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Dr George Philp

A memorial


Dr George Philp, M.B Ch.B., (Ed.) B.Sc., L.F.O

I was very saddened to hear of the death of George, although I had been aware that he was in very poor health. I was glad that I was able to attend his funeral on Thursday 8 November, as it was a true celebration of a live fully lived, and of a very big man in all senses of the word.

There were a number of tributes from George's family, friends, collaborators and colleagues, each of which showed a different facet of his personality, interests and work, and made clear why he will be such a loss in a number of areas. George's second cousin, Grahame Locke, talked of the 'pre-television generation when conversation was an art', an art in which George excelled. He loved growing sweet peas, and got very involved in the best methods of preparing a trench for them.

Allan Ramsay, George's long-time collaborator on recordings rather fell into the job by accident, and had no idea at the beginning where it would lead. Although he trained as a printer, he found his amateur interest in recordings was greatly developed. George always referred to Allan as 'the sorcerer' with himself as the apprentice, although Allan would put it the other way round. The first Scotsoun recording was made in 1973, with the first sales in 1974. Allan often wondered whether the 'medically trained osteopath' twisted the arms of actors and celebrities while he was fixing their backs. The recordings built up to a huge archive, later including video recordings under the Scotseen imprint, all of which has now been deposited with the Scots Language Centre.

Jack Stewart spoke on behalf of the Scots Language Society, originally the Lallans Society, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. George was the last survivor of the three originators, and it is only three years since he stopped attending committee meetings. However, George was not simply a facilitor: he wrote poems one of which won the MacDiarmid Tassie. In addition to the Lallans Society, George founded the Robert Henryson Society in 1993; promoted and fund-raised for the statue of Robert Fergusson in the Canongate; proposed the Sangshaw Festival for lowland Scots, to emulate the Gaelic Mod. He developed the Scotscreive system of standardised spelling for Scots. Derrick McClure used the system for his translation of Sorley Maclean's poems.

Ian MacDonald's tribute to a hill-walking companion who did nothing by halves was read by Ronnie Renton. Ian celebrated the way that George was able to develop the talents of others to provide such a wonderful legacy. He was impressed by the fact that George did all this with no thought of profiting materially. Ian was proud to help George and Allan with the Gaelic works which were the later part of the archive. He remembered that George frequently referred to his wife and daughters as 'my five bonnie lassies'. Family was paramount with him.

A personal reminiscence

My own memories of George date back to the founding of the Robert Henryson Society in Dunfermline in November 1993. Having been introduced to Henryson through the M Phil in Scottish Literature run by the Scottish Literature department of Glasgow University under Prof Rod Lyall, I was interested to learn more about the medieval poet, and was impressed by the number of interested people who turned out for evening meetings and annual conference. George videoed all of these events, creating an irreplaceable archive of academics, many of whom are no longer with us. It is important that the 20th anniversary of the Society, in 2013, is marked in a way which will be appropriate to George's incomparable legacy.

Tributes posted online

It is with much sadness that the Scots Language Centre has learned of the death of Dr George Philp. George died on Saturday 3 November 2012. He will be remembered as a leading figure in the promotion of the Scots language during the past forty years and, in particular, as the founding father of the Scots Language Society which was established in 1972. Many people will be familiar with the wide range of audio recordings in Scots collected and made available through the Scotsoun collection established by George and also the video material marketed under the name Scotseen. Together, these represent a considerable achievement and an invaluable resource for the future. George will be greatly missed as will his energy and passion for the Scots language. You can hear Dr Philp speaking at the collogue of the Scots Leid Associe in May 2012. Please follow this link: http://www.scotslanguage.com/books/view/135/3372

We are saddened to hear of the death of Dr George Philp, the Scots language activist, creator of Scotsoun, founding member of the Lallans Society (now The Scots Language Society) and a friend of the Scottish Poetry Library. In the booklet A Companion to Scotsoun, Dr Philp wrote that he and Allan Ramsay, his technical partner and Scotsoun's sound recorder, can claim to have laid a muckle chuckie on Scotland's cultural cairn. They certainly could. Their archive of recordings of the Scots language, started in 1974 to make 'the soun o Scots more easily available in language, literature, music and sang' is indeed a great contribution. By 2009 the archive had stretched to more than 150 titles, with a total duration of 158 hours. It includes a variety of music, song, stories and verse, but of great interest to scholars and lovers of Scots poetry is the Makars Series. It features some 30 of Scotland's greatest poets, extending over eight centuries, and recorded in the three leids of Scotland. Some of the living makars read their own poems, which makes the series a valuable source of 20th century voices, but all have expert commentaries - Helena Mennie Shire on Alexander Montgomerie, for instance, and Hugh MacDiarmid on Robert Fergusson. Alexander Scott was the series adviser.

Caption

George in typical pose

Although George's eyesight failed badly in his later years, it did not stop his involvement in language and literature. He maintained his work long after lesser people would have slackened off and taken things more easily.

Caption

The Fergusson statue

George beside the statue of Robert Fergusson in the Canongate. George was a member of the steering committee which promoted this memorial to the Edinburgh poet. Perhaps we can hope for something similar in Dunfermline to celebrate both Robert Henryson and the man who  was so proud of his Fife birth and upbringing.

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