[ Bessie MacArthur, Scottish poet. ] Fourteen letters and three cards, all in autograph, to Brian Lambie of the Biggar Museum, with one typed poem in Scots ('Folk'), one holograph poem ('"Bits and Pieces"'), and three other autograph items.

Bessie J. B. MacArthur [ Bessie Jane Bird MacArthur, née Bisset ] (1889-1983), poet and dramatist of the Scottish Renaissance [ Brian Lambie (1930-2014) of the Biggar Museum, Lanark ]
Publication details: 
Thirteen letters and one card from 4 Glencairn Crescent, Edinburgh 12 (the first with the address on a letterhead); the other letter without place. Thirteen of the letters written between 13 July 1975 and 6 January 1978. The other items undated.
SKU: 20415

MacArthur's work features and is discussed by Byrne and McMillan in 'Modern Scottish Women Poets' (2003). Lambie is the subject of a long obituary in The Scotsman, 21 January 2015. Twenty-two items. The collection is in good condition, with light signs of age and wear. The following description is divided into six parts. ONE: 14 Autograph Letters Signed and 3 Autograph Cards Signed to Lambie. The 17 items of correspondence are variously signed 'Bessie MacArthur' (7), 'Bessie J. B. MacArthur' (6), 'B. J. N. McA.' (4). The letters total 32pp., in various formats. All but three of the letters (two from 1975 and one from 1978) date from 1976, and all but the last relate to the publication by Lambie's Biggar Museum Trust in 1976 of MacArthur's poetry collection 'Sang o' the Lairock'. In the first letter (13 July 1975) MacArthur discusses two of Lambie's booklets: 'I have not quite finished the book on “dyking” - but am enjoying it U& so fully & wonderfully described. The poem (in a way) it “all in one”! | Gilbert Rae [Biggar poet (1875-1955)] would have enjoyed that poem. He didn't like my first book of Scots! Maybe he would have liked the “Burn Nickt” one! - I had forgotten about “Lallans” by that time – in a way I do think, it is better to keep to one dialect. I wouold like to hear you on that sometime – so hope you will call again!' In a postscript dated 18 November 1975 she writes of her own coming work: 'And by the way it must be laverock for first poem & for possible title of booklet – with a note, both terms could be used.' In the other letters she discusses the production of 'Song of the Lairock', including the booklet's possible format ('a broadsheet would be a hurried affair'), proofs ('I hope you will find them decypherable!'), time of publication, trade terms ('I am horrified at all the bother you are having – Could you not just ignore shops unless they send money direct?'), reviews ('Why doesn't Mr. Currie give us a review in the Lanark Gazette. Why not giver him a poke in the ribs – tell him to put in postage 6½ p'). On 7 November 1975 she sends two extra poems for inclusion, adding: 'I dont know how your trust works but perhaps they (it?) may think this is not a time to spend money on poems! My idea was on connected [sic] it with the “Dark before the Dawn” Poem, for soon their old shepherds will be gone! Still four of ours survive the “Great Blizzard”!' On 2 February 1976 she laments: 'Another of my old “blizzard” shepherds has gone but he would have read the Daer ones when they first came out'. Two months later (21 April 1976) she sends a note she would like inserted in the booklet: 'Nearly all these poems were written in Daer, the remote shepherding community that existed there before the coming of the Great Dam.' She invites him to add his own note as publisher, 'since so many things are going on in Lanarkshire – (you will be upperward too? -)'. A week later (29 April 1976) she expresses anxiety that 'you are all wishing this one book had never been started – especially with the cutting down of grants &c.' | I suppose it is too late to delay or give it up (?) (I'd do so willingly) but I think you should just make up your mind to send the Lanark printers bill to me. I really mean this, but hesitated to discuss it over the phone! I had always said I would help but I think by now it will be more costly than ever & I should do this part at least on my own.' On 14 May 1976 she expresses pleasure 'that “Lairock” is on its way'. By 28 June 1976 the booklet has appeared, and she asks for a copy to be sent without delay to 'the weekly Scotsman', 'as the end of the month is coming so close now to holidays approaching, that the copy might not reach the person I had hoped it would. | But it doesn't really matter – It will just have to take “pot-luck” - Only I would like to hope that you might get some return for all the trouble you have taken. It was my changing the title that made all the muddle but I had realised suddenly that I had changed the title from what it was in the original, & I did not want to do that!!' She gives the addresses of seven Scottish newspapers and periodicals, explaining 'I noted down the local papers because I thought you would probably approve & at one time “the Hamilton” gave me a good review!' She also adds a note regarding the Burns Chronicle and its editor R. A. Daw'. In the final letter (6 January 1978) she expresses a desire to see him: 'but you wd need to ring the bell at my door very hard & loud! But I realise how busy you are so dont worry. I quite understand, & I'm sure the paving-stones wont take you anywhere but in the right direction! […] you are spreading your wings far and wide […]'. The undated letter (written around Christmas 1976?) is a reminder that MacArthur was the daughter of a banker, and that her childhood home was within the precincts of the Royal Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh: 'George MacLeod has been thundering in the House of Lords – blaming the Bankers for most of the trouble. - Probably he's right!' Other matters discussed in the correspondence include: 'this Covenanters' business' (according to Lambie's Scotsman obituary, 21 January 2015, his 'remarkable achievements include the rescue, transportation and rebuilding, stone by stone, of Greenhill Covenanters’ house from its original location to Biggar’s Burn Braes four miles away'); Lambie's mother's death; the museum; his appearance on television; a '”Meet the Authors” affair during Festival in the George Hotel', organised by PEN ('the “Song” is to be put for sale on that special shelf – also is to be displayed in “Scottish Literature today!” (for books published in the last two years) – So whether reviewed or ignored by papers ut wull at least be on show there!'). The undated letter (dated in pencil by Lambie 'July 76') is on the reverse of a TLS to MacArthur from Mary Baxter of the International Pen Scottish Centre, 2 July 1976, regarding the sending of six copies of MacArthur's poems for 'the bookstall' and 'our Scottish Writing Today exhibition'. Baxter writes: 'We are sorry not to see you at any of the PEN meetings these days, and you would certainly have enjoyed our gathering at Megginch castle last Saturday. […]' TWO: Typed poem in Scots titled 'Folk'. 1p., 12mo. Corrected in autograph for publication (with word 'altered') and Numbered '9'. Eight lines. Begins: 'Some folk are guid at workin' | An' winna stop to play, | An' some are guid at daunerin' | An' dreamin' a' the day, | […]'. THREE: Holograph poem titled '”Bits and Pieces”'. 1p., 12mo. Signed at end 'B J. B. McA.' Eight lines, in two four-line stanzas. The first stanza reads '”Bits and pieces, bits and pieces” - | I often wonder why | God made anyone quite so curious, | So envious as I!' It is unclear whether the poem was ever published. FOUR and FIVE: Two autograph versions of a 'list of acknowledgments'. The first (1p., 12mo) describes the previous publication of poems in the volume; the second (1p., 8vo) carries an amended version, followed by a signed autograph note apologising for asking for the substitution of the lists: 'Changes are small but very important. Shall not take up your time with explanations -'. The recipient is unnamed but is clearly Lambie, as MacArthur enquires after his daughter's health, with the hope that he may 'soon have her home'. The second version can be dated to around the same time as a letter of 14 May 1976, which refers to 'this trouble about your daughter's arm'.SIX: 12mo leaf of paper on one side of which MacArthur has written 'Poems from Daer | by | Bessie J B. MacArthur'. Deleted title on reverse.?>