restricted access A Brief Biography of Lewis Grassic Gibbon
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xiii A Brief Biography of Lewis Grassic Gibbon Lewis Grassic Gibbon is perhaps celebrated most as author of Sunset Song (1932), the first novel of A Scots Quair, his internationally acclaimed trilogy, which also includes Cloud Howe (1933) and Grey Granite (1934). Born James Leslie Mitchell in 1901 into a crofting family in Auchterless, Aberdeenshire, he wrote eleven books solely under his real name, but became more famous for the Scots fiction of his pseudonym (partly derived from his mother’s maiden name) Lewis Grassic Gibbon. The family moved when he was eight to the Howe of the Mearns, in northeast Scotland, the land Gibbon was to immortalise in Sunset Song. He was educated at Arbuthnott Village School, before going on to Mackie Academy in Stonehaven, but left there after a year to become a cub reporter in Aberdeen with the Aberdeen Journal. In Aberdeen in 1917, the year of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the future author of Spartacus (1933) became a member of the new Aberdeen Soviet. Two years later, in 1919, he moved to Glasgow to work for the Scottish Farmer, but was sacked following a scandal over his expenses – money which he had used for radical political ends. After a failed suicide attempt, and with no hope of any journalistic references, Mitchell went back to the Mearns, but he felt restricted at home and refused to become a crofter. He joined the Royal Army Service Corps and for four years, until 1923, served in the Middle East − Mesopotamia, Palestine and Egypt − in a period of travel and experience that was to have an immensely influential bearing on his fiction and beliefs. On his discharge from the army a destitute Mitchell joined the Royal Air Force, in which he served as a clerk until 1929 and during which time he married Rebecca ‘Ray’ Middleton, whose family were Mearns neighbours of the Mitchells. Upon leaving the RAF he settled down to full-time writing, moving with his wife and two children to Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire, where he died in 1935 from peritonitis, still not thirty-four years old. ...