Grassic Gibbon Centre leaflet
Author(s): Isabella Williamson
Copyright holder(s): Isabella Williamson
Lewis Grassic Gibbon is the celebrated pen-name of James Leslie Mitchell, one of the outstanding figures in Scottish literature, world famous as the author of the trilogy of novels known as "A Scots Quair".
Born on 13 February 1901, Leslie Mitchell's background and upbringing were steeped in the traditional crofting list of the northeast of Scotland; as an adult, Mitchell looked back proudly on his peasant roots. While his childhood was spent at his birthplace, the Aberdeenshire croft of Hillhead of Seggat, the following period of nine years when he lived at Bloomfield here in Arbuthnott in the Howe o' the Mearns was profoundly influential.
Life in this small rural community shaped Leslie Mitchell's thoughts and beliefs as he grew from boyhood to early adulthood. The people and places, sights, smells and sounds from this time, etched on his memory, were to be recreated with vivid imaginative power many years later in the fiction of Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
Mitchell's success as a writer was hard earned. A brilliant pupil with a flair for writing, he experienced mixed fortunes subsequently in journalism in Aberdeen and Glasgow and in military service in the Middle East and the south of England. Finally, happily married to Rebecca Middleton, a former neighbour and schoolmate at Arbuthnott, he took the plunge in 1929 to become a professional writer.
Based in the south of England, Leslie Mitchell threw himself into his work with extraordinary zeal, producing seventeen full length books in under seven years - ranging from novels and short story collections to studies of exploration, biography and history - as well as a steady stream of stories, essays and book reviews.
"Sunset Song", Mitchell's tribute to his native 'Kinraddie', caused a sensation in 1932, and his reputation rests principally upon this first Grassic Gibbon novel. His unique powers as a writer are indeed most prominent in this book, in the subtle style blending Scots and English, the riveting storyline, vibrant characterisation - particularly that of the heroine, Chris Guthrie - and the setting described with a sensitivity heightened by exile.
"Sunset Song", Gibbon's Scottish crofting elegy, is eloquent in its championing of human rights as it is lyrical in its celebration of the natural world.
Grassic Gibbon emulated this achievement in the two sequels, "Cloud Howe" and "Grey Granite", and the trilogy as a whole remains a landmark in Scottish literature.
Other works by him bear comparison with the trilogy, notably the historical novel "Spartacus" and the superb Scots stories and autobiographical essays from "Scottish Scene". And Mitchell was also planning countless new projects destined to enhance his literary reputation. Thus, his death on 7 February 1935 following an emergency operation for a perforated ulcer was shockingly abrupt. He was not yet thirty four years old.
Mitchell's early death was immediately lamented by fellow writers in Scotland and England. The popularity of his writing has risen steadily ever since, boosted by striking radio, television and stage dramatisations. His importance has been demonstrated in numerous ways, with his work generating a wealth of literary criticism at home and abroad and being studied in schools and universities at large. The names James Leslie Mitchell and Lewis Grassic Gibbon are therefore very much alive today.
The Major Published Works
Titles under the name of James Leslie Mitchell except where noted. Year of recent reprints in brackets.
Hanno: or the Future of Exploration 1928
Stained Radiance: A Fictionist's Prelude 1930 (1994)
The Thirteenth Disciple 1931 (1981)
The Calends of Cairo 1931
Three Go Back 1932 (1986)
The Lost Trumpet 1932
Sunset Song (Gibbon) 1932 (1988)
Persian Dawns, Egyptian Nights 1932
Image and Superscription 1933
Cloud Howe (Gibbon) 1933 (1989)
Spartacus 1933 (1990)
Niger: The Life of Mungo Park (Gibbon) 1934
The Conquest of the Maya 1934
Gay Hunter 1934 (1989)
Scottish Scene (Gibbon & MacDiarmid) 1934
Grey Granite (Gibbon) 1934 (1990)
Nine Against the Unknown (Mitchell & Gibbon) 1934
The Speak of the Mearns (Gibbon) 1982 (1994)
The Grassic Gibbon Centre
The Grassic Gibbon Centre stands at the heart of the community of Arbuthnott in which Leslie Mitchell spent his formative years, and which inspired his greatest writing.
Marking the fulfilment of a long-standing ambition locally to recognise his achievement, the Centre was established in 1991 by Arbuthnott Community Association with the approval of Leslie Mitchell's family, and with financial assistance from the Scottish Tourist Board, Kincardine and Deeside District Council and Grampian Regional Council.
The Centre acts as a focus for activities promoting the life and work of this major literary figure of local, national and international significance. The specific aims of the Centre are accommodated by a broader concern to promote an understanding of the history and culture of the area.
Situated in close proximity to key landmarks in Mitchell's life - the croft of Bloomfield, the school, the kirkyard containing his ashes - the Centre brings Leslie Mitchell into sharp relief. Permanent features of the Centre include a wall display and audio-visual facility tracing the author's life and work, reproducing rare family photos and manuscript material.
Unique exhibits include books, personal effects and mementoes of Leslie Mitchell/ Lewis Grassic Gibbon, as well as original artefacts of social, cultural and historical interest. In addition, temporary exhibitions will be created regularly revolving around a central theme; and the Centre is committed to staging functions and live entertainment linked with Grassic Gibbon and the local community.
The Grassic Gibbon Centre is unique. It is run by the community for the benefit of the community. Registered as a charity, the Centre welcomes donations, or arrangement can made for Deed of Covenant.
The Centre contains a coffee shop and sells books and postcards, as well as a range of souvenirs. There is also a mail order facility. Visits of school parties and larger groups can be arranged by appointment. A supper menu for groups is available by request.
This work is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
The SCOTS Project and the University of Glasgow do not necessarily endorse, support or recommend the views expressed in this document.
Cite this Document
Grassic Gibbon Centre leaflet. 2023. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved September 2023, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=1377.
"Grassic Gibbon Centre leaflet." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2023. Web. September 2023. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=1377.
The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "Grassic Gibbon Centre leaflet," accessed September 2023, http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=1377.
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The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2023. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk.