William Soutar Writing Competition

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As one of the Small City’s most famed Perth bairns, the words of poet William Soutar still live on in our city streets – quite literally so. We’ve all walked past the striking “ring” sculpture by David Annand beside Debenhams in the High Street, ‘Nae Day Sae Dark’, within which Soutar’s poem is engraved. 

Amongst his most famed work were his “bairn rhymes”, and his ‘whigmaleeries’ – series’ of poems with human insight and a warm sense of humour.

Soutar Writing Competition girl with mum

If you have the same passion for writing that drove Soutar, perhaps you’ll be interested in the William Soutar Writing Prize. An annual event, the prestigious competition is now open for entrants up until Friday, 1st February 2018. And: it’s completely free to enter. Speaking to Dr. Nicola Small, Local History Officer at Culture Perth & Kinross, she tells me:

“The library service has had a long association with William Soutar and we still look after Soutar House in Wilson Street, the family home where he lived and worked in the last years of his life.

“The theatre in our A.K. Bell Library was named the Soutar Theatre to honour his legacy and to celebrate his literary contribution as a notable Perth poet and a writer of national significance.

“We currently have an exhibition dedicated to Soutar on the first floor of the library in the Local and Family History department and we hope this exhibition, as well as our writing competition, will inspire people to seek out his poetry. He wrote amazing diaries too and this is a quote from one: ‘A diary is an assassin’s cloak which we wear when we stab a comrade in the back with a pen.’”

“So he is not only a poet but a witty, inspiring, pen wielding assassin!”

Soutar is not only a poet but a witty, inspiring, pen wielding assassin!

The judges this year are award-winning writers Samuel Tongue, and Marcas mac an Tuairneir. Samuel will be reading through all of the adult entries and selecting the winners – as a recipient of the 2013 Callan Gordon award, and the new writers’ award from the Scottish Book Trust, he is well up to the task. In his own work, he is an accomplished poet and editor, with a keen interest in the ways that language affects our response to internal and external worlds.

Marcas will be judging children’s and Gaelic entries, and like Samuel, is no stranger to awards, in 2014 winning the Highland Literary Salon prize for poetry. His poetry has been published in numerous journals, and he has also been involved in BBC Alba’s Ceitidh Mòrag drama series for children.

Local writers from Perth & Kinross – along with many writers from across the globe – have entered in droves in previous years, to submit both poetry and short stories. Previous winners have gone on to achieve further writing success, with many going on to publish work – such as former winner Douglas Bruton, who went on to scoop up accolades from The Brighton Prize for Short Fiction, and the Aurora Poetry & Short Fiction Open Competition.

Soutar Writing Competition kids at table

This year the competition has five categories: adults, children (9 to 11 years), young people (12 to 15 years), children (9 to 11 years in Gaelic), young people (12 to 15 years in Gaelic).

Adults can submit poetry in English or Scots, with the first prize being a prestigious writing course; while children can submit poems in English, Scots or Gaelic to compete for the first place prize of an iPad. All winning and shortlisted entries will be published in eBook format, and available to borrow from the Culture Perth and Kinross eBook catalogue.

Good luck, everyone! In the words of Soutar: “Art is for all — and the greatest art proves it.”


Entry forms and competition rules are available from local libraries or can be downloaded here.

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