Edwin Morgan OBE | Chris Watt/Telegraph | 14011
A biography of gay poet Edwin Morgan, by James McGonigal, details the late poet’s sometimes violent and hazardous experiences in Glasgow’s gay scene as a young academic, when his sexuality was a secret and the gay scene was largely underground. During the repression years of the 1950s it is revealed that Morgan, like many, considered suicide. Morgan died in August 2010.
The book is hugely valuable for the light it throws on gay life in Glasgow in secret during the repression.
There was a stark divide between his respectable professional life as lecturer in an ancient university and his night life of gay activity in bars, cafes, parks, toilets and waste ground. Venues for such illicit activity included the Oak Cafe, in St Vincent Street, the Good Companions near Blythswood Square, and the Royal Bar on West Nile Street. Of the Oak Cafe, Morgan… said: “[It] was somewhat louche, even very louche, but very interesting, you never knew what was going to happen there.”
…“The curious business of public activity, semi-orgies, no doubt very much disapproved of, but it’s surprising how much of that there was going on, even at that time just after the war. I never seemed to have any hesitation in joining in that kind of activity. There was a cafe, near Buchanan Street bus station, gone now … an upstairs place with a toilet, and really pretty well anything went on. It was obviously very, very risky, but people did go there and enjoy this, and you could see a dozen or more people there at any one time.”