Collected Poems

Collected Poems

Collected Poems

Collected Poems

Excerpt

Robert G. Sutherland, Sutherland, Robert Garioch, Robert G., Robert G.S., Robert Garioch S., Robert Garioch (Sutherland), Robert Garioch Sutherland – as he variously signed off – not to omit 'Geerie' as he was sometimes called, was born in Edinburgh in 1909 and died there in 1981. He had a strong sense of belonging to Edinburgh, yet the middle period of his life, from the early 1930s to the late 1950s, saw him working as a teacher in the London area; and that period was in turn interrupted by war service, which, after his capture in North Africa, consisted of life as a POW for four years in camps in Italy and Germany. In a sketch of his formative years Garioch wrote:

My father was a painter, like his father before him. My mother was a
music teacher, before she was married. Her father was a company
porter in Leith Docks, discharging bulk cargoes of grain. The
metters and weighers tipped it into a sack which was placed on the
back of the porter, who carried it from the ship across a plank to the
shed. My mother used to tell me the full sack weighed two and a half
cwt. My father's people had always 'belonged' to Edinburgh; my
mother's were Mathewsons, hinds and grieves who circulated from
one farm to another, never far from Kelso. My father was a violinist
also, a fiddler, to use his own word, a semi-professional of the
theatres and picture-houses; he would often come home from work
to find himself required as a deputy, then he would clean himself
and set off at a trot with his fiddle-case under his oxter, very pleased.
My mother had taught the piano, also the mandoline and similar
instruments. Miss Kate Mathewsons Mandoline Band was very
popular.

Another sketch, much shorter and not published in his lifetime, begins:

The first thing I remember about growing up is dismay – when I
realised that I had stopped growing … I grew a little taller than my
mother, then I had to admit that I had stopped, at just about five feet
five, if I stretched my neck … Five feet five, I've since discovered, is
the very best height. Not too short, not too tall.

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