Tessa Ransford (1938 – 2015)

The staff of the Scottish Storytelling Centre and Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland (TRACS) were saddened to hear the news of the death of Scottish poet Tessa Ransford, OBE. Tessa, aged 77, was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, and died in hospice, with members of her family at her side.

She will be remembered for her absolute commitment to the art of poetry, shown not only in her own work but also as editor, translator and activist. She was the founding Director of the Scottish Poetry Library in 1984, which would not have been created without her vision and determination. She gathered a group of strong supporters, among them some of the most distinguished poets of the time, and devoted herself to the work of the Library, including the creation of a new building, designed by Malcolm Fraser Architects and opened in 1999. At the root of her thought was Patrick Geddes, whose words ‘pensando creamus’ (‘by thinking we create’) are featured in the Library, and whose motto ‘place, work, folk’ she often quoted.

Tessa was a friend and huge supporter of the work being created and showcased at the Storytelling Centre. Donald Smith, Director of Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland, writes:

Tessa Ransford was a visionary poet determined to turn creative vision into practical reality. She realised this not only in her founding leadership of the Scottish Poetry Library but in her impact on the role of women in the Scottish arts, and in her championing of a revived, outward looking Scottish identity.

For Tessa, principle was a passionate personal reality, so she ruffled many feathers, and sometimes gave no quarter in artistic dispute. Tessa was a dear friend, fellow worker and provocateur of mine for forty years, and I know that her spirit and influence will continue in many lives, including my own.

For tributes by the poet and former colleague Ken Cockburn, Edinburgh Makar Christine De Luca and more, see

For an account of Tessa Ransford’s life and work, see