Making poetry with the Makar

Jackie Kay MBE FRSE - Scotland's national poet.
Jackie Kay MBE FRSE - Scotland's national poet.

For Scotland’s national poet, Jackie Kay, a visit to Auchinairn Primary School was a very special experience – because she spent her own childhood in Bishopbriggs.

But an even closer connection is that her mum Helen was a teacher at the school, possibly little guessing while she taught there that her daughter would one day become Makar, or Scottish poet laureate.

Her Bishopbriggs upbringing was the subject of a BBC Radio 4 episode of “The House I Grew Up In” some years ago, and in Jackie’s case that was a 1950’s Wimpey house on a Bishopbriggs estate.

She initially dreamed of being an actress, but we’re told she concentrated on writing after author-artist Alasdair Gray read some of her work and advised her this was surely where her future lay.

Major honours were to follow in the 90’s, when she won the Saltire Society First Book Award for “The Adoption Papers”, which is semi-autobiographical, followed by the Somerset Maugham Award for her “Other Lovers” and the Guardian Fiction Prize for “Trumpet”.

However these successes were just the start of a literary career which, ranging from stage writing to poetry, saw her awarded the MBE in 2006.

Earlier this year she succeeded poet Liz Lochhead as Scots Makar – the highest honour that can be achieved by a Scottish poet.

During her visit to Auchinairn Jackie worked with the children to create a poem all about the school, and helped them think about what it might have been like in times gone by.

She also encouraged them to explore their feelings about the school closing, and how they view the prospect of moving to a brand new school.

Head teacher Garry Graham said: “We are delighted Jackie found time in her schedule to work with us.

“Poetry is something we all value. so to have the opportunity to work with Jackie to create a poem that is unique to our school, and that will be a historical note, in time, of our school’s work in the community, is fantastic.”