Manuscripts of Norman MacCaig (1910-1996)

Scope and Content

Within the Norman MacCaig collection, MSS 3198-3199 consist of single sheets of poetic manuscripts and drafts. From MSS 3200 onwards there are folders containing miscellaneous early material. Also, proofs and typescripts; notes and newscuttings; notes on other poets; broadcast transcriptions, reviews and notes; translations by MacCaig; correspondence; critical material on MacCaig's poetry; dissertations; literary material by other people; certificates of birth and marriage etc., and material relating to drawing up of will; invoices and statements and other financial material; pocket diaries and address book; and, published books of poems.

At E2006.40 there is a letter to Norman MacCaig from person unknown (letter signed Ian S.). At letter heading is 5 Mackenzie Place, Friday. 11th May. The year is unknown. The letter content is a fairly involved review of a book. The letter-writer is clearly a good friend of MacCaig because he writes, referring to the letter: 'I don't expect to be able to wait long at the pub, so I will leave this for you there' (see shelfmark SD 9105 for the book).

E2006.45 includes: portrait photograph of MacCaig as an infant, 1911; passport 1964-1974; passport 1975-1985; Christmas and New Year card from Christopher (Grieve) and Valda to Norman and Isabel; printed copy of The close brethren of the SNP Junta; OS map, Sheet 13, Loch Inver, Loch Assynt; circa 100 assorted colour and black and white photographs of MacCaig and friends; large black and white portrait of MacCaig; and, a note to MacCaig from Gavin Ewart found in a copy of Twelve apostles (see shelfmark SD 9152 for the book).

Administrative / Biographical History

The Scottish poet, Norman MacCaig, was born in Edinburgh on 14 November 1910. He was educated at the city's Royal High School and studied at Edinburgh University, graduating with an honours degree (MA) in Classics in 1932. Throughout much of his life until 1970, MacCaig held various teaching positions, mostly in Edinburgh, but this was interrupted by a two-year period as Fellow in Creative Writing at Edinburgh University, 1967-69. He was the first person to be given such a post of Writer in Residence at the University. Between the years 1970 and 1972 he was Lecturer in English Studies at the University of Stirling, and Reader in Poetry between 1972 and 1977. MacCaig's father had been a Lowlander while his mother was from the island of Scalpay, and he had felt the rich cultural inheritances from both connections. Except for a few foreign settings, his poetry is set in Edinburgh or Assynt in the North West Highlands. His early works included Far cry (1943), The inward eye (1946) and Riding lights (1955). He exploited the natural world for many of the images in his work, and his poetry contained wit, humour, and keen observation. His command of metaphor was also evident. His volumes of verse looked at life on a small scale, these volumes being The Sinai sort (1957), A common grace (1960), A round of applause (1962), Measures (1965), and A man in my position 1969). Later works included Tree of strings (1977) and A world of difference (1983). A volume of collected poems was published, Collected poems (1985, and new edition 1990). MacCaig was awarded the OBE in 1979. One of the foremost Scottish men of letters of the 20th century, MacCaig died in Edinburgh on 23 January 1996.

Access Information

Contact the repository for details

Acquisition Information

MSS 3198-3210 are those manuscripts acquired in 1997 with the help of the National Lottery Fund, the National Fund for Acquisitions, the Friends of Edinburgh University Library, and other sources.

E2006.40 was found in the book In memoriam James Joyce: from a vision of world language, by Hugh MacDiarmid, 1955. This book can be found at shelfmark SD 9105.

Within E2006.45 is a note to MacCaig from Gavin Ewart found in a copy of Twelve apostles. This item can be found at shelfmark SD 9152.

Other Finding Aids

Handlist, H69; Another important finding aid is the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives. Additions to the typed slips in sheaf binders were made until 1987.

Related Material

The Index to Manuscripts shows, at various shelfmarks, references to MSS of poems, and letters.

Corporate Names