Jim McGonigal – Beyond The Last Dragon

Edwin Morgan

Edwin Morgan, March 2010

In 2010 I first made contact with the Poet and Professor James McGonigal, who was both a colleague, and a close friend of  ‘Makar’ (National Poet of Scotland) Edwin Morgan. By this stage in his 89th year, Edwin Morgan was now in a care home in Glasgow, and acting as an intermediary, Jim was happy to relay messages between myself and EM regarding projects I was working on which took inspiration from his work.

Jim told EM about my Sonnets project which owed its name to one of my favourite collections of his poetry ‘Sonnets from Scotland’, which was published in the year of my birth, 1984 – later I would sit with him and show him a selection of these images.

I will be talking more about my experiences working with Edwin Morgan, and my first meeting, and subsequent portrait session with him (pictured above) in an article for Scottish Photographer’s Magazine later in the year.

During my long correspondences with Jim, I was both surprised and happy to learn that he was working on the first major biography of EM, which gave a rare insight into his upbringing, academic life, and later literary career on the world stage, not to mention his struggles as a gay man living in the west coast of Scotland.

Having studied a post-graduate to become a qualified archivist as he wrote the biography, I was able to work with some of Jim’s original source material as Glasgow University holds an extensive collection of the poet’s writings and correspondences, and was happy to see many of these appear in the book Beyond the Last Dragon.

I was honoured when Jim asked if he could use several of my images of EM, such as a portrait which adorns the cover, as well as include a few short entries in the book itself about my work with Eddie. Jim had this to say about Sonnets:

“A haunting series of Scottish landscapes with a single figure, not seeking to illustrate Edwin Morgan’s work in any sense but to respond to it in a different medium. Similar structural elements in each picture play the role of octave/sestet or rhyme in the sonnet form of which the poet was so fond.”  McGonigal, Jim – Beyond the Last Dragon – Sandstone Press (pp.434-435)

You can pick up the book from amazon here. It’s a great read, very accessible, and one of the best biographies I’ve read of a literary figure. You can read a fascinating interview with Jim about his relationship with Edwin Morgan here.



About Alex Boyd

A photographer, curator, and mountain obsessive.

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