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Robert Garioch (1909 - 1981)

Sharp-witted poet famed for his wry commentaries on Edinburgh life.

The poet Robert Garioch

Robert Garioch Sutherland was born in Edinburgh on 9 May 1909. His father was a painter and semi-professional fiddler and his mother a music teacher. He was educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, and the University of Edinburgh, graduating in English Language and Literature in 1931.  


During the Second World War Garioch served in the Royal Signals, but was a prisoner of war between 1942 and 1945 - the subject of his moving memoir, 'Two Men and a Blanket'. Both before and after the war he worked as a school teacher in the London area, a profession he also pursued in Edinburgh until the mid-1960s.

He then became a lexicographer on the 'Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue', and was also a transcriber at the School of Scottish Studies. He then became Writing Fellow at the University of Edinburgh in 1971.


Throughout his professional career, Garioch worked on his alternative guise as sharp-witted poet. He had met Sorley MacLean at the University, and both contributed poems to the '17 Poems for 6d' collection in 1940. A follow-up for Garioch - 'Selected Poems' - didn't appear until 1966, followed by 'Collected Poems' in 1977.

Garioch wrote mostly in Scots throughout his literary life (he won the Sloan Prize for verse in Scots in 1930), and admired historical Scottish poets, such as William Dubar, Robert Henryson, and especially Robert Fergusson.

Beyond Scotland, he was a great admirer of Italian poet Guiseppe Belli, and translated over 100 of Belli’s satirical sonnets.

Wry observations

Garioch's main impact, however, has been achieved through his well-crafted shorter poems. Serving as wry observations of Scottish life, especially in Edinburgh, the poems retain a large fanbase to this day, and Garioch is remembered with an insciption in Makars' Court outside the Writers' Museum.

Related links

English Literature

Alumni in history - Sorley MacLean