Derick S Thomson

Professor Derick S. Thomson, or Ruaraidh MacThòmais in his native Gaelic, was a poet, publisher and lexicographer from the Isle of Lewis. Born in 1921, he was schooled in Stornoway before studying at the Universities of Aberdeen, Cambridge and Bangor. After joining the RAF during WWII, he joined the University of Edinburgh as an assistant professor of Celtic in 1948. In 1963 he was became Professor of Celtic at Glasgow, a position he held until his retirement in 1991.

Thomson was a leading figure in Gaelic writing, both as a poet, and as an academic. He set up the Gairm publishing house and magazine after seeing the strength of the Welsh language movement, and lead the Historical Dictionary of Scottish Gaelic project with editor Kenneth MacDonald. He wrote a number of books on Gaelic poetry, including An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry, The Companion to Gaelic Poetry, and European Poetry in Gaelic.

His first collection of poetry, Far Road, was published in 1970. His move from the traditional lyrical forms of Gaelic poetry to more free-verse forms, tackling contemporary and urban issues, influenced a generation of Gaelic poets. His 1982 anthology Creachadh na Clàrsaich won a Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year award.

Derick Thomson was an Honorary President of the Scottish Poetry Library, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the British Academy. In June 2007, he received an honorary degree from the University of Glasgow. In the 1970s, he was Chairman of the SNP’s Gaelic Committee. He died in March 2012, aged 90.

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