Ruaraidh MacThòmais aig 90

November 1, 2011

Robyn reflects on making books, typography and Ruaraidh MacThòmais

The ratio of pleasure to anxiety in book-making varies considerably: in the case of Mar Chomharra: Ruaraidh MacThòmais aig 90 (Derick Thomson at 90: A Celebration) I think the ratio was 3:1, there being a slight anxiety as to whether it would be ready for 31 October. As it was proofed by the Gaelic scholar Ian Macdonald, and our own Jane Alexander caught a mistake in the English – ‘planning’ for ‘planing’ – unnoticed in the original edition, the normal anxiety over typos was very faint.

The pleasures are obvious: celebrating the work of a great poet; gathering in choices from – among others – Aonghas Macneacail and Liz Lochhead, and seeing the patchwork of pages turn into something elegant in the hands of designer Gerry Cambridge. A man of many talents – poet, photographer, naturalist, teacher, editor of The Dark Horse and typographer – Gerry chose ‘Tacitus’ as the title font and apparently it’s the first time this font has been used in Scotland. Another reason to buy this limited edition, bilingual pamphlet, as your introduction to or keepsake of the poetry of Derick Thomson.

The launch this week was hosted by Glasgow University’s Celtic and Gaelic department, where Prof Thomson was an authoritative presence for 28 years. He was also a founder of Comhairle nan Leabhraichean (the Gaelic Books Council), which published the pamphlet in association with the SPL. Younger Gaelic poets Peter Mackay and Niall O’Gallagher were among those paying tribute to Derick Thomson as a poet of Lewis and Glasgow; Niall indeed suggested that Thomson should be regarded as one of the trio of great writers about Glasgow, alongside Edwin Morgan and Alasdair Gray:

and if a Dante survives
he doesn’t have far to go
to find an Inferno;
but my Paradiso is lost
somewhere in Glasgow.

’s ma tha Dante fhathast ann
chan eil fad aige ri dhol
gus a lorg e Inferno;
ach tha mo Pharadiso-sa caillte
am badeigin an Glaschu.

from ‘Air Stràidean Ghlaschu (15)’ /‘On Glasgow Streets’ is from Smeur an Dòchais / Bramble of Hope  (Edinburgh: Canongate, 1991). Niall O’Gallagher chooses it in Mar Chomharra: Ruaraidh MacThòmais aig 90.


Training grade 7: (£25,584 – £28,251)   (Four days per week pro rata)


The prime responsibility will be to develop and manage two key projects: Literary Dundee; and the ‘Million for a Morgue’ campaign, as key elements of the External Relations team’s external public engagement and fundraising activities. The post holder will handle the day-to-day running of the projects as well as overseeing their development and helping them grow.

Duties and responsibilities

LiteraryDundeeinvolves planning, developing and running:

  • The annual Dundee Literary Festival
  • TheDundeeInternational Book Prize
  • New Writing Dundee (anthology)
  • Dundee Writes (magazine)
  • Dundee Literary Salons and other stand-alone events

You will also be involved in the programming for the University’s long-running Saturday Evening Lecture Series.

‘Million for a Morgue’ is a unique fundraising campaign to raise money for a new morgue facility within theUniversityofDundee. This high profile project involves working with ten of the biggest crime-writing authors in the world to take the campaign from launch to completion.

You will:

  • Plan and manage literary events, including their organisation, budgeting, marketing and delivery
  • Manage ‘New Writing Dundee’ including identifying and approaching established authors for content; marketing and promotion to attract contributions from other writers (worldwide); edit and manage the production of the anthology; market and sell the finished product;
  • Plan and manage the administration of the Dundee International Book Prize, including  marketing the Prize to attract entries from unpublished authors around the world; liaising with the publisher; managing readers of submissions; editorial work; handling the tender for printing; choosing its cover; organising its marketing and promotion;
  • Identify and approach potential speakers for literary salons and events and manage their attendance at events;
  • Manage the student editors of Dundee Writes and oversee its production;
  • Oversee the smooth running of events and manage volunteers;
  • Update the Literary Dundee website, social media presence and other promotional collateral;
  • Contribute to Million for a Morgue campaign planning and lead on all author liaison;
  • Work with the ten Million for a Morgue campaign authors, their publishers and PR agencies, to develop the campaign, identifying and organising opportunities for their engagement and support
  • Drive and manage social media activity to support the campaign;
  • Oversee and update regularly the content of the Million for a Morgue website.


  • Willingness to work non-traditional hours as and when required and to be available to travel.
  • To deliver services effectively, a degree of flexibility is needed, and the post holder may be required to perform work not specifically referred to above.


This position is offered initially as a fixed term contract to 31 July 2012.


You will be able to demonstrate the following experience, skills or knowledge:


  • Experience working in events, marketing, press;
  • Be able to demonstrate a real love of books;
  • Have excellent contact with authors, publishers and the press
  • Be educated to degree level or equivalent;
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills;
  • Well developed interpersonal skills;
  • Energy, drive and fresh ideas;
  • Evidence of strong organisational skills;
  • Work well in a team and with a wide range of people;
  • Be well presented with a professional manner;
  • Proactive and able to take the initiative;
  • Able to work under pressure and deliver to deadlines;
  • Sound financial acumen;

Flexibility to work evenings and weekends;


  • Knowledge of a wide range of marketing techniques and concepts;
  • Understanding of the arts, publishing and education market places and current trends

To apply please send CV and covering letter to Anna Day, Director, Literary Dundee, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 4HN.

The University of Dundee is committed to equal opportunities and welcomes applications from all sections of the community.

The University of Dundee is a Scottish Registered Charity, No. SC015096.