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Neil Gunn


Neil Gunn was part of that Scottish Renaissance in the twenties and thirties, which also gave us Fionn MacColla, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Hugh MacDiarmid (C M Grieve) and others. No, Virginia, twentieth century Scottish writing did not start with Trainspotting.

Neil Gunn was born in 1891 in Dunbeath in Caithness. His father was a successful fisherman. He had two sisters and six brothers. His father was ambitious for his family and Neil was encouraged to take the exams for entrance into the Civil Service. He was successful and became a customs officer, a post he held for twenty-five years, till he resigned to become a full-time writer. His experience as a customs officer gave him much knowledge of whisky-making, which he put to practical use in his book Whisky & Scotland. It also enabled him to travel extensively over the Highlands. In 1921 he married Daisy Frew, a woman six years his elder. They remain married till her death in 1963.

Gunn started writing short stories soon after his marriage. Soon after he became very much involved in Scottish nationalist politics. After having some success with his short stories, he turned to the novel and, till late in life, published a novel every one or two years, when he turned more to journalism and back to short stories. In 1937, he resigned from the Customs and Excise, bought a boat and sailed around the Hebrides, writing about his adventures in Off in a Boat. He remained active in Scottish politics, while continuing his writing. He died in 1973, ten years after the death of his wife.

Books about Neil Gunn

F. R. Hart and J. B. Pick: Neil M. Gunn: A Highland Life (standard biography)
J. B. Pick: Neil M. Gunn
Alexander Scott and Douglas Gifford (eds): Neil M. Gunn, The Man and the Writer

Other links

Neil M. Gunn
Neil M. Gunn
Neil M. Gunn
Neil M. Gunn
Whose history, which novel?: Neil M. Gunn and the Gaelic Idea


1926 The Grey Coast
1929 Hidden Doors (Short stories)
1931 Morning Tide
1932 The Lost Glen
1933 Sun Circle
1934 Butcher’s Broom
1935 Whisky & Scotland: A Practical and Spiritual Survey (History)
1937 Highland River
1938 Off in a Boat (Travel)
1939 Wild Geese Overhead
1939 The Silver Darlings
1940 Second Sight
1942 Young Art and Old Hector
1942 Storm and Precipice and Other Pieces (Selected extracts)
1943 The Serpent (US: Man Goes Alone)
1944 The Green Isle of the Great Deep
1945 The Key of the Chest
1946 The Drinking Well
1948 The Shadow
1948 The Silver Bough
1949 The Lost Chart
1949 Highland Pack (Essays)
1950 The White Hour, and Other Stories (Short stories)
1951 The Well at the World’s End
1952 Bloodhunt
1954 The Other Landscape
1956 The Atom of Delight (Autobiographical)
1987 Landscape and Light, Essays by Neil M. Gunn edited by Alistair McCleery
1987 Neil M. Gunn: Selected Letters edited by J. B. Pick
1991 The Man Who Came Back, Short Stories and Essays edited by Margery McCulloch
1994 Poems and Related Early Work Collected by C. J. L. Stokoe