Edwin Morgan Biography Scoops Saltire Award

This year’s Saltire Society Scottish Research Book of the Year has been awarded to Glasgow University Emeritus Professor James McGonigal for his biography of Edwin Morgan. McGonigal, who is one of the poet’s literary executors, drew heavily on the extensive Edwin Morgan Papers in the Department of Special Collections in the University Library for his book, Beyond the Last Dragon: A Life of Edwin Morgan (Sandstone Press, 2010).

Announcing the award at a ceremony at the National Library in Edinburgh, Lorimer Mackenzie, Chairman of the Saltire Society said: “The judge’s task has been stimulating and rewarding. There is little doubt that once again the high quality of imagination, research, scholarship and literary excellence displayed by our authors has been confirmed. This year’s Scottish Research Book of the Year recounts an amazing and sometimes troubled career, using the poet’s own letters, poems and plays to uncover the often local origins of his still remarkable inventiveness and flair. It is a truly remarkable account.”

Professor McGonigal was delighted to receive the prize. “The book was not just important as a biography of one of Scotland’s greatest ever poets. It was also, for me, a real labour of love. I am delighted and honoured to receive this award.”

Professor Anne Anderson, Vice-Principal and Head of College of Social Sciences at the University of Glasgow said that Beyond the Last Dragon: A Life of Edwin Morgan added to the understanding of the rich and enduring poetry of Scotland’s first Makar, or national poet, who died in 2010. “The Saltire Award for James McGonigal's renowned biography of Edwin Morgan is fitting recognition for a work of wide-ranging scholarship and originality of thought.  Building on decades of personal friendship and literary collaboration with one of Scotland's most important modern poets, James McGonigal has succeeded in presenting to the Scottish public a rich and detailed portrait of a poet rooted in the heritage of Scottish writing yet international in his ambition and influence. No other biographer could have offered us an account of Edwin Morgan's life and achievements blending the private with the public, the personal with the cultural, with such skill and sensitivity.  The Saltire Award is a fine tribute to James McGonigal himself, as a writer, teacher and critic.”

This is the third year in a row that the prestigious Saltire Scottish Research Book of the Year has been made to staff from the University of Glasgow. In 2010 Nigel Leask shared the award for his book Robert Burns and Pastoral, Poetry and Improvement in Late Eighteenth-Century Scotland, whilst in 2009 it was made to Christian Kay for her Historical Thesaurus of the English Language.


For further information please contact Peter Aitchison, Media Relations Manager on 0141 330 7350; peter.aitchison@glasgow.ac.uk

First published: 2 December 2011