Information Services

About Maurice Lindsay

Maurice Lindsay (1918-2009) was a tireless champion of Scotland’s literary and artistic renaissance in the 20th century. As a prolific poet, broadcaster, anthologist, editor, and all-round man of letters, he was at the heart of Scottish cultural life for over sixty years.


Lindsay was educated at Glasgow Academy and the Scottish National Academy of Music. When the Second World War broke out, he volunteered for service with the 9th Cameronians. Following a wrist injury during military training (which ended an early ambition to be a violinist), he was seconded to the War Office. While still in uniform, Lindsay began a period of precocious and prolific activity as a poet, publishing three volumes by the age of twenty-five. He became a passionate advocate of the Scottish Literary Renaissance, which he introduced to a wider audience through his editorship of the annual Poetry Scotland (1942-46) and the seminal anthology Modern Scottish Poetry (1946). After the War, he turned to journalism, becoming drama critic for the Scottish Daily Mail, music critic for the Bulletin, and a feature writer for Scottish Field. This would lead to a new career as one of Scotland’s foremost broadcasters.

The Broadcaster

In 1946 Lindsay became a freelance broadcaster with the BBC in his native Glasgow, contributing to many arts programmes. He rose to prominence as co-editor and presenter of the radio series Scottish Life and Letters and of Counterpoint, the first arts programme on Scottish television. He was also one of BBC Scotland’s first roving reporters, appearing almost daily and becoming an early Scottish television celebrity. He left the BBC in 1961 to become programme controller, features executive, and senior interviewer for Border Television in Carlisle. He returned to Scotland in 1967 to take up the post of Director of the Scottish Civic Trust.

The Poet

A prolific, versatile, and undervalued poet, Lindsay published over twenty books of verse. Like Norman MacCaig, he briefly flirted with the wartime New Apocalypse movement, then, encouraged by Hugh MacDiarmid, turned to Lallans or ‘Synthetic Scots’. MacDiarmid wrote an introduction to Lindsay’s 1948 collection Hurlygush in 1948, acclaiming him as 'the authentic voice of young Scotland'. Although Lindsay remained committed to the cultural regeneration of Scotland, he soon became sceptical, however, about attempts to revive the Scots language. He turned to a Scots-inflected English, much influenced by W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice, and A. E. Housman. His formally accomplished, gently humorous poetry, often dealing with everyday domestic subjects, is perhaps best exemplified in the collections Snow Warning (1962) and This Business of Living (1969). Aberdeen University Press published his Collected Poems in 1990.

The Man of Letters

Besides poetry, radio plays, and opera librettos (for Thea Musgrave), Lindsay published widely on an enormous range of Scottish subjects, including music, art, architecture, landscape, and tourism. He was a leading authority on Robert Burns and author of the invaluable Burns Encyclopaedia (1959). He prepared new editions of his anthology Modern Scottish Poetry in 1966 and 1976, incorporating writers who emerged in the post-war years such as Norman MacCaig and George Mackay Brown. He co-edited the journals Scottish Poetry (1966-76) and Scottish Review (1975-85). His lifelong advocacy of Scottish writing culminated in his co-editorship (with Lesley Duncan) of The Edinburgh Book of Twentieth-Century Scottish Poetry (2005).

Later Years

As Director of the Scottish Civic Trust from 1967 to 1983, Lindsay was responsible, among other projects, for the development of New Lanark as a World Heritage Site. He was president of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies and honorary Secretary General of the international heritage body Europa Nostra. He was appointed CBE in 1979 and awarded an honorary doctorate by Glasgow University in 1982. In 1998, his eightieth birthday was marked by a collection of essays Dear Maurice: Culture and Identity in Late 20th-century Scotland, which paid tribute to his multi-form contribution to Scotland’s cultural life. His poetry has been translated into German, Polish, and Slovak.

Further Reading

  • Lester Borley (ed.), Dear Maurice: Culture and Identity in Late 20th-Century Scotland: A Tribute to Maurice Lindsay on his 80th Birthday (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1998)
  • Maurice Lindsay, ‘I Belong to Glasgow’ in As I Remember: Ten Scottish Authors Recall How Writing Began for Them, ed. Maurice Lindsay (London: Robert Hale, 1979)
  • Maurice Lindsay, Thank You for Having Me: A Personal Memoir (London: Hale, 1983)

Online Resources

Includes a biographical profile, a selection of poems, lists of biographical and critical resources, and links to publications by and about Maurice Lindsay in the Scottish Poetry Library's online catalogue. The Scottish Poetry Library is open to everyone to use and free to join.