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MacCaig, Norman Alexander, 1910-1996 (poet, teacher)



  • Existence: 1910 - 1996


MacCaig attended the Royal High School in Edinburgh and read Classics at Edinburgh University from which he graduated in 1932. After teacher training at Moray House College, he embarked on a career as a schoolmaster, working first as a Latin master, then as a primary teacher at a number of Edinburgh schools. His pacifism led him to register as a conscientious objector during the Second World War, but he was able to resume his teaching career after the Armistice. MacCaig began writing poetry while still at school, and during the 1930 and 1940s was involved with the New Apocalypse movement, fashioning highly wrought neo-Romantic verse, which he would subsequently disown. His first two books Far Cry (1943) and The Inward Eye (1946) featured work in this style and were later rigorously excluded from all anthologies of MacCaig's work.

MacCaig’s ‘real’ poetic debut was the much-acclaimed Riding Lights (1955) which saw the poet achieve a new simplicity of language. This and MacCaig’s next three volumes, The Sinai Sort (1957), A Common Grace (1960), and A Round of Applause (1962), largely featured rhyming verse. In the 1960s, however, MacCaig embarked on a period of formal experimentation, and by Surroundings (1966) had permanently shifted to free verse. MacCaig’s later years proved prolific, seeing the publication of A Man in My Position (1969), The White Bird (1973), The World’s Room (1974), Tree of Strings (1977), The Equal Skies (1980), A World of Difference (1983), and Voice-Over (1989). His Collected Poems (1985) won the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award.

MacCaig was Edinburgh University’s first Writer in Residence (1967-1969) and went on to become Reader in Poetry at Stirling University (1972-1977). In the last two decades of his life MacCaig received considerable public recognition. He was awarded honorary doctorates by the Universities of Stirling, Edinburgh, St Andrews, and Dundee. In 1979, he was made an OBE and in 1986 received the Queen's Medal for Poetry. He was made an Honorary Member of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies (1978), an Honorary Member and Professor of Literature by the Royal Scottish Academy (1981), and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1983). During the 1970s and 1980s, MacCaig became a popular reader of his own poetry and regularly addressed school and student audiences. MacCaig is one of the best-known Scottish poets abroad. To date, his work has been translated into 19 languages.

Source: "About Norman MacCaig" (2019), The University of Edinburgh; Available at: (Accessed: November 2020)

Found in 4 Collections and/or Records:

Graduation photograph of Honours Greek students including Norman MacCaig, 30 June 1932

 Item — Box CLX-A-1591
Identifier: Coll-1848/20-0091
Scope and Contents

This is a graduation photograph of the Honours Greek Class of the University of Edinburgh, dated 30 June 1932. The class is composed of two professors, two women and nine men, including the Scottish poet Norman MacCaig. Photo by E. R. Yerbury & Sons.

Dates: 30 June 1932

Norman MacCaig at the Burn, Edzell, and correspondence with Trudy Wallace

Identifier: Coll-1640
Scope and Contents The collection is composed of: Folder 1: 1 x ts letter, 1p, dated 15 December 1982, from Marga E. Schmitz to 'Dear Mr MacCaig' laying out the agenda for the DAAD weekend and offering board and lodging and an honorarium 1 x ms letter, autograph signed, 1p, dated 21 February 1983, from Norman MacCaig to 'Dear Miss Wallace' indicating that he will arrive by train at Montrose and...
Dates: 1982-1983

Professor (Jack) John C. Weston papers, being material relating to the Hugh MacDiarmid editions, 'Collected poems', and 'A Drunk man looks at the thistle'

 Fonds — Multiple Containers
Identifier: Coll-1728
Scope and Contents

The collection contains proofs of A Drunk man looks at the thistle edited by Weston, ms and ts research material for the edition, correspondence with a wide range of people in the literary world and in publishing, newspaper cuttings, journal articles, and other printed ephemera.the Weston

Dates: 1920-1973

Typed version of the poem The Villanelle of Northwest Orient Flight 4 that varies from the published version, and a letter to Norman MacCaig, 1987

 Item — Box CLX-A-356
Identifier: Coll-1849/SD 9038
Scope and Contents

Typed version of the poem The Villanelle of Northwest Orient Flight 4 that varies from the published version. The page also contains a message from the author to Norman MacCaig dated 1 October 1987.

Dates: 1987

Additional filters:

Archival Object 2
Collection 2
MacCaig, Norman, 1910-1996 -- Correspondence 2
Greek Language 1
Photographs -- Student Groups 1
Publishers and Publishing 1
Scottish poetry -- 20th century 1
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