Celebrating Gavin Douglas

As I wrote about in my previous post, 2013 is the 500th anniversary of Eneados, Gavin Douglas’s 1513 translation of the Aeneid. Because the OED cites Eneados for the first appearance of the word “scone,” I decided that the scone’s literary debut was a milestone worth celebrating.

Scone at Bath Bun

Of course, beyond the single appearance of scones in the book, the most important reason to celebrate this 500th anniversary is to honor Gavin Douglas, his Middle Scots poetry, and his great translation. Even though 2013 is nearing its end, there is still time to celebrate. Several Eneados 500 events have already occurred, including a celebration in Edinburgh at St. Giles’ Cathedral (aka High Kirk of St. Giles) on July 21st, just before the actual date when Gavin Douglas finished his poem 500 years ago (July 22nd, the feast of St. Mary Magdalene). Jamie Reid Baxter, who had organized the July event, is also the organizer of a full day of Gavin Douglas celebrations taking place on Friday, November 15th, and he was kind enough to send me details of the upcoming events.

The day will include the unveiling of a commemorative flagstone honoring Gavin Douglas, readings from Eneados, a Gavin Douglas conference, and a sung Mass. The Duke of Hamilton, who is descended from Gavin Douglas’s father, will unveil the flagstone.

A day with poetry, history, music, and a duke — if there weren’t 3,000 miles in the way, I would definitely be in Edinburgh on November 15th!

Here is the flyer for the celebration. The text within the flyer is provided below so that you can read it more easily. I have also included details for the Gavin Douglas conference, which takes place from 2-5 pm.

“Scotland’s Glory, 1513”:

 three events celebrating Gavin Douglas and his “Eneados”

On the Feast of St Mary Magdalene, 1513, six weeks before the catastrophe of Flodden, the poet Gavin Douglas completed his “Eneados”, a magnificent Scots-language translation of the Roman poet Virgil’s epic “Aeneid”. In 1513, Douglas was provost of the High Kirk of St Giles in Edinburgh.

Friday 15th November sees three events in the heart of Edinburgh’s historic Old Town, celebrating Douglas and his great poem.

11 am. – Makars’ Court, outside the Writers’ Museum in the Lawnmarket, off the High Street:  a commemorative inscribed flagstone honouring Gavin Douglas will be unveiled by Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, 16th Duke of Hamilton, a descendant of Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Angus, the poet’s father. There will be a short reading from the “Eneados”.

2 pm. – 5 pm.  Augustine United Church, 41 George IV Bridge:  conference “Gavin Douglas, Makar and Translatour”, with the participation of poet and academic J.Derrick McClure on Douglas as translator; scholar Dr Emily Wingfield on Douglas and Flodden; historian Dr Jenny Wormald on the culture of James IV’s Scotland; and award-winning poet Rab Wilson on Douglas as a poet.  Rab Wilson will also perform five excerpts from “Eneados” introduced and put in context by Jamie Reid-Baxter, the organiser of the Gavin Douglas celebrations. Tickets £5 (concessions £3) at the door.  There will be a short interval, tea and biscuits provided.

7.30 pm. – 9 pm.  High Kirk of St Giles: Sang Scule, directed by James Hutchinson, sing Robert Carver’s thrilling Mass for Six Voices, framed in a concert reconstruction of Procession and High Mass for St Mary Magdalene as it would have been celebrated by Gavin Douglas as provost of St Giles.  After the end of the mass, the singers will perform “The Flowers of the Forest: an Elegy on Flodden Field” (2004), by Sheena Phillips, an eight-minute piece juxtaposing the famous ballad with a Latin poem from 1512, praising the Scotland of James IV. Among the ten thousand Scots who fell at Flodden alongside their king were Gavin Douglas’s elder brothers.  – Full texts and translations provided. Tickets at the door, £10 (concessions £5).

Presented under the aegis of the Scots Language Centre/Centre for the Scots Leid, as part of Previously… Scotland’s History Festival: http://www.historyfest.co.uk/


Gavin Douglas, Makar and Translatour

A Conference at Augustine United Church, 2-5 pm. Friday 15th November 2013

Rab Wilson : Eneados Prologue 1, part one.

Jamie Reid Baxter (chair): welcome and link

Rab Wilson:  Eneados Prologue 1, part two.

Jenny Wormald on James IV and culture

Questions from floor

– interval (tea and biscuits)

Rab Wilson on Douglas as poet, followed by recitation of ‘Euryalus and Nisus’ from Eneados

Emily Wingfield on Douglas and Flodden

Rab Wilson:  Eneados ‘June Morning’ (Prologue XIII)

Jamie Reid Baxter on Douglas’s broader achievement

Rab Wilson : Eneados ‘Conclusioun’.


These impressive events speak to the importance of Gavin Douglas and Eneados, and Jamie Reid Baxter and all of the participants should be commended for their efforts in offering these events to the public.

Dr. Reid Baxter also shared with me that St Giles, where Gavin Douglas served as provost, has a crypt cafe with superb scones. How appropriate! I was pleased to learn that when he was at St. Giles for the July 21st celebration, he was able to enjoy a scone at the cafe. Though perhaps unwittingly, at least scones played a small role in the celebration that day!