- In Memory of Catherine Kerrigan (1939-2017)
Professor Catherine Kerrigan, who died on 16 December 2017, came to attention in the 1980s after taking her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees as a mature student and then going on to make a significant contribution to Scottish literary studies. Catherine, known to her family as Rena and to many of her friends as Cathie, was born in Glasgow on 18 March 1939, the fourth child in a family of ten, seven of whom lived to adulthood. As a child she attended St Ninian's Primary School and went on to Notre Dame High School in Glasgow, situated close to Charles Rennie Mackintosh's famous School of Art. Cathie left school at sixteen years of age and worked first as a shorthand typist for British Rail before training in nursing and maternity care in Glasgow and London. When she was just over twenty-one years of age she emigrated to Canada, where an aunt and an older sister had preceded her and a younger brother later followed her.
Canada provided Cathie with the opportunities she had not found at home. Having initially supported herself by working in Toronto as a nurse, she embarked on English Literature studies at the University of Toronto in the 1960s and 1970s, gaining her BA and MA degrees there. She subsequently returned to Scotland where she did doctoral research on the poetry of Hugh MacDiarmid under the supervision of Professor John MacQueen of the School of Scottish Studies and was awarded her PhD degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1981. John MacQueen had met Cathie in Toronto at the annual meeting of the Learned Societies, representing the subjects and disciplines of Canadian universities. He was impressed with her qualities, and encouraged her to make MacDiarmid the subject of her PhD. Her first book, Whaur Extremes Meet: The Poetry of Hugh MacDiarmid 1920–1994, published by The Mercat Press in 1983, resulted from that Toronto meeting, as did her annotated The Hugh MacDiarmid-George Ogilvie Letters, [End Page 169] published by Aberdeen University Press in 1988. John MacQueen wrote in a Foreword to Whaur Extremes Meet: 'Dr Kerrigan's book has three great merits. She is a sensitive critic, whose discussion of individual poems impresses and convinces. She knows the intellectual world of London in the twenties and thirties of this century, and sees its relationship to Mac-Diarmid's life and poetry. She is aware, finally, of C. M. Grieve — journalist, politician, critic, wit, human being — of whom Hugh MacDiarmid was a vivid, gifted, and highly articulate part.' And in a comment which is of particular relevance to the future Ogilvie letters book, he added: 'Dr Kerrigan has made admirable use of the correspondence which passed in quantity between Grieve and his friends. MacDiarmid is a great poet; his alter ego is an almost equally great letter-writer, who could on occasion illuminate darknesses in the poetry of his counterpart.'
Academic appointments in the field of Scottish literature were scarce in the Scotland of the 1980s, especially for an applicant who was both female and a former mature student. Cathie returned to Canada to take up an appointment at the University of Guelph where Scottish subjects were well established, while maintaining her links with Edinburgh. Research for her important Anthology of Scottish Women Poets (1991) — which ranges from at least the sixteenth century to the twentieth and contains poems in all three of Scotland's indigenous languages as well as poetry in various genres — was carried out partly in the new Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh, founded by poet Tessa Ransford in 1984. While in Canada, she also edited an important collection of conference papers entitled The Immigrant Experience, published by the University of Guelph in 1992. All the authors represented in this collection wrote meaningfully about Scottish settlement in Canada from a range of perspectives. On her return to Scotland, Cathie became series editor of a new Robert Louis Stevenson publications project initiated by Edinburgh University Press. Ill health prevented Cathie herself from seeing this project through to its end and it was later continued in an expanded form by...