Douglas Young (classicist)

Professor Douglas Young (Gaelic: Dùghlas MacGill'Oig); June 5, 1913 – October 23, 1973) was a Scottish poet, scholar, and translator. He was the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) from 1942 to 1945.

Young was born in Tayport, Fife. His father was employed in India by a Dundee jute firm, but insisted that his pregnant wife return home to give birth to their son in Scotland. However, shortly after his birth in Fife, the infant Douglas Young was taken to India with his mother, where he spent the early part of his childhood, before the family returned to Scotland.

From the age of eight Young attended Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh, where he developed a deep interest in history and the classics. He later studied at the University of St Andrews and New College, Oxford, before being appointed as Lecturer in Greek at the University of Aberdeen in 1938. He later taught at the universities of Dundee and St Andrews. Douglas Young possessed a range of talents over a wide array of subjects and was recognized as a Polymath *[1]

In 1938 Douglas Young joined the Scottish National Party (SNP) and served as leader 1942 to 1945. Christian Kopff wrote an article called "A Free-Minded Scot" which is a biography of Douglas Young focussing on his efforts to test whether the Act of Union could force Scots to serve in the British Military outside the British Isles. Young's activities were popularly vilified as undermining the British war effort against the Nazis. Kopff portrays Young as a hero for his attempts (Kopff, 1995).

Young was first imprisoned for refusing to be conscripted during the Second World War. Of his first prison term, served in Saughton, Douglas Young wrote:

"On weekdays I used to work about the grounds in what was called 'the garden party' and on Sundays I played a wheezy old harmonium for the Presbyterian services in the chapel".

Dr. Robert McIntyre, secretary of the SNP, organised a procession complete with bagpipes to serenade Young on Sundays at the prison-gates.

Shortly after his release from prison, Young stood as the SNP candidate in the Kirkcaldy Burghs by-election in February 1944. His election agent was Arthur Donaldson and the campaign owed much to the input of Dr. Robert McIntyre. In a three-way contest, Douglas Young polled 6,621 votes 42% of the poll, securing a strong second place to the successful Coalition Labour candidate Thomas Hubbard. Dr. McIntyre was to be more successful in the next Scottish by-election contested by the National Party when he became the first ever SNP Westminster MP in the April 1945 by-election in Motherwell and Wishaw.

Later in life, Young moved to the United States, becoming Professor of Greek at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He died there in 1973.


  • [2] "A Ballad for Douglas Young"
  • [3] "Towards a Reassessment of Douglas Young"
Party political offices
Preceded by
William Power
National Chairman (Leader) of the Scottish National Party
Succeeded by
Bruce Watson

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