Lewis Grassic Gibbon

Born in the village of Auchterless in Aberdeenshire on 13 February 1901, James Leslie Mitchell went on to become one of Scotland’s most respected writers. Using the pseudonym of Lewis Grassic Gibbon, this talented Scottish author is most likely best known for his trilogy A Scots Quair – consisting of Sunset Song, Cloud Howe and Grey Granite – which is widely acknowledged as some of the best Scottish literature in an era that came to be known as the Scottish Literary Renaissance.

Although born in Auchterless, Mitchell was raised in Arbuthnott, and later in Kincardineshire, also known as the Mearns. He showed a talent for writing early in life and was 16 years old when he started working as a journalist for the Aberdeen Journal and Scottish Farmer. He joined the Royal Army Service Corps in 1919, serving time in India, Iran and Egypt. He enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1920 where he worked as a clerk, with some of his time with the RAF spent in the Middle East. In 1925 he married Rebecca Middleton, settling in Welwyn Garden City in England where he began writing full-time.

Sadly, Mitchell’s life was cut short when he died on 7 February 1935 as the result of peritonitis caused by a perforated ulcer. However, the world was left richer by his literary works, and by the time of his death Mitchell had written seventeen full-length books and a range of short stories and essays – some under his own name and some under the pseudonym of Lewis Grassic Gibbon. His last book, The Speak of the Mearns, was published posthumously in 1982. There is no doubt that having been raised in The Mearns had a profound influence on the writings of Lewis Grassic Gibbon, and this is especially evident in Sunset Song where he vividly describes the traditional peasant crofting life of his youth and winds a riveting tale around the heroine, Chris Guthrie.

In his many works, Mitchell’s subject matter was diverse, and his talent for using words to stimulate the imagination was remarkable. It is in honor of this talent, and in acknowledgement of his contribution to the literary world, that the Grassic Gibbon Centre was established. Located in the picturesque countryside of the Mearns, just two miles from his boyhood home, close to the parish school he attended, and not far from the Arbuthnott churchyard where his ashes were laid to rest, the Grassic Gibbon Centre invites visitors to gain some insight into the life of this talented Scottish writer.