Books

The many lives of John Buchan

This remarkable man deserves to be remembered for more than his ‘shocker’ and the film it inspired

10 October 2015

9:00 AM

10 October 2015

9:00 AM

Up the stairs with flying feet,
You would burst upon us, cheering
Wellington’s funereal street.
Fresh as paint, though you’d been ’railing
Up from Scotland all the night,
Or had just returned from scaling
Some appalling Dolomite…
Pundit, publicist and jurist:
Statistician and divine;
Mystic, mountaineer and purist
In the high financial line;
Prince of journalistic sprinters —
Swiftest that I ever knew —
Never did you keep the printers
Longer than an hour or two…
Still I hope with kindly feeling
You recall the days of yore,
When I watched you gaily reeling
Off your folios by the score;
Self-effacing, self-suppressing
When your elder took the reins,
Though at half his age possessing
Twice and more than twice his brains.

 

In 1907, Charles Graves, who worked for The Spectator, wrote the above valedictory poem to mark the departure of his part-time colleague, John Buchan. This piece of high-class doggerel hits a number of nails firmly on the head: in particular Buchan’s modesty, fizzing vitality and remarkable intellect, as well as the speed at which he worked and the variety of his occupations and preoccupations.

He had first written for The Spectator (owned and edited by St Loe Strachey and based then in Wellington Street) in 1900, and worked for Strachey, off and on, between 1901 and 1907, becoming assistant editor in 1906. In all he wrote 800 articles, mostly anonymously, so that the full variety of his output has only recently been uncovered. His subjects ranged from foreign policy to Bergson’s philosophy to the glamour of mountaineering to new poetry.

Graves’s valediction was prompted by Buchan’s decision to leave The Spectator, as well as the Bar, in order to work for Thomas Nelson and Son, an Edinburgh publishing company with a London office. He was engaged to marry Susan Grosvenor who, though very sweet and intelligent, had no money of her own, yet by reason of her privileged upbringing was quite unable to boil an egg or sew on a button. He needed a larger and surer income to afford a London establishment big enough to accommodate servants. Despite his change of career, he continued to write for The Spectator from time to time until the early 1930s.


As well as journalist and barrister, he was at various times colonial administrator, head of wartime propaganda, member of Parliament, novelist, poet, historian, public thinker and viceroy. But his name has been made, seemingly for all eternity, by a short spy thriller which he wrote in a few weeks for his own amusement.

In August 1914 Buchan took a family holiday in Broadstairs, Kent; a duo-denal ulcer was playing up badly and his doctor recommended rest. There he began his second ‘shocker’ (the first was The Power House), finishing it when ordered to bed again in December. The book’s dedication, to his friend and business partner, Tommy Nelson, defines the ‘shocker’ as a ‘romance where the incidents defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible’, which, taking in all the coincidences as well as the explosive incident with the lentonite, seems about right. The novel was serialised in Blackwood’s Magazine between July and September 1915, and appeared in book form in October, when it was an immediate critical and commercial success, selling 25,000 copies in the first six weeks.

The plot was, of course, informed by the febrile international situation in the summer of 1914; the title came from the number of wooden steps that led down to a Broadstairs beach, counted for Buchan by his six-year-old daughter, Alice.

The tense, fast-moving, first-person narrative contains surprisingly interesting characterisations for an adventure story, not to mention deft and vivid descriptions of landscape and weather, for which Buchan was to become renowned. It has all his hallmarks of brevity, clarity, keen observation and wry humour. The South African Hannay irritates some readers by his heartiness, robust colonial utterances and emphasis on getting a job done, but we shouldn’t forget he was conceived in wartime. I like his resourcefulness, sensitivity to atmosphere and cheerful courage. Although at least partly modelled on General Sir Edmund Ironside, Hannay is, in many ways, the average man who knows his limitations, and is thus someone with whom readers can readily identify. The book was very popular with soldiers in the trenches.

In 1934, Alfred Hitchcock bought the option to film the book from Buchan, by now a very well-known writer and politician. The 39 Steps, possibly the first ‘man-on-the-run’ thriller ever filmed, made Hitchcock famous in America for the first time when it came out in 1935. Much of the plot was changed to accommodate a love interest and to reflect the different international situation, 20 years on from 1915. Hannay, played by Robert Donat, acquires a beautiful but reluctant companion, Pamela (Madeleine Carroll). The scene where they have to share a room in a Scottish inn and she removes her stocking, while handcuffed to him, gives off an erotic spark even now. An amused Buchan told Hitchcock at the premiere that the film was a great improvement on the book; only my loyal granny could never be reconciled to Hitchcock changing the story.

The novel inspired two later films and a television adaptation, but it’s the Hitchcock film that has become an international cultural icon; so much so that a jolly, send-up stage version of it has played to audiences all over the world for the past ten years. We shall never know whether the book would have remained in print continuously for a century without the film industry promoting it so assiduously. What is plain is that its prominence has succeeded in obscuring many of the other things for which John Buchan deserves to be remembered.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Ursula Buchan could only manage 300 articles in her 26 years as The Spectator’s gardening columnist. She is presently engaged in writing a biography of John Buchan for Bloomsbury.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10


Show comments
  • TrippingDwarves

    A great writer. Greenmantle is a very prescient work.

    • paulvew

      Snobbery with violence: John Buchan and Al Qaeda http://pvewood.blogspot.ro/2014/02/reading-john-buchan-when-sick.html

    • logdon

      Agreed.

      Having read the Thirty Nine Steps many years ago, Greenmantle was next on the list.

      I never got around to it until about five years back when I bought the The Complete Richard Hannay.

      A real treasure of quite wonderful writing from a time when we had confidence, honesty and a place in the world.

      If racism is all one can take from these tales, I’m afraid that the powers of broad literary perception elude.

  • Jabez Foodbotham

    Reading Prester John as a child I was greatly puzzled as how to pronounce Blauwildebeestfontein.
    It was not until much later when I lived in RSA that I got it approximately correct and discovered that the beast was just a gnother gnu.

    • terence patrick hewett

      Can you pronounce “Verenigen”?

      From Saki:

      When the widgeon westward winging
      Heard the folk Vereeniginging
      Heard the shouting and the singing

      Mother may I go and Maffick
      Tear around and hinder traffic
      And the sleeper, eye unlidding
      Heard a voice forever bidding
      Much farewell to Dolly Gray;

      Turning weary on his truckle-
      Bed he heard the honey-suckle
      Lauded in apiarian lay

      Cease, War, thy bubbling madness that the wine shares
      And bid thy legions turn their swords to mine shares.

  • amused bystander

    I’d always been under the impression that the 39 Steps was in some way an allusion to the Anglican Articles of Religion

  • Roger Hudson

    There is a good , massive, collected writings collection for Kindle but i doubt it has all the Spectator stuff. The government seemed to totally ignore his plan for the organisation of the East African empire, interesting, totally proto-Monday Club.
    The Speccie ‘from the archives’ about WW1 is fascinating, why not digitise the complete Archive for online searching??

  • terence patrick hewett

    It is a pity Angela Merkel did not read Greenmantle:or perhaps she did.

    • Toy Pupanbai

      I’ve never read it: now I shall have too and it will be your fault!

      • terence patrick hewett

        The journalist and author Jerome K Jerome retrospectively chills the blood in his book Three Men on the Bummel circa 1900:

        “Hitherto the German has had the blessed fortune to be exceptionally well governed; if this continues all will go well with him. When his troubles will begin will be when by any chance something goes wrong with the governing machine”

  • Suriani

    Greenmantle far ourstrips 39 Steps. So contemporaneoous the BBC once suspended its broadcast.

  • EnosBurrows

    The probability is, though, that if it were not for The Thirty Nine Steps Buchan would not be remembered at all.

    • paulvew

      The Power House, a feeble book, was also very famous at one time. Greenmantle was a big hit too.

    • I unlock my Browning

      The probability is, though, that but for Alfred Hitchcock Buchan would not be remembered at all.

  • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

    Was he also a Jew hater ?

    • paulvew

      No.

      • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

        He was a representative of English Empire buiders and as such must have been a racist.

        • paulvew

          He was Scottish.

          • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

            I did not state he was English he simply supported the English desire to subjugate those who were not English.. He lives on, in wishing the Scots to live under English rule.

          • terence patrick hewett

            The failed 1690’s Scottish colonisation scheme of the Isthmus of Panama on the Gulf of Darién which bankrupted Scotland was an attempt by the Kingdom of Scotland to become a world trading nation and was the driver for the 1707 Acts of Union. The Scottish landed aristocracy and mercantile class saw that their best chance of being part of a major trading power would be to share in the growth of the English Empire and that Scotland’s future would lie in Union. Scotland joined
            with England to create the British Empire with which both countries will always be associated.

            The transmogrification of Scotland from Enthusiastic Imperator and West Indian Slave-Master to colonial victim is always a subject of great mirth.

          • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

            Yes I am ashamed by the dreadful Scots who were brutal in the West indies.The Dariein project was foiled by the English in their own interests but was non the less immoral.. I recognise that Scots Matheson and Jardine were the worlds most successful drug dealers but both did this with the support of the English parliament. In this way the English enslaved the people of China.The current desire of Scots is driven by the folk of Scotland not by lnd owners like Mcartney or Rowlands.

        • Toy Pupanbai

          Did he ever meet Kipling?

          • terence patrick hewett

            I have always found it an amusement that 70 years ago Kipling’s book Stalky and Co was very much frowned upon by the great and the good: it still is but for different reasons. He must have got something very right.

          • I unlock my Browning

            It’s a lovely book.

          • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

            Kipling was a Jew hater as described in his poem of 1915 called Gehazi.. This lead to an upsurge of Jew hating during WW1 amongst the English and Buchan would have agreed..

        • terence patrick hewett

          The word and concept only appeared according to the OED circa 1936 so he would not have understood what you are talking about. It is always a mistake to judge the past by contemporary standards, <mōrēs and fashions: in a historian it is fatal.

          • I unlock my Browning

            Are you saying that nobody suffered from anorexia before the word appeared?

          • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

            Buchan was a Christian. which is claimed to be universal and constant. As such contemporary mores are irrelevant.

          • terence patrick hewett

            The point that I made is that a historian has to approach history in a spirit of impartiality and not to judge history by current fashions: in fact not to morally judge at all.

            To a historian the attitude throws up a serious question: that of how do we judge the past impartially; since as L. P. Hartley famously stated in the opening sentence of his novel The Go-Between “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

            It is difficult to judge even recent history with any objectivity especially for those with a contemporary axe to grind. A case in point is how we
            judge Victorian society and mores.

            When the word “Victorian” is used today it comes with all sorts of baggage; the assumption is that we all know what Victorian means: hypocritical, preachy, introverted, un-enlightened and sexually repressed. This is erroneous: in reality the world in which we live is still fundamentally the world which the Victorians and Edwardians reformed from the horrors of the 18th century.

            The myth of alleged Victorian prudery is no better illustrated than in the story of the piano legs draped to prevent the male of the species going mad from sexual lust. The legs of the furniture at the time were gussied up for good practical reasons. Since they had no refrigerators they had many larders, so they kept cats to control the mice: ipso facto they covered the furniture to stop the cats from sharpening their claws on the legs. Additionally, since they had large families it was a protection against damage to the legs of the furniture by all those wheeled wooden toys.

            The myth actually arose from Captain Frederick Marryat’s 1839 book, Diary in America, as a satirical comment on prissiness. No-one took this seriously at the time so they must be laughing their heads off at us from above (or below).

            Most of our views of the Victorians are now obtained from contemporary text; what they really thought was never committed to paper, although some idea may be got from Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor, Morrison’s A Child of the Jago, The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith and especially the pronouncements of Miss Marie Lloyd. The works of Mr Peter Ackroyd of East Acton also come highly recommended.

          • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

            The interesting thing is that you make no mention of the Christ.I made the point that Christians are even today Jew haters, your response is to give me a load of waffle about history which itself is waffle.

          • terence patrick hewett

            According to Henry Ford history is indeed bunk: but to disregard the impact of history, real or imagined, on current political thought and attitudes could have unfortunate consequences in some areas of the world and could indeed be fatal. The perception of history and tradition goes into the deepest ideas of identity and self. The importance of history can be no more underlined than by the fact that so many people try to re-write it for their own ends.

            Your point about religion and Christianity in particular is quite plainly daft.

          • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

            For a start Henry Ford was a christian and Jew Hater. He was right history is bunk. Are you claiming Roman Catholics are not Jew haters if so you do not live in the real world or are in denial.

          • terence patrick hewett

            I would not presume to judge upon the either Henry Ford or the religious propensities of Catholicism. Scottish Nationalism, of whom you appear to be a partisan, is a complex matrix of which moral superiority seems to be a major strand. However a piece of advice: if you think that insulting the 15% of the Scottish electorate who happen to be Catholics will get you their votes I feel you will be sadly disappointed. It was the Taigs amongst
            others which cost you the neverendum.

          • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

            You are not surely suggesting Roman Catholics are not Jew Haters. I have never met one who was not.I do not believe that it was the Roman Catholic vote that prevented the Scots regaining independence. It was more likely the Huns.

          • terence patrick hewett

            If you think that the <Taigs and the Teuchters are going to hand themselves over to to the gentle administrations of John Knox and his merrie band of funsters: best of British luck with that one.

          • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

            I am a Jew by the definition that Christians define a Jew. Of course I know many Roman Catholics as most people do.

          • terence patrick hewett

            Well: you may or you may not be a Jew: but let me tell you this: you don’t talk like any Jew I have ever met, and I have hundreds of Jewish friends and acquaintances, some of great antiquity. For unfortunately for you, I was born in the East End of London, where the Jewish Community was simply part of the furniture. But when I return there now, like the Jewish poet Emanuel Litvinoff, all I see are ghosts.

            Also unfortunately for you I am a friend and support of the Parkes Institute. Based around the Special Collections of the Parkes Library which deals with Anti-Semitism, the Parkes Library, opened in 1965, is one of the largest Jewish documentation centres in Europe and the only one in the world devoted specifically to Jewish and non-Jewish relations.

            Taken for a post of mine from the Algemeiner: 2nd of 10 posts.

            “Parkes began collecting books whilst working for the International Student Service in Europe during the 1930s. He helped rescue Jewish refugees during the 1930s and campaigned for the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust. During the Second World War he helped found the Council of Christians and Jews and worked throughout his career to promote in promoting religious tolerance and mutual
            respect.

            On his return to Britain in 1935 following an attempt on his
            life by the Nazis, he made the collection available to other scholars. It consists of some 28,000 books and journals, published from the 15th century to the present day and also includes the Survey of Jewish Archives concerning Jewish genealogy, Refugees in the twentieth century, the Holocaust and War Crimes.”

            http://www.algemeiner.com/2015/04/03/bittersweet-reception-to-cancelation-of-anti-israel-hatefest-at-southampton-university/

            The optometrist, the late Bernard Woolf: a personal friend and designer of the Woolf Scotoma Scanner was a member of the SOE during WW2 and parachuted into Yugoslavia to fight with the partisans: a pretty brave thing to do since he was a Jew.

            Because of this experience, he was judged as a young man in 1948, to be given the job of springing from captivity in Gilgil (a British internment camp in Kenya) Yaakov Meridor, Nathan Germant, Reuven Franco and Yaakov Hillel of the Irgun, and Shlomo Ben Shlomo and David Yanai of Lehi. The background, the motivation and the execution of the escape is told in his own words and can be accessed at:

            http://www.jewishgen.org/SAfrica/newsletter/SA-SIG-NL-2007-06.pdf#zoom=83

            I certainly would not be sharing this but for the fact that he published this before his death. I have to say that Bernard was one of the few people that it was an honour to meet.

            Having worked in 15 countries and 4 continents I have built up hundreds Jewish and Catholic friends and I do not recognise any of them in the hatreds which you espouse.

          • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

            Thank for your response, However that some of my best friends are Jews is just a clique I Live in Scotland and assure you that Roman Catholics are without exception are Jew hater.

        • I unlock my Browning

          He most certainly was.
          ‘Prester John’ reeks of it. It even uses the classic ‘dagoes’.

          • terence patrick hewett

            Does the word “Dons” offend yr delicate sensibilities?

          • I unlock my Browning

            ‘Dons’?

          • terence patrick hewett

            A diminutive of Don Quixote”

            What a sheltered life you have led. What about words for the English: Sassenach, Sais, Sows, Limey, Pommy, Rosbif, Rooinek, Khaki, Soutie, Soutpiel, Angrez, Angrej, Anggrit, Firang, Sayip, Lobster, Lobsterback, Redcoat, Inselaffe, Guffie, Janner, Johnny Bull, Ringo, Angie, Bloke (French Canadian insult), Feb (f*****g English bastard), Fog N*gger, Island Monkey, Pudden; the list goes on and on. In the now sadly out of print book, The Dictionary of Racial Insults, the English have pride of place with a full 28 pages. The Germans pass the post a very poor second with only 15 pages.

            Beat that, Sawnies!

          • I unlock my Browning

            Are you ill?

          • terence patrick hewett

            Possibly: I am an etymologist.

          • I unlock my Browning

            I doubt that. You’re just a vexatious poster, looking for a squabble.

          • terence patrick hewett

            As much as I appreciate your tenacity in flogging a dead horse I am afraid (to mix my metaphors) you’re up a blind alley: or as the English and Scottish vernacular give it: a ginnel, jennel, gennel, gynell, twychell, twichell, twitten, jigger, snicket, jitty, gitty, gulley, entry, chares, ghauts, opes, shuts, wynd, pend, vennel cuttings, 8-foot, 10-foot, passage, alleyway, lane, close or steps.

            Or as our Antipodean cousins would have it “up sh*t creek in a barbed wire canoe.”

            (“canoe” from Haiti: thank you Sir Walter Raleigh!)

          • I unlock my Browning

            Here’s what a decent, white chap thinks about a dirty foreigner:

            ‘There was another steerage passenger whom I could not help observing because of my dislike of his appearance. He, too, was a little man, by name Henriques, and in looks the most atrocious villain I have ever clapped eyes on. He had a face the colour of French mustard—a sort of dirty green—and bloodshot, beady eyes with the whites all yellowed with fever. He had waxed moustaches, and a curious, furtive way of walking and looking about him. We of the steerage were careless in our dress, but he was always clad in immaculate white linen, with pointed, yellow shoes to match his complexion. He spoke to no one, but smoked long cheroots all day in the stern of the ship, and studied a greasy pocket-book. Once I tripped over him in the dark, and he turned on me with a snarl and an oath. I was short enough with him in return, and he looked as if he could knife me.’

            Prester John.

          • terence patrick hewett

            And here is what some fine upstanding socialists and Fabians have said:

            Marie Stopes had policies inspired by eugenics aimed directly at the extermination of the proletariat. In her book Radiant Motherhood (1920) she called for the “sterilisation of those totally unfit for parenthood (to) be made an immediate possibility, indeed made compulsory.”

            “Crushed by the burden of taxation which they have not the resources to meet and to provide for children also: crushed by the national cost of the too numerous children of those who do not contribute to the public funds by taxation, yet who recklessly bring forth from an inferior stock individuals who are not self-supporting, the middle and superior artisan classes have, without perceiving it, come almost to take the position of that ancient slave population.”

            H G Wells advocated a level of eugenics that was even more extreme: the weak should be killed by the strong,having “no pity and less benevolence.” The diseased, deformed and insane, together with “those swarms of blacks, and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people … will have to go” in order to create a scientific utopia.

            D.H. Lawrence opined in a letter of 1908: “I would build a lethal chamber as big as the Crystal Palace.”

          • I unlock my Browning

            So what?
            Just because other people write nasty things, Buchan isn’t an unpleasant racist?
            Poor debating technique, there.

          • terence patrick hewett

            It is always a mistake to judge the past by contemporary standards, mores and fashions: in a historian it is fatal.

          • I unlock my Browning

            Wrong, I’m afraid.
            I gave the example of H Rider Haggard in a different post.
            Even by the standards of his time, Buchan was racist.
            I’ve recently read the two writers side by side and Rider Haggard, dated though he is, is a breath of fresh air after the stench that is Buchan.

          • terence patrick hewett

            Beg to disagree:

            A re-reading of Emeritus Prof. John Carey’s book “The Intellectuals and the Masses” opines that

            ‘the tragedy of Mein Kampf is that it was not, in many respects, a deviant work but one firmly rooted in European intellectual orthodoxy.’

            A very funny and subversive review of the work may be enjoyed thanks to the Grumpy Old Bookman Michael Allen at the link below.

            http://grumpyoldbookman.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=carey

          • I unlock my Browning

            Disagree to your heart’s content.
            You have no answer about Buchan.
            Nor about anorexia, I note.
            I’ve made my case, and I’m happy to leave it there.
            If you speak as you write then you sound like the sort of person I move away from in the pub, so I think I’ll do the cyber-equivalent and leave you to spout your unpleasant self-justifications.

          • terence patrick hewett

            No one is perfect:! however if you engage with the intertubes simply wishing to hear the echo of your own voice then I fear you will be sadly disappointed.

          • logdon

            And?

          • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

            Thank you for your response many authors of his generation portrayed foreigners as the bad guys the Jews being the worst.

          • terence patrick hewett

            Dagoe is a diminutive of Diego, the Spanish equivalent of James. Like Fritz for a Teuton and Tommy for an Englishman: hardly a hanging offence.

            All words are part of the rich history of the English language; there is no dividing line between what may be regarded as offensive and what is not. Persons like Eric Partridge have written screeds of academic text on the etymology of offensive words. Colloquial words (such as Coddis or Twychell) generally are specific and seldom have multiple meanings. Slang, once it permanently enters the language goes into the OED and is treated etymologically like any other word. The argument that a
            restriction of expression is tied to a restriction of political freedom is
            perfectly valid.

  • paulvew

    She is “presently” engaged in writing a biography of John Buchan? O tempora O mores!

    • Morseman

      Look up the dictionary definition.

  • paulvew

    Snobbery with violence: John Buchan and Al Qaeda
    http://pvewood.blogspot.ro/2014/02/reading-john-buchan-when-sick.html

  • trace9

    “duo-denal ulcer”. One-word, idiots. Farcical in a Buchan skim.

  • I unlock my Browning

    I recently read ‘Prester John’ and found it nasty and dull.
    It’s entirely based on the premiss that black people aren’t fit to rule themselves and that the hero must save Africa for the whites.
    H Rider Haggard, on the other hand, often accused of racism, always has regal, admirable black characters.

  • Christopher Dalton

    A G.G. of Canada who wrote gloriously of the north…A truly wonderful character.

  • edlancey

    39 Steps is very disappointing and over-rated, as is Greenmantle.

    • Morseman

      We need to transpose ourselves to the age, with no TV and little excitement.

      • edlancey

        perhaps but the ending of 39 steps is dreadful. No wonder Hitchcock had to dump it.

    • watzat

      That’s why nobody has heard of either of them?

  • terence patrick hewett

    Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
    The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
    A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
    And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
    A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
    The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.

    I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
    And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire;
    But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
    To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made,
    Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands,
    The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.

    His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
    Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
    The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
    But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch.
    God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
    The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier.

    My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
    Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
    But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
    And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
    For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
    Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

  • watzat

    There’s a very nice little John Buchan museum near Biggar in Scotland I discovered by accident. Modest in appearance but interesting and very well run. Among the exhibits is a most revealing and historic? facsimile letter from TE Laurence to Buchan where the former mentions his recent purchase of a very fast and expensive Brough “Superior” motorbike and his hope and intention that it would “get him across middle-age”. I took it he meant it was to provide the excitement (and danger) that civilian life lacked. It didnt appear, from an internet search, to have been picked up by any recent Laurence biographer.

Close