Category Archives: alumni

William Soutar’s Caricatures of Hugh MacDiarmid

A few days ago I gave a talk to the Friends of William Soutar in Perth on the friendship between Soutar and his fellow Scots poet Hugh MacDiarmid, as illustrated by letters in Edinburgh University Library’s C. M. Grieve Archive (MS 2960.18).

Soutar, confined to bed with a debilitating disease for the last 13 years of his life, adorned some of his letters with affectionate pen-and-ink caricatures of MacDiarmid (whom Soutar always addressed by his real forename ‘Christopher’). On 9 January 1937, he pokes gentle fun at the workaholic MacDiarmid’s idea of ‘taking it easy’, portraying him as a Marxist superman surrounded by piles of manuscripts headed ‘Lyrics’, ‘Autobiog.’, ‘Epic’, and ‘Articles’. When war breaks out, he suggests (19 December 1940) that the drafts of MacDiarmid’s works in progress will make a more than adequate bomb shelter.

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Soutar was an Edinburgh University student, matriculating in 1919, after serving in the Royal Navy during the First World War (an experience that turned him into a pacifist). He began a medical degree, but soon switched to English Literature, where he proved a notoriously difficult student. He refused to study both Anglo-Saxon and novels in general as he considered both irrelevant to his future career as a poet. He did, however, publish early verses in The Student, many of which reappeared in his first published volume Gleanings by an Undergraduate (1923).

For information on our holdings of William Soutar manuscripts and correspondence, see Scottish Literary Papers.

Paul Barnaby, Centre for Research Collections

1906 female medical graduates

One of our earliest group photographs of female medical graduates depicts the MBChB class of 1906.  It shows 13 women and bears their signatures.

Female MBChB graduates 1906

Female MBChB graduates 1906

Alice Meredith BURN, New Zealand
Agnes Marshall COWAN, Scotland
Jessie Handyside GELLATLY, Scotland
M Deborah HANCOCK / Marjorie DUAKE-COHEN *
Olive TREDWAY-LEONARD, India
Meher Ardeshir Dadabhai NAHOROJI, India
Agnes Ellen PORTER, Scotland
Edith Gertrude PYCROFT, England
Mabel Lida RAMSAY, England
Elsie Blair SAUNDERS, England
Nettie Bell TURNBULL, Scotland
Annie Davidson URQUHART, England
Ethel WISEMAN, England

There was a further female MBChB graduate that year; Isabel HILL, Scotland, graduated in absentia.

* The signature for the student front row, furthest left, is given as M. Deborah Hancock (it may say Harcourt).  However no student of that name graduated.  The remaining student who whose name appears in the list of graduates is Marjorie Duake Cohen.  Her graduation record notes this as being her married name and has her also as Miss Averyl Harcourt.

Some online research has located a reference in the London Gazette, 31 Jan. 1930, to a Mrs Simha Duake Cohen, otherwise Marjorie Averyl Harcourt, who died in 1929.  It also refers to an Anthony Dowling, aka Vernon Harcourt.  The precise circumstances of name changes have not been determined but it does look likely that the remaining graduate in the photograph is Mrs. Duake Cohen.  Why her hood is a different colour to the others has not (yet) been determined.

UPDATE, 28 Nov.

The woman in the photograph is now thought to be Mary Deborah Hancock. Although not a MBChB graduate (which would account for her different hood), this is clearly a perfect match with the signature.

Further research into Marjorie Duake Cohen continues and, if sufficient information comes to light, she may feature in a future blog post.