Gael Turnbull

Picture of Author Gael Turnbull
Author photo © Jill Turnbull

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About the author

Gael Turnbull (1928–2004) was born in Edinburgh, but grew up in Jarrow and in Blackpool, before emigrating to Winnipeg at the outbreak of the war with his father and mother, respectively a Scottish Baptist Minister and an American of Swedish descent. He returned to England in 1944 to complete his schooling and then to study Natural Sciences at Cambridge University. After rejoining his family in North America, he studied for an MD at the University of Pennsylvania and then, in 1952, became a GP and anaesthetist at Iroquois Falls Hospital in northern Ontario as well as providing medical assistance at logging camps in the area. There followed a short stay in London (1955–56), and a position as anaesthetist at Ronkswood Hospital in Worcester until 1958, followed by a similar position at the Ventura County hospital in California. He returned to Worcester in 1964, to avoid the possibility of being sent to Vietnam as a medical orderly. He was to work as a general practitioner and anaesthetist until his retirement in 1989, whereupon he returned to live in Edinburgh.

An independent figure, he was central to the early transatlantic poetic contacts which were to have a transforming effect on many poets in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. Frequently collected and anthologised, his own poetry was deeply personal and owed little to any particular school, although it is fair to say that his admiration for the work of William Carlos Williams, another poet-doctor, never left him and was an early driving force behind the discovery, and the maturing, of his own poetic voice.

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