Samuel R. Crockett

Samuel Rutherford Crockett was born in 1859, on the family farm in Kirkcudbrightshire, where his unmarried mother worked as a dairymaid. He was largely brought up by his grandparents who were devout Cameronians in the Convenanting tradition and the boy had a happy childhood in the Galloway countryside he came to love and to write about in his later fiction. Educated in Castle Douglas, Crockett gained a bursary to Edinburgh University in 1876, where he studied for an Arts degree, supplementing his small income by tutoring and by writing articles, stories and poetry for various periodicals. He spent the summer of 1878 in London hoping to find work as a journalist but returned to Edinburgh and graduated in the following year. Shortly after this he was engaged as a tutor and companion for two young men and the trio travelled together on a tour of Europe. Still keen on writing but now seeking some more permanent position, Crockett came back to Edinburgh and attended science classes at the university there. Then, in 1881, he enrolled as a divinity student at New College. Four years later, he graduated as a Free Kirk minister and in 1886 he took up his first post at a Kirk in Penicuik. Tall, bearded, energetic and committed to social, cultural and educational activities of all sorts, Crockett made quite an impression in his parish. During his travelling years he had met Ruth Mary Milner, the daughter of a Lancashire mill owner, and the couple were married in1887. They were to have two sons and three daughters in the years to come.
Crockett continued to place his essays and stories in newspapers and magazines and in1893 a collection of this work (set in Galloway) was publishes as The Stickit Minister and Other Common Men. This was followed by The Raiders, The Lilac Sun-bonnet; Mad Sir Uchtred and The Play Actress (all 1894). Wholly committed to his writing now, and having achieved tremendous success in an immensely popular literary market, Crockett resigned from his ministry in 1895 and turned to full-time writing. He continued to publish in periodicals and over the next 18 years he produced seven books for children, three further collection of stories and another 43 popular novels, some set in contemporary times and many others as historical romances.
The author established himself at Torwood House near Peebles where he amassed a major library. Having become friendly with J.M. Barrie, Andrew Lang, R.L. Stevenson, the Gosses and Rider Haggard, Crockett was well known in literary circles in both Scotland and England. He continued to travel widely, spending time abroad and setting some of his books in France and Spain. In later years his fiction ceased to sell so well, and his titles appeared or were reprinted as increasingly cheap paperbound editions. But he regarded himself as a storyteller and continued to write with zest despite failing health. He died on 1914, while on holiday at Avignon in France, and he is buried in Balmaghie Churchyard at Castle Douglas.