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84-year-old unsung hero of the Scots language scoops award for his talents

Unsung hero George Philip
Unsung hero George Philip

An 84-year-old unsung hero of the Scots language has scooped an accolade for his talents.

George Philip was the overall winner for outstanding poetry at the Aultgowrie Poetry Competition organised by the Keith branch of the Traditional Music and Song Association (TMSA).

George is chuffed with his award.

He says judges selecting his winning poem about a country cemetery, called Some Thochts on a Kintra Cemetery, told him they were touched by it tone.

The piece features 21 lines, in which 70 words are Scots.

The entry was considered outstanding by judge Caroline Fowler, who said to win out of 88 entries “is pretty incredible”.

The winning poem heavily written in Scots.

George, who lives in Aberdeen, started writing poems in his 40s.

He has been writing frequently ever since, publishing five volumes of poetry, plus two travel books, a play, and a collection of short stories and poems.

The retired secondary school teacher of geography, history, modern studies, and religious education, taught French and German for six years at adult evening classes.

He has climbed all 282 Munro mountains, cycled from John o’Groats to Lands End, and has worked part-time in a care home for five years after he retired.

George says poetry comes naturally to him but the words did not always flow so freely.

He says: “When I was 17, I wrote a poem in French and the teacher was sure I’d copied it out of a book.

“But I only really started writing in my 40s, I tried before then and nothing would come, but then suddenly it just came pouring out and I’ve ended up with volumes of poems, and I’m still writing new ones.”

He says his “most important” awards, those he is most proud of, include the Hugh MacDiarmid Tassie Cup by the Scots Language Society in 1993.

In 1994, he won the Doric Festival Cup in Inverurie.

In 2011, he took the Connon Caup – becoming the first person in the competition’s history to win both poetry and story sections.

And in 2015, he went on to win the Robert McLellan Tassie for a short story, again from the Scots Language Society.

He says: “In every competition that I have ever won, I have won it first time. I don’t enter the same one twice.”

He adds: “I’m practically finished writing my memoirs, it’s a 264-page book and I’m just trying to fit in some pictures so once I get that done I will get it to the printers.”


Joint second place:

John Strachan with “Knipin On”
Elizabeth Chrystall with “Memories of “fan I was just a little quine”

Third place:

Jim Brown with “Fish Day in Strathdon”
Margaret Johnstone “Bonnie Maggie Line”

Highly Commended:

Mildred Coutts with “The Things I have Seen”
Gilbert Rennie with “A Shot o’ the Bike”
Isobel Stewart with “The Pulley”
Harold Murray with “The Passin o’ Auld Jock”
Helen Clark with “The ‘ eer That Wis”
John Pirie with  “A Growin Loon”
Henry Hepburn with “Ma Faither”
Heather Silverwood wth “Balmedie”
Sandy Reid with “Memories an’ Hopes”
Sandy Robertson with “Charlie Allan.A Lad O’ Pairts”
May Bruce with “Covid”
Diane Saywack with “The Daftie”
Kevin Thomson with “Fa’s Peesie?:
Adeline Reid with “A Clootie Duff”
Vera Taylor with “Fae Portgordon tae Strathlene”
Neil Cooney with “The Gibberie Wallie”
Richard Bennett with “Return to the Laich”
Mary Melvin with “Ode Tae Gracie”
Willie Reid with “Kennethmont as a Loon”
Charles Duguid with “Fit Hiv They Deen wi Banffshire?”
Barry Carter with “Prayers for Angels”

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