Sorley Maclean is buried in the cemetery in front
of Āros, south of Portree
on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.
Grave of Sorley Maclean by John Allan
Maclean was born at Osgaig on the island of Raasay
in 1911 into a Gaelic speaking community.
While studying at
Edinburgh University he encountered Hugh Macdiarmid
who inspired him to write poetry. However, Maclean chose the
Gaelic of his childhood rather than Scots.
After fighting in North Africa during World War II he
embarked on his life-long career as a school teacher - working in Mull, Edinburgh and Plockton.
MacClean was one of the finest writers of Gaelic in the 20th century.
upon its rich oral tradition to create innovative and beautiful
the Scottish landscape and history. He was also an accomplished love
poet. However, writing in Gaelic limited his audience so he began to translate his own work into English. In
1977 a bilingual edition of his selected poems appeared - followed
by the collected poems in 1989.
Seamus Heaney at the Maclean memorial
cairn at Hallaig, Raasay.
His fame as a poet began to spread
during the 1970s - helped by the appearance of his work
in Gordon Wright's Four Points of a Saltire.
Seamus Heaney, who first met Maclean at a poetry reading at the
Abbey Theatre Dublin, was one of his greatest admirers and
subsequently worked on translations of his work.
One of MacClean's most celebrated poems
is Hallaig which concerns the
enforced clearance of the inhabitants of the township of Hallaig (Raasay) to
In 1990 Maclean received the Queen's Gold Medal for poetry. He died in 1996 at the age of 85.
|Time, the deer, is in Hallaig Wood
|There's a board nailed across the window
|I looked through to see the west
|And my love is a birch forever
|By Hallaig Stream, at her tryst
|Between Inver and Milk Hollow,
|somewhere around Baile-chuirn,
|A flickering birch, a hazel,
|A trim, straight sapling rowan.
from Hallaig (translated by