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Morrison memorial in Wick honours a larger-than-life character who touched the lives of many people


By Gordon Calder

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Drew Macleod (centre) reads a poem during the gathering at Wick's Braehead on Saturday afternoon to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of David Morrison. His daughter Glenna Scacchi and granddaughter Marilena, who travelled north for the ceremony, are on the right. Picture: Robert MacDonald / Northern Studios
Drew Macleod (centre) reads a poem during the gathering at Wick's Braehead on Saturday afternoon to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of David Morrison. His daughter Glenna Scacchi and granddaughter Marilena, who travelled north for the ceremony, are on the right. Picture: Robert MacDonald / Northern Studios

An event held in Wick at the weekend to celebrate the life of Wick poet, painter and librarian, David Morrison was described as "fantastic" by his daughter, Glenna Scacchi.

She was delighted people turned out on a blustery day to remember her late father, who died 10 years ago at the age of 71.

The event at Wick's Braehead was organised by Drew Macleod, who came up with the idea after Morrison's family arranged for a memorial bench to be installed there earlier this year. The informal gathering on Saturday afternoon included poetry readings and provided an opportunity to reminisce about a larger-than-life figure who made a special contribution to the arts in Caithness and touched the lives of many people.

Drew said the event was intended as a celebration of Morrison's life. He was "a big man in every way, a friend, a fellow colleague in Wick Players and a member of the Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council." Drew first met him in the early 1970s and explained that Morrison set up the Wick Festival of Poetry, Folk and Jazz which involved some well-known names but also local talent.

Drew recalled being involved along with young writers such as George Gunn, Johnny McLeod and Ian Bain and getting his chance to read his poems in front of an audience for the first time. "I caught the performing bug. David was a mentor to me and all the subsequent things I have done," he said.

Glenna attended the event along with her daughter Marilena. They travelled from their home in Alloa but encountered problems when a tree fell on the train track at Dingwall. They managed to get a lift as far as Dunbeath with a musician who was heading to the Tunes By the Dunes festival at Dunnet. Drew picked them up at Dunbeath and drove them to Wick.

David Morrison's daughter Glenna Scacchi and granddaughter Marilena on the bench the family had erected at Wick's Braehead. Picture: Robert MacDonald / Northern Studios
David Morrison's daughter Glenna Scacchi and granddaughter Marilena on the bench the family had erected at Wick's Braehead. Picture: Robert MacDonald / Northern Studios

Glenna said her mother, Edna, would have loved to have been with them but was unable to come and sent a message instead.

She said she would be with everyone in spirit and hoped people would sit on the memorial bench, enjoy the view and "think about David who loved Caithness warts and all."

Thurso-based writer George Gunn praised Morrison's contribution to the arts and the Caithness community and said he was "an energy force".

"We are beginning to understand the significance of David Morrison. We owe him a great debt. I remember him fondly. It does not seem like 10 years since he passed on, it seems like ten seconds."

Nancy Nicolson from Wick also reflected on the contribution Morrison made in his adopted home and described him as someone who gave encouragement and stirred "the conscience of people a bit."

Retired teacher Alan Frame, who was a pupil at Hamilton Academy with Morrison, said their friendship was renewed when he moved to Caithness in 1972 to take up a job in the physics department at Wick High.

Afterwards, the crowd gathered in Mackays Hotel where a selection of Morrison's paintings were on display along with a number of atmospheric black-and-white photos by Fergus Mather.

Music and songs were provided by Nancy Nicolson, while George Gunn and Drew Macleod read poems by or for Morrison.

Drew Macleod, who organised Saturday afternoon's gathering to remember David Morrison, with one of the paintings that were on display in a small exhibition of his work in Mackays Hotel. Picture: Robert MacDonald / Northern Studios
Drew Macleod, who organised Saturday afternoon's gathering to remember David Morrison, with one of the paintings that were on display in a small exhibition of his work in Mackays Hotel. Picture: Robert MacDonald / Northern Studios

Drew said: "It was nice to see people here and to get a chance to meet and speak to Glenna again. I am happy with how the event went and think David would have been fairly chuffed with what has been done today."

Glenna described the afternoon as "fantastic" and said: "It was lovely to see some old friends and a few people I did not know."

Her daughter Marilena added: "It was nice to see people and to remember our grandad."

Morrison was born in Glasgow in 1941 and moved to Caithness in 1965. He was county librarian before becoming area librarian for Caithness and Sutherland.

As well as launching the Wick Festival of Poetry, Folk and Jazz, he was the author or editor of numerous books of poetry and essays.

In 1970, he founded the radical literary magazine Scotia Review which he edited for 34 years. He also set up Pulteney Press, giving an outlet to up-and-coming and established writers.

In 2006 a collection of his poems was published by Poetry Salzburg, entitled The Cutting Edge: Collected Poems 1966-2003.

Morrison was active in the community and involved in various bodies, including Save Our Library Action Group.

He died in September 2012 and is survived by his wife Edna, son Ewan and daughter Glenna and their families.

David Morrison (1941-2012) at Wick’s Braehead. Picture: Fergus Mather
David Morrison (1941-2012) at Wick’s Braehead. Picture: Fergus Mather

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