Marion Emily Angus



Marion Emily Angus was a Scottish poet who wrote in the Scots vernacular or Braid Scots, defined variously as a dialect of English or a language closely related to it. Her prose writings were mainly in standard English. She is seen as a forerunner of a Scottish renaissance in inter-war poetry, as her verse marked a departure from the Lallans tradition of Robert Burns in a direction similar to that of Hugh MacDiarmid, Violet Jacob and others.

Born on 27 March 1865 in Sunderland, England, Marion Angus was the third of the six children of Henry Angus (1833–1902), a Presbyterian minister from North-East Scotland, and Mary Jessie, née Watson. Her grandfather on her mother's side was William Watson, sheriff-substitute of Aberdeen from 1829 to 1866, who in 1841 founded there the first industrial school for street children. Her father graduated from Marischal College in the same city and was ordained in Sunderland in 1859. He became minister of Erskine United Free Church, Arbroath, in 1876, and retired from the ministry in 1900. The family left Sunderland for Arbroath in February 1876, when Marion was almost eleven. She was educated at Arbroath High School, but did not carry on to a higher education as her brothers did. However, she may have been to France, as she spoke the language fluently and made several references to France in her prose writings. She also visited Switzerland and left an account of it.

Marion wrote fictionalized diaries anonymously for a newspaper, the Arbroath Guide. Entitled The Diary of Arthur Ogilvie (1897–8) and Christabel's Dairy (1899), they were also published in book form, but no copies of the former have survived. These have been taken to shed indirect light on Angus's life in early adulthood, which included abundant family and church work, and exercise in the form of walking and cycling.

After her father's death in 1902, Marion and her sister Emily ran a private school at their mother's house in Cults, outside Aberdeen, but this was given up after the outbreak of the First World War. She worked during the war in an army canteen. She and her sister returned to Aberdeen in 1921, but Emily became mentally ill in April 1930 and was admitted to the Glasgow Royal Asylum, Gartnavel. Marion moved to various places around Glasgow to be near the institution where her sister was. She continued to publish poetry and gave occasional lectures, but her finances deteriorated and she became subject to depression. Fellow Scots poet Nan Shepherd became a close friend in this period. The only body of correspondence to have survived is a group of letters to Marie Campbell Ireland, a friend she made in about 1930. A selection of these has been published. They and other letters betray a vein of disrespect and impatience with conventional society: "I don't know," she wrote to Ireland in about 1930, "that I care particularly for what is usually called 'cultivated people'. I found a more delicate and refined sympathy in my charwoman in Aberdeen than I did in any of my educated acquaintance.” The unconventional side of her is recalled in an article by a friend that appeared after her death: "She was nothing if not original.... even when her wit was mordant, she had a capacious and most generous heart...."

Marion Angus returned to Arbroath in 1945 to be looked after by a former family servant, Williamina Sturrock Matthews. She died there on 18 August 1946. Her ashes were scattered on the sands of Elliot Links.

To make your own nomination download the nomination form here