Sir Kenneth Calman, ex-Chief Medical Officer of Scotland, England and Wales, Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, and from 2008 to 2009, convener of the Calman Commission on Scottish devolution, was at Brodick Library on the 22nd November with his wife Ann, to read some selections from his new book of poetry, Afterthoughts.
David Underdown describes the evening:
As the rest of the world braced itself for the on-line consumer madness of Black Friday, a less frenzied but quietly appreciative audience gathered in Brodick Library to hear Kenneth Calman introduce his latest book, a classically slim volume of verse entitled ‘Afterthoughts’. Accompanied by his wife Ann Wilkie, he thanked Senior Librarian Susanna Talbot for her introduction, joking that he found it refreshing not to be portrayed primarily as the father of his comedian daughter Susan Calman.
The family have had a house on Arran for many years and Kenneth Calman’s love for the island is demonstrated by the cover chosen for his book, a photograph of a snow-clad Goat Fell taken from the bridge over the Cloy Burn. At quieter moments throughout his busy and distinguished career in medicine and the academic world he has, he explained, always composed poems and, like many another closet poet, he confessed to a habit of taking a notebook with him on walks to record the thoughts and incidents that feature in his work.
‘Afterthoughts’ comprises a collection of sixty poems written over several decades. The subjects range from his family, the Scottish landscape that is clearly dear to his heart, and random meditations and incidents including some from his professional life. He admitted that family for both he and his wife included their dogs, a succession of which feature largely in the poems. Reading a selection from the book, he and his wife read alternate poems, Ann often taking the lead when a spouse’s perspective was called for or when, as occurred several times, Kenneth was too moved by the memories associated with a poem to trust himself to read. As he freely admitted the poems are nearly all very personal. Collectively they reveal a softer, some might even say sentimental side to the serious persona more commonly associated with his public life.
Asked afterwards to name his favourite poet he had no hesitation. It is, he said, Robert Burns. The choice seemed appropriate for a man who has produced a body of poems concerned with the everyday occurrences of life, in verse that is accessible to all and has a distinctly Scottish flavour.
Copies of Afterthoughts are available from publisher Kennedy & Boyd (www.kennedyandboyd.co.uk) price £12.99.