Leonard McDermid, 2018 Recipient

Leonard McDermidLeonard McDermid has enjoyed over eighty years of looking at things and over sixty years of commenting on them in various forms, mainly as a visual artist.

Born in 1933, McDermid grew up during the war years and left school at fifteen and worked at various jobs, including two years as a National Serviceman in the Royal Artillery 1951 – 1953.

He returned to further full-time education in 1958.

1958 – 1962 Medway College of Art
1962 – 1963 Brighton College of Art
1963 – 1964 Newbattle Abbey College
1966 - 1969 University of Edinburgh

He taught for many years, mainly in the Scottish Borders. During this period he undertook two commissions as sea-going artist for The Marine Society which involved, among other voyages, work on a troopship ferrying members of the armed forces across the South Atlantic to the Falkland Islands and work in the Arabian Gulf on a tanker during “The Tanker War.”

He currently lives and works in the Scottish Borders.

Selection of Publications

Leonard McDermid designs, hand-sets and prints and publishes his poetry pamphlets under the imprint Stichill Marigold Press, some of which are listed below:

Shoo fly 1996
Twelve Sea Pictures 2004
All ways 2005
Notes in the Margin
A Pocket Guide to the Sea 2008
Earthworks 2008
And for that Minute 2009 (joint-winner CMMA 2010)
North West Passage 2011
Ten Sad Songs 2012
Seaway 2016 (runner-up CMMA 2017)
Landway (CMMA winner 2017)


Selected Poems from Recent Work


Yes, I recall that memory —
Right well, because the afternoon
Was hot and all about the sun beat
Relentlessly. So warm for June.

The Fast came. Drifting past the shed.
Along the track the train slowed
To the hot platform. All I saw
Was carriages — blocking the road 

And windows, passengers, and wheels,
And carriage-brass, and coachwork bright,
A sad face from far away and
The brake blocks ticking in the heat.

And at that moment the Starter cleared
Down by, the train left, faces gone,
Quieter then quieter. The day back
To solitude and blackbird song.

Mr. Benjamin Wells, General Carrier, Adlestrop. July, 1914.

From: And for that Minute – Incident at Adlestrop Station G.W.R. Stichill Marigold Press 2009



                                 for WS Graham

               Have we met?
               I think I know you.

Yes.   Listen.   Here. 

Here I am, lifted onto the iron cover
Of the manhole, here in the grey yard
Of the glowering school.

I am surrounded by giants
And reading aloud to them
From the big boys' reader.

         Where the pools are brightand   DEEP,
         Where the grey trout liesa   SLEEP,
         Up the river and overthe LEA,
         That's the way for Billyand   ME.

I think there will be rain.
The timeless Argyll hills
Are fading, drowned into deafness
By the hammered rivets.

I will turn my back
And track the burn,
Across the sidings;
Above even
The high railway.

There is the farm, its name on the tyres
Of the bus where Aunt Margaret
Takes the fares.

Now, walking the Whin Hill,
Moving the myrtle air.
Ah there! Yes there, that unique fox
Glove, your hand at my shoulder.
There, away from the weeping closes
And the cruel fires.

Listen. I think it is time
To turn our collars up,
Ship out and take the seas full on.

What are we to make of it
Over all the years?

                               Unpublished poem to mark the centenary of the poet WS Graham (1918 – 1986)








A brief comment from Leonard McDermid about being in Greece, in 2018

What a privilege to have been invited to be a poet-in-residence at the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies by the Michael Marks Charitable Trust and the National Library of Scotland under the NLS Callum Macdonald Memorial Award 2017.

Together with the poet Charlotte Wetton, in Greece I experienced two weeks of what seemed to me to be an amazing ride on a magic carpet. The entire programme was well planned and thoughtful.

Sympathetically accompanied by Matina Goga and Christina Lafi from the CHS, the wonders of Greece unfolded. In Nafplio, Athens, Ancient Olympia and many historical sites, history, theatre, mythology, archaeology and so much more was explained and illustrated by our hosts and other knowledgeable and professional experts. At all times I found myself in the company of interesting and interested academics, poets, scholars and creative fellow beings.   Everywhere I was met with kindness and humanity, whether on site visits or when discussing and exchanging views on poetry, art, mythology, politics, education, archaeology, philosophy or the general process of being alive and in the company of creative fellowship. 

I gratefully acknowledge my good fortune. Those two memorable weeks will be unforgettable in every way.


Photo credit: Mike Knowles