An exciting literary find
by JOHN MANSON of a previously unpublished poem by one of the foremost
Scottish poets of the twentieth century has been forwarded to the Scots
Independent for publication in this issue of the paper.
amongst Dr Robert D McIntyre’s papers lodged with the National Library of
Scotland, he found a poem by Sydney Goodsir Smith entitled ‘A Ballad for
Douglas Young’ dated July 1942. John Manson told the SI that "A Ballad for
Douglas Young" was found in an envelope in the National Library of
Scotland in Acc 9902, a collection containing letters to R D McIntyre
1935-36 and 1942-45. On the back of the envelope is written
"For National Library/Ballad for Douglas
Young/Written down by Dr R D McIntyre / May not have been published /
Obviously by Sydney Goodsir Smith".
subsequently been received from both the National Library of Scotland and
the poet’s widow Mrs Hazel Smith to publish the poem in the Scots
The poem was written during the time
that Douglas Young, then National Chairman of the SNP,
was first imprisoned for refusing to be
conscripted during the Hitler War. Of his first prison term, served in
Saughton, Douglas Young wrote — "On weekdays I used to work about the
grounds in what was called "the garden party" and on Sundays play a wheezy
old harmonium for the Presbyterian services in the chapel, the voluntary
most requested being Handel’s Largo. It added to the gaity of the occasion
when Dr Robert McIntyre, secretary of the National Party, organised a
procession complete with bagpipes to
serenade me at the prison-gates; the poet Hugh
amongst the most demonstrative of the demonstrators".
after his release from
prison Douglas Young stood as the SNP candidate in the
Kirkcaldy Burghs by-election in February 1944. His Election Agent was
Arthur Donaldson and the campaign owed much to the input of Dr Robert D
McIntyre. In a three-way contest, Douglas Young polled 6,621 votes 42% of
the poll, securing a strong second place to the successful Labour
Dr McIntyre was, of course, to be
even more successful in the next Scottish By-Election contested by the
National Party when he became the first ever
SNP Westminster MP
in the April 1945 By-Election in Motherwell and Wishaw.
Independent is grateful to John Manson for
allowing us the opportunity to publish for the first time this important
literary find of a poem by Sydney Goodsir Smith. The friendship between
Sydney Goodsir Smith and Robert D McIntyre resulted not only in the
appearance of his work in the SI but his splendid editorship of one of the
best ever SI publications — "Bannockburn: The Story of the Battle and its
place in Scottish History" — in 1964.
The finding of the poem amongst the
papers of Dr Robert D McIntyre is a timely reminder of his invaluable
contribution to both the development of
the modern SNP and, in our 75th anniversary
year, the continued publication of the Scots Independent.
Peter D Wright
A BALLAD FOR DOUGLAS YOUNG
by Sydney Goodsir Smith
to listen to this poem in Real Audio
Read by Marilyn Wright
Douglas Young they’ve pitten by
In Saughton jail is he
He bides mang thae that rob and rape
That stude for Scot land free.
He testified gin unricht bonds
They tighter pu the chains -
But we’ll hae Douglas oot, ma Lords,
An Scotland rule her ain.
Their talk o’ freedom’s
jist a say
As Douglas kens owre weel
He talked o’ Scottish libertie
Sae Douglas bides in jail.
His crime was that he spak the truth
Anent oor trauchled land
He caad for justice - he’d a
Frae English-monied hands.
On Union’s skaith they’ve sooked and starved
Oor bodie, harns and saul
They hae oor bluid tae fecht their wars,
In peace we hae their dole.
When Douglas tellt them historie’s truth
Nae answer could they gie,
They pit him by for a twalmonth
I’ the war for
But bide a wee, ma bonnie Lords,
There’s twa can play yir game
And we’ll hae Douglas oot again
An Scotland rule her ain!
Sydney Goodsir Smith
for Douglas Young" is published by kind permission of
the National Library of Scotland and Mrs Hazel Smith, with thanks to John