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Neil Gunn: The Well at the World’s End

Gunn has occasionally slipped into fantasy, most notably in The Green Isle of the Great Deep and here he does it again. Peter Munro and his wife Fand are on holiday and stop at an old woman’s cottage to get some water. She directs them to the well behind her cottage but they find it empty. They tell her so but she assures them that it is never empty. On rechecking, they find that it is in fact full of pure crystal-clear water and fill up. Peter, amazingly, then gets an idea to go off looking for the well at the world’s end. The novel is thereafter a recounting of Peter’s travels through Scotland where he meets a variety of fascinating characters – shepherds and smugglers and whiskey makers and hunters – and has a series of fascinating adventures but, of course, comes back to Fand more or less safe and sound. It’s quite fun and enjoyable but not one of his best.

Publishing history

First published 1951 by Faber and Faber