Three Poems about John Logie Baird

with comments by Malcolm Baird, 26 June 2021

1. Christopher Hassall (1910–1964)

BBC TV “This is Your Life” August 1957

A man of Vision and unyielding Will,

Sickly, discouraged, persevering still,

He was at once both Scientist and seer

—who will not hail this storm-tossed pioneer?

Always exploring, always bent to find

New worlds to conquer with the enquiring mind,

He is with those who dared uncharted seas

In times of old and found the Antipodes.

Obscure his Odyssey, his vessel brought

By other hands his triumph into port,

He shall not go unsung who first set sail

And steered his cockleshell into the gale.

John Logie Baird, because you struck the springs

Of hope and gave the imagination wings,

We celebrate your name and set it down

High in the golden record of renown.

Comment—this florid salute was written in television’s early years as a mass medium—the honeymoon stage! Hassall also wrote the story for the Ivor Novello stage musical, “Glamorous Night” (1935) in which the hero was a television inventor. In the later film version (1937) the hero was a journalist.

2. Robert Greacen (1920–2008)


Son of a Scots manse though you were

I've taken the rare scunner against you

You who thieve the golden hours of bairns,

You who bitch up the world's peoples

With crystal images, pitch-black lies

You who have ended civilized conversation

And dished out licences to print banknotes,

May your soul shrink to the size of a midge

And never rest in a couthie kirkyard

But dart across a million wee screens

And be harassed by TV jingles for ever and ever.

For thine's the kingdom of television,

You goddam bloody genius, John Logie Baird!

Comment—The Ulster poet Robert Greacen wrote this poem in about 1990, reflecting the growing disillusionment with television programmesand commercials. JLB is blamed for the uses to which his invention has been put.

3. Andrew Roxburgh McGhie

Associate Director of the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter at the University of Pennsylvania.

An engineer sae bricht

There was an engineer sae bricht

Work'd ilka mornin', noon and nicht

Until, at last, he got it richt

His lifelang mission

Aye, 'twas sic a bonnie sicht

Yon television

He was a lallan lad wha dared

E'en tho' few bawbees could be spared

He fashed and went that extra yaird

Tae gar it rin

Salute we nou John Logie Baird

Oor brawest yin

For he went at it, heid tae heid

'Gainst RCA an' a' that breed

Nae gowk was he. Our trusty steed

Left them ahint

Life changed fore'er thro' his guid deed

As weel we kennt

Nae muckle better could it be

He gie'd it colour and 3-D

Wi' infra-red thro' nicht he'd see

But the worl' him spurns

Let's honour him as oor third B

Alang wi' Bruce and Burns.

Comment—In his spare time, Dr.McGhie is a connoisseur and writer of Scottish poetry. His book entitled "In the Footsteps of the Bard" came out in 2004.