THOUGH never a major poet or an exceptionally colourful character, James King Annand was a worthy literary Scot of the old school, the old school being Broughton Secondary in his native Edinburgh.
Broughton has no old school tie in the English sense but Jim Annand was emotionally tied to it. In 1925, as schoolboy editor of the Broughton Magazine, he was exhilarated by the appearance that year of a slim volume of Scots lyrics by a former pupil and former editor of the magazine. This was Sangschaw, the first book by 'Hugh MacDiarmid', who had attended Broughton under his given name Christopher Murray Grieve and been booted out in 1911 for pinching books belonging to the Principal Teacher of English, George Ogilvie.
Reviewing Sangschaw in the school magazine, editor Annand declared perceptively: 'MacDiarmid's work, although an experiment in a new type of Scots poetry, is a complete success at the first venture. He has shown us that Scots is still a suitable, and a highly successful, medium of expression for all kinds of verse.' Annand had discovered a cause.
For the rest of his long life Annand worked for the cause of poetry in Scots, though he wisely made no attempt to compete with MacDiarmid as a creative writer. A pedagogue by inclination and profession, he championed Scots as an educational experience, as a language an insecure nation should and could pronounce with pride.
He tried to standardise the spelling of Scots in his energetic promotion of the Scots Style Sheet adopted by the Makars' Club in Edinburgh in 1947. He edited Lallans, the magazine of the Scots Language Society, from 1973 to 1983.
As a poet he was most successful when addressing young folk in his collections Sing it Aince for Pleisure (1965), Twice for Joy (1973), Thrice to Show Ye (1979). These bairnsangs have charmed many Scottish children into appreciating Scots.
'Come Sailin' ' is characteristic: 'Come intil my boat / I'll tak ye for a sail, / We'll mebbe catch a cod / A mackerel or a whale, / We'll mebbe catch a mermaid / And we will be enthralled / But I think it far mair likely / We'll only catch the cauld.'
When I told Annand my own daughter liked this he generously sent her a fair copy of the poem. Typical.
After retiring in 1971 from teaching, though not at Broughton, Annand expressed new interest in his old school. He urged Scottish writers to support the Broughton Library. When he found out that I had been at Broughton, decades after him, he persuaded me to part with signed copies of several of my own books.
Every time I met Annand he talked about Broughton. He harped on about the literary tradition of the school: old boys included MacDiarmid, of course, but also other well-known Scottish names such as Albert Mackie, Fred Urquhart and himself. Not bad for a wee Scottish public school - and not public in the English sense of private.
Immensely helpful to me when I edited The Letters of Hugh MacDiarmid, Annand was especially informative about the guided missives the angry young poet sent to his mentor, the aforementioned Ogilvie. He was similarly helpful when I wrote a biography of MacDiarmid, which he regarded as a book by a Broughtonian about a Broughtonian, though I never shared his sentimental attachment to the school.
Most of the outstanding modern Scottish poets have been obstreperously boozy boys but Jim Annand was not of their number. He was fond of a drink, yet, unusually for a Scottish man of letters, was not fanatical about drinking. A modest man, aware of his limitations, he published little but always enjoyed encouraging others to write. Looking through letters he sent me I note the supportive comments and the characteristic way of signing off: 'More power to your pen.'
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