Memorial lecture in honour of John Graham

The annual memorial lecture in Shetland Museum, which celebrates the achievements of past scholars, will this year be held in honour of the late John J Graham.

The lecture on 9th October will be given by Michael Schmidt, professor of poetry at Glasgow University, who will explore the work of poet Hugh MacDiarmid, who lived in Whalsay from 1933-42.

MacDiarmid was the pen name of Christopher Murray Grieve (1892–1978), arguably the most significant Scottish poet of the 20th century. Almost half his life’s work was written in Whalsay and the house where he lived, now a camping böd, attracts admirers of his work from around the world.

John J Graham (1921-2008) was a lifelong student and teacher of literature, and was enthusiastic about research into the subject. He was influential in Shetland’s educational, political and cultural life in the last half of the 20th century, and his rich legacy includes many publications and recordings.

With his brother Lollie he edited The New Shetlander for more than 40 years. He won three Shetland literary prizes, for two fictional novels and an important history of Shetland education, and wrote one of Shetland’s bestselling books, The Shetland Dictionary.

The Shetland Archives provides access to many of Mr Graham’s publications and much of his recorded work. His papers have also recently been donated and, once catalogued, will be available to the public.

Archives assistant Mark Smith said: “We thought Professor Schmidt would be a suitable speaker because, as well as being a scholar and writer, he has edited a literary magazine for decades, just as John Graham did with The New Shetlander. His publishing company, Carcanet, have also just done a massive republication project of MacDiarmid’s books.

“John Graham would have liked that a respected academic was coming here to speak about an aspect of our literary history which has been very little investigated. MacDiarmid was also an early contributor to The New Shetlander, and there are letters in the archives where he writes enthusiastically about the magazine.”

The lecture will be preceded by a tribute to Mr Graham, in the auditorium at 7.30pm (doors open at 7pm). The event is free but booking is essential. Tickets are available from the museum reception on (0159)5 695057.


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