Author of Sunset Song
If you’re one of the thousands of people who’ve read A Scots Quair or watched Sunset Song on TV, you’ll enjoy this tiny museum in the old school at Arbuthnott. The Grassic Gibbon Centre tells the story of James Leslie Mitchell, who wrote both in his own name and under the pseudonym Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
A Scots Quair is by far his best-known work. It was “drawn from life”: Grassic Gibbon was the son of a crofter, a small-scale farmer. His family lived in the Howe o’ the Mearns, the rolling agricultural land between Fordoun and Inverbervie. It’s now in Aberdeenshire but it used to be Kincardineshire, and many people still use the old name.
The dialogue is written in local dialect, the “speak o’ the Mearns”, which Mitchell grew up talking. Sunset Song was filmed, at least in part, on location in the area and using local actors who spoke the “speak”.
Visiting the Grassic Gibbon Centre
There’s a DVD to watch either before or after you go round the exhibition (you have to decide, so they can set it up for you). It gives details of Grassic Gibbon’s complicated life and prolific but tragically short career. The exhibition itself contains a lot of information about Grassic Gibbon and his books, and there’s lots of personal memorabilia on display.
Mitchell/Gibbon’s output was not confined to novels about north-east Scottish farming life. He began his working life as a journalist, but he also wrote biographies, books about exploration, history, book reviews and short stories. Something of a workaholic, he published seventeen books in seven years. And that’s with two small children in the house!
The Centre isn’t just a museum. It houses a gift shop, a café and the local Post Office in the same building. The local community owns, runs and uses the Centre and it also hosts functions relating to Grassic Gibbon and local events. Group visits to the Centre are welcome, by arrangement; they can even lay on supper for you.
A couple of miles down the road, in Inverbervie, you’ll find the memorial to another local boy, Hercules Linton, who designed the famous ship Cutty Sark. You can read the story here.
The Grassic Gibbon Centre, Arbuthnott, Laurencekirk, AB30 1PB
Tel.: 01561 361668