The Lewis Grassic Gibbon Centre celebrates the life and work of one of Scotland's most distinguished 20th Century authors. Open since 1992, it is home to an exhibition of the author's writings and possessions, as well as a cafe offering light meals and refreshments throughout the day.
Lewis Grassic Gibbon lived from 13 February 1901 to 7 February 1935. Born James Leslie Mitchell, he was a Scottish writer whose book Sunset Song, is widely regarded to have been one of the best Scottish books of the 20th Century. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
James Leslie Mitchell was born in 1901 in Auchterless in Aberdeenshire. As a child his family moved to Arbuthnott in the Howe of the Mearns, Kincardineshire, inland from the coast at Inverbervie. His talent was recognised early by a schoolmaster, but after leaving school at 16, Mitchell's first attempts to make a living as a journalist, writing for the Aberdeen Journal and the Scottish Farmer were far from successful.
Mitchell began writing full time in 1929. He produced a steady output of journalistic and critical material as J. Leslie Mitchell but increasingly also used the pen name of Lewis Grassic Gibbon derived from his mother's maiden name, for his major works.
It is under his pen name that Mitchell is best known, and Lewis Grassic Gibbon produced 17 full length books between 1928 and 1934. Best known of these was Sunset Song, published in 1932. Together with Cloud Howe (1933) and Grey Granite (1934) it formed his famous Scottish Quair trilogy, a gritty account of one woman's life in the Mearns before and after the First World War. Gibbon also produced two books that can be classified as science fiction, a book inspired by his travels in the Middle East, a biography of Mungo Park, and a variety of other work. In 1934 he published a book written in collaboration with the poet Hugh MacDiarmid: Scottish Scene.
James Leslie Mitchell left Scotland to join the army in 1919, and afterwards settled in southern England, where he lived until his untimely death in 1935. Lewis Grassic Gibbon, however, because of his upbringing and most of all because of the setting of his best known works, will forever be associated with the Howe of the Mearns, and with Arbuthnott in particular. This purpose built centre, adjacent to Arbuthnott Village Hall, is a fitting place for him to be remembered.