Joseph Todd Gordon Macleod
(aka Adam Drinan)

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(thanks to James Fountain for the Wiki).

Joseph Todd Gordon Macleod (1903-1984) was a British poet, actor, playwright, theatre director, theatre historian and BBC Newsreader. He also published poetry under the pseudonym Adam Drinan.

Joseph Macleod was the son of Scottish parents, and was educated at Rugby School and Balliol College, Oxford. He passed his Bar examinations, though never practiced as a barrister, preferring a career as an actor, and also had aspirations as a poet. At Rugby School he was close friends with Adrian Stokes, and at Oxford he became close friends with Graham Greene.
From 1927, he was an actor and producer at the experimental Cambridge Festival Theatre. In 1933 he became the theatre's director and lessee. Five of his own plays were staged there, including Overture to Cambridge (1933) and A Woman Turned to Stone (1934). Under Macleod, the theatre became famous throughout Europe for it's avante garde productions, and staging of lesser known works by great playwrights. Macleod staged some of Ezra Pound's Noh plays, and also some Ibsen, Chekhov (his company, The Cambridge Festival Players, was one of the first in the UK to stage Chekhov's play The Seagull)The theatre was forced to close due to financial difficulties in June 1935, and has remained so ever since. He was intermittently involved in theatre production after this, and in 1952 won the Arts Council Silver Medal for his play Leap in September.
In 1930, Macleod had his first book of poetry published, The Ecliptic, a highly complex book of verse divided into the signs of the zodiac, which was helped through to publication at Faber and Faber through a recommendation from Ezra Pound, who thought highly of Macleod's abilities as a poet. A long-running correspondence was thus begun between the two poets. Macleod's first book was published alongside W. H. Auden's first book, Poems, and the Poetry (Chicago) editor Morton Dauwen Zabel hailed these two poets as "a Dawn in Britain" in his editorial.[1] However, Macleod's next book, Foray of Centaurs, was considered "too Greek" for publication by Faber and Faber, and although this gained publication in Paris and Chicago, it was never to be published in the UK during Macleod's lifetime. [2] Basil Bunting was an admirer of this early poetry, and claimed Macleod was the most important living British poet in his 'British' edition of Poetry (Chicago).
Placing his energies into the theatre, Macleod became director of the highly experimental Cambridge Festival Theatre in 1933 and remained so until 1936. In 1937 he became secretary of Huntingdonshire Divisional Labour Party and stood as a Parliamentary Candidate, but failed to gain election.
In 1938, Macleod became an announcer and newsreader at the BBC, where he began to write and publish poetry under the pseudonym "Adam Drinan". These poems dealt with the Highland clearances, and described the Scottish landscape in rich detail, using Gaelic assonances. He was one of the first to succeed in rendering the qualities of Gaelic poetry in English. These poems and verse plays won praise from many Scottish writers - Naomi Mitchison, Norman MacCaig, Edwin Muir, Compton Mackenzie, George Bruce, Sydney Goodsir Smith, Maurice Lindsay, and many more. Macleod's "Drinan" poetry was in much demand in both England and Scotland, as well as Ireland and the US. Editors such as Tambimuttu (of Poetry (London)), Maurice Lindsay (Poetry (Scotland)) and John Lehmann (Hogarth Press and New Writing), all requested and published large amounts of his poems in the 1940s. Both "Drinan" and Macleod are included in Kenneth Rexroth's New British Poets anthology (1949), published for New Directions. The "Drinan" pseudonym was not publically revealed until 1953, and which Hugh MacDiarmid commented was "so long one of the best kept secrets of the contemporary literary world"[3] Adrian Stokes received and dealt with Macleod's 'Drinan' correspondence.

Macleod moved to Florence in 1955, where he lived until his death in 1984.

1. ^ K. Tuma. (1998)Fishing By Obstinate Isles. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 124. ISBN-13: 978-0810116238
2. ^ Ibid., 125
3. ^ Hugh MacDiarmid. From 'The Poetry of Joseph Macleod' in The Raucle Tongue: Hitherto Uncollected Prose, Volume III, Eds. Angus Calder, Glen Murray and Alan Riach. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 312. ISBN-13: 978-1857543780

Joseph Macleod,
©1940 Reprograph Studios
London WC2.
NEW out NOW!

Cyclic Serial Zeniths
from the Flux
Macleod Selected Poems

Introduction by Andrew Duncan

©2009 Waterloo Press
ISBN 1-902731-34-4

For more information on Joseph Macleod,
please contact

The cover of the
Festival Theatre Programme
number 25,
with the
first performance of
Overture to Cambridge


The Ecliptic (Faber and Faber, 1930)
Foray of Centaurs (This Quarter, Paris, 1931)
The Cove (1940)
The Men of the Rocks (Fortune Press, 1942)
The Ghosts of the Strath (Fortune Press, 1943)
Women of the Happy Island (MacLellan, 1944)
The Passage of the Torch: A Heroical-Historical Lay for the Fifth Centenary of the Founding of Glasgow University (Oliver and Boyd, 1951)
Script From Norway (MacLellan, 1953)
An Old Olive Tree (Oliver & Boyd, 1971)

Literary Criticism
Beauty and the Beast (Chatto and Windus, 1927)

Overture to Cambridge (Allen & Unwin, 1936)

People of Florence (Allen & Unwin, 1968)

Theatre History
A Soviet Theatre Sketchbook (Allen & Unwin)
The New Soviet Theatre (Allen & Unwin, 1943)
Actors Cross the Volga (Allen & Unwin, 1946)
The Sisters d'Aranyi (Allen & Unwin, 1969)
The Actor's Right to Act (Allen & Unwin, 1981)


A Job at the BBC (MacLellan, 1946)

(click twice to play),
2,3 Mb Quick Time movie

Joseph Macleod reads

To an Unborn Child (1957)
(dedicated to my sister Sandra)

(courtesy of BBC Scotland)

Joseph Macleod reads

the B.B.C. NEWS

(before 1943, audio)

(courtesy of BBC Scotland)