy. He left the Navy after the end of the First World War having contracted a form of spondylitis, which was to incapacitate him during much of the rest of his life. In 1919 he entered the University of Edinburgh, where he studied English Literature. He quarrelled with the university authorities, and when he graduated MA in 1923 it was with a third-class degree. He had intended to teach, but his illness prevented him from completing his training and he returned to Perth. Soutar had begun writing poetry for the school magazine while still at Perth Academy and he went on to publish 'Gleanings by an Undergraduate' (1923) anonymously whilst at university. Further volumes of poetry followed during the remainder of his life, even though from 1930 he had lost the use of his legs and become bedridden with ossification of the spine. By 1931 he had begun writing poems in Scots; these works succeeded in combining a simple and direct style with verbal wit and power, and were especially well reviewed. He also published much poetry for children, including a collection written for his adopted sister, which appeared in print in 1933. A keen diarist, Soutar maintained a journal during his years as an invalid. Selections from this journal were published towards the end of his life under the title 'Diaries of a Dying Man'. Amongst his friends were contemporary poets William Montgomerie, Helen Burness Cruickshank and Christopher Murray Grieve ['Hugh MacDiarmid']. He was interested in Scottish nationalism and pacificism. He died of tuberculosis on 15 October 1943. Much of his work remains unpublished (2002).
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