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Norman MacCaig “Scottish Text Question” Visiting Hour. Remember to visit: Learning Intention. We are learning to: Understand the background and context of Norman MaCCaig’s Poetry. . Norman MacCaig Context.

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Norman maccaig scottish text question visiting hour

Norman MacCaig

“Scottish Text Question”

Visiting Hour

Remember to visit:

Learning intention
Learning Intention

  • We are learning to:

  • Understand the background and context of Norman MaCCaig’s Poetry.

Norman maccaig context
Norman MacCaig Context

  • Norman MacCaig was born in Edinburgh in 1910. Although he spent all his childhood and his later life in Scotland's capital, his mother's Highland past was a great influence on the young poet. MacCaig's mother was from Scalpay, Harris and the Gaelic heritage inherited on visits to his mother's family on the islands was to have an enduring effect on MacCaig. 

Norman maccaig context1
Norman MacCaig Context

  • MacCaig's formal education was firmly rooted in the Edinburgh soil: he attended the Royal High School and then Edinburgh University where he studied Classics. He then trained to be a teacher at Moray House in Edinburgh and spent a large part of his life as a primary school teacher.

  • During the war MacCaig refused to fight because he did not want to kill people who he felt were just the same as him. He therefore spent time in various prisons and doing landwork because of his pacifist views. Having spent years educating young children, MacCaig then went on to teach university students when in 1967 he became the first Fellow in Creative Writing at Edinburgh University, and he later held a similar post while teaching at the University of Stirling. 

Norman maccaig context2
Norman MacCaig Context

  • MacCaig’s life and poetry was principally divided into two parts, represented by two locales. Although he takes his reader with him on visits to New York and Italy, the locality of the bulk of his poetry is divided between two Scottish locations.

  • His home city of Edinburgh provided contrast with his holiday home of Assynt, a remote area in the North-West of Scotland where MacCaig spent much time, especially in the summer months. The landscape and people of Assynt provided inspiration for his poetry as well as bringing MacCaig close friendships and a love for the land. 

Norman maccaig context3
Norman MacCaig Context

  • Norman MacCaig’s poetry began as part of the New Apocalypse Movement, a surrealist mode of writing which he later disowned turning instead to more precise, often witty observations. He was great friends with Hugh MacDiarmid and other Scottish poets he met with in the bars of Edinburgh to debate, laugh and drink. Although he was never persuaded by his literary friends to write in Scots, he was respected by friends such as MacDiarmid as having made an important contribution to literature. 

Norman maccaig context4
Norman MacCaig Context

  • As he became older, MacCaig's fame spread and he received such honours as the O.B.E. and the Queen's Medal for Poetry, yet it was at home in Edinburgh and Assynt where he was probably most appreciated. This was evident at his 75th, 80th, and 85th birthday parties when the cream of the Scottish literati and musicians came together for readings and musical performances. 

  • By the time of his death in January 1996, Norman MacCaig was known widely as the grand old man of Scottish poetry.

Norman maccaig context5
Norman MacCaig Context

  • As part of your National 5 exam, you will answer questions in a section known as “The Scottish Text.”

  • We will study Norman MacCaig only for this section.

What is the scottish text
What is the Scottish Text?

  • SECTION 1 — Scottish Text— 20 marks

  • Read an extract from a Scottish text you have previously studied and attempt the questions. (As we are studying MacCaig – you will answer under the POETRY section.)

  • Attempt All the questions for your chosen text.

  • Roughly 45 minutes for exam

What type of questions will we be asked
What type of questions will we be asked?

  • You will answer Textual Analysis style question in which you demonstrate your knowledge of the poems and the techniques within.

  • You will answer a final question in which you compare two poems.

Important dates
Important Dates

  • You will perform a practice Scottish Text exam on Nov 25th

  • Timed EssayLOTF 9th Dec

  • Prelim: Dec 9th

  • Persuasive essays due: 2 Dec

Poem 1 visiting hour
Poem 1: Visiting Hour

  • In an interview MacCaig said that this poem was based on a visit he made to see his wife, who was very sick in hospital. Interesting and original images are used as the poet describes his journey through the hospital corridors to Ward 7.

Context of the poem
Context of the Poem

  • In Visiting Hour, the speaker describes a visit to a dying friend in hospital. In the poem, the speaker is determined to maintain his composure in order to prevent transmitting his worry and fear to his friend. This attempt to switch off his emotions, however, is ultimately unsuccessful and in the end he is forced to confront the reality of both his own and his friend’s mortality.

Activity a list ten starter
Activity: A list ten starter

What do we associate with hospitals and visiting hours? Make a list of at least 10 things.

Activity reading the poem for the first time
Activity: Reading the poem for the first time

Stanza 1
Stanza 1

  • MacCaiggoes to visit dying relative in hospital.

  • Setting in stanza 1 confirms that the title is not ambiguous. MacCaignotices the smell of the hospital and the décor – yellow and green.

The hospital smell combs my nostrils
The hospital smellcombs my nostrils

  • Personification – smell overpowers his senses

    • combs – discomfort as the smell invades his senses

    • hospital – shows clear setting connotations of life and death

As they go bobbing along
As they go bobbingalong

  • bobbing along – assonance to emphasise he feels adrift, lost (in the hospital and without his friend/relative)

    • bobbing - shows that he is adrift, unsure of the direction

Green and yellow corridors
green and yellow corridors.

  • green and yellow

    • Connotation – sickness stresses his discomfort of the surroundings

Stanza 2
Stanza 2

Stanza 2

  • MacCaig passes by a patient who looks close to death before they are taken moved in a lift

What seems a corpse
What seems a corpse

  • Metaphor – patient appears dead, poet cannot believe it is still alive

    • What - like it is no longer human and cannot tell age/sex

    • corpse – continues negative tone suggesting there is little relation to life and the finality of death

Is trundled into a lift and vanishes
is trundled into a lift and vanishes

  • Trundle – moves slowly past, not in a hurry

    • Juxtaposes the word “corpse”

  • Vanishes – will never be seen again/death


  • Enjambment – word on its own for emphasis

    • Literal: Patient is being moved to a floor above

    • Metaphorical: poet expects patient to die and go to heaven, making light of it

Stanza 3
Stanza 3

Stanza 3

  • MacCaigwills himself not to get emotional in public.

I will not feel i will not feel until i have to
I will not feel, I will not/ feel, until/ I have to

  • Repetition – poets thoughts laid bare as if chanting under his breathe to not show emotion as he is clearly upset

  • Reader feels sympathy for poet