James Lewis Spence

A poet who wrote of black magic and founded the National Party of Scotland.

Born 25 November 1874 in Broughty Ferry near Dundee. Spence studied dentistry at Edinburgh University, but switched from pulling teeth to pushing The Scotsman newspaper, where he was a sub-editor from 1889. He edited various journals, including The British Weekly (1906-9), after which an interest in anthropology claimed his attention. In this subject, including magic, the occult, and mythology, he produced a vast swell of books, from 1900 right through to about 1950.

His other writings included poetry, where he based many works on the style and language of the Makars, and experimented with the Old Scots dialect. This led him into an association with the Scottish renaissance movement and, almost inevitably, with Scots nationalism, where he was a founder member of the National Party of Scotland in 1928. Spence was the first Scottish Nationalist to contest a parliamentary by-election, when in 1929 he stood unsuccessfully in the North Midlothian Constituency.

In poetry, his collections The Phoenix (1924) and Weirds and Vanities (1927) were well received. He died in Edinburgh, on 3 March, 1955. It would seem appropriate to end with the finish of his poem, The Prows o' Reekie.

A hoose is but a puppet-box To keep life's images frae knocks, But manikins scrieve oot their sauls Upon its craw-steps and its walls:

Whaur hae they writ them mair sublime Than on yon gable-ends o' time'