Gillespie by J. MacDougall Hay (eBook ISBN 9781847675156) book cover

Available as eBook

Introduced by Isobel Murray and Bob Tait

A leech, a pirate, a predator, an anti-Christ, a public benefactor and the fisherman’s friend; such is Gillespie Strang in this remarkably powerful Scottish novel. Gillespie is the harsh prophet of the new breed of Scottish entrepreneur, prepared to use any means to achieve his insatiable ambition amongst the nineteenth-century fishing communities of the west coast.

John MacDougall Hay (1881-1919) was born and raised in Tarbert, Loch Fyne, on which he based the setting for Gillespie. A Church of Scotland minister, his knowledge of such communities and his sombre vision of good and evil shape this, his finest novel.

“J. MacDougall Hay has set a tragic tale, which, for sheer relentlessness, it would be difficult to find a parallel.”
the Times

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“… a sprawling masterpiece which thunders with truth and authenticity.”
life And Work

“… it is a mighty novel, demonstrating Hay’s command of sensuous descriptive narrative and symbolism.”
the Scotsman

J. MacDougall Hay

John MacDougall Hay (1881-1919) was born and brought up in Tarbert, Loch Fyne, where his father was a steamship agent. He went to the University of Glasgow in 1898 where he was a prize-winning scholar and made his first ventures into journalism while still a student.
After graduating in 1901 with an Arts degree, he trained as a teacher and worked at schools in Stornway and Ullapool. A serious bout of rheumatic fever weakened his health and led him to give up school-teaching as a career. In 1905 he returned to Glasgow to train as a minister of the Church of Scotland, once again supporting himself as a freelance journalist. When his divinity studies were completed in 1908, he became minister of Elderslie near Paisley. He married Catherine Campbell, who was herself a minister’s daughter and their son (the Gaelic poet George Campbell Hay) was born in 1915.
MacDougall Hay continued to write, working in the evenings and revising his first novel Gillespie no fewer than three times over a number of years before it was finally published in 1914. This dark and powerful novel was very successful - praised by Thomas Hardy and enthusiastically reviewed in America - and he was tempted to leave the Church, but in the end he chose to remain in the ministry. A second novel, Barnacles was published in 1916, and a volume of poems, Their Dead Sons, appeared two years later. A third novel, set in the modern Church of Scotland and to be called The Martyr, was in the planning stages when he died of tuberculosis in December 1919, at the age of only 38.