Edwin Morgan 1920-2010

I just heard the sad news of the death of  Edwin Morgan, Scotland’s first Poet Laureate and last survivor of that iconic group of seven who revived our reputation as a centre for literature and the arts in the middle years of the twentieth century –

Edwin Morgan aged 89. February 2010. Photo by Alex Boyd

McDiarmid, Garioch, MacCaig, Crichton Smith, Mackay Brown, Sorley MacLean, and of course Morgan himself. Names to strike fear into the defence of any poetic opposition lineup.

The first time I met Edwin Morgan was when I was in my second year at Glasgow University and he became my English tutor. In my youthful ignorance I had no idea of course of his own significance as a poet, nor of his growing international reputation, but his tolerance of my ignorance of literature, and life in general, was a measure of the extent of his humanity. In years to come, like many other English teachers, I was to draw extensively on his hugely imaginative and wide-ranging poetic canon for classroom material – it never failed to engage the young people to whom it was introduced or to provoke a response, even from the least likely members of the class.

The next and only other time I met him was many years later. I had been invited by a couple of friends to Mauchline Burns Club‘s annual celebration of the life of Robert Burns, and Morgan was the guest speaker. After delivering a particularly erudite, and some might argue controversial, Immortal Memory, he was thanked by the chair and invited to deliver one of his own poems. Again, eschewing the easy option, given that the audience consisted largely of men brought up on a diet of whisky, haggis and rhyming couplets, he chose to recite The Loch Ness Monster’s Song, prompting one inebriated listener to exclaim, ‘Ca’ that f*****g poetry?’

I’m sure the man of letters didn’t hear it, but if he had, I’m equally sure it would have produced a wry smile, for the true mark of the man was not in the poetry but in himself.

The Loch Ness Monster’s Song

Sssnnnwhuf ff fll ?

Hnwhuffl hhnnwfl hnfl hfl ?

Gdroblboblhobngbl gbl gl g g g g glbgl.

Drublhaflablhaflubhafgabhaflhafl fl fl-

gm grawwwww grf grawf awfgm graw gm.

Hovoplodok-doplodovok-plovodokot-doplodokosh ?

Splgraw fok fok splgrafhatchgabrlgabrl fok splfok !

Zgra kra gka fok !

Grof grawff gahf ?

Gombl mbl bl-

blm plm,

blm plm,

blm plm,

blp.

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Amble GPX

A mean-looking Amble GPX Project Team

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of returning to the beautiful Northumberland coast to check up on the progress of the young people of Amble and their highly ambitious GPX project.The aim of the project is to create an online community-based game, using GPS technology and geocaching techniques: a very sophisticated treasure-hunt to you and me! The game will be designed to encourage local people and visitors to discover a bit more about the history of this area of outstanding natural beauty. Although played via the web, players will actually follow a trail through Amble and the surrounding countryside as well as exploring the vibrant coastline, finding answers to the clues they are given through cryptic photos, video clips and puzzles accessed from their computer. Answers are then typed in or photo-evidence uploaded via computer or mobile phone, making the game not only active but highly interactive as well.

Facing a barrage of questions from The Literacy Adviser

For the past twelve months the young people have been expanding their own knowledge of the local area, while at the same time developing their interviewing techniques and coming to grips with new technologies such as digital photography, video editing and sound recording: A number of experts, both amateur and professional, have been enlisted to guide and advise the group.  The project has reached an exciting stage, with plans in place to release a pilot version very soon, and discussions are already taking place about future mini-games and mobile apps. The official launch of the full version is scheduled for July 2011.

A flyer designed to promote Amble GPX

Just under a year ago I was contacted by the project’s manager Anna Williams, and asked if I would interview the youngsters and monitor the effect of the project on their literacy skills, a requirement of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation who are funding the project. At that point I spoke to them about what they hoped to gain from their involvement in the project and some of them were less certain than others. Watching them make a group presentation on the project this week, and listening to the way in which they handled a barrage of questions, it was clear that any of the earlier doubts or uncertainties had all but vanished. I’m looking forward to my next visit already!

If you would like more information about the Amble GPX project please contact Anna Williams at the Amble Development Trust (editor@theambler.co.uk)