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Lewis Grassic Gibbon

James Leslie MitchellJames Leslie Mitchell
Lewis Grassic Gibbon (1901 - 1935)

James Leslie Mitchell, alias the famous writer Lewis Grassic Gibbon whose, earthy writing style endeared him to thousands of Scots at home and abroad and led to the opening of a centre in his memory in Arbuthnott in 1992.
The Centre stands within two miles of the farm croft where Mitchell spent his boyhood, and yards from the parish school where his talent first flowered. His ashes rest in nearby Arbuthnott churchyard.Gibbon was born at Auchterless near Turriff, in 1901. His family moved to Arbuthnott while he was still a youngster. The young Mitchell had problems and rebelled from an early age against the way of life. Instead of the soil he found greater enjoyment in books.

His problems continued when he walked out of Stonehaven's Mackie Academy after an argument with a teacher. He also upset people in the Mearns who found his strong political and personal views unfitting with their way of life.

Mitchell worked as a trainee journalist in Aberdeen from l917-1919. He then moved to Glasgow to join the Scottish Farmer, but left after problems with expenses. The shame, and his feelings of isolation, led to an attempted suicide. His family took him back into the fold at Arbuthnott, believing simple life could save their wayward son. But the crofting life proved as frustrating to him as before, and he joined the armed forces to escape the Mearns and the stagnating effect it was having on him. He discovered an interest for social history and anthropology when he traveled through the Middle East.

He wrote fascinating philosophical discussions on Christianity and theories on the evolution of man, but this caused great upset at the time.

Mitchell returned to Arbuthnott in 1925 to marry the local girl who stayed opposite his home Rebecca (Ray) Middleton, whom he had kept in touch with throughout his years of travel. The couple moved to London where their early, married life is said to have been hard with cheap lodgings and city landlords breathing down their necks.

By the time the Mitchell's had moved to Welwyn Garden City in 1931, Mitchell was an established author, with short stories, novels and essays published widely under both James Leslie Mitchell and Lewis Grassic Gibbon.

Sunset Song, his best loved novel, is set in the Mearns around the Centre, and was a success right from its first publication in 1932. Today, after adaptations for TV, radio, theatre and music, it remains one of the most popular of all Scottish stories.

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