Obituary: Robin Lorimer

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The Independent Online
Robin Lorimer's greatest work was to complete and publish the translation of the New Testament from Greek into Scots on which his father, Professor William Laughton Lorimer (1885-1967), had been working for the last 20 years of his life.

In Robin Lorimer's editorial introduction (itself a remarkable story) he says that his father: " 'read through' 72 different versions of Jude, Hebrews and James in 14 languages . . . and at least 174 versions of Philemon in 23 different languages" which are listed, and include Faroese, Occitanian, Catalan, and Esperanto.

When the manuscript was nearly ready to be printed, I was asked to help with its design and production. Lorimer set up a charitable trust to invite subscriptions to finance this inevitably expensive project. I remember being impressed by the number of Cabinet Ministers he wrote to who had been at Balliol with him before the war.

The work was published for the Trustees in 1983 by Canongate under Lorimer's own old imprint Southside. The Trustees decided on an initial printing of 2,500 copies but had no idea if they would sell a hundred copies, if that.

The whole edition was sold in less than two weeks; a second impression was issued a month later, and sold out promptly. In fact Lorimer's New Testament in Scots became a best-seller, was published in paperback by Penguin in 1985, and is still in print.

Robin Lorimer's introduction, besides describing his father's background and extraordinary scholarship, is full of wit and Scotticisms. His father, while working on his translation, was also an important contributor to the ongoing Scottish National Dictionary - of which from 1953 until his death in 1967 he acted as Chairman of the Executive Council.

Robin Lorimer was born in Glasgow in 1918, educated at Shrewsbury School and Balliol College, Oxford, and served in the army (Royal Artillery) from 1939 to 1946, being mentioned in despatches. In peace-time he become an alarming car driver ("I learned in a tank!"), and an authority on and composer of Highland bagpipe music, which he tended to burst into, humming or singing, while dining in a restaurant.

He was a professional editor in Edinburgh, first for Nelsons (from 1947 to 1955), then for Oliver & Boyd (1955-69), and he finally set up his own publishing firm of Southside in 1973.

In his final years Lorimer was in charge of preparing for publication (in Gaelic with English translation) the collected poems and songs of George Campbell Hay. In addition, after the death of his friend the popular poet Sidney Goodsir Smith, he formed the New Auk Society in his memory, in order to produce a book of Goodsir Smith's drawings.

Robin Lorimer combined a strong sense of humour with a deeply sensitive devotion to all things genuinely Scottish ranging from the dustbins on High Street and Southside of Edinburgh to the castles and palaces. Happily married to Priscilla, with a son and four daughters, he was a man of steadfast integrity and uncompromising faith to his family, his friends, and all that he believed in.

Ruari McLean

Robert (Robin) Lewis Campbell Lorimer, publisher: born Glasgow 1918; married (one son, four daughters); died Strathtummel by Pitlochry 22 August 1996.

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