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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (D)
Davidson, Alexander Mackenzie

The attachment is from news articles I have had handed down to me regarding my cousin Alexander Mackenzie Davidson. He was a famous Doric poet, and story writer.

(from the Memoirs of Margaret Hunter Mackenzie Clark Burfoot)

Forward from "Tinker's Whussel" by A.M. Davidson:

Alexander Mackenzie Davidson (1897-1979) wrote a brief sketch of his life and ideas in the Spring of 1979.  His father, a merchant, was the son of Midmar crofters.  His mother was the daughter of Alexander Mackenzie, an upholsterer, who had been born in Kilkenny in Southern Ireland, but came to Aberdeen as a boy.  In his late teens he volunteers for and participated in the Carlist Civil war in Spain, which broke out in 1833 when Don Carlos challenged the succession of his niece.  Queen Isabella, for whom her late father, King Ferdinand, had revoked the Salic Law.  Like many other idealistic young men, Mackenzie found himself trapped in Spain, from which he eventually escaped and landed at Portsmouth penniless, walking home every inch of the way to Aberdeen.  This Spanish adventure, however, added a rich store of anecdote to the family inheritance.

At the age of three our poet attended a dame school in Rosemount Viaduct under a kindly Miss Ried.  Then he went to Mile End School and from thence to Robert Gordon's College as a "Sillerton loon" on a four-year foundation, his mother being now a widow.  Straight from school he entered a large legal and commercial office.  Let us continue the story in his own words: "I sat on the high stool for the next quarter century among some Dickensian characters: a clerk at thirty bob a week.  Happy days.  Then the staff was made redundant, so I opened a small lending library in the Hardgate, which was a complete flop.  Through a little influence I was offered a job in the Public Library, as a general dogsbody, and when the war ceased was made Assistant-in-Charge at the Old Aberdeen Branch."

While he was still sitting on the clerkly high stool Mr. Davidson had his first poem published, a broadsheet entitled "The Golden Youth" issued in 1925 by Porpoise Press in Edinburgh.  A second collection "Cortege" was published by the Porpoise Press in 1927.  For years he had been contributing short poems to James Leatham's magazine "The Gateway" and Leatham duly published two booklet:"Tales from a Highland Glen" and "The Little Cobbler" (children's verses) from the Deveron Press, Turriff.

Mr. Davidson's early work was all in English and it was not until 1932 that "The Weaver's Loom", a privately printed volume, included his first Doric poems.  These, though he did not realize it at the time, were the real clue to his future as a writer.

"After the Deveron Press publications" he confess "I completely dried up and turned to my first love; musical composition.  I sent some manuscripts to the BBC, who had previously broadcast an orchestral suite of mine from Edinburgh.  I was asked to attend an interviews, but at the last minute had so little confidence as to what I could possibly do among all the young professionals - being a congenitally shy bird - that I  funked it".

Suddenly in the 1960's the years in the desert were over.  Scots was the answer.  The first thing to open the floodgates of inspiration was a single poem, "The Makar O Miracles" (see page 22).  Now came the time of the rediscovery of roots.  "My father" he wrote "encouraged me to speak in his own natural tongue: "Niver say Yes, loon, say Ay'.  So I was brought up on the Doric at home.  Then, by spending to working months annually or many years at the Midmar croft, I was steeped in it.  And today I m far mair at hame a fine crack wi the ferm fowk roon aboot here (his home in Muchalls) bys some o the ithers.  Doric has a secret world of its own, an atmosphere I am unable to define".

Mr. Davidson's Aberdeenshire Doric poems soon became a regular feature of the North-east Muse poetry corner in "The Press & Journal" and three were reprinted in 'The north-east Muse Anthology' of 1977 and 1978.  His long poem 'The Thirlin Mull' was published in the poetry magazine 'akros' in 1977 and is reprinted here by the permission of the editor Duncan Glen.  'Tinker's Whussel' the title poem of this collection won first prize in a poetry competition conducted by 'Lallans' the magazine of the Scots Language Society.

Amid the great variety of his output, A.M. Davidson has one unifying theme; conservation -  the conservation of our spiritual heritage, of our threatened countryside and towns, of our common humanity as Scots.  He has written lovingly of vanishing institutions like the country shop, sold out by cars and supermarkets, of the moleskin breeks despised and rejected by the new oligarchy of the countryside, of the vandalism of Aberdeen's town planners;

Far's Strawberry Bank? Far's the auld Wallace Tour?
Fat's come owre the Denburn ablow and abeen?
An' dammit, ye've flittit oor Tarnty Ha'
rugged doon the New Market and muckt up the Green.

Old Aberdeen, which he new so well, inspired many of his poems.  When he died at the end of 1979 he was survived by his widow, Beatrice, and his son.

Many joined in saluting his passing and his poem "Ferlies i' the Rik" was read with much acclaim at the annual dinner of the Scots Language Society, just as his 'Vandalism' was at an earlier meeting in the Aberdeen Civic Society.

As the Doric vocabulary in common use by the younger generation dwindles and declines many who love the mither Tongue can turn to the poems of A.M. Davidson to experience its use in a fresh and completely natural way.   This litle book should be exchanged by friends who still love it, bringing a breath of home to exiles and delighting every true son of north East Scotland.

Cuthbert Graham.

ALEXANDER MACKENZIE DAVIDSON (1897-1979) discovered in the last ten years of his life a way to the heart of Northern Scots.  By writing in the North East vernacular, the homely Mither Tongue that was enjoying a striking revival his verses in ' The Press & Journal' reached a mass public in the northern half of Scotland.  They thrilled to his sharply evocative pictures of traditional institutions - 'The Village Shop' - 'The Fishwives in the Green' - 'An Aulton Legend'.  They enjoyed his reductive humor in 'Dinna Forget the Moleskins' and 'The De'il Bamboozled'.  They delighted in his creation of reural characters in 'Cripple Fittie' and 'Ferlies i' the Rik'.

He presented a world which they had known from their own early years, but which, like the poet himself, they saw being ruthlessly dismantled by modern bureaucratic vandals and they were happy to join with him in the great cry of protest 'Vandalism'...

Far's Strawberry Bank? Far's the auld Wallace Tour?
Fat's come owre the Denburn ablow and abeen?
An' dammit, ye've flittit oor Tarnty Ha'
rugged doon the New Market and muckt up the Green.

At his most profound A.M. Davidson had something to say that went right to the heart of present day society and his challenging poem 'Makar o Miracles' became a theme song of the Year of the Child.

This book has been produced in response to a widespread demand that Davidson's Scots poems should not be allowed to remain uncollected and remembered only in the warm recollection of northern Scots but should be presented in pleasing printed form with appropriate illustration.  The illustrator, Charles Bannerman, a member of the modern Cromarty Group, is an Aberdeen artist who was one of the most distinguished products of Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen.  The extensive Glossary will be valued by readers who wish to check up on the colorful native vocabulary at the North East of Scotland.

Gourdas House, Publishers
5 Alford Place
Aberdeen   AB1 1YD

One of the North-East's most outstanding Doric poets, Alexander Mackenzie Davidson, has died aged 82. Mr. Davidson, 5 Monduff Road, Muchalls, was born in Aberdeen and was educated at Mile-End School and Robert Gordon's College. He joined the staff of Aberdeen Public Library and was in charge of the Old Aberdeen branch for many years. His works included many poems about old Aberdeen.

Evening Express
29th January 1980

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