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Hugh MacDiarmid - No Fellow Travellers (clip)

Profile of the Scottish Poet on his 80th Birthday

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This documentary was made to commemorate the 80th birthday of Scottish poet, Hugh MacDiarmid (1892 - 1978).
This extract includes shots of archive footage and stills - shipyards, demonstrations - with a voice-over of MacDiarmid reciting "The Drunk Man Looks At The Thistle" regarded as one of the most important long poems of the 20th Century. A voice-over follows with a list of poems including Sangschaw (1925), Penny Wheep (1926), A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (1926), To Circumjack Cencrastus (1930), First Hymn to Lenin (1931), Scots Unbound (1932) and mentions MacDiarmud's prolific essay writing, speeches, articles and letters. The founding of the Scots Renaissance Movement is mentioned together with MacDiarmid's divorce, marriage to second wife Valda and relocation to Shetland. Shots of MacDiarmid and his wife Valda walking their dog up a country lane with voice-over from Valda discussing their life together. She describes MacDiarmid as a 'bastard' when he is writing but recognises this as necessary and tells the story of mouse-droppings in the porridge! MacDiarmid recites another of his Scottish poems. Extract contains one swear word.

Questions & Activities


  • How does Hugh MacDiarmid's wife describe his writing process?
  • What influence do you think his wife had on his ability to write and how important was this in his development as a writer?
  • What is an anarchist? What do they believe in?
  • Why is the film called "No Fellow Travellers"?
  • What are the poems about?


English: Analyse this excerpt from "A Drunk Man Looks At The Thistle". What events are being described? What is the symbolism of the red rose? Can you think of any ways in which this symbol is used today?

English: Describe or explain how you think MacDiarmid viewed politics at the time or what his political stance was. Describe in detail using passages from the poem to back up your answer.

English: Research the biography of Hugh MacDiarmid - why did he change his name?

English: Do a close reading of "A Drunk Man Looks At The Thistle" and discuss its themes and significance.

Creative writing: Write a story about an unintentionally amusing event that has occurred in your life.

English: If Hugh MacDiarmid was alive today, what political events would he have been involved in. Explain your answer.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-004-101-C
Resource Rights Holder National Library of Scotland
Project Ref 2688
Date 1972
Genre Documentary, Arts
School Subject English, Drama, Gaelic
Subject Matter Creative Writing
Who Films of Scotland and the Scottish Arts Council (sponsor), Hugh MacDiarmid (poet), Ogam Films (production company), Oscar Marzaroli (director)
Where Shetland
Attributes Colour, Sound
Clip Length 7:54
Film Length 25:35