December 2023
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Kenneth White: a Geopoetical Legacy to the World – Part I…

Kenneth White n’est plus

The great Scottish-French poet and visionary thinker passed away peacefully, at the age of 87, on the night of 11 August 2023, in Gwenved, the house he had lived in with his wife Marie-Claude for fourty years, in the Côtes d’Armor, Brittany. All our thoughts are with his lifelong companion to whom he had been married for nearly 65 years and who shared with him so many adventures, translating most of his books, texts and poems wonderfully…

Kenneth White left us a great legacy, an immense legacy, opening new cultural horizons and creating the genial concept of geopoetics.


Kenneth White Portrait on his personal web page

Kenneth White Portrait on his personal web page

“I’m what you might call a transcendental Scot” Kenneth White wrote of himself…

I didn’t hear the sad  news of Kenneth White’s death until several weeks later and I was devastated. How could I have missed the news when there were so many moving articles in the newspapers, English and French as well, announcing it? I don’t know. Since that day I’ve got immersed in Kenneth White’s books, fascinated, reading, re-reading poems and texts, never getting tired of them. It would take a lifetime to grasp the full dimension of such a work…

I didn’t find a better way to pay homage to Kenneth White than to try and retrace his very rich and creative life, starting from the beginning, that is on the beautiful western coast of Scotland and ending in Gwenved… no, not ending…

There is so much to say! A post would not be enough, far from it, so I’ve decided to publish this little biography in several parts, each of them corresponding to a very specific period of life of Kenneth White and forming a whole in itself.

I referred a lot to Tony McManus’ book The Radical Field to write this post.

Tony McManus founded the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics in 1995. He was a friend of Kenneth White and when he passed away, in 2002, Kenneth White wrote a very moving poem to the memory of his friend. The poem is called “Lament for McManus” and appeared in Open World. Below is an extract of the poem:

It’s a blue diamond evening over Lannion Bay
the sea is whispering up against the shore
and the gulls are yelling homewards

the news came through this afternoon
that you died this April morning (…)

as I walked along the Goaslagorn valley
the air was full of bird notes
some close some far
like some unfinished symphony

I was remembering
the last time we walked together
that was at Cramond, Edinburgh
along the banks of the Almond River
talking about Duncan Ban Macintyre
and about the name he gave to the Lowlands
the Machair Alba

when suddenly we saw a heron
standing still and absolutely attentive
in the midst of the rippling water (…)

it’s the flowers of the machair here
whin flowers and blackthorn bloom
with sprigs of purpurine heather
I’m scattering over your grave, McManus (…)

Below is the beginning of the obituary published in memory of Kenneth White in the ‘Largs & Millport Weekly News’, on 28 August 2023,a long and authoritative piece, probably the most detailed of any that appeared !” wrote Iain and Margaret who had sent it to us.

Kenneth White, who has died aged 87, was regarded by many as Scotland’s most brilliant mind of the second half of the 20th century. He originated the idea of geopoetics, a way of experiencing the natural world of which we are part and expressing it creatively to bring about radical cultural renewal. After he founded the International Institute of Geopoetics in France in 1989, geopoetics groups followed in different parts of Europe, North and South America, the Pacific and in Scotland. As a lecturer, White had an ability to touch minds and hearts with a depth that made the world come alive in a way that distinguished him from other scholars. At the University of Glasgow, he set up the Jargon Group and gave electrifying talks on Friedrich Nietzsche, Walt Whitman, the American Beat Poets, and more. (…)

1936-39: birth in Glasgow…

Birth of Kenneth White in Glasgow, in the Gorbals, on the south side of the river Clyde. His father, a railway signalman with socialist inclinations, was an avid reader of books. As he didn’t want his children to be brought up in the inhospitable environment of an industrial town, he decided very early to move with his family to Fairlie, a village situated in Ayrshire, on the western coast of Scotland. It was a lovely place to live in, with its magnificent landscapes and changing skies. From the coast you could see the  isle of Arran looming in the distance with the Goat Fell, its highest peak (874 m).

1939-54: childhood and adolescence in Ayrshire…

Young Kenneth spent a happy childhood and adolescence there, first going to a primary school at Fairlie, then at Largs Higher Grade and Ardrossan Academy at both of which he was dux. There, he developed a passion for local geology and archaeology. He walked and read quite a lot (Thoreau, Whitman, Melville…). Very early on, he got into the habit of exploring the surrounding countryside: “sea, woods, hills, and moor”. This early contact with the elements  proved decisive and permeated all the poet’s life and work.

“There lay the beginnings
of my cosmopoetic ramblings.”

(Les rives du silence page 262)

To help his family and earn a bit of pocket money, the young boy used to gather shellfish with his father for the London market. He also did odd jobs in the neighbourood, making milk deliveries. One of his jobs was  going door-to-door to collect signatures for the electoral register. It was during these tours that he came to meet Dugald Semple, a remarkable individual who had a marked influence on the boy and on the writer’s life and work, guiding him in his readings, introducing him to Orient and oriental texts.

In his poems and books, Kenneth White often speaks, with much humour and affection, of his family and early life in Ayrshire. We get to know him through the many lively little scenes he describes in his poetry and prose. I like the one set in the little church in Fairlie during the Sunday service. I’ve found the picture of the stained-glass window in Entre Deux Mondes, Kenneth White autobiography published in 2021, and dedicated “Pour Marie Claude qui a partagé tout cela”.

The stained-glass window of Kentigern in Fairlie’s church © Marie-Claude White

I’d be getting at the window
and forgetting the sermon
(all about good and evil
with a lot of mangled metaphor
and heavy comparison)
eager to get back out
onto the naked shore
there to walk for hours on end
with a book sometimes in my hand
but never a thought of preaching in my mind

trying to grasp at something
that wanted no godly name
something that took the form
of blue waves and grey rock
and that tasted of salt.

(From ‘Scotia Deserta’ quoted by Tony McManus in The Radical Field)

On the map below you can see Fairlie, the village where Kenneth White spent so many happy days exploring the countryside and the shore, with the Little and Great Cumbrae, only a few kilometers offshore on the Firth of Clyde, the isle of Arran with the Goat Fell mountain, the Kintyre peninsula, the isle of Bute. Largs which is situated further north and Ardrossan in the South, are the places where Kenneth White did his secondary education. Sea and mountains, islands rising everywhere on the horizon, that’s a great place to live in and it proved to be a determining source of inspiration for Kenneth White. It all started there, amidst some of the most beautiful landscapes in Scotland.

Fairlie- Largs- Ardrossan Western Coast of Scotland Michelin map

The interview of Kenneth White by Régis Poulet and Susana L.M. Antunes, in 2022, is particularly interesting. I quote it extensively in my post. What Kenneth White says in this interview, one year before his death, is exactly what he said in En toute candeur, his second book of poetry published in 1964.

Susan L.M. Antunes: How did it all begin for you?

Kenneth White: It all began for me in forty square miles of territory on the West coast of Scotland. A village of a thousand inhabitants, which meant I knew everybody, especially as I did several odd jobs, both on land and sea. A little village, with a foreshore and a back-country. The foreshore, that was the rhythm of tides, the cries of seabirds, and the sleek movement of seals and fish. The back-country was, first of all, agricultural lands (familiar to me, I worked on them with spade, scythe and hoe). Where the strangeness began was in the forest, in contact with night animals (wildcat, fox) and birds (mainly owls). After that, it was the moor: a sense of space and emptiness, with the sensation, as I walked, hour after hour, of being more and more outside myself. At the culmination point, the mountain, from the crest of which I had a view over the village, the firth, the islands, and, beyond, the Atlantic Ocean. What I knew, globally, was that I didn’t have a language for all this. I enjoyed the language of the village streets, but it left me with the impression that nobody really understood anyone else. Then there was the language of the church. I admired the rhetoric of the Bible, but found it too other-worldly. So, I started learning the languages of the world. (…)

(Intellectual Nomadism and Geopoetics– Interview of Kenneth White by Régis Poulet and Susana L. M. Antunes – 2022)



1954-56: Glasgow, first experience of the big city…

Kenneth White was born in Glasgow in 1936, left the city at the age of three, and was back there fifteen years later, for his higher education. He entered the University of Glasgow in 1954 and he had chosen to study French and German with subsidiary studies in Latin and Philosophy. He worked hard to obtain his degree but also spent much time wandering up and down the city and haunting the  libraries and museums.

‘I devoured the bookshelves, from theology to mineralogy’

“Already we see”, writes MacManus, “the voracious, encyclopaedic capacity for books which MacDiarmid also possessed. White points to particularly influential authors at this time: Ovid, Rimbaud, Hölderlin, Nietzche and Heidegger, a mix of poetry and philosophy.” (The Radical Field page 19). Kenneth White also mentions Carlyle. We visited with great interest Carlyle’s birthplace in Ecclefechan, Dumfries and Galloway.

In a sinister room in glasgow
(foghorns sounding along the river)
I’m reading Sartor Resartus
attracted by the figure
o Professor Teufelsdröckh
‘diabolical dragon’
Professor of Allerley-Wissenschaft
‘all kinds of science’
in the University of Weissnichtwo
‘God knows where’

(Section 6 of the long poem ‘Le Testament du littoral’, in Les Rives du silence)

While in Glasgow where he had a student-writer’s room – ‘a table’, writes MacManus, ‘strewn with books and papers, bundles of notes pinned to the wall – in which the exploration of the world’s intellectual landscape was underway.’

“From that window, in the green dawns and the crimson sunsets, I had it all before my eyes, and in my mind as I trailed the grey streets. Often a creeping yellow fog was part of the scene. You could hear the screech of trams and, in the distance, the horns of ships coming up the sluggish river.”

(Van Gogh and Kenneth White)

Kenneth White was also a regular visitor to museums. There are many of them in Glasgow. There, he discovered the world of art and artists such as Van Gogh, with whom he immediately felt a close affinity.

“I had the sensation of transcending national boundaries. I felt I was outside everything, and yet at the heart of reality”

(Van Gogh and Kenneth White)

Kenneth White stayed in Glasgow for two years with the mixed feeling of living in both heaven and hell, the same kind of feeling Stevenson felt about Edinburgh. Kenneth White didn’t like living in the city and, whenever he could, he set off on foot to go back to Fairlie (40 km).

“For it is Hell, there is no doubt about that. The wide streets of this city when the sky is all pinched with cold, or when the drizzle exhales a mist, or when that round red object in the heavens reminds you vaguely of the sun, are hell pure and simple.”

(Les fournaises de la ville’, in En toute candeur. English text from original manuscript, quoted by MacManus in The Radical Field 2007)

University of Glasgow – Wikipedia

The city must have changed considerably since Kenneth White’s first experience of the town.  Our first visit to Glasgow dates back to 2000 and we loved it immediately: the city centre with its pedestrian streets,  St Mungo cathedral, the Necropolis, the museums, the area of the Clyde, the orange and blue subway, Glasgow Central Station, the Mitchell Library… and so on and so forth … we’re now looking forward to visiting the Burrell Collection Galleries .  The mere name of Glasgow University conjures up unforgettable memories, especially a visit of the place, by night.  Janice must remember it when she got lost there, in the vast empty dark corridors… a gloomy atmosphere indeed ;-). The old University is a beautiful old building, designed in the Gothic revival style. Since it was founded in 1451, it has always had a major cultural influence at home and abroad. It is Iain & Margaret’s Alma Mater for they studied there. 😉

1956-57: Munich

In 1956 White was awarded a scholarship at the University of Munich for a year.

In The Radical Field, Tony McManus entitles his chapter about Kenneth White’s stay in Germany “Munich: Isolation and Meditation”. And, in his autobiography Entre Deux Mondes,  Kenneth White calls his chapter about the same period: ‘La baraque au bord du monde’. A “baraque” whose wooden walls he covered with paintings of his own.

Kenneth White remembers his arrival in Munich at the end of October. It was terribly cold. “It’s never very hot on the west coast of Scotland, where I am from, he explains, but never very cold either. Here in Munich, the climate is continental. Next stop Siberia.” 😉

After a long and cold winter, Kenneth White remembers his joy at seeing the first flowers of spring bloom. He even started gardening in the abandoned land around the cabin, taking much pleasure in this activity.

When he didn’t have classes at university, Kenneth White spent time in the libraries or wandering around the city, taking notes on little blue notebooks, or, when at home, reading German philosophy (Nietzsche and Heidegger) or Japanese texts.

“La baraque au bord du monde” by Kenneth White © Marie-Claude White

“My stay in Munich. Transcendantal winter. The wooden shack at the far end of the Englischer Garten, on the edge of town, the green and icy flow of the Isar behind the garden. Grass and bushes gripped by frost. Frozen solitude, then a fragile flowering branch on the plum tree: spring.”

In  Entre Deux Mondes  Kenneth White explains that he took notes that were like little sketches for paintings: the columns of the Haus der Kunst bathed in morning mist… the night rain on Leopoldstrasse… the green domes of the Frauenkirche… the blue trams to Amalienburg… the swans of the Englischer Garten… the clear green waters of the Isar at the Maximilan-Brücke….

Quite an atmosphere. A new experience…

1957-59: back in Glasgow

Back in Glasgow to continue his studies, Kenneth White obtained a double first in French and German in 1959 and was nominated best student in the Faculty of Arts. He was also awarded a post graduate scholarship. He chooses Paris.

1959-63: Marie-Claude, Paris, Pau and… Gourgounel (1961)

At first, in Paris, Kenneth White lived in a room on the 7th floor. There, he led a frugal life, off his post-graduate scholarship and giving private lessons in English. The subject of his thesis, which he later abandoned, was on ‘Poetry and Politics’. He spent a lot of time walking the streets of Paris and working on his book Les limbes incandescents which would be published much later in 1976.

The most important event for him, at that time, was his marriage to Marie-Claude whom he had met in Glasgow. I’ve found a moving passage about Marie-Claude in The Radical Field. Tony McManus writes:

“In Paris he married Marie-Claude Charlut whom he had met in Glasgow where she was working as an assistant and researching into Scottish Literature. Of that small number of people mentioned above who have been of great significance in White’s life and work, Marie-Claude must be the most significant of all. Her’s is a felt presence, both emotional and intellectual (White has said she is his most demanding critic). Eventually, too, Marie-Claude proved to be a first class translator, becoming in time the sole translator of White’s poetry and prose narrative work (he was to write most of his essays directly in French), which gave her a pivotal role in White’s itinerary, since it was from the French (sometimes with the adjunct of the original English manuscripts) that his work was translated into other languages.”

 In 1961, while still in Paris, Kenneth White bought, for next to nothing, an old Ardèche farm with eight hectares of moors, woods and rocks. A hermit’s kingdom! That was one of the most memorable experiences of his life.

 Below is a wonderful interview of Kenneth White made years later by Léon Zitrone, just after the publication of Lettres de Gourgounel in 1979.  Letters from Gourgounel had appeared years before in 1966. At the time of the interview, Kenneth White lived in Pau, in the Pyrénées Atlantiques, in the South West of France.


Kenneth White Letters from Gourgounel (1966) – Lettres de Gourgounel (1979)


(..) At that time, the early Sixties, the Ardèche was part of what the sociologists were calling “the French desert”: outlying areas being deserted by the local populations for the big city. It was the kind of desertion I was after, but in the opposite direction. For next to nothing, I was able to buy an old farm, that looked like a fortress, situated on the heights above the valley of the river Beaume, facing the Tanargue mountain range (“tanargue”– from the Celtish for thunder). I called it Gourgounel, a word I found in an old cadastral map. The word gurgled, it spoke of sources. A place of resourcing! And, yes, there were paths galore, mostly overgrown. One of the paths I had to recover lead from the river bank up to the house. I had to hack it out with a mattock, and I can still hear the clink the mattock made as it got down to bedrock.

One of the things I wanted to do down there was find out what a real culture felt like. In the South, it was Provençal culture, now called Occitan, neither of those terms being very satisfactory. So, I plunged over the years into the vestiges of Provençal culture, before the Big Powers came in with their bully boys to wipe it off the map.

Another thing I wanted to do was explore other ways of writing. For that, I went deeply into Chinese Taoist poetry and Japanese haïku, which was pretty rare at the time. Nowadays, there’s much reference to them, but very little depth, because the ground, the earth, just isn’t there.

If I called the book containing all this (physical work, sensuous experience, intensive study), Letters from Gourgounel, “letters” in the plural, it was to put into practice a fast, vigorous dynamic of thought and expression, outside the great mass of “literature”, that was piling up all over the place, its thematics running from pathology to commonplace via sentimental banality.

At the end of the book, I say I could have lived at Gourgounel forever, but I felt I had other things to do. Which is why the epilogue to the book is entitled “The Path through the Forest”, and why the final paragraph reads: “I’m walking on the road back to Gourgounel, which I now know for sure to be first base, source base, of an itinerary that will no doubt lead me to other spaces, towards maybe a new-found land.”

(Intellectual Nomadism and Geopoetics– Interview of Kenneth White by Régis Poulet* and Susana L. M. Antunes** – 2022)



The very interesting interview “Intellectual Nomadism and Geopoetics was conducted by two eminent geopoetic writers :

* Régis Poulet is a professor and researcher, geologist, and Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature,
since 2013 he has been president of the International Institute of Geopoetics following Kenneth White. He
is the author of geopoetic essays such as Le Vol du harfang des neiges (2015) or La métamorphose d’un
monde(2023), and poetry books such as Planktos (2018), and Gondawana (2023).

Le vol du harfang des neiges Régis Poulet 2015

** Susana L. M. Antunes is a PhD from UMASS-Amherst, on Brazilian, and Portuguese Contemporary Literature
(minor on African Literature Expressed in Portuguese).Associate Professor and coordinator of the Portuguese program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.Her main research interests focus on contemporarypoetry, in literature, island literature, and geopoetics.Among other works, she is the author of the book De Errâncias e Viagens Poéticas em Jorge de Sena e CecíliaMeireles (2020), and editoral coordinator of the volumelhas de vozes em reencontros compartilhados (2021).

Let us remember that Kenneth White founded the International Institute of Geopoetics in 1989.

Le vol du Harfang des neiges is on my reading list, all the more since the book takes a geopoetic approach to the theme of cave art in the Paleolithic period and we are living in the heart of the Périgord region, in the south west of France, where the Lascaux caves are located. 😉

1962-1963: Paris at the Sorbonne and the very first publication

From 1962 to 1963, Kenneth White taught English Literature at the Sorbonne in Paris. His students in ‘Le Club des Étudiants d’Anglais’ published Wild Coal (1963) his first collection of poems.

“Wild Coal was published in France a few years ago in a limited edition. The appearance of this volume should establish Mr. White as one of the two or three finest poets of his generation. (…) Mr White is a poet of winter, of ice, frost, snow, fog, red berries, gulls in frozen skies. His world is one of harsh purity, or arrogant coldness.” (John Press, Punch)

Morning Walk

It was a cold slow-moving mist
clotted round the sun, clinging
to the small white sun, and the earth
was alone and lonely, and a great bird
harshly squawked from the heronry
as the boy walked under the beeches
seeing the pale-blue shells
and the moist piles of mouldering leaves.

(From Wild Coal)

En toute candeur – Kenneth White – Mercure de France 1964

Kenneth White’s first book of poems quickly attracted the attention of Pierre Leyris, a very renowned French translator of English-speaking authors. A translator of more than 100 works, Pierre Leyris received the National Grand Prix of Translation in 1985. Some of the best English authors benefited from his talents: Shakespeare, Dickens, Stevenson, Melville, William Blake, Yeats… Pierre Leyris also worked as a collection director at the Mercure de France, one of the greatest French publishing houses. As he wanted to publish a selection of Kenneth White’s poems he had translated, he asked Kenneth White to write some biographical information to accompany them. The book would be published in 1964 under the title of En toute candeur. In the book only the poems are in a bilingual version. The biographical section is divided into three parts.

  1. ‘Les Collines matricielles’ (‘The Matricial Hills’)
  2. ‘Les Fournaises de la ville’ (‘Hell’s Blazes’)
  3. ‘Le Monde blanc’ (‘The White World’)

L’an dernier, par un geste assez touchant envers leur lecteur, les étudiants de la Sorbonne publiaient en anglais les poèmes de Kenneth White. Dès que j’eus ouvert la plaquette blanche où s’envolait un goéland, mon coeur bondit de joie. Depuis bien des années, aucun poète contemporain, peut-être, n’avait chanté si clair à mon oreille, ni si bien rendu la grâce poignante des choses premières.

Ce poète-là était un poète enraciné. La sève d’une terre, d’une race irriguaient généreusement son génie propre. (…)”

(From Pierre Leyris’s Préface of En toute Candeur– Mercure de France 1964)

As a little wink to our friends Iain & Margaret, I cannot help but quote another passage written by Pierre Leyris which could interest them and show that he must have been influenced by the way of life and teachings of Dugald Semple whom he had met in his childhood ?

Pierre Leyris had ended up meeting the author at Meudon where he lived then (Kenneth White much loved his house which was surrounded by a garden full of flowers and fruit trees).

Puis je rencontrai l’homme. (Il habitait Meudon, à deux pas de chez moi.) Je le trouvai pareil, de tous points, pareil à ses écrits. (…) Ne concédant aux villes que le plus accidentel de son être, entre deux visites à sa mère la Terre. Fermement résolu, enfin, à vivre tranquillement à l’encontre de la plupart des idées et coutumes reçues, fût-ce en matière de régime alimentaire. Sustenté comme il est d légumes crus, mais surtout de noix et de baies, c’est grappillant et grignotant qu’il faut à cet égard vous le représenter : il ne s’attable guère que pour écrire.

(Préface of En toute Candeur)

Here’s what Tony McManus writes in The Radical Field about the book:

“White takes the opportunity to explore his background in three essays. The first part,’The Matricial Hills’, deals with the sea and moors of Fairlie”. He writes of a poetry which is not ‘nature poetry’ but ‘earth poetry’ and is already aware that his sense of an earth culture which he feels in the Scottish landscape is linked to a global space.” (…) The second essay, ‘Hell’s Blazes’, explores his family background and the city of Glasgow (…). In the third essay, entitled ‘The White World’, he presents the sort of poetry, ‘both abstract and naturalist’ he is seeking, ‘a writing which will ‘rediscover cosmos – a world of beauty and order (chaotic order)’ (…)

Poetry is a matter of reality-content and of rhythm, not the rhythm of metrics, but the rhythm of the earth, the cosmos:

“For a sense of rhythm, it is better to get someone to walk along the shore on a windy day than to teach him versification.”

Already White is aware of something which will become more and more profoundly part of his poetics (…).

1963-67: Back to Scotland

Kenneth White would come back to France in 1967 and settled permanently, first in Pau (Pyrénées Atlantiques) and then in Brittany  (in Trébeurden, near Lannion in the Côtes d’Armor) but this will be the subject of my next posts about Kenneth White. This post ends in 1967 after Kenneth White’s last stay in Scotland (Glasgow and Edinburgh).

Glasgow: 1963-1966

White came back to Scotland in 1963, feeling that he had ‘unfinished business’. There he worked in the French department at the University of Glasgow, teaching the pre-revolutionary Encyclopedists (Diderot, Voltaire, Rousseau) and modern French poetry since Rimbaud. He started up The Jargon Group,  lodged, for reasons of economy and black humour, in an old building due for demolition. He spent much time ‘stravaiging’* in the streets,

*The colourful verb ‘stravaig’ is a Scottish-Irish word meaning ‘to wander about aimlessly.


While living in Edinburgh Kenneth White thought to Stevenson, De Quincey and other physical-mental travellers. He was working then at a long poem, A Walk along the Shore, which sums up his “itinerarium mentis” up to that point. Also very important for him, Kenneth White met the nationalist and communist poet, Hugh MacDiarmid with whom he felt affinities but also differences. He becomes aware that he has emerged from his historical conditioning, and that he is finding the main lines of his geography.

I would not want to finish this post without thanking et de tout coeur Kenneth and Marie-Claude White for adding links to Scotiana on their site. The whole team of Scotiana is very grateful to both of them.

I’ve already written a number of pages about Kenneth White on Scotiana… there will be many more…

Kenneth et Marie-Claude White – Gwenved – Lannion © Marie-Claude White


A portrait of Kenneth White at a Conference

From the invisible world whose mysterious paths you now walk, dear Mr White, may you never cease to inspire us…

Geopoetically yours !

Kenavo !

Mairiuna in the name of the whole team of Scotiana.


World’s Oldest Post Office has a New Lease on Life

Hello everyone! I have exciting news to share: The continued operation of the world’s most ancient functioning post office in southern Scotland is ensured, thanks to the acquisition by new proprietors.🎉

sanquhar_oldest_post_office_world_scotlandScotland has long been home to tales of the old and the new, of history merging with the contemporary, and of traditions that refuse to die.

One such tale is that of the world’s oldest post office, tucked away in the quiet town of Sanquhar.

But as with many historic landmarks, survival is never guaranteed, and in the face of modernity, such sites often teeter on the brink of obscurity.

Today, we delve into the importance of Sanquhar’s post office, not just for Scotland, but for the intricate tapestry of global postal history, philately and tourism.

A Glimpse into the Past

Having been in continuous operation since 1712, Sanquhar’s post office has seen the rise and fall of empires, the birth of nations, and the ceaseless march of technology. Its walls, if they could talk, would narrate tales of letters exchanged between loved ones separated by wars, news of births and deaths, and the mundane minutiae of life that, in retrospect, paints a vivid picture of history.

Challenges in the Present

However, as the world moved forward, driven by instant messaging and emails, traditional post offices, especially one as old as Sanquhar’s, began facing existential challenges. Despite its historical significance, it struggled to remain afloat, with the threat of closure looming like a dark cloud.

New Beginnings

It’s in this challenging backdrop that the announcement of new operators for the post office comes as a beacon of hope. While residing in Florida, Barry and Mary Ford came to know that the Sanquhar location was on the market.


Mr. Ford expressed his pride in becoming the 17th postmaster throughout the establishment’s extensive history.

The Fords were initially outbid for the post office but when that deal fell through they jumped at the chance to take over.

Mrs Ford has since discovered a connection to the area as her ancestors came from Muirkirk – about 25 miles by road from Sanquhar.

Source: BBC

The challenge ahead is undoubtedly steep, with the task of ensuring economic viability while honoring the legacy and importance of the establishment.

More Than Just Letters

For philatelists, the Sanquhar post office is a treasure trove. Its stamps, postmarks, and even the architecture of the building itself offer a journey through time. The post office isn’t just a place for mailing letters; it’s a living museum!

A Bridge Between Scotland, France, and Canada

The shared histories between Scotland, France, and Canada are rich and varied. From the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France to the Scottish immigrants who played pivotal roles in Canadian history, the threads of connection are many. And in this intertwined narrative, the Sanquhar post office stands as a testament to the enduring nature of communication and the bonds it fosters.

Heritage Site

As it embarks on a new chapter with fresh operators at its helm, it serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of preserving our past, even as we innovate for the future. For enthusiasts of history, stamp collecting, and the craft of writing, the Sanquhar post office stands as a symbol of enduring optimism and strength.


Alleluia! 😊

Until next, take care and all the very best,


PS:  More on this story:

📰 Man moves to Scotland from Florida to take over world’s oldest post office [STV 2023]

📰 Clock ticking for world’s oldest post office in Sanquhar. [BBC 2020]

📰 World’s oldest post office up for sale in Sanquhar [BBC 2019]

📰 The World’s Oldest Post Office: Sanquhar, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland [Scotiana 2009]


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Nisga’a Totem Pole: Scotland to Canada Return

Hello Bonjour Dear Readers!

Before diving into today’s topic, I’d like to extend a special ‘thank you’ to my dear friend Iain from Scotland. He brought to my attention the fascinating story of a totem pole making its way back to Canada after nearly a century in Edinburgh.

Iain, your thoughtful sharing of this story […]

Mysterious Scotland: St Conan’s Kirk by Loch Awe…

Today, I’ll tell you how, during our last trip to Scotland, on our road from Perth to Oban, we added a milestone to our wonderful map of mysterious Scotland. The place, situated on the shore of Loch Awe, in the heart of the beautiful Argyll and Bute region, is St Conan’s Kirk. We immediately fell […]