While walking down Wilson Street in Craigie many folks might pass a fairly ordinary-looking house and not think twice about who has lived there. A plaque on the wall does give some details but I know many people could easily miss this and walk by.
The Soutar House or Soutar Hoose is the place and while I worked with the library and archives team at the AK Bell Library I used to help open the house for events and for Doors Open Day. I am not sure you can access the house now but this was the home of the Perth poet, William Soutar (1898 -1943).
Soutar is famous for his poetry in Scots and in English and he was born and brought up in Perth before attending university in Edinburgh but he returned home to his parents with unexplained health issues. Soutar was in contact with Hugh MacDairmid and Ezra Pound and MacDairmid was more in favour of writing in Scots than in English. Soutar became a leading figure of this, Scottish Literary Renaissance, and after his death was called 'one of the greatest poets Scotland has produced'. Tragically, Soutar was diagnosed in 1924 with ankylosing spondylitis, a form of chronic inflammatory arthritis, and his illness gradually rendered him immobile and confined to bed. In his room, a sma' room, the room his father extended for him and which held his books and mirrors so that he might see all that was going on, he wrote diaries and poetry.
If you want to find out more about Soutar's life and work and the house on Wilson Street then please look up the Friends of William Soutar. Their website is full of information on his life and all the ways they, and many others, have worked hard to keep promoting his poetry and his legacy. You'll find all kinds of things on the website from the poems themselves to short videos of performances and lectures and also the Bairn Rhymes, poems for children in Scots.
Soutar also has a festival of words named after him! Although it bears his name there is so much more to this event than just poetry, although there's plenty of that included! This event is for anyone with a love of words, music, stories, and Scots. PlaidSong will be doing a gig in the Soutar Theatre at AK Bell Library on the opening evening, 5.30 pm and our take on Soutar involves exploring Poems intae Sang. So many wonderful poems are remembered not because they are poems but because someone turned them into a song. We will be giving some examples of well-known, and some lesser-known, poems that are fabulous songs. So many brilliant poets, Burns, Allan Ramsey, Violet Jacob, and Lady Nairne, as well as Soutar, to call upon! We have a brilliant selection lined up!
On Sunday morning, the 30th, we will be hosting a workshop and this will delve a little deeper into the idea of 'poems intae sangs' - from 10 am in Perth Art Gallery, we will take a more in-depth look at some of the poets and songs of our choice but also a chance for you to join in and get singing! No experience is necessary, all levels of ability are welcome as we will be teaching a few songs too, just for fun.
Check out other things that are happening over the weekend 28th to 30th April, pop-up poets, author talks and interviews, Perth's own Jim Mackintosh, and lots for kids and families to enjoy. PlaidSong have often had the idea that literary festivals could use a little music and we think the Soutar Festival of Words must be one that has music well integrated with the writing and poetry. So, we are pleased to be bringing some of our songs and history to this event - we are in the most excellent company of Sheena Wellington, Douglas Sime and Alasdair Roberts, to name a few - and hope you get your tickets booked soon!
More info can be found online Soutar Festival of Words 2023