Buchan was ‘a Great Scot’

Dumfries & Galloway Standard - - DISTRICT NEWS -

At the meet­ing of Locker­bie and District Ro­tary Club held at the Dryfes­dale Ho­tel re­cently, pres­i­dent Ving Thom­son in­tro­duced past pres­i­dent Alex Smith as the speaker whose sub­ject was “A Great Scot”.

Alex spoke of the 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, John Buchan, GCMG, GCVO, CH. PC., a Scot­tish nov­el­ist, his­to­rian, diplo­mat, Lieu­tenant Colonel in the in­tel­li­gence ser­vices and Union­ist politi­cian who also served as Gov­er­nor Gen­eral of Canada.

He was born in Perth in 1875, the son of min­is­ter, was brought up in Kirk­caldy, Fife, and spent many sum­mer hol­i­days in the com­pany of his sis­ter Anna with his ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents in Broughton.

The child­hood he and Anna shared was doc­u­mented in her mem­oir, writ­ten un­der the pseu­do­nym O. Dou­glas. Af­ter at­tend­ing Hutch­esons’ Gram­mar School, Buchan was awarded a schol­ar­ship to the Univer­sity of Glas­gow, aged 17, where he stud­ied clas­sics, wrote po­etry and be­came a pub­lished au­thor.

He moved on in 1895 to study clas­sics at Brasenose Col­lege, Ox­ford. In 1897, af­ter grad­u­at­ing, Buchan be­came a diplo­mat serv­ing as sec­re­tary to the Gov­er­nor of Cape Colony, South Africa.

It was dur­ing this time he met Ed­mund Iron­side, a se­nior of­fi­cer in the Bri­tish Army, who in later years be­came a Field Mar­shall and it was said was the ba­sis for Richard Han­nay in his novel The Thirty-Nine Steps.

In 1905 he read law in London, sub­se­quently qual­i­fy­ing as a bar­ris­ter, as well as be­com­ing edi­tor of the Spec­ta­tor.

In 1907 he mar­ried Su­san Grosvenor, daugh­ter of a cousin of the Duke of West­min­ster. To­gether, Buchan and his wife had four chil­dren.

In 1910, he wrote Prester John, the first of his ad­ven­ture nov­els, set in South Africa. Shortly af­ter this he suf­fered from duo­de­nal ul­cers, a con­di­tion that later af­flicted one of his fic­tional char­ac­ters. At the same time, Buchan ven­tured into the po­lit­i­cal arena and was adopted as Union­ist can­di­date for the Bor­ders seat of Pee­bles and Selkirk.

In 1914 with the out­break of war Buchan went on to write War Pro­pa­ganda and worked as a cor­re­spon­dent for the Times. He con­tin­ued to write fic­tion and in 1915 pub­lished his most fa­mous work, The Thirty-Nine Steps, a spy-thriller set just prior to World War I.

With the out­break of the First World War he en­listed in the Bri­tish Army and was com­mis­sioned as a sec­ond lieu­tenant in the In­tel­li­gence Corps where he wrote speeches for Sir Dou­glas Haig. He also pro­duced mag­a­zines de­tail­ing the his­tory of the war and moved to live in Ox­ford­shire.

Af­ter the war, Buchan turned his at­ten­tion to writ­ing on historical sub­jects, along with his usual thrillers and nov­els. He be­came pres­i­dent of the Scot­tish Historical So­ci­ety and a trustee of the Na­tional Li­brary of Scot­land and he also main­tained ties with var­i­ous uni­ver­si­ties.

In a 1927 by-elec­tion, Buchan was elected as the Union­ist Party Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment for the Com­bined Scot­tish Uni­ver­si­ties. Buchan was fur­ther ap­pointed as the King Ge­orge V’s Lord High Com­mis­sioner to the Gen­eral As­sem­bly of the Church of Scot­land.

In 1935 his lit­er­ary work was adapted for the cinema with the com­ple­tion of Al­fred Hitch­cock’s The 39 Steps, star­ring Robert Do­nat as Richard Han­nay, though with the story much al­tered. This came in the same year that Buchan was el­e­vated to the peer­age when he was en­ti­tled by King Ge­orge V as 1st Baron Tweedsmuir.

In 1935 he was ap­pointed Gov­er­nor Gen­eral of Canada by King Ge­orge V. He oc­cu­pied the post un­til his death in 1940.

Buchan proved to be en­thu­si­as­tic about lit­er­acy, as well as the evo­lu­tion of Cana­dian cul­ture, trav­el­ling to all parts of the coun­try.

Tweedsmuir Provin­cial Park in Bri­tish Columbia was cre­ated to com­mem­o­rate his visit to the Rain­bow Range. His mem­ory has also been re­mem­bered in Scot­land by the cre­ation of the John Buchan Way Walk along a 13-mile route be­tween Pee­bles and Broughton.

In con­clud­ing Alex dis­cussed the dif­fer­ences in the three films made of The 39 Steps in 1935, 1959 and 1978, the lat­ter be­ing filmed partly at Castlemilk and other places in Dum­fries and Gal­loway.

Pres­i­dent Ving called upon past pres­i­dent Ian Scott to give the vote of thanks. Ian com­pli­mented Alex for a well re­searched, in­for­ma­tive, fac­tual and in­ter­est­ing talk on a sub­ject who crammed so much into his life­time, fol­low­ing which mem­bers showed their ap­pre­ci­a­tion in the usual man­ner.

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