George MacBeth 1932-92

[Head prefect Jan to July 1951: see Prefects - 1949-50 and Prefects - 1950-51]

See also George MacBeth by Tony Hanwell.

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George MacBeth 1932 - 1992

British poet, novelist and anthologist

The son of a miner [in fact his father was a mining engineer - see George MacBeth] and an antique dealer's daughter, George MacBeth was born in Shotts, Lanarkshire. His family moved to Sheffield when he was three years old, where he later attended King Edward VII School. Having contracted rheumatic fever at the age of twelve, he spent much of his adolescence as an invalid. After going to New College, Oxford, he moved to London and became an influential member of 'The Group' - a coterie of poets founded by Philip Hobsbaum and Edward Lucie-Smith. Other associates included Alan Brownjohn, Ted Hughes, Peter Porter and Peter Redgrove. Their tendency was to reject the ironic and formal aspects of the Movement to concentrate on natural, often violent imagery. The Group's works was showcased in the 1963 'A Group Anthology'.

George MacBeth, 1980s

MacBeth's early work in particular is symptomatic of Group ideology: an experimental, innovative, extravagant approach, concentrating on themes of sex, death, war and violence. His first collection, 'A Form of Words' (1954), was followed by 'The Broken Places' (1963), 'The Night of Stones' and 'A War Quartet' (1969), 'The Burning Cone' (1970), 'The Orlando Poems' (1971), and 'Shrapnel' (1973). In 1965, MacBeth read at the Royal Albert Hall, along with Michael Horowitz, Allen Ginsberg and many others. The event was to have an important influence on performance poetry and its links to popular music.

His later work, which tended to be simpler and more reflective, included 'Poems of Love and Death' (1980), 'The Long Darkness' (1983), 'The Cleaver Gardens' (1986), 'Anatomy of a Divorce' (1988), 'Trespassing: Poems from Ireland' (1991) and 'The Patient' (1992).

MacBeth also published several novels, amongst them 'The Samurai' (1976), 'The Seven Witches' (1978), 'Anna's Book' (1983), 'Another Love' (1990), and his final, posthumously published novel, 'The Testament of Spencer' (1992), about a writer living in Ireland in the closing years of the twentieth century. He wrote works of non-fiction, including a memoir, 'A Child of the War' (1987) and 'My Scotland: Fragments of a State of Mind' (1973). He was the editor of several anthologies, amongst them 'The Penguin Book of Sick Verse' (1963), 'The Penguin Book of Animal Verse' (1965) and 'The Penguin Book of Victorian Verse' (1969). From 1955-76, MacBeth produced poetry programmes for the BBC. In 1989, he settled in Ireland for his final years with his third wife. He died in 1992 from motor neurone disease.

Radio Eye -- The Late MacBeth --

In 1989 the Scottish poet George MacBeth and his wife Penny moved to Ireland to live in County Galway. A few months later, George MacBeth was diagnosed as suffering from motor neurone disease, of which he died in early 1991. Through his poetry, The Late MacBeth provides an anatomy of a cruel disease and the destruction it caused two people deeply in love. Produced by Lorelei Harris. ABC Radio National, Sunday, July 10, 8.30pm.

George MacBeth

1932-92, Scottish poet, grad. Oxford, 1955. He was until 1976 a producer for the BBC. His best poetry, such as The Broken Places (1963), often treats violent subjects in a combination of fantasy and reality. He wrote with wit and vitality, blending an enthusiasm for many formal poetic forms and figures of speech with an exciting lack of restraint. Other volumes of poetry include A Form of Words (1954), The Colour of Blood (1967), Collected Poems (1972), and Shrapnel and A Poet's Year (1974).

George MacBeth

George MacBeth (1932-1992) was one of the most gifted, inventive, moving and entertaining poets of our time. He was also a notable performer of his own work, and a great encourager of other people's talent - something to which he devoted himself both as BBC radio producer and as a dynamic figure at literary festivals. He received the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award and his Poems from Oby was a Choice of the Poetry Book Society. As well as publishing over twenty poetry books, he wrote novels and children's books, and edited several poetry anthologies.



Death of a Ferrari

by George Mann MacBeth

In Memoriam 840 HYK


It was made for the manager of Crockfordís,
Driven in a Monte Carlo Rally,
Owned by a salesman, later, at Maranelloís,
A retired colonel, then me.

I couldnít afford that wastrel elegance,
I could scarcely carry
The seven-foot, iron exhaust system
When it cracked, and broke, in Leeds.

I loved its worn, greyed ivory leather,
The petrol-blue of its hide.
It growled along at a hundred and four
With its bad brakes, and its leaking seal.

I can hear now that famous,
Belly-flustering Ferrari roar
Bounced back off the wall of the underpass
One night, in Piccadilly. It was like the Blitz.

All right. So the door was rusted,
Smoke came out of the dashboard wires
The first time I drove it on the M4.
Who cares? It was a major car.


It didnít crash on the motorway,
Or blow up at a hundred and fifty.
It didnít burn itself out down a cliff
Taking a bend too fast, in Scotland.

It was ditched in a car park
On Willesden Green.
So under the Civic Amenities Act 1967
Section No. 20

Removal and Disposal of Abandoned Vehicles
The Transport and Cleansing Division
Of the London Borough of Brent
Will sell it for scrap.

Some other owner is responsible,
The next sucker in the line.
But I feel tonight a remote sense of guilt
Mixed with a tinge of outrage

To think of the rationality of that great engine
Ripped into shreds,
The camshaft smashed, the radial tyres torn loose,
And the little dancing horse stripped from the grill.

It had electric windows, in 1961.
It had the original radio, with its aerial.
It could out-accelerate any car in Europe.
They donít come off the floor like that any more.