An Interview With Dorothy McGregor

Illustration of woman with scarf blowing in the breeze on a stormy day

Dorothy McGregor has been writing poetry for The People’s Friend for nearly 20 years.

She and her late husband, Brian H. Gent, are beloved “Friend” poets whose poems have been enjoyed by so many readers over the years.

Poetry Editor Abbie asked Dorothy all about her journey to writing poetry.

An early discovery

Early on, I realised people in general like rhyming. It seems to be instinctive, and it was to come into my life twice by the poetry route.

The first time was when, aged four, I was chosen in nursery school to recite ‘Little-Bo-Peep’. I was kitted out in a frilly milk maid bonnet and a tiny wooden crook. I smiled shyly to the applause and my three minutes of fame was over.

Then, when I turned eight, my mother told me I would be going to elocution lessons. She thought my hearing wasn’t good! I was puzzled because it was good – and so is my memory of learning a fifteen line poem each Saturday morning. After lessons I’d go to the local café for a treat of raspberry ice cream, Italian style, with a friend who was also in the class. Happy days.

All aboard the poetry train

Life rolled along and my poetry days became lost in the mists of time ’till one night, seeming the same as any other, neither me nor Brian (my husband) could know something was stirring in the wings.

It was a Sunday night and we’d settled down for “Songs of Praise”. We were enjoying the hymns and Harry Secombe’s quips when suddenly Brian said, “pass me a pen, quick”, which I duly did. I think he thought if he got up himself the lines he’d thought up would go, faster than a fox in the dark, which they might have done. Try holding on to lines in a busy shop queue! Anyway, his first poem was forming. He was about to board the poetry train and he would never get off. I was in the chrysalis stage, still painting landscapes and flowers, but my turn would soon come and I’d be “painting with words”.

The People’s Friend

It was a lovely fresh morning, sunny, a feel-good-day, so we opted to go to beautiful Whitby. We parked up on the West Cliff and I popped into a newsagents to buy “The People’s Friend”. I leafed through it over a coffee, enjoying the poems, then I alighted on D.C. Thomson’s publication address. I suggested to Brian “why not send your poems to the magazine?” and he was then overflowing with plans and ideas.

Soon, Brian’s enthusiasm began coursing through my veins and I followed him in 2003, writing my first poems on my favourite theme – the seasons, the winding woodland ways, the tinkling, trembling trees, the local swamp and frogs, young spring, autumn’s coronation, and the dazzling snow dancing down, and more.

Brian admitted that 60% of his poems over the years resulted from some casual remark I’d made, and at least six poems a week were winging north of the border, a busy industry indeed.

One day, out of the blue, I got a call. My surprised cousin and her husband had wandered into a fish and chip shop in Yorkshire and there on the wall was Brian’s poem framed and enjoyed by all.

“Can I take a picture please?” she asked the owner.

“Certainly,” he said and it was smiles all round.

Running in the family

My son also enjoys writing short stories. He skillfully weaves hilarious situations with a world of rich characters, wonderfully observed. I laugh so much every time I read them. They never lose their freshness and fun. These lovely people will never know their contribution, immortalized in cameo. Thank you Ian – keep writing.

Life in colour

Life is wonder in colour, and for many it is “a lovely day by the sea” but for the poet the sun on the sea is a masterpiece of “tangerine rose shining on cyan beauty”, in their telescope of magic.

Colour comes to me again in the form of tapestry. Once in a while I sketch onto a canvas maybe flowers or a small scene and frame them or fix them to stool tops. I was doing my tapestry just a few short hours in the maternity home before my son was born.

I like photography too, especially for the most stunning sunset I’ve ever seen, in red, gold, aqua, orange, mauve, apricot and cerise – heaven.

A favourite poet

In the beating heart of Lakeland is William Wordsworth’s own. His famous daffodils in their sunbursts of gold is wonderful magic. Pensive, he would walk by the tranquil waters of yesteryear, the shoots of his thoughts, blowing forever. He was, and is, The Lakes.

Advice for aspiring poets

I have a top tip which I hope will kick start you. Once you’ve decided on a theme, make the last line “a-wow-line”. This will also confirm to you that your poem is finished.

Happy Journey.

Read Dorothy’s wonderful poetry in The People’s Friend Annual 2023, The Fireside Book 2023 and The Friendship Book 2023.

Meet more of our amazing writers on our website. 

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.