Saturday 25 March 2017

Greenock Poet's Plaque

As a Greenockian I am ashamed to admit that until today I had never heard of the Greenock born poet William Sydney Graham.  It wasn't until I had downloaded my photograph of this plaque that I did a bit of research to find out who he was.  The plaque is attached to the wall of 1 Hope Street in Greenock where Graham was born in November 1918.

According to most of the writings about him, he is was of the most underrated poets of the 20th century.  After studying engineering in Glasgow he had several jobs around the country.  In 1947 Graham travelled in the United States and later lived for a while in London.  However Madron, Cornwall was his home where he mixed with the St Ives artistic community.

He married Agnes Kilpatrick (Nessie) Dunsmuir (1909 - 1999) in 1954, the couple had known each other since 1938 when they met at Newbattle Abbey College, Nessie also wrote poetry.  His best known book "The Nightfishing" was published in 1955.  William Sydney Graham died in 1986.  More information about the poet can be found at the Scottish Poetry Library website.  You will also find some of his work there,  However, of the ones I've read, this really stood out for me, it moved me to tears.  It is called "To Alexander Graham" -

"Lying asleep walking
Last night I met my father
Who seemed pleased to see me.
He wanted to speak.  I saw
His mouth saying something
But the dream had no sound.

We were surrounded by
Laid-up paddle steamers
In The Old Quay in Greenock.
I smelt the tar and the ropes...."

You can read the remainder of the poem here.  Another of his poems "Loch Thom", in which he remembers outings from his childhood, is also worth a read.

1 comment:

  1. I must have walked past Graham's house as a teenager every day in the '60's without realising, when I lived in Antigua Street. He has now been my favourite Scottish poet for decades. Both poems you mention are favourites of mine, but especially Loch Thom, with its notion of his "running age" which I relate to a lot. I have just found a book about him by David Whittaker if you're interested to pursue things further. I'm very glad to have turned up on this site. Billy Watt


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