The Edwin Morgan Papers: Squaring the Circle

Edwin Morgan c2009 by Alex Boyd [MS Morgan Add/Accn 4993]

Edwin Morgan by Alex Boyd c2009 [MS Morgan Add/Accn 4993]

When cataloguing the papers of any individual or institution you often end up with anomalous papers that don’t easily fit into the cataloguing arrangement.  Such was the case with the papers of the first Scots Makar and internationally renowned poet, Edwin Morgan, and the job of trying to establish how these atypical papers should fit into MS Morgan was perhaps all the more perplexing as Edwin’s organisational skills had facilitated such an easy arrangement of the vast majority of his collection.  Morgan’s meticulous record keeping had by and large enabled us to maintain his papers original order with minimal intervention, the ideal situation for the archivist when approaching such a large collection.

Thus the few folders of papers that didn’t seamlessly fit neatly into the catalogue were left to the end of the process, including two entitled ‘Writings 1’ and ‘Writings 2’.  However, once we had decided to list the folders at item level, and after much discussion, we came to the conclusion that in all reality there really was only one obvious place for them go – MS Morgan P: Poems.  These folders date from 2000-2005, with the vast majority being created in the years 2004-2005, that is to say, shortly after Eddie moved into a care home.

It is clear from these, and other later folders, that once Eddie goes into a care home his ability to impose his usual organisational structure on his documents is curtailed.  Yet scattered through these two files we found numerous draft manuscript poems that are not replicated elsewhere in the collection, and thus concluded that the best fit would be as MS Morgan P/3: Writings, in the very least to illustrate that Edwin didn’t stop writing poems in his later years.  Indeed often his immediate surroundings appear to have been the inspiration for some of his poems, including ‘An Old Woman’s Birthday’ and ‘The Old Man and E.A.P.’ which begins

He is not sleeping, though you might think so.

His eyes are half shut against the light.

‘An old man’s nap.’  They smile, walk softly on…

These poems also illustrate that Eddie continued to be engaged with the outside world during this period, and events such as the War on Terror and the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki feature among the subjects covered.  The latter being an interest of Morgan’s since the 1940s, as demonstrated by his ScrapbooksMS Morgan C.

Also included in this file is correspondence, press cuttings and ephemera, which in earlier years Eddie no doubt would have filed away in their various allocated folders, but in this instance give a broader context to his writing.

Please note that an appointment is required to request access to MS Morgan, please contact Special Collections at for further information.

James McGonigal Beyond the Last Dragon: A Life of Edwin Morgan (Sandstone Press Ltd, 2010)

Categories: Library, Special Collections


1 reply

  1. What an excellent photograph! Let’s get it on the tenner!

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