Sorley MacLean

Sorley MacLean

About Sorley MacLean

Sorley MacLean (born 26 October 1911 in Raasay, Inner Hebrides - 24 November 1996 in Inverness, Highland) was a Scottish poet and writer among the most important of the twentieth century who wrote his poems in Gaelic. His early poems were all in English, but, after writing his first poem in Gaelic An Corra-Ghridheach (The Heron), he felt this was better than his earlier works and resolved to use his native tongue henceforth. By the mid-1930s, Sorley MacLean was an established author in the Gaelic language. In 1940, together with Robert Garioch, he published the book of poems Seventeen Poems for Sixpence as a handprint. In 1943, he published Dáin do Eimhir (Poems to Eimhir), which contained many of his love poems to the legendary Eimhir from the early Irish sagas and received wide attention and acclaim in later editions. MacLean, who worked as a teacher and school principal until his retirement in 1972, published his most important collection of poetry, Reothairt is Contraigh (Spring Tide and Neap Tide) in 1977. Numerous of his poems have been published in bilingual editions worldwide. After his Collected Poems were published in 1989, he was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1990. He has been an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh since 1992.
Much of his work was devoted to political themes. He was also a talented poet in the register of love poetry. His work in the field of Gaelic poetry, at a time when few prominent authors used Gaelic in their works, created his reputation as the father of the Scottish Gaelic revival. His poems addressed 20th century crimes in Gaelic, and modernized and re-energized the language, sketching clear analogies between the tragedies of exile and cultural genocide of the 19th century Highland Clearances, and the crimes perpetrated in the countries of Biafra and Rwanda. Sorley MacLean died in 1996 at the age of 85 in the Scotland he always cherished.

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