Joseph Johnston Lee was a journalist, poet and artist, best known for his war poetry. Born in Dundee in 1876, He was the grandson of Sergeant David Lee, a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars. At the age of 14 Joseph Lee left school and began work in the office of a local solicitor. He found this work to be dull and eventually took a job as a steamship’s stoker, making a number of sketches during his voyages. In 1904 he was employed as an artist in London drawing cartoons for the Tariff Reform League, and subsequently becoming a newspaper artist. In 1906 He returned to Dundee and started to produce edit and write for several local periodicals including The City Echo and The Piper O’ Dundee. In 1909 he became a member of staff at the firm of John Leng & Co. and was soon regularly contributing poetry to their People’s Journal, a publication which he eventually edited.
In 1914 he joined the 4th Battalion of the Black Watch. Two books of his war poems and sketches, Ballads of Battle and Work-a-Day Warriors were published while he was at the Front. In 1917 he became second lieutenant in the 10th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps and later that year he was captured near Cambrai. His experiences while a prisoner in camps at Karlsruhe and Beeskow are described in his book A Captive at Carlsruhe.
In 1924 Lee married Miss Dorothy Barrie, a well-known viola player. The couple went to Epsom and Lee became sub-editor on the News Chronicle. After his retirement in 1944 he returned to Dundee, where he died in 1949. Lee’s other published works include poems, Tales O’ Our Town, and a short play Fra Lippo Lippi.