In honour of Burns Night tomorrow, our Photo Friday this week features the cover illustration for ‘Sam O’Shanker’, a poem and play adapted by Willy Russell from the poem Tam O’Shanter by Robert Burns.
Sam O’Shanker, was first produced at Saint Katherine’s College Drama Department, where Willy Russell was training to be a teacher, in 1972. Together with the plays Playground and Keep Your Eyes Down, written in 1971 and 1972 respectively, the three plays were presented by Saint Katherine’s Drama Society, Kateysaints, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1972, under the collective title Blind Scouse. Blind Scouse was performed at the Rifle Lodge, Edinburgh and was seen by John McGrath, who was instrumental in assisting Willy Russell in obtaining his first professional commission from the Liverpool Everyman Theatre.
In the introduction to a published version of the poem, Willy Russell writes;
“This was written not as parody but a sincere flattery, inspired by the enthusiastic recognition that Robert Burns’ insight into human character and actions was just as applicable to Liverpool in the seventies as to Alloway in the seventeen-seventies.”
The illustration shown is by Joan Taylor, and was produced for a publication of Sam O’Shanker by Mersey Yarns in c. 1978. You can see Willy Russell reading this poem at the launch of the Willy Russell Archive Exhibition on 27th November last year here (at 12:36min on video) – http://youtu.be/5eg7608glv4
Within the Willy Russell Archive there are copies of the poem, various versions of the play script, and radio play script, press reviews and press releases relating to Sam O’Shanker. This and other material in the archive can be accessed by arrangement with the LJMU Archivist. The catalogue and more information about the collection can be found on our website.