John Buchan

(1st Baron Tweedsmuir)

1875 - 1940

John Buchan
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

John Buchan

Author, biographer and politician. Born at 20 York Place in Perth, the son of a clergyman, Buchan was raised in Kirkcaldy, and educated there, at Hutcheson's Grammar School, Glasgow, and the University of Glasgow. Buchan also had strong connections with the Scottish Borders, where his family maintained a home. He completed his education in law at Oxford and qualified as a barrister, but entered the Colonial Service in 1901 as Private Secretary to Lord Milner, High Commissioner to South Africa, becoming a member of the so-called Milner's Kindergarten who were to have a prominent influence on British foreign policy in Africa. Buchan became friendly with another member of the group, Philip Kerr (1882 - 1940), later Lord Lothian.

His first book was published by Thomas Nelson & Co. in 1895 and this was the beginning of a long relationship which saw Buchan becoming a Director in 1903. He is perhaps best known for The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915), but other works include Greenmantle (1916) and Huntingtower (1922). He also wrote a four-volume history of World War I (1922) and biographies including Sir Walter Scott (1932) and Oliver Cromwell (1934).

During World War I, Buchan worked for the Propaganda Bureau in the Foreign Office, was attached to the British Army in France writing newspaper articles and eventually became Director of Information for the War Office (1917-18). He also wrote a popular 'history of the war' which was published monthly by Nelsons between 1915 and 1919. The challenge of researching and writing around 50,000 words for each issue represented a remarkable feat of stamina.

Buchan became the Unionist Member of Parliament for the old constituency of the Scottish Universities (1927-35), Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh (1937-40) and a popular Governor-General of Canada (1935), dying in post. Buchan did much to define the post of Governor-General, strengthening the foundations of the modern Canadian state and Canada's relationship with the UK and the USA. He was responsible for the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939, the first ever visit to Canada by a reigning British monarch.

The John Buchan Story in the Borders town of Peebles celebrates his life.

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