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Lewis Grassic Gibbon

Lewis Grassic Gibbon


Born: 1901 in Auchterless, Aberdeenshire
Died: 1935
First Book: Hanno: Or the Future of Exploration (Kegan Paul, 1928)

Lewis Grassic Gibbon was born in 1901 in Aberdeenshire as James Leslie Mitchell. (His famous pen name was taken from his mother, Lellias Grassic Gibbon.) As a boy he had no interest in pursuing a farming career like his father, but was eager to learn and would read anything and everything he could get his hands on.

At sixteen he ran away and found a job as a junior reporter on a local paper in Aberdeen, and it was here that he was first introduced to socialism. He listened to speakers at trade council meetings, including a visit from Karl Marx’s daughter Eleanor, and he enthusiastically became a socialist and one of the founding members of Aberdeen’s new soviet, formed in solidarity with the Russian Revolution in 1917.

His career in journalism came to an abrupt end after he moved to Glasgow and took a job with a farming magazine – he was caught falsifying his expense claims in order to donate money to the British Socialist Party. With this misdemeanour to his name, he found it impossible to get work as a journalist, and so he rather unexpectedly enlisted in the Royal Army Services Corps and went off travelling around the world.

Lewis Grassic Gibbon was an unlikely patriot and didn’t enjoy the army, but during his nine-year military service he spent a lot of time in the Middle East and this experience inspired his first short stories. When he finally left the army in 1928, he settled down with his wife Rebecca in Welwyn Garden City, determined to spend the rest of his days writing. In the last eight years of his life he wrote and published seventeen books, and when he died at the young age of thirty-four, he left behind some exceptionally influential and original Scottish writing.

Among his work is the trilogy A Scot’s Quair, republished by Polygon in 2006, which is considered to be one of the most significant literary works to come out of Scotland in the twentieth century. Sunset Song, the first part of the Scot’s Quair trilogy, was also published separately by Polygon and in 2005 was voted number one in the List/Orange Best Scottish Books of All Time.

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