Death of poet Sorley MacLean


THE POET Sorley MacLean (Somhairle Mac ill Eain), generally acknowledged to be one of the greatest writers in Scots Gaelic, died yesterday at the age of 85 in Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, following a short illness. An internationally acclaimed poet, he was Britain's nomination some years ago for the Nobel Prize for literature.

MacLean was a frequent visitor to Ireland, where he had many friends and admirers. This country featured regularly in his poetry and he had a great affinity with W.B. Yeats. In 1981, he read a poetic tribute to Yeats at the poet's grave in Drumcliff, Co Sligo. He was always generous in his encouragement of young Irish poets.

MacLean was born on Raasay, which lies between Skye and the Applecross Peninsula on the mainland of Wester Ross on the west coast of Scotland. After a childhood of Gaelic and music he went on to read English at Edinburgh University - and then, until 1972, spent his life as a teacher and headmaster of Plockton High School.

From 1973, he travelled widely to give poetry readings. In 1977, he published Spring Tide and Neap Tide, a bilingual edition of his work from 1932 and one of the most important collections of poems to appear in the second half of this century.

One of his greatest works was the collection of love poems entitled Dain to Eimher. These were inspired by an Irish girl he had met and was later to immortalise. In 1973, Callagh Records issued Barran agus Ashhuain, on which the poet can be heard reading his own work. In 1979, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the National University of Ireland for his contribution to literature.

He leaves his wife, Rinidh, and two daughters. A third daughter died three years ago.