Scottish Chapbook

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Scottish Chapbook was a wartime radio magazine programme on the BBC Home Service for Scottish listeners which ran from Tuesday 12 January 1943. It included "comment on current affairs, new music, and poetry, sketches, and reviews, contributed by Scots at home and overseas, with a recorded impression of an event of the month from the Scottish News Unit".


Scottish Chapbook was the new name for the popular monthly broadcast, the Scottish Half-Hour. The editor gave it this title, having in mind the old days when the chapman wandered round the country telling tales and singing ballads of a topical character. As war conditions resulted in a scarcity of books and magazines, and as the black-out increased demand for them, the Scottish Chapbook was an attempt to fill the gap by broadcast means. The programme was a miscellany of newly-written work, including contributions by Scottish poets, writers, and composers.[1]


Tuesday 12 January 1943, 18:45
The first programme featured new verse by Perth's William Soutar; Sydney Smith, an Edinburgh poet; and George Bruce, an Aberdonian living in Dundee. A glance at what 1943 was likely to hold for Scotland was contributed by J. M. Reid, and there were some new songs by Francis George Scott. James Bridie talked about C.E.M.A., the Council for the Encouragement of Music and Art, of which he was recently appointed Scottish member.[2] And there was a 'Letter Home' in the form of a dispatch from R. F. Dunnett, the former Scottish radio war correspondent who was now on duty in North Africa.[3]

Tuesday 9 February 1943, 18:45
In the last edition of the programme, listeners were asked to allow the BBC the privilege of quoting passages of general interest from letters received from relatives abroad. In this edition a series of interesting extracts were given from the letters of Sergeant Angus Ramsay, a Glasgow insurance man, who was born at Cavers, Roxburghshire, 31 years ago. He joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, but is now serving in the Intelligence Corps of the Eighth Army.[4] It was intended to use his descriptions of the voyage out to Africa, to Abyssinia, of the Nile, of Alexandria, etc. Other features were another story by A. S. Wallace, author of The Spry Auld Yin, and a new musical composition by W. B. Moonie, an example of giving modern Scottish composers a platform for the performance of shorter works.[5]

Tuesday 9 November 1943, 18:45
A tribute to the Perth's poet, the late William Soutar. Following a recital of three his poems in Scots, Mr Edwin Muir, the eminent literary critic, paid an eloquent tribute to the poet.[6]

Critical reception

After the second programme the Glasgow Herald's radio critic, G. M. L., wrote:

The Scottish Chapbook continues to preserve an excellent balance of widely varied items — and to lack some essential quality which would quicken it into vivid and arresting life. The feature may not yet have succeeded in always getting hold of the exactly right material; the 'soldier's letters home' item last night for instance, though not uninteresting, was a reminder that when letters move away from people and events they have to be written by masters of descriptive style before they can hold a wide public."[7]


  1. 'An Editorial Diary: The "Scottish Chapbook"', Glasgow Herald, 5 January 1943, 2.
  2. 'Introducing C.E.M.A.', Daily Record, 11 January 1943.
  3. 'Scottish Chapbook', Stirling Journal, 4 February 1943.
  4. 'Letters on the Air', Glasgow Herald, 4 February 1943, 4.
  5. See also Edinburgh Evening News, 4 February 1943.
  6. 'Tribute from the BBC', Perthshire Advertiser, 3 November 1943.
  7. 'A Radio Commentary', Glasgow Herald, 10 February 1943, 3.