John Buchan

Born in Perth on 26 August 1875, the son of a Free Church minister. The family moved, first to Fife, then Glasgow, in 1888. Here, Buchan attended Hutcheson's Grammar School, winning a bursary to Glasgow University in 1892. He was bright, with an obvious knack of getting on with people. Winning a scholarship to Oxford in 1895 he took a First in Greats in 1899 and won the Newdigate Prize for poetry in 1898. He began to write, publishing fiction and history.

Following graduation, he read for the Bar, and continued to write, before going off to South Africa from 1901-3 to help work on the reconstruction of that country following the Boer War. Returning to London he became a director of Nelson the publishers, and in 1910 published Prester John. This is an adventure story set in Africa; a prophetic tale of an uprising. Possibly his best known story followed in 1915 with The Thirty-Nine Steps.

He was a very competent mountaineer, having climbed in many countries including his own Scotland; several of his novels take place in wild areas, including part of The Thirty-Nine Steps. This was later made into a popular film by that master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.

In World War I Buchan was initially a staff member of The Times, then joined the Intelligence Corps in France. After the wars he became a director of Reuters. As an MP for the Scottish Universities, he sat from 1927-35. During this time he wrote about a novel a year, and also produce biographies of James Graham and Sir Walter Scott. In 1933 he was appointed Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Two years later this energetic and diplomatic character was made Governor-General of Canada, a post he held until his death in 1940, in Montreal, Canada, on 11 February.

Over the course of his lifetime, Buchan wrote over 30 novels and 7 short story collections, as well as a host of shorter works.