And the Quaich goes to…

June 3, 2009

Postcards from the HedgeWhat do you call a gathering of pamphleteers? Actually, a gathering is a printing term (for a number of signatures – a signature being one piece of paper folded up to make many pages, often 8 pages) so perhaps that will do as it stands. There we were, gathered, on a hot Edinburgh Friday (29 May) – rare enough in itself – at the National Library of Scotland, browsing and gossiping, drinking and nibbling, generally enjoying ourselves in a slightly sticky, literary way. Wondering, of course, who would be carrying off the Quaich awarded to the poet winning the Callum MacDonald Memorial Award for 2009.

Once Lady Marks — principal sponsor of the award through the Michael Marks Charitable Trust – had arrived, it could all get underway. Mercifully – given the heat and the speculation – the speeches were brief. Lady Marks, finding herself in the Athens of the North, made apt and encouraging references to the battles of Thermopylae and Marathon in referring to pamphleteers’ redoubtable stand against the vast market forces ranged against them. She congratulated the runners-up Jayne Wilding and her publisher Colin Will for Sky blue notebook from the Pyrenees (the text printed in sky-blue ink), and Mary Johnston for A Ring O Sangs. Mary referred to her own publication as ‘just translations’. But she knows better than to describe that noble endeavour as ‘just’ translating again!

The Quaich was carried off by Hugh McMillan and his publisher Hugh Bryden for Postcards From the Hedge. Hugh took up the battle theme by reading us his ‘Three Letters to McMhaolain mor from a tenant, 1745-46’: ‘I am sorry to have missed you at Culloden / but I had an apex ticket and had to return / or pay a heavy supplement….’ You don’t often find Culloden and laughter in the same gathering, so it was a rare note on which to end a good evening.

~ Robyn

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