Two new memorials were unveiled last month in Edinburgh's Makars' Court, where many of the brightest and best of Scotland's writers are commemorated. The two newest are to poets William Soutar and George Campbell Hay.
George Campbell Hay was one of the greatest of our 20th century poets, but is today largely forgotten. Uniquely, he worked across English, Scots and Gaelic, but was also fluent in Norwegian, French and Italian, translating many works from these three languages into Gaelic. His long overdue memorial is entirely due to the work of Anne Artymiuk of the University of the Highlands and Islands, currently nearing the end of a PhD on Hay's work.
The memorial has, uniquely in the Makars' Court, two quotiations, one in Gaelic and one in Scots. The guidance for quotations from the Saltire Society is that they should be not more than 15 words, able to be understood out of context, and a summation of the author and their work. An impossible task in realtion to any writer, I would think. It was the Saltire Society themselves who suggested that I might like to consider a dual quotation, because of Hay's importance as a poet in all the three languages of Scotland.
I chose the Scots quotation in conjunction with Dr Michel Byrne of the University of Glasgow, who was responsible for editing the Collected Songs and Poems of George Campbell Hay and he chose the Gaelic one himself, because my Gaelic is rudimentary. The Scots one is "The hert's the compass tae the place that ye wad gae whan land ye lea", and the Gaelic one is "'cha chuir ceann is cridh' air iomrall thu, Bi iomlan is bi beo", which translates as, "Head and heart will not lead you astray, be complete and alive."