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Lindsay, (John) Maurice (1918–2009), poet, editor, and cultural historian, was born at 8 Lynedoch Place, Glasgow, on 21 July 1918, the son of Matthew Lindsay and his wife, Eileen Frances, née Brock. He was born into a relatively wealthy family: his father was an insurance company manager and local secretary of the city's League of Nations Union. He was educated at Glasgow Academy and the Scottish National Academy of Music, volunteered for service with the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) in the Second World War, and was seconded to the War Office after a wrist injury precluded both active service and an early ambition to be a violinist. He emerged from the Second World War with a deep commitment to making Scotland's cultural distinctiveness more widely enjoyed and appreciated. On 3 August 1946, already able to describe himself as an ‘author’, he married the 21-year-old Aileen Joyce Gordon, secondary school teacher, and daughter of Evan Gordon, clerk. They had three daughters and one son.

After reading an anthology of modern Irish poetry Lindsay had during the war decided that an equally impressive book could be made of Scottish material. His persuasive encounter with the director of Faber and Faber, T. S. Eliot, resulted in Modern Scottish Poetry: an Anthology of the Scottish Renaissance, 1920–1945 (1946), which opened to an international readership major work by Hugh MacDiarmid, Sorley Maclean, W. S. Graham, Norman MacCaig, and a range of modern Scottish poets. Complemented by four issues of Lindsay's periodical Poetry Scotland in the 1940s, the book evolved through numerous revised editions into The Edinburgh Book of Twentieth-Century Scottish Poetry (2005), co-edited with Lesley Duncan.

Lindsay was a newspaper music and drama critic on the Scottish Daily Mail in 1946–7 and The Bulletin from 1946 to 1960, and commented on arts news and cultural affairs for the BBC throughout the 1950s, in the television series Counterpoint and the radio series Scottish Life and Letters. He held a variety of positions, spending six years in Carlisle as programme controller for Border Television (1961–7), returning to Scotland as director of the Scottish Civic Trust (1967–83), president of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies (1988–91), and honorary secretary general of the international heritage body Europa Nostra (1983–91). Never simply an establishment man, he was an eloquent cultural conservationist, persuasive in preventing the demolition of Stranraer Castle, in cleaning up the grime-covered buildings of Glasgow in 1969, and in developing New Lanark as a world heritage site.

Lindsay's own poetry was encouraged at first by Hugh MacDiarmid, who saw Lindsay's youthful energy enhancing the cultural regeneration required in Scotland. Lindsay started with war poems such as ‘London, 1940’ and ‘The Sudden Picture’, then began writing in the Scots language. MacDiarmid wrote an enthusiastic introduction to his early collection Hurlygush (1948). However, Lindsay soon recognized his incompatibility with MacDiarmid's extreme politics and tough-minded modernism, opting to write easefully in Scots-inflected English. Many of his poems were profoundly middle-class, domestic, unobtrusively humorous, anecdotal, and formally deft, perhaps best exemplified in the collections Snow Warning (1962) and This Business of Living (1969). They included portraits, as in ‘Any Night in the Village Pub’, or landscapes, such as ‘A View of Loch Lomond’. Some poems were whimsical, deliberately minor; some tackled larger themes, as in ‘Speaking of Scotland’ with its famous last lines:
Scotland's a sense of change, an endless
becoming for which there never was a kind
of wholeness or ultimate category.
Scotland's an attitude of mind.
Lindsay's achievement was centred in a genteel urbanity comparable to Philip Larkin, yet in temper, tone, and facility at the opposite pole: warm, good-humoured, and self-confident.

Among many books Lindsay produced two detailed guides, The Lowlands of Scotland: Glasgow and the North (1953) and its companion, Edinburgh and the South (1956), which drew on uniquely valuable oral tales associated with the places they described at a time when people were still able to recollect them. He wrote or edited the reference books Robert Burns: the Man, His Work, the Legend (1954), The Burns Encyclopedia (1959), a selection of poems by John Davidson (1961) with introductions by T. S. Eliot and Hugh MacDiarmid, the collection of prose and verse, Scotland: an Anthology (1974), a monograph on the artist Robin Philipson (1976), various collections of travel writing about Scotland and historical accounts of Glasgow, a History of Scottish Literature (1977), and an autobiography, Thank You for Having Me (1983). His appraisal of one of modern Scotland's most important composers, in Francis George Scott and the Scottish Renaissance (1980), was confirmed by the CD Moonstruck: Songs of F. G. Scott, released by Signum Records in 2007.

In later years Lindsay was characteristically seen in flamboyant bow-tie, tartan trousers, and mustard cord jacket, with a cherubic aspect and an air of appetite and selective curiosity. He was appointed CBE in 1979 and awarded an honorary doctorate by Glasgow University in 1982. A collection of essays edited by Lester Borley and published for his eightieth birthday, Dear Maurice: Culture and Identity in Late 20th-Century Scotland (1998), surveyed his biography, varied careers, and engagement with Scotland's culture, poetry, and architectural and artistic heritage. Having lived latterly in Bowling, west Dunbartonshire, he died at the Erskine Home, a care home for ex-servicemen, in Bishopton, Renfrewshire, of ischaemic colitis on 30 April 2009. He was survived by his wife, Joyce, and three children; one daughter died in 2006.

Alan Riach


M. Lindsay, ed., As I remember: ten Scottish authors recall how writing began for them (1979) · M. Lindsay, Thank you for having me: a personal memoir (1983) · The letters of Hugh MacDiarmid, ed. A. Bold (1984) · A. Bold, MacDiarmid: Christopher Murray Grieve: a critical biography, 1st edn, 1988, rev. edn (1990) · Glasgow Herald (16 July 1988) · L. Borley, ed., Dear Maurice: culture and identity in late 20th-century Scotland: a tribute to Maurice Lindsay on his 80th birthday (1998) · Times Literary Supplement (14 Aug 1998) · H. MacDiarmid, New selected letters, ed. D. Grieve, O. D. Edwards, and A. Riach (2001) · textualities.net/jennie-renton/maurice-lindsay-interview/, accessed on 16 Aug 2012 · R. Watson, The literature of Scotland, 2: The twentieth century (2007) · The Herald [Glasgow] (2 May 2009) · The Scotsman (5 May 2009) · The Guardian (13 May 2009) · The Times (27 May 2009) · Daily Telegraph (5 June 2009) · J. Manson, ed., Dear Grieve: letters to Hugh MacDiarmid (C.M. Grieve) (2011) · WW (2009) · personal knowledge (2013) · b. cert. · m. cert. · d. cert.


Mitchell L. Glas., poetry notebooks and misc. papers · U. Edin. L., corresp. and literary papers |  NL Scot., Hugh MacDiarmid and C. M. Grieve papers


H. Magee, photograph, 1950, Getty Images, London · obituary photographs