Seton Gordon lived from 1886 to March 1977. He was an naturalist, a photographer and a folklorist, whose books about the highlands and islands brought the magic of the area to a broad audience. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Seton Paul Gordon was born in Aboyne on Deeside in 1886, the son of a wealthy family whose private means enabled him to pursue his interests throughout his life. He was educated at Oxford University, but by that time had already fallen in love with the wilder parts of Scotland in which he would be seen for much of the rest of his life, usually dressed in a kilt and a deerstalker hat and accompanied by his wife Audrey. They married in 1915 and had three children.
Gordon was given his first camera at the age of 17 and in 1907, still only 21, published his first book, Birds of the Loch and Mountain. It has often been said that for the next three decades Gordon was the only full-time practising naturalist in Britain. In all, Gordon published 28 books (plus three more he co-authored) between 1907 and 1971. His titles are fairly evenly split between those about Scotland and those about birds, though often Scottish Birds. His 1927 book Days With the Golden Eagle and The Golden Eagle, King of Birds, published in 1955, did much to popularise this magnificent creature, and probably helped ensure its continued survival in Scotland. The first of these books remains in print today. A marked contrast was provided by his 1935 book, Sea-Gulls in London.
Gordon accompanied Oxford University Expedition to Spitsbergen as photographer in 1921, but his main love remained Scotland. He moved from Aboyne to Aviemore, and later to Duntulm on Skye's Trotternish Peninsula. For many, his classic writings about Scotland come in Highways and Byways in the West Highlands, published in 1935, and Highways and Byways in the Central Highlands, published in 1949. These books set out a rich tapestry comprising magnificent landscapes set against their natural history and the lives and folklore of the people who lived there.
Seton Gordon received a CBE in 1931. After his death in March 1977 a stone memorial was erected not far from his home on Skye. In the shape of a bench, the plaque on it reads: "In the memory of the late Seton Gordon, CBE, writer and naturalist whose twenty-seven books on the highlands and islands led many people to appreciate their beauty. His love of the Hebrides influenced his coming to Skye where he lived for more than fifty years among the people of this area."