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The 2024 McLellan Poetry Competitions, run from the Isle of Arran, are now open for entries.


The McLellan Poetry Prize is awarded by the Arran Theatre and Arts Trust as part of the annual McLellan Arts Festival.


Now in its eighteenth year, past judges have included Kathleen Jamie, Robert Crawford, Jackie Kay, Peter and Ann Sansom, Michael Laskey, Simon Armitage, David Constantine, Maura Dooley, Sinéad Morrissey, Sean O'Brien , Luke Wright, Hollie McNish and Joelle Taylor.


This year we are running two separate competitions, the main International competition in the English language and a second competition for the best poems in the Scots language.


The judge this year for the International English Language Competition is William Letford.


  • First prize - £1000

  • Second prize - £250

  • There will also be five highly commended poems


Winning and commended poets will be invited to come and read with William (Billy) Letford on the Isle of Arran on Saturday 7th September 2024.


A word from Billy:


“Whether the subject matter is mundane or monumental, whether you guide me gently or launch me with a kick, take me somewhere new and your words will find a home with me.”


The Judge for the Scots poems is Jim Mackintosh.


  • First prize - £1000

  • Second prize - £250

  • There will also be five highly commended poems


The winning poets in the Scots competition will also be invited to come and read with Jim MacKintosh on Arran on Saturday 7th September 2024 as part of the McLellan Arts Festival. 


Here is Jim’s invitation:


“Ah ken it’s there.

We aa hae it.

Yon fidget o scrievins no kennin whaur tae rest.

Yon drum tap o vyces scratchin, in atween

yer pen an the blank page, fechtin thegither

yet aye encouragin ye tae haud forrits.

A verse or twa, a bonny poem ready tae be born.


The shores o bonny Arran are weytin whiles ah

sit here weytin fer yer poems, yer bundles o joy

aiblins laced wi a ticky sadness but aye the truth o yer hert

- sic a pure an simple magic, lowin wi passion.


Sae gie yersel up tae the fidget, tak tent o the vyces

Ye ken it maks sense - the brackin o yer seelence

tae loss yersel in this auncient Leid, oor Leid.

Send me yer poems."

About the Judges

William Letford's work has been adapted into film, projected onto buildings, carved into monuments, adapted for the stage, written onto skin, cast out over the radio, and performed by orchestras. He has helped restore a Medieval village in the mountains of Northern Italy, taught English in Japan, and been invited to perform in Iraq, South Korea, Lebanon, Australia, Germany, India, Poland, and many more countries.

Visit William Letford's website here.

Jim Mackintosh is a poet, editor, playwright and producer who has published six collections including Flipstones (Tippermuir Books, 2018) and edited or co-edited four anthologies including The Darg (Drunk Muse Press, 2019)  celebrating the centenary of Hamish Henderson and Beyond The Swelkie (Tippermuir Books, 2021), a celebration in poems and essays to mark the centenary of George Mackay Brown.

Along with Duncan Chisholm and Hamish Napier, Jim brought Beyond the Swelkie to Celtic Connections in 2022 as a multimedia production which was then toured and returned to Celtic Connections in 2023 with an extract of the show as part of the sold out  30th Anniversary Celebration in the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. 

Jim Mackintosh.jpeg

His book The Banes o the Turas (Tippermuir Books, 2022) was a poetical translation into Scots of Turas Viaggio by Italian poet and friend of Hamish Henderson, Pino Mereu and was shortlisted for Book of the Year at the 2023 Scots Language Awards. Extracts from the book form the basis of musical collaboration involving Jim and four award winning musicians. It was premiered at the 2024 Celtic Connections and is now touring Scotland. 


He has undertaken several residencies including for St Johnstone FC between 2016 and 2019. He was the Makar of the Federation of Writers Scotland in 2021, the Poet in Chief of the Hampden Collection (2019-22) and the Poetry Editor of Nutmeg Magazine (2017-22).


He is the current Makar of the Cateran EcoMuseum in East Perthshire and the Angus Glens.


His latest book published by Seahorse Publications - We are Migrant  will be launched in Glasgow on the 1st May. The book is a series of poems examining the constant shift of humanity from my Jim’s own Great Grandfather’s journey as a 14 year old boy from Donegal to work on the railway tunnels of Glasgow, to the hellish existence of refugee camps in too many places across the world, to the desperate plight of people fleeing persecution, crossing dangerous waters and war zones, to the highland clearances and much more. The collection includes the poem Tour Package which was Highly Commended in the 2023 McLellan Poetry Prize.


We are delighted to announce that the results of the McLellan Poetry Competition 2023 are in from our judge, Joelle Taylor, and are as follows:



Catherine Spooner from Lancaster “The Bears are coming down from the Mountains”.



Matt Hohner from Baltimore USA for “Kitten Steals Grenade from Ukrainian Soldier”.



Julie Sheridan from Barcelona for “The Men at My Fence”.


Five highly commended poems:


  • Jim Mackintosh from Perth for “Tour Package”

  • Louise Green from Dalbeattie for “The Solway Tide, 2023”

  • Caroline Bracken from Dublin for “Selective Mutism”

  • Simon Maddrell from Hove, East Sussex for “Knockaloe Camp”

  • Elle Becker from Arizona USA for “Unfinished”


Congratulations to all of the winning and commended poets, and thank you to all who entered the McLellan Poetry Competition. All poems are included in full in the link below, along with a bio of each poet.

Catherine Spooner Headshot 2.jpg

First Prize Winner

2023 McLellan Main Poetry Competition

Catherine Spooner

Joelle Taylor.png

Judge - Joelle Taylor

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This year, in addition to the main standard English competition, we also ran a Scots poetry competition, the results of which were announced at the McLellan Scots Poetry Evening in Corrie, Isle of Arran and are announced below.


We are delighted to announce that the results of the McLellan Scots Poetry Competition 2023 are in from our judge, Hugh McMillan, and are as follows:



Alistair Lawrie with his poem "Twists And Turns: A poem in two parts:1. Circe and 2 Penelope".



Finola Scott with her poem "Isobel Gowdrie encooters a Devil, efter the peintin by Ian Howard".



Donald Adamson with his poem "The Sang".


Highly commended poems:


  • Ann Craig for "Witches' Goodbye"

  • Kevin Connelly for "Ane Prayer for the Pest" 

  • Zoë Green for "The Johnshaven Unicorn"

Congratulations to all of the winning and commended poets, and thank you to all who entered the Scots Poem competition. All poems are included in full in the link below, along with a bio of each poet.

Alistair Lawrie photo.jpeg

First Prize Winner

2023 McLellan Scots Poetry Competition

Alistair Lawrie

Hugh McMillan.png

Judge - Hugh McMillan

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You can keep up to date with the competition by liking and following our dedicated Facebook Page

Previous Years
Hollie McNish workshop Stonewater House 2022.JPG

A happy image from the 2022 competition :)


Luke Wright


Dubbed "the bard of lockdown' by The Telegraph after his marathon of 100 online gigs, Luke is the author of four books of poems, three verse plays and ten poetry stage shows, and has recently won the Saboteur Award 2021 for the best Spoke Word Performer.


Judge Sean O'Brien with the many of the 2019 Winners and the Competition Organisers at the Prize Giving on Arran.

 (from the right: Cicely Gill, Organiser; Sean O'Brien, Competition Judge; Jane Kinton, 3rd Prize; Kitty Donnelly, Commended; Pamela Brough, 1st Prize; James Caruth, Commended & David Underdown, Organiser.)

2018 winner Char March recorded her entry in Scots and English
Maura Dooley presents 1st Prize to  2017 winner Louise Greig
Jed Myers receiving 1st Prize from
David Constantine in 2016
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John Foggin receiving 1st Prize from
Simon Armitage in 2015
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