[...] In his somewhat limp autobiography, For the Islands I Sing, published posthumously in 1997, Mackay Brown writes tenderly of how he hovered on the margins of the bar until he was noticed by Sydney Goodsir Smith and invited to join the big hitters of the Edinburgh 1950s – who would often include among their number Norman MacCaig, Robert Garioch (though he reputedly was a half-pint exponent), MacDiarmid, Goodsir Smith himself, Sorley MacLean (but only occasionally) and a crowd of others, some noted not for their poetry but willingness to buy a round. It was an exclusive, and excluding, group of poets and their hangers-on. Some contemporary Scottish poets – that is, those still alive – tend to look on the “Rose Street Days” as an Arcadia they wish they’d been part of. This reviewer knows better. I witnessed it in 1961, for one night, in Milne’s Bar. Mackay Brown wasn’t there (or I don’t think he was). Others were, though. Overheard conversations were not literary. It all sounded and looked to me like over-vigorous R & R or self-destruction. Accordingly, I self-destructed. [...]
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