Blog Our Sweet Old Etcetera

Behind the scenes at the Scottish Poetry Library

Winner of Scottish War Poets Memorial Poll Revealed

We have a result! Over the past two weeks, we asked you to take part in an online poll to choose whose words should be engraved on a new monument to commemorate Scotland's First World War poets.

We can now reveal the winning lines were written by an author more familiar to Scots for his prose than poetry – Neil Munro, better known for his Para Handy stories.

The lines that will appear on the monument are taken from Munro’s poem ‘Lament for the Lads’:

Sweet be their sleep now wherever they’re lying
Far though they be from the hills of their home

Read the poem here.

With the centenary of the end of WW1 approaching, Scots were asked to choose between lines from six poems. To that end nearly 1,000 votes were made online. There was also a lively debate online about the poll – and about Scottish war poets who didn’t make the shortlist.

‘Lament for the Lads’ was first published in the Daily Record on 24 December 1930. It was inspired by 'Cumha nan Gillean' by the Gaelic poet Calum MacPhàrlain (1853-1931). Originally from Argyll, Munro left to work in Glasgow as a journalist but love of his birthplace and the Gaelic language spoken by his mother and grandmother never left him.

A popular novelist and short story writer, Munro returned to journalism in 1914 on the outbreak of war. He visited the front line several times in the capacity of war correspondent, in 1914 and 1917, and the war touched him personally when his son Hugh was killed during the Battle of Loos. In February 1917 he was sent to Albert in France, where it is probable he visited Hugh’s grave at Millencourt. Although ‘Lament for the Lads’ was published 12 years after the war ended, the depth of the feeling evidenced in the poem describes a pain that never fades, which must have spoken to all those who voted for the lines from his poem.

The memorial will be erected in Edinburgh's Makars' Court, with an unveiling ceremony held in mid-November. Munro’s quote will be chiselled onto a Celtic cross that incorporates in its design a pen. The cross will be the first standing monument in Makar's Court, where tributes are usually inscribed on paving slabs. The cross will be sited to the left of the entrance to the Writers Museum, a corner spot currently unoccupied.

Category: war poems