POET and author of the crofting journal Night Falls On Ardnamurchan,

Alasdair Maclean, has died at the cottage in Falkland, Fife, where he

had lived a solitary existence for the past 10 years.

Although it was the non-fiction work, based on the diary of his

father, that gained him the widest attention when it was published in

1984, Maclean's chief gift was as a poet, and his work was recognised

from his days as a mature student at Edinburgh University.

His first book of poetry, From The Wilderness, published in 1973, set

the tone for his theme of the harshness of country life, but Maclean had

been born in Govan, Glasgow, in 1926, where his father was working at

the shipyards after the First World War.

He left school at 14 and worked at Harland and Wolff before National

Service in India and Malaya. On demobilisation he emigrated to Canada

and a series of jobs as a sailor, laboratory technician, and factory

worker before returning to Scotland and Edinburgh University at the age

of 39.

There he owned up to having written poetry for the past 20 years -- at

the rate of about one a year -- and, as he put it ''caught fire''. His

work was published in national journals and he was particularly

encouraged by New Statesman literary editor Karl Miller.

After Night Falls On Ardnamurchan, Maclean lived an increasingly

isolated existence at his Fife cottage with fewer of his regular visits

to the croft he had been left by his parents. ''He lived alone and liked

it that way,'' said one of his fellow students yesterday.

In an interview at the publication of From The Wilderness, Maclean

dismissed his characterisation as a ''ploughman poet'' but admitted to a

fear of death. ''I don't think I will become reconciled to death as I

grow old. The thought of death makes me very angry,'' he said.

Lorn Macintyre writes:

When I cross from Mull to Ardnamurchan again I will recall with

gratitude the small but precious number of poems that Alasdair Maclean

has left us. Raised in the area where Alastair Mac Mhaighstir Alastair

was inspired to write the lyrical poem The Sugar Brook, Alasdair Maclean

drew on his Gaelic crofting traditions for his poems in English on the

world around him.

Though Alasdair, in his sardonic observations, sometimes reminds me of

Norman MacCaig, he had an original vision. In the poem Fiona With A

Field Mouse, with its Burnsian sensibility, he says of the little

creature: You could blow it out, this thing,/it is so small and weak;/It

is a tail dependent on a squeak,/a palpatation trimmed with fur.''

In a note to Waking The Dead, his second collection of poems, Alasdair

wrote of his belief that death is ''the noblest and most profound of the

great themes of poetry, or what the love poets turn to when they put

away childish things''.

If some of his poems seem gloomy, then that is because he saw a way of

life dying, as his prose work Night Falls On Ardnamurchan chronicled.

We now need a collection of all Alasdair's poems to show how appealing

and important this shy Ardnamurchan man was.

John Curry

FIGURE skating champion John Curry, who died yesterday aged 44, wanted

to be a ballet dancer.

But his father, an engineer and factory-owner, thought this too

unmanly for his son.

So it was ice skating which provided him with the outlet for his

artistic expression, resulting in his winning Britain's only gold medal

at the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Olympics.

His style and mastery of technique inspired a generation; his

frankness about his homosexuality was brave.

Curry was first fired with enthusiasm for skating when, at the age of

seven, he watched a television programme of the Wembley Christmas ice

show. Within six months he was taking weekly lessons near his home in


His first success came in 1967 when he won the British junior title.

Three years later he won the senior title.

In 1973, at the World Championships in Bratislava (where he finished

fourth), he was offered sponsorship by millionaire American Ed Moseler

and coaching by Carlo Fassi, who was later to take Robin Cousins under

his wing.

When he returned to Britain after winning a gold medal at the Olympics

in Austria, he talked candidly about his sexuality.

''Up to last year I had fears that judges were thinking 'There's a

gay, we can't let him win.' But they were there to judge my skating

style, not my life-style,'' he said.

Curry used his Olympic fame to launch the John Curry Theatre of

Skating in London's West End.

He made his home in New York, while he continued to skate and teach,

and he flirted with a career in acting.

It was in December 1987, when he was living with friends in

Switzerland, that he learned he was HIV positive. In October 1992 during

one of the last interviews he gave, Curry said: ''I was ashamed -- I

think I was wrong to be -- but I was ashamed of having contracted a

sexually-transmitted disease.''

Curry developed skin cancer in 1991 and returned to England to be

close to his family.

''I can't look back on my life and say 'Oh if only I had been able to

do this'. I actually did it. I had everything and enjoyed every moment

of it,'' he said.