RGS alumnus, Professor Gerard Rochford (1946-51), is being celebrated with an international poetry prize in his name.
Gerard was the youngest of the three Rochford brothers who all attended RGS, his siblings being Terence (1939-43) and Laurence (1945-49). Following RGS, Gerard continued his education at Hull and Oxford Universities (his Open Scholarship for History and English at Hull is recorded in Eld Hall), before going on to become an adopted Scot living most of his life in Aberdeen. As Makar (laureate) for the Scottish Review, Gerard submitted a poem every month for over five years. A collection of the best Scottish poems published in 2006 by the Scottish Poetry Library included Gerard's composition, My Father's Hand:
I like to wear a band around my wrist,
an amulet of copper, links of bling,
a hippy weave of cotton or dried grass.
Reminds me of the change
my father made as I grew up
from toddler to walker. Crossing a road
he stops holding my hand
and wraps his finger and thumb
around my wrist.
My bracelet now is like the brag
of a teenager leaving home,
flashing a cell-phone
where father’s number sleeps.
I wear my father’s hand around my wrist.
Gerard's note on the poem:
I know very few of my poems by heart and one of those is a poem for my father. So I am really chuffed to have sent this poem for my father out into the world and to have it noticed. It does I think capture his way of loving his children which was reticent but clear. And it is perhaps because of his reticence I still need to keep him near. This poem does that for me. I have written many poems about my family. This is one of my favourites. It touches on the need for intimacy and the need for independence, an ambivalence which families should nurture.
Martin Shannon writing in the Scottish Review reports:
'A new international poetry competition, in memory of distinguished Aberdeen poet Gerard Rochford, was launched on World Poetry Day on 21 March 2021. The Gerard Rochford Poetry Prize 2021 – organised by the Mist and Mountain Creative Residency in collaboration with Gerard Rochford's Literary Executors – invites writers to submit an original poem on the theme of 'Family'.
The overall winner – selected by Dr Wayne Price, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen – will receive £150 and a large, bespoke commemorative plate, courtesy of Campbeltown Pottery, with an excerpt of Gerard Rochford's poetry, while two runners up will each receive small commemorative plates and £50.
Dr Wayne Price said: 'I am honoured to judge the Gerard Rochford Poetry Prize 2021. Gerard was a highly accomplished poet, whose writings reflected a broad hinterland of experience, exploring human relationships, wildlife and politics. He was always generous with his time and advice too, nurturing and encouraging others to express themselves, write creatively and get into print. Hosting a competition in his name is an ideal way to acknowledge his achievements while promoting new poetry and poets as Gerard so often did in his lifetime'.
A distinguished professor and psychotherapist, poetry was a lifetime's vocation. Gerard's poetry was widely published throughout his lifetime; from student newspapers to influential online magazines and many of his own chapbooks and collections. His extensive writings explored human relationships, wildlife and politics. 'Perhaps they are all one,' he said.
At the heart of Aberdeen's vibrant poetry scene, Gerard was the co-founder and leading light of the city's poetry group which still thrives today, holding monthly poetry evenings at arts café, Books and Beans. Gerard was highly respected in the group, not only for the quality of his own work, but for his generosity of spirit and time, mentoring, editing and championing the work of nascent poets. A regular visitor to Canada, he established himself as a transatlantic poet and became an important and active part of the poetry scene in Victoria.
Gerard lived in the West End of Aberdeen from 1963 until he died in 2019. Well-travelled and well-read, he had an exceptionally broad hinterland to draw inspiration from for his work. Poetry was a lifetime labour of love but as father of 10 children with his Anglo-Indian wife Anne (died 1991), Gerard's greatest joy was his family.
The closing date for entries to the Gerard Rochford Poetry Prize 2021 is 30 June 2021 and winners will be announced on 1 September 2021. Full details and entry rules for the competition are available on the Mist and Mountain Creative Residency website and the Gerard Rochford Poetry page on Facebook. For further information, contact Martin Shannon on 07714 504088 or email@example.com