Our President in 1952/53 was:

Eric Linklater

He proposed the Toast to Sir Walter at our 45th Annual Dinner on Friday 20th February 1953 in The North British Station Hotel, Edinburgh

Read the text of his address here

Eric Robert Russell Linklater (8 March 1899 – 7 November 1974) was a Welsh-born Scottish poet, writer of novels, short stories, military history, and travel books. For The Wind on the Moon, a children's fantasy novel, he won the 1944 Carnegie Medal from the Library Association for the year's best children's book by a British subject.

He was born in Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, to Mary Elizabeth (c. 1867–1957), daughter of James Young, a master mariner, and her husband the Orcadian Robert Baikie Linklater (1865–1916), also a master mariner. He was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and the University of Aberdeen, where he was President of the Aberdeen University Debater. He spent many years in Orkney and identified with the islands, where his father was born. His maternal grandfather was a Swedish-born sea captain, so that he had Scandinavian origins through both parents. Linklater is an Orcadian name derived from the Old Norse; throughout his life he maintained a sympathetic interest in Scandinavia.

He served in the Black Watch in 1917–1918 before receiving a bullet wound, then became a sniper. His experience of trench warfare is described in his memoir Fanfare for a Tin Hat (1970), and at one remove in his 1938 novel The Impregnable Women, describing an imaginary war against France.

As an undergraduate at Aberdeen University in 1922, Linklater wrote the first musical comedy for the Aberdeen Student Show, Stella, the Bajanella, with music by J. S. Taylor. Twenty-four years later, during his tenure as Rector of the University of Aberdeen, his play To Meet the Macgregors was performed as the 1946 Student Show. Abandoning medical studies in Aberdeen, Linklater spent 1925–1927 in Bombay, India as an assistant editor of The Times of India, then travelled extensively before returning to Aberdeen as an assistant to the Professor of English and spending 1928–1930 as a Commonwealth fellow at Cornell and Berkeley.

As a writer, Linklater's career took off in 1929. Although his success began in his early career years, he published 23 novels, three volumes of stories, two of verse, ten plays, three works of autobiography and 23 of essays and histories. His third novel, Juan in America, was a hugely popular picaresque, with some of the extravagance of Byron's Don Juan, based on experiences of the absurd during the Prohibition era, with resulting gangsterism. It is sprinkled with memorable remarks: "I've been married six months. She looks like a million dollars, but she only knows a hundred and twenty words and she's only got two ideas in her head. The other one's hats." The character returns in Juan in China (1937).

Linklater also wrote three children's novels: The Wind on the Moon (1944), The Pirates in the Deep Green Sea (1949) and Karina With Love (1958). The first is about two sisters, whose adventures include becoming kangaroos and rescuing their father from a Hitlerian tyrant, enlisting the anthropomorphic help of a puma and a falcon. Its storytelling skill and treatment of wider themes such as imprisonment and freedom won it a Carnegie Medal.

Linklater's Orcadian and Scottish sympathies led him to literary and political involvement in the Scottish Renaissance, culminating in his unsuccessful National Party of Scotland candidacy at the 1933 East Fife by-election. Magnus Merriman (1934) was an acerbic fictionalized description of the debacle. He settled in Orkney with his new wife in 1933.

The author's attitude to war and the moral implications of diplomacy became sharper in Judas (1939), which explores the concepts of loyalty and treachery amid a strong indictment of the desertion of Czechoslovakia by Britain and France in the name of appeasement. The worsening international situation led to expansion of the Territorial Army (TA). It was decided to raise new units of anti-aircraft and coastal artillery in the Orkneys to defend the Scapa Flow naval base, with a fortress company of the Royal Engineers to support them. The Lord Lieutenant of Orkney and Shetland asked Linklater, still a Reserve officer, to raise one of these units, and he chose the 'Sappers'. He was commissioned as Captain and second-in-command of the Orkney Fortress Royal Engineers on 16 September 1938, but was effective commander. The unit consisted of a single company headquartered at Kirkwall, mainly to operate the electrical generators for the Scapa Flow defences and man the searchlights for the guns. The men were called out from farms and villages shortly before the outbreak of World War II and served through the winter of 1939/1940, when Orkney received a number of Luftwaffe raids. By mid-1940 reinforcements were pouring into the Orkney and Shetland defences and Linklater's command was broken up.

As a well-known author, Linklater was soon employed by the War Office Public Relations department to write official "instant histories" of the war, such as The Defence of Calais (1941) and The Northern Garrisons (1941), which described the life of British troops stationed in remote locations, including the Orkneys. This culminated in service in Italy in 1944–1945, which led to his novel about an equivocal Italian soldier, Private Angelo (1946), which contrasts nationalism with a sense of national community: "I hope you will not liberate us out of existence," is a remark Angelo makes. As one reference work puts it, Angelo "lacks 'the great and splendid gift' of courage, and consequently makes a poor soldier, although he is especially assiduous in retreating, and ultimately deserts." In 1951 Linklater published a semi-official account of The Campaign in Italy and also visited the Korean War for the War Office as a temporary Lieutenant-Colonel.

Linklater moved back to the Scottish mainland in 1947 to Pitcalzean House, near Hill of Fearn in Ross-shire. His abilities and reputation as a novelist waned somewhat, but he turned to historical writing, and with great effect to autobiography.

Text sourceWikipedia