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James William Barke


1905 - 1958

Radical author. Born at Torwoodlee (Galashiels) in the Scottish Borders, he was raised in Tulliallan (Fife) where his father worked on an estate. The family moved to Glasgow, where Barke completed his education and went on to work in the shipyards in the years after the First World War. At the same time he became involved in socialist and nationalist politics and began writing. His first novel The World his Pillow was published in 1933. His subsequent works include Major Operation: The Saga of a Scottish City (1936), which argues the case for socialism, and The Land of the Leal (1939), considered his masterpiece. The recurrent theme of his early work is the depopulation of rural Scotland through migration to cities and abroad.

Later, Barke moved to Ayrshire where he edited the works of Robert Burns (1759-96) and produced a five-volume novelisation of the poet's life entitled The Immortal Memory (published 1946-53), which began with The Wind That Shakes the Barley. This balanced his talent as a novelist with his own research into Burns's life. He was also responsible for the definitive edition of Burn's The Merry Muses of Caledonia with Sydney Goodsir Smith (1915-75).

Barke died in Glasgow Royal Infirmary. The poet Hugh MacDiarmid (1892 - 1978) gave his funeral oration and his ashes were buried at New Kilpatrick cemetery in Bearsden.


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