Sunset Song writer honoured with plaque

A plaque honouring the Scots writer of Sunset Song is to be installed in Stonehaven.

Lewis Grassic Gibbon, one of the foremost Scottish writers of the 20th century, is to be honoured as part of Historic Environment Scotland’s (HES) Commemorative Plaque scheme, it was announced today.

Perhaps best known as the author of Sunset Song, which was voted Scotland’s favourite novel as part of a BBC poll in 2016, Grassic Gibbon was born James Leslie Mitchell in Aberdeenshire in 1901. He started his writing career in the north-east as a journalist for the Aberdeen Journal in 1917, before turning his hand to fiction.

The plaque is to be installed at the site of the old Mackie Academy in Stonehaven – now Arduthie Primary – the school the writer attended during his formative years in Aberdeenshire.

The announcement comes during Book Week Scotland, the nation’s annual celebration of books and reading.

Thomas Knowles, head of grants at HES, said: ‘Since the Commemorative Plaque Scheme launched in 2012, we’ve celebrated a range of figures who have made a significant contribution to Scotland’s history – from artists to engineers; sportspeople to surgeons; politicians to poets.

‘Not only does the Commemorative Plaque scheme honour these figures, it also highlights the important links between people and places – making the connection between the individual and the built environment that shaped their life and work.

‘I’m very pleased to announce that Lewis Grassic Gibbon will be the latest significant Scot to be honoured as part of the scheme, in what will be a lasting tribute to one of the nation’s best-loved authors.’

Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s life would take him far from his Aberdeenshire home, including travels through the Middle East and India in his time with the Royal Army Service Corps and Royal Air Force, before he eventually settled in London until his death in 1935 at the age of just 33.

However it was the north-east of Scotland that would provide the setting for his most significant work, Sunset Song, the first book in what would become a trilogy entitled A Scots Quair.

Laura Mitchell, who nominated Grassic Gibbon for the commemorative plaque, said: ‘I’m delighted that Lewis Grassic Gibbon will be recognised in the town where he attended school before stepping out into the world to become one of Scotland’s greatest writers.

Lewis Grassic Gibbon

‘A plaque to mark his transition from the family croft in the Howe of the Mearns, to school at Mackie Academy in Stonehaven, is long overdue.

‘His years at Mackie Academy widened his horizons, and allowed him to form his own political, and often radical, ideas.

‘During his time there he witnessed the huge changes brought about by the First World War, and the loss of the generation of young men who attended the school before him. Gibbon’s famous novel Sunset Song details the huge changes the war brought and the ending of the crofting way of life. The book also details the town of Stonehaven as he recalls it from his schooldays there.

‘I’m pleased that Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s time in Stonehaven, in particular the time he spent at Mackie Academy, will be recognised through this plaque as vital in his development as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.’