Iain Crichton Smith

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Iain Crichton Smith
Born(1928-01-01)January 1, 1928
Glasgow, Scotland
DiedOctober 15, 1998(1998-10-15) (aged 70)
Taynuilt, Argyllshire, Scotland
LanguageEnglish and Gaelic
Alma materUniversity of Aberdeen
GenreShort story
Notable worksThe Telegram
The Red Door
SpouseDonalda Logan (m. 1977)

Iain Crichton Smith, OBE (Gaelic: Iain Mac a' Ghobhainn; 1 January 1928 – 15 October 1998) was a Scottish poet and novelist, who wrote in both English and Gaelic. He was born in Glasgow, but moved to the Isle of Lewis at the age of two, where he and his two brothers were brought up by their widowed mother in the small crofting town of Bayble, which also produced Derick Thomson. Educated at the University of Aberdeen,[1] Crichton Smith took a degree in English, and after completing his national service in the Army Educational Corps, went on to become a teacher. He taught in Clydebank, Dumbarton and Oban from 1952, retiring to become a full-time writer in 1977, although he already had many novels and poems published.

Overview of work[edit]

Crichton Smith was brought up in a Gaelic-speaking community, learning English as a second language once he attended school. Friend and poet Edwin Morgan notes that unlike his contemporaries (such as Sorley Maclean and Derick Thomson), Crichton Smith was more prolific in English than in Gaelic, perhaps viewing his writing in what, from Crichton Smith's view, was an imposed non-native language as a challenge to English and American poets. However, Crichton Smith also produced much Gaelic poetry and prose, and also translated some of the work of Sorley Maclean from Gaelic to English, as well as some of his own poems originally composed in Gaelic. Much of his English language work is actually directly related to, or translated from, Gaelic equivalents.

Crichton Smith's work also reflects his dislike of dogma and authority, influenced by his upbringing in a close-knit, island Presbyterian community, as well as his political and emotional thoughts and views of Scotland and the Highlands. Despite his upbringing, Crichton Smith was an atheist. A number of his poems explore the subject of the Highland Clearances, and his best-known novel Consider the Lilies (1968) is an account of the eviction of an elderly woman during such times.

Elderly women and alienated individuals are common themes in his work.


Crichton Smith's poetry quite often had a character perhaps based on his mother. He also typically used natural images to convey emotion.

His poetry includes:

  • Culloden and After (1961) - an attack on that period in British history, especially "Bonnie Charlie".
  • Old Woman (1965)
  • The Iolaire (date)
  • The Man who Cried Wolf (1964)
  • You Lived in Glasgow (date)
  • You'll Take a Bath (date)
  • John Brown (KHS)(1966)


Bust of Smith at Edinburgh Park


  • The Long River (1955)
  • Bùrn is Aran (1960)
  • Thistles and Roses (1961)
  • Deer on the High Hills (1962)
  • An Dubh is an Gorm (1963)
  • Bìobuill is Sanasan-Reice (1965)
  • The Law and the Grace (1965)
  • Modern Gaelic Verse (1966)
  • At Helensburgh (1968)
  • Ben Dorain by Duncan Ban MacIntyre (1969)
  • From Bourgeois Land (1969)
  • Iain am Measg Nan Reultan (1970)
  • Maighstirean is Ministearan (1970)
  • Selected Poems (1970)
  • Poems to Eimhir translated from Sorley MacLean (1971)
  • Love Poems and Elegies (1972)
  • An t-Adhar Ameireaganach (1973)
  • Rabhndan is Rudan (1973)
  • Eadar Fealla-dha is Glaschu (1974)
  • Hami Autumn (1974)
  • The Notebooks of Robinson Crusoe (1975)
  • The Permanent Island (1975)
  • An t-Aonaran (1976)
  • River, River (1978)
  • Selected Poems 1955-1982 (1982)
  • Na h-Eilthirich (1983)
  • The Exiles (Carcanet Press, 1984)
  • Selected Poems (Carcanet Press, 1985)
  • A Life (Carcanet Press, 1986)
  • Burn is Aran (1987)
  • An t-Eilean agus an Cànan (1987)
  • A' Bheinn Oir (1989)
  • Na Speuclairean Dubha (1989)
  • Selected Poems (1990)
  • Turas tro Shaoghal Falamh (1991)
  • Na Guthan (1991)
  • Collected Poems (1992)
  • An Dannsa mu Dheireadh (1992)
  • An Rathad gu Somalia (1994)
  • Ends and Beginnings (Carcanet Press, 1994)
  • The Human Face (Carcanet Press, 1996)
  • The Leaf and the Marble (Carcanet Press, 1998)
  • Country For Old Men and My Canadian Uncle (Carcanet Press, 2000)
  • Am Miseanaraidh (first published 2006)
  • New Collected Poems (Carcanet Press, 2010)
  • Deer on the High Hills: Selected Poems, ed. John Greening (2021)


  • Consider the Lilies (1968)
  • The Last Summer (1969)
  • My Last Duchess (1971)
  • Goodbye Mr Dixon (1974)
  • An End to Autumn (1978)
  • A Field Full of Folk (1982)
  • The Search (1983)
  • The Tenement (1985)
  • In the Middle of the Wood (1987)
  • The Dream (1989)
  • An Honourable Death (1992)
  • Thoughts of Murdo (1993)

Short Fiction

  • Survival Without Error and Other Stories (1970)
  • The Black and the Red and Other Stories (1973)
  • The Hermit and Other Stories (1977)
  • Murdo and Other Stories (1981)
  • Mr Trill in Hades and Other Stories (1984)
  • Listen to the Voice: Selected Stories (2001)
  • The Red Door: The Complete English Stories 1949-76 (2001)
  • After the Dance: Selected Stories of Iain Crichton Smith (2017)


  • The Golden Lyric: An Essay on the Poetry of Hugh MacDiarmid (1967)
  • On the Island (1979)
  • Towards the Human: Selected Essays (1986)

As Editor

  • Twelve More Modern Scottish Poets (with C. King) (1986)
  • Moments in the Glasshouse Poetry & Prose by 5 New Scottish Writers (1987)


  • Relich, Mario (1976), review of The Notebooks of Robinson Crusoe, in Burnett, Ray (ed.), Calgacus 3, Spring 1976, pp. 54 & 55, ISSN 0307-2029
  • Craig, David (1980), review of On the Island, in Cencrastus No. 2, Spring 1980, pp. 39 - 41, ISSN 0264-0856
  • Lothian, Andrew (1981), review of Murdo and Other Stories, in Cencrastus No. 6, Autumn 1981, p. 41 ISSN 0264-0856
  • Craig, Cairns (1983), Crichton Smith: Poetry and Prose, a review of Selected Poems 1955 - 1980 and A Field Full of Folk, in Hearn, Sheila G. (ed.), Cencrastus No. 11, New Year 1983, pp. 44 & 45, ISSN 0264-0856
  • Grant, Jamie (1984), review of The Search, in Hearn, Sheila G. (ed.), Cencrastus No. 15, New Year 1984, p. 53, ISSN 0264-0856

Awards and honours[edit]

He was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1980.


  1. ^ "Power behind a patriot's pen". The Glasgow Herald. 11 July 1988. p. 12. Retrieved 2 July 2016.

External links[edit]