Few people would question the key role of Christopher Murray Grieve (‘Hugh MacDiarmid’) in the Scottish Literary Renaissance of the 1920s. His rebelliously controversial statements about Scottish culture and identity gave a dynamic new perspective on the nation’s arts, politics, education and philosophy. Frequently accused of egotism and eccentricity, he had a galvanising impact on Scottish cultural life.
In 1951, Hugh MacDiarmid’s publisher, William MacLellan, introduced the poet to Thomas Tweedie, the owner of Brownsbank Farm. Thanks to the Tweedie family, the Grieves lived rent-free at Brownsbank for the rest of their lives.
When they first moved in, the cottage - a basic but an ben -had neither water nor electricity. Ten years later, the actor Alex McCrindle raised money from MacDiarmid’s friends to install electricity and water and build a lean-to kitchen and bathroom. The cottage, as it is now, retains many of its original artefacts: portraits, wallie dugs, memorabilia.
MacDiarmid himself once observed, ‘This place is a growing shrine to my vanity’. Much of its charm derived from Valda’s flair for collecting esoteric items at jumble sales, not to mention her carpentry skills!
While most of the great writing had been done before they moved to Brownsbank, many works, including ‘In Memoriam James Joyce’ and his ‘Collected Poems’ were published while he and Valda stayed there.
From Brownsbank, he went on many world-wide journeys and the world also came to visit him. While his friends, the poets Norman MacCaig, Sorley MacLean, Duncan Glen, the composer Ronald Stevenson and others were regular visitors, he also entertained many visitors from furth of Scotland, including Yevgeny Yevtushenko, composer Alan Bush and concert pianist John Ogdon.
Historic house or home
By appt only
c/o Biggar Museum Trust