Campaign to honour Dundee lecturer's dying wish

Dr Jim Stewart - photo credit Alan Hillyer

A group of University of Dundee lecturers have launched a crowdfunding campaign to honour the final wish of a former colleague.

Members of the University’s English department are hoping to raise £2,000 to publish the poetry of Dr Jim Stewart, who lost his battle against liver cancer two years ago.

An immensely popular figure with both students and staff, Jim had shown little interest in making his poems public during the early stages of his career. However, after stating a desire to produce a volume of his work following his diagnosis, Professor Kirsty Gunn and Dr Gail Low have vowed to honour a promise made to their colleague before he succumbed to his illness at the age of 64.

“Jim was initially quite reticent about making his work public, but over time he became more comfortable with the idea,” said Kirsty.

“In the last year of his life we were very close to getting a selection of poems to send out to publishers, but one of the conversations we had resulted in me promising to look after his work when he passed away.

“When we used to speak about his publishing plans, one of Jim’s suggestions was for us to have a party where he would read some of his poems. He loved the idea of getting everybody together to celebrate.

“He was very self-effacing, however, and would suggest that it was other people that had made it all happen, not him.

“I think he would be delighted to know that we were finally intending to publish his work and allow the public to share in his wonderful talent.”

Jim graduated from Dundee with a first class honours degree in English Literature in 1984, returning as a lecturer and researcher in 1987 and remaining with the University until his death.

Regarded as an inspirational teacher and a loyal colleague, he was known for his formidable intellect and a love of poetry. But despite having pieces published sporadically in magazines, it was only in later life that Jim started to consider the possibility of producing a collection of work, a volume he wished to be called ‘THIS’.

To fulfil his ambition, his former colleagues are hosting an online campaign to raise the £2,000 necessary to publish his work posthumously.

Gail said, “Jim’s work focused primarily on nature. It was about situating yourself in a natural environment, as part of a more expansive world, rather than just describing landscapes. 

“He was a marvellous writer, but Jim was also hugely popular with students and is greatly missed by everybody here. 

“We hope that if we reach our fundraising target we can allow many more people to learn about Jim and his work.”

Anybody wishing to contribute to the crowdfunding campaign can do so online.