Neil M. Gunn

Neil M. Gunn (1891-1973), was born in Dunbeath, Caithness. Gunn was educated at his village school until the age of twelve and at fifteen he became a clerk in the Civil Service, working in London and Edinburgh until he joined the Customs and Excise in 1911 and came to stay in Inverness. Gunn continued to work for the Excise during the First World War in which three of his family lost their lives; his brother and closest friend John, (whose story is told in Highland River), was badly gassed.

Gunn married his Dingwall girlfriend Daisy Frew in 1921 returning the following year to the Highlands where he settled down and began to write seriously. His first novel, The Grey Coast, appeared in 1926, followed by The Lost Glen (serialised in 1928), and Morning Tide, a Book Society choice, in 1930. He turned to ancient history with Sun Circle (1933), and to the Highland clearances, with Butcher’s Broom (1934), before calling up his own childhood again in Highland River, which won great acclaim and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1937.
Supported by T.S. Eliot and Faber, who had become his publishers, Gunn turned to full-time writing, producing the autobiographical Off in a Boat in 1938, followed by another huge success with the epic novel, The Silver Darlings (1941). Short stories, plays, articles and more novels followed. Gunn’s last book was The Atom of Delight (1956), an autobiography which reflected on his life-long fascination with the Zen-like and elusive spirit of life, wisdom and delight. He continued to work as an essayist and broadcaster until his death in 1973. The Neil Gunn International Fellowship has been established in his honour.