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Sydney Goodsir Smith

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The grave of Sydney Goodsir Smith, Dean Cemetery

Sydney Goodsir Smith (26 October 1915 – 15 January 1975) was a Scottish poet, artist, dramatist and novelist. He wrote poetry in literary Scots often referred to as Lallans (Lowlands dialect), and was a major figure of the Scottish Renaissance.



He was born in Wellington, New Zealand, and moved to Edinburgh with his family in 1928.[1] He was at school at Malvern College. He went to Edinburgh University to study medicine, but abandoned that, and started to read history at Oriel College, Oxford; whence he was expelled, but managed to complete a degree. He also claimed to have studied art in Italy, wine in France and mountains in Bavaria.[2]

His first poetry collection of many, Skail Wind, was published in 1941. Carotid Cornucopius (1947) was a comic novel about Edinburgh. His A Short Introduction to Scottish Literature, based on four broadcast talks, was published in 1951.[3] His play The Wallace formed part of the 1960 Edinburgh Festival.

Smith was also associated with the editorial board for the Lines Review magazine.[4][5]

Under the Eildon tree (1948), a long poem in 24 parts, is considered by many his finest work;[1] The Grace of God and the Meth-Drinker is a much-anthologised poem. Kynd Kittock's land (1964) was a commission of a poem to be televised by the BBC.

He died in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh[4] after a heart attack outside a newsagents on Dundas Street in Edinburgh and was buried in Dean Cemetery in the northern 20th century section, towards the north-west. His wife, Hazel Williamson, lies with him.


He is commemorated in the "Makars' Court" a section of James Court off the Lawnmarket on the Royal Mile.


  • Skail Wind - poems, Edinburgh, The Chalmers press, 1941
  • The Wanderer, and other poems, Edinburgh, Oliver and Boyd, 1943
  • The Deevil’s Waltz, Glasgow, W. MacLellan, 1946
  • Selected Poems, Edinburgh, published for The Saltire Society by Oliver and Boyd, 1947
  • A Short Introduction to Scottish Literature, Serif Books, 1951
  • So Late into the Night - fifty lyrics, 1944-1948, with a preface by Edith Sitwell, London, P. Russell, 1952
  • Robert Ferguson, 1750-1774, Edinburgh, Nelson, 1952
  • Orpheus and Eurydice - a dramatic poem, Edinburgh, M. Macdonald, 1955
  • Figs and Thistles, Edinburgh, Oliver and Boyd, 1959
  • The Wallace, a triumph in five acts, Edinburgh, Oliver and Boyd, 1960
  • Carotid Cornucopius, caird of the Cannon Gait and voyeur of the Outlook Touer, Edinburgh, M. Macdonald, 1964
  • Kynd Kittock’s land, Edinburgh, M. Macdonald, 1965
  • Fifteen Poems and a Play, Edinburgh, Southside, 1969
  • Collected Poems, 1941-1975, with an introduction by Hugh McDiarmid, London, John Calder, 1975
  • The Drawings of Sydney Goodsir Smith, poet, collected by Ian Begg, edited by Joy Hendry, Edinburgh, Chapman Press, on behalf of The New Auk Society, 1998


  1. ^ a b "About Sydney Goodsir Smith". University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Smith, Sydney Goodsir (1947), Selected Poems, Saltire Modern Poets series, Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh, back cover
  3. ^ Smith, Sydney Goodsir (1951), A Short Introduction to Scottish Literature, Serif Books, Edinburgh
  4. ^ a b "Smith, Sydney Goodsir". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/58855.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ Royle, Trevor (29 April 1998). "Lines reaches the end". The Scotsman  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). Retrieved 22 November 2014. 

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