The John Buchan Story occupies part of the ground floor of the Chambers Institution on Peebles High Street. You access it via a door beneath the arch leading into the Institution's large courtyard. It tells the story of John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, and one of the most enduringly popular authors of the 20th Century.
John Buchan is remembered as a prolific author of a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books, and most notably for bringing Richard Hannay to life in The Thirty-Nine Steps and the books that followed it in the series. His full and formal title at the end of his life was The Right Honourable John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, GCMG, GCVO, CH, PC.
Buchan was born in Perth, the son of a Free Church minister. The family moved first to Fife and then to Glasgow, where he studied at Hutcheson's Grammar School. He went on to Glasgow University, and then to Brasenose College, Oxford, where he won a prize for poetry in 1898 en route to a First Class degree in 1899, a year in which he was also President of the Oxford Union.
As well as writing books, Buchan spent time as a diplomat in South Africa between 1901 and 1903, and then took up a career in publishing before becoming involved with British Intelligence during World War One. After the war Buchan became a Director of Reuters. He also began to write historical works, becoming president of the Scottish Historical Society. In 1927 Buchan was elected as the Member of Parliament representing Scottish Universities, and in 1933 he was appointed Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
He relinquished both roles when, in 1935, he was appointed Governor General of Canada. He was ennobled at the same time, and it is no coincidence that the title he chose was 1st Baron Tweedsmuir. Buchan had strong family links to Tweeddale and his father had stood in as minister of Broughton Free Church, not far from Peebles; and met and married John's mother as a result. They moved to Perth before John was born, but he remained deeply rooted in this part of the country. A particularly nice exhibit is a poster advertising a lecture Buchan gave about Robert Burns on Friday 22 January 1915 in "Chambers Town Hall" in Peebles, presumably the same building that now houses the John Buchan Story.
The story of John Buchan was previously told in the John Buchan Centre, in a disused church in Broughton. Its move to Peebles has resulted in a number of changes. The space now occupied is much smaller than before, but the presentation is much more focussed and more professional. As a result we feel that the John Buchan Story is considerably more effective than the centre it replaced in guiding the visitor through John Buchan's several parallel careers and his many achievements.
Visitors to the Story move through a series of sections, each of which addresses a different theme. Once you are beyond the reception and small shop, you find an introductory section that leads on to areas looking at John Buchan's family background. A nice touch here are the books written by his sister Anna, who wrote 13 novels under the pen name Olivia Douglas to avoid confusion with her brother's works.
We then move on to Buchan's stellar academic career, his marriage and his early writings. This is followed by Buchan the adventurer, looking in particular at his time in South Africa, before a more sombre section dealing with World War One. The remaining sections look at Buchan's later literary career, his time as Governor General of Canada, and his legacy.