William Soutar

1898 - 1943

William Soutar
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

William Soutar

Poet and diarist. Born in Perth, the son of a craftsman joiner, and educated at Perth Academy. Soutar was drafted into the Royal Navy in 1916 but after the war he completed his education at the University of Edinburgh. Encouraged by the work of Hugh MacDiarmid, Soutar began writing poems in the Scots language. Having grown up hearing and using the language, Soutar's work was rather more natural than MacDiarmid's formality. His first work Gleanings of an Undergraduate was published anonymously in 1923. This was followed by Conflict (1931), by which time Soutar was bed-ridden following a failed operation to cure spondylitis contracted during his war-service. Other works followed: Seeds in the wind: Poems in Scots (1933), written specifically for children to encourage the use of the language, Poems in Scots (1935) and Riddles in Scots (1937). One of his most popular works was The Tryst, which has been set to music several times, most recently by James MacMillan (b.1959). Soutar also wrote in English, for example, In the time of Tyrants (1939) and The Expectant Silence (1944).

Soutar remained an invalid until his early death. His Diaries of a Dying Man (1954) are considered remarkable. He lies buried in Wellshill Cemetery (Perth) but his name is remembered in the lecture theatre of the A.K. Bell Library in Perth, while an archive of his poems, together with his diaries and journals, are held in the National Library of Scotland.

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