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Hugh MacDiarmid

Hugh MacDiarmid was a Scottish writer, journalist, and poet of A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle fame.

Biographical fast facts

Full or original name at birth: Christopher Murray Grieve

Date, time and place of birth: August 11th, 1892, at 9:30 a.m., Arkinholm Terrace, Langholm, Dumfriesshire, Scotland

Date, time, place and cause of death: September 9th, 1978, at 3 a.m., Chalmers Hospital, Edinburgh, Scotland (Cancer)

Marriage #1
Wife: Margaret "Peggy" Cunningham Thomson Skinner (m. June 13th, 1918 - January 16th, 1932) (divorced)
Wedding took place at 3 East Castle Road, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Marriage #2
Wife: Valda Trevlyn (m. September 12th, 1934 - September 9th, 1978) (his death)
Wedding took place at the Islington Register Office, Islington, London, England.

Sibling: Andrew Graham Grieve (b. April 7th, 1894, Arkinholm Terrace, Langholm, Dumfriesshire, Scotland - d. 1972) (younger brother)

Sons: Walter Ross Grieve (b. April 5th, 1928)
James Michael Grieve (b. July 28th, 1932, Steyning, West Sussex, England)

Daughter: Christine Elizabeth Margaret Grieve (b. September 1924)

Note: Christine and Walter are from his first marriage, and Michael is from his pre-marital relationship with Valda Trevlyn.

Father: James Grieve (a postman) (d. 1911, Langholm, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, of pneumonia)
Mother: Elizabeth Grieve (d. April 11th, 1934, at 10 p.m., Lauriesclose*, Waterbeck, near Langholm, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, of stomach cancer)

Burial site: Langholm Cemetery, Langholm, Dumfriesshire, Scotland

Error correction or clarification

* Occasionally appears as "Laurie's Close" Scotland.

Biography - Selected writing credits - Residences

Growing up, Christopher Murray Grieve (soon to become poet Hugh MacDiarmid) eschewed group activities for more solitary pursuits such as hiking, bicycling, and reading, later commenting, "I was always a loner." He would remain an avid reader throughout his life. He and his younger brother Andrew were never close, and even as adults there was a great deal of animosity between them. Their relationship remained strained for decades, and were usually not on speaking terms.

One of Hugh's favorite poets was fellow Scot John Davidson. He once said Davidson was "the only Scottish poet to whom I owe anything at all." His 1909 suicide was a personal blow to young Grieve.

His early career as a journalist was interrupted in 1915 by World War I. His service in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) continued until Sergeant Grieve's demobilization in July of 1919, several months after the Armistice. He had married Peggy Skinner the previous year, and almost immediately resumed his literary endeavors, though he had actually continued writing throughout the war, when time permitted. He found work as a journalist in 1920 at the Montrose Review, but didn't adopt the pseudonym "Hugh MacDiarmid" until 1922, upon publication of his new literary magazine, The Scottish Chapbook.

He was very active in the Scottish political scene. In 1928, MacDiarmid was a founding member of the Scottish National Party (SNP). He urged his fellow Scots to be more politically conscious, and subsequently joined the Communist Party. He worked diligently to promote a Scottish Literary Renaissance, and to teach indigenous Scots literature and the Gaelic language in schools. He helped revitalize the Scots language through his use of elements of various Scots dialects in his poetry. Late in life, he became professor of literature at the Royal Scottish Academy (1974), and president of the Poetry Society in 1976.

A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, published in 1926, is generally regarded as his greatest achievement. Many considered MacDiarmid to be the greatest Scottish poet since Robert Burns, and certainly the preeminent Scottish poet of the first half of the 20th century.

Selected writing credits:
His works include Annals of the Five Senses (1923), Sangschaw (1925), Penny Wheep (1926), A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (1926), Albyn, or Scotland and the Future (1927), The Lucky Bag (1927), To Circumjack Cencrastus, or The Curly Snake (1930), First Hymn to Lenin, and other poems (1931), Scots Unbound, and other poems (1932), Scottish Scene, or The Intelligent Man's Guide to Albyn (1934) was a collaboration with Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Stony Limits, and other poems, published in 1934, marked his return to standard English.

Additional works include At the Sign of the Thistle: a collection of essays (1934), Second Hymn to Lenin, and other poems (1935), Scottish Eccentrics (1936), The Islands of Scotland: Hebrides, Orkneys, and Shetlands (1939), A Kist of Whistles: new poems (1947), Cunninghame Graham: a centenary study (1952), Francis George Scott: an essay on the occasion of his seventy-fifth birthday (1955), In Memoriam James Joyce: From A Vision of World Language (1955), Stony Limits and Scots Unbound, and other poems (1956), Three Hymns to Lenin (1957), The Battle Continues (1957), Burns Today and Tomorrow (1959), The Kind of Poetry I Want (1961), and Celtic Nationalism which was a collaboration with Owen Dudley Edwards, Gwynfor Evans and Ioan Rhys (1968). Hugh MacDiarmid's final works were Direadh I, II, and III (1974), Scotch Whiskey as tasted by Bill Simpson and others (1974), John Knox in collaboration with Campbell Maclean and Anthony Ross (1976), and finally, Aesthetics in Scotland edited by Alan Bold, and posthumously published in 1984.

Hugh MacDiarmid also penned two autobiographies, the first was published in 1943, Lucky Poet: A Self-Study in Literature and Political Ideas, the second, The Company I've Kept, came along more than two decades later, in 1967.

Residences of Hugh MacDiarmid:
Note that these residences may no longer exist, and it's possible the addresses have changed over the years. This is not to suggest that Mr. MacDiarmid owned each and every one of these structures. We're only reporting the fact that he resided in them at one point or another in his life.

Arkinholm Terrace, Langholm, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
Henry Street, Langholm, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
8 Bon-Accord Street, Clydebank, near Glasgow, Scotland
35 South Street, St. Andrews, Scotland
65 Market Street, St. Andrews, Scotland
Kildermorie Lodge, Loch Morie, near Alness, Scotland
19 Kincardine Street, Montrose, Scotland
16 Links Avenue, Montrose, Scotland
Dungavel House, Strathaven, Lanarkshire, Scotland
55 Harcourt Street, Ebbw Vale, South Wales
18 Pyrland Road, London, England
64 Chancery Lane, London, England
Brough Schoolhouse, Brough, Whalsay, Scotland
2 Park Terrace, Glasgow, Scotland
35 Havelock Street, Partick, Glasgow, Scotland
27 Arundel Drive, Battlefield, Glasgow, Scotland
32 Victoria Crescent Road, Dowanhill, Glasgow, Scotland
Brownsbank Cottage, Candymill, near Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland


The most in-depth of more than two dozen sources consulted in preparing this profile, was the 1988 biography, MacDiarmid: Christopher Murray Grieve, A Critical Biography, by Alan Bold.

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