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Neil Munro

Find out more about Neil Munro, the famous author of Inveraray who wrote so much about the town, Inveraray, our local glens and the wider Highlands.

Neil Munro (3 June 1863 – 22 December 1930) was a Scottish journalist, newspaper editor, author and literary critic. He was basically a serious writer, but is now mainly known for his humorous short stories, originally written under the pen name Hugh Foulis. The best known of these stories are about the fictional Clyde puffer the Vital Spark and her captain Para Handy, but they also include stories about the waiter and kirk beadle Erchie MacPherson and the travelling drapery salesman Jimmy Swan. They were originally published in the Glasgow Evening News, but collections were published as books.


A key figure in Scottish literary circles, Munro was a friend of the writers J. M. BarrieJohn BuchanRobert Bontine Cunninghame Graham and Joseph Conrad, and the artists Edward A. HornelGeorge HoustonPittendrigh MacGillivray and Robert Macaulay Stevenson. He was an early promoter of the works of both Conrad and Rudyard Kipling.

Munro was born in Inveraray, the illegitimate son of Ann Munro, a kitchen maid.  He was brought up by his maternal grandparents and an aunt. He attended the Parish School leaving at 14. For five years he worked in the office of the Sheriff Clerk of Argyll, a fairly prestigious post that has led to speculation that he may have had undisclosed family connections.

He then moved to Glasgow and worked briefly in the cashier's office in an ironmonger's shop in the Trongate before working as a journalist on the Greenock Advertiser, the Glasgow News, the Falkirk Herald and the Glasgow Evening News. He semi-retired from journalism in 1902 to concentrate on other writing, but returned in 1914 and became editor of the Glasgow Evening News in 1918.

Munro published several novels under his own name. Initially he had some success writing historical novels, most of them set in the Highlands and exploring the coming of change in the comparatively recent past. His best-known novels from this phase of his writing career are John Splendid, set around Montrose's campaign in the First Civil War and his attack on Inveraray, and Doom Castle, set around the Jacobite rising of 1745, which was dramatised by the BBC in 1980. Later he attempted to expand his range, with more mixed success, writing novels with contemporary settings, including The Daft Days. In 1914 he returned to a Highland historical setting with the last and best-known of his novels, The New Road, dramatised by the BBC in 1973.

He then concentrated on journalism again, but his work was affected by his poor health and the death of his son Hugh in the First World War. In October 1930 he received an honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh. He died in CraigendoranHelensburgh, on 22 December 1930 at age 67. A private funeral was held in Inverary and a memorial service held at Glasgow Cathedral.

The Scottish Poetry Library

Read mnore about Neil Munro on The Scottish Poetry Library's website here

The Neil Munro Society Website


Read more about Neil Munro on Wikipedia here:

Read Gilian the Dreamer

Read Gilian the Dreamer - set in Inveraray here

A Thesis on Neil Munro

Read this thesis on Neil Munro byu Glasgow University student

Neil Munro and War

by Finella Wilson (Granddaughter of Neil Munro)

The author and journalist, Neil Munro (1863-1930) is nowadays mainly remembered for his humorous stories about the Clyde puffer captain, Para Handy. These tales have never been out of print since they were first published in 1905, but thanks to the efforts of the Neil Munro Society, his other major works of historical fiction  have been reprinted over the past 25 years.  


Growing up in the Argyllshire town of Inveraray, he came from a background which was no stranger to war. Men from Argyll had taken part in wars stretching from the Napoleonic Wars , through to the Crimean War, where the renowned battalion of foot soldiers, the 93rd Highlanders, had repelled an onslaught of Russian cavalry.  This incident in the battle of Balaclava became known as 'The Thin Red Line' from the bright red colour of their tunics.

Neil Munro's personal connection with the military started when at the age of 16, he joined the local volunteer company, and spent two years practising drilling and class firing . Then, when he went to Glasgow to further his career, he firstly rejoined A Co. Argyllshire and Highland Rifles for a brief spell with some old comrades also from Inveraray, when the volunteer regiments paraded before Queen Victoria in Edinburgh.  This turned out to be a most unfortunate event, as the troops had no food and spent the day in torrential rain, ending up soaking and muddy.  Undeterred by this he enlisted in the Glasgow Highlanders and spent 5 years in the ranks.   There he had friends from Argyll, with whom he could converse in Gaelic,  and the territorial battalions not only were issued with uniforms , but went to summer camps and were paid.

At the age of  20 he embarked on a career in journalism,  until in 1896 aged 33, he made the leap into writing fiction, a field which he had long yearned for. He did, however, continue for thirty years writing for the papers, particularly his columns for the Glasgow Evening News.

The theme of war emerges in all the threefold aspects of Munro's writing - fiction, journalism and poetry. Several of the short stories contained in his first published book "The Lost Pibroch and Other Sheiling Stories" have a background of conflict, and the story entitled simply "War", is included in this volume.  It is a tragic tale of the aftermath of the battle of Culloden - "The wanderer has ever the best of it and wae wae are the hearts behind!"

The names of  Neil Munro and Para Handy will be forever linked in the minds of Scots, and despite the dark backcloth of the theatre of war, Munro managed to find time to continue  entertaining the public with his humorous stories, about the wiley skipper of the Vital Spark.  As Boswell had said to Johnson:  ..."cheerfulness was always breaking in."  There had been brief allusions to the war in several stories, such as the existence of an anti-submarine boom in the Firth  of Clyde and minefields in the North Sea.  But mentions of war became more frequent, crew members of the puffer being willing or unwilling to enlist, rumours of naval battles, and the Vital Spark being engaged by the Admiralty as a minesweeper being banded about. During 1916, when Munro was back in Scotland there was a flurry of Para Handy stories published in the Glasgow Evening News, two of which echoed reports written from the front - 'Our Gallant Allies' and 'Truth About the Push.'

It is evident from what he wrote about the '14-'18 war that he had a great admiration for the role that pipers played.  In a short story called "The Oldest Air in the World" the main character is an elderly piper who had struck up a   friendship with a Breton counterpart who he had encountered at a church service while on active duty .  In 1916, he also wrote a piece for the magazine 'Country Life'  which had the title "Call of the Pipes to Scotland".  Looking at a completely different, but fascinating  view. of the war, one of his newspaper columns 'Rumours of War' appears to have been sparked off by the introduction of the Defence of the Realm Act of 1914 (DORA) These three pieces are also to be found in this book.  

In 1899 the Morning Post asked the author to contribute to an article, called 'Soldiers Three -   'Character Sketches by Distinguished Writers'  with the sub-title :'The following character sketches of representative soldiers, English, Scottish and Irish, are by distinguished writers who have shown a marvellous insight into the character of their countrymen.' Naturally Munro provided the sketch of the Scottish soldier.

After the war he was asked to write an introduction to a book called 'The 51st Division War Sketches', by Fred Farrell.   The book was published in 1920 and consisted of a series of illustrations of the men of the renowned 51st (Highland) Division in action, with a detailed introduction, being an account of the composition and deployment of the Division, the battles and close engagements it took part in and the heroic contribution it made to the Great War.

Both Neil Munro and Fred Farrell visited the front, and both painted pictures of the action. Munro in words and Farrell in images, a most successful association of a war correspondent and a war artist.

In essence it gave an account of much of what was significant in the conflict and actually gave Munro a chance to write about things which he had been prevented from doing in his role as a war correspondent, when his reports were heavily censored.

However, what has never seen the light of day since the Great War, are reports which Munro wrote from the western front. These reports, which are not only extremely vivid and moving, must be  quite unique in that they are written in prose which is often lyrical, and without doubt a cut above the average journalistic standard and style.

Some week after the declaration of WorldWar I on the 28th July 1914,  the author crossed the Channel, remaining on French soil until the 12th November.  During this period he was mainly based in and around Paris, visiting hospitals, cemeteries and some of the wrecked towns, and was not at the front. This visit was to be cut short when he was deported from France, as were many of the correspondents , the reason being that the government was unhappy about the news emerging from the war.

On his return the family spent Christmas with his eldest son, Hugh on leave from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, a meeting which was to be their last, as Hugh Munro was killed in 1915.   Throughout 1916 he made repeated attempts to go back , and succeeded in February 1917.  He felt that the British newspapers favoured the English troops and was keen to represent his fellow countrymen. Returning to Scotland again, in April he was asked officially by the Foreign Office to go to the front and write about the Scottish regiments.  This time he went in uniform and spent three weeks. His final visit took place in September 1918, when at short notice he was asked to go back and spend a week or so 'writing about  the Australian troops for propaganda.'

He wrote: " The conditions under which one is permitted to write from the front nowadays necessarily produce very thin and futile stuff" and he predicted accurately that his articles would never be re-published.  Reading the reports contained in this book, it is hard to think of them as either thin or futile.

His reports  were published in a variety of papers, and had obviously been syndicated.  Among the Scottish papers were: The Scotsman, The People's Journal of Dundee,  the Aberdeen Evening Express,and The Press  and Journal, and south of the border, the repoerts were printed in a variety of papers such as the Leeds Mercury, the Daily Chronicle ,the Liverpool Daily Post and the Overland China Mail.  This last one was a newspaper based in Hong Kong, which as a Crown Colony had many British residents. Several of the papers which published his reports claimed him as their 'Special correspondent.'


Neil Munro was not the only member of his family who played an active part in the Great War.  His eldest son, Hugh , in his final year of medicine at Glasgow University, abandoned his studies and enlisted alongside his friends in the Argyll and Sutherland Highland Territorials from Inveraray.  As a 1st Lieutenant he arrived in France on the 1st of May 1915, and was at the front for a mere 5 months, when tragically he met his end. 


He had kept a diary every day and the final entry was added by his servant , Private B.Graham: On Wednesday 22nd September while on wire patrol with a Seaforth officer, a corporal and a lance corporal, and the intention of capturing a German flag stuck on the wire entanglement , when he reached it he tied a piece of rope round his stick as he suspected foul play and some way or other a bomb which was attached to the flag exploded and he was killed instantly. It was signed ' A kind and thoughtful master to B.Graham ' .

In 1916 , Moira Munro , one of his four daughters, went to work in the National Filling Factory at Georgetown near Houston.  She became an examiner , overseeing the filling of shells, but repeated exposure to TNT not  only turned the skin yellow , but  had toxic effects.  The workers , who became known as the "Canary Girls" put a slip into every cartridge which sent good wishes to the men at the front.  Suffering from the adverse effects  of TNT she had to leave  and  went to work in the office of the matron of Princess Louise's Hospital for limbless ex-servicemen at Erskine.

As a poet, Neil Munro has seldom received much recognition, and he was not a prolific writer of verse.  In 17 years leading up to 1914, he only wrote 18 poems, but the constraint of having to make factual reports about the dreadful conditions of the war must have moved him in an attempt to convey something of what he felt.  He approached George Blackwood, his publisher proposing that he would write a series of poems based around the war, and these verses called 'The Bagpipe Ballads' were written during 1917, a period in which he had spent three weeks witnessing the awful circumstances of the war. 

A hundred  years later he received recognition as a Scottish war poet, when a line from one of his poems , chosen in a public poll, was inscribed on a cross erected in Makars' Court in Edinburgh.     

There is no doubt that war had a profound effect on Munro, and his health deteriorated  n the aftermath of his experience of actually being at the front of a war that was both brutal and bloody, and compounded by the loss of his son.  


In his own words: "Twas for the sake o' glory, but oh! wae upon the wars ." 


Neil Munro Talk
for Friends of the
Argyll Papers


by Finella Wilson.

Greetings to you all!  


As  members of the Friends come from all over the world and joined because of their interest in the Clan Campbell, many of you probably had never heard of Neil Munro.  And here in Scotland nowadays if you asked a lot of people if they knew who he was, you would be treated to a blank stare,  - unless they were of a certain age.  If the same question had been asked 100 years ago the reaction might well have been the surprise that you actually needed to ask. I grew up being aware that my grandfather was an author, but I really didn't realise how well known he had been in his lifetime, so much so that he once received a letter in the post that was simply addressed to Neil Munro, The Clyde, Scotland!

Members might also wonder what the connection could be between him and the Campbell archive.  To throw some light on this , I have to go back to the fact that Munro was the illegitimate child of a young woman from Inveraray,and the father was unknown.

My sister wrote a biography of our grandfather and during her research she came across a reference in a book "The Highland Clans" written by Sir Iain Moncrieffe of that Ilk.  Sir Iain mentioned Neil Munro thus:  "Neil Munro, so closely related, we are told to the ducal house of Argyll." 

 She wrote to him querying this and received a reply, in which he said that in his opinion the writer was almost certainly a natural son of the 8th Duke., and that he had sent copies of his letter to the current i.e. the 11th Duke. In the Duke's reply to him he wrote :  All I can say is that Niall (the late Duke) and more strongly his sister Elspeth were apt to consider Neil Munro as a by-blow of my great -grandfather (the 8th Duke.)  He went on to say : No. 8 was lavishly parental.  There's a tale about a widow beating on the doors of Macharioch with 3 of his alleged offspring when his wife Catherine (mother of 12 children) was in the house. In fact legitimacy in our tribe seems to have been fortuitous. I've heard that in the old 14thC days there were more children than armed men at our keep at Innischonnel.  Tell Neil Munro's granddaughter that I hope she's a cousin!

Although he has never been officially acknowledged as having Campbell blood, throughout his life he had a strong connection with the family.  When he was 15 he was taken to the funeral of the 8th Duchess who was buried at Kilmun near Dunoon.  Lord Archie, the 2nd son of the 8th Duke having read his book,  The Lost Pibroch contacted him, invited him to the castle, and  frequently corresponded with him. Later on when the Munro family were holidaying in Inveraray, Lord Archie's son, Duke Niall was in the habit of calling in to see them.

Sadly I never actually met my grandfather as he died 5 years before I was born.  But if I had, it would have been as a child, and children seldom know much about their grandparent's lives  I did know Granny Munro, as during the war my mother , sister and I stayed with her in Inveraray for 2 years, and I remember  Duke Niall coming to visit her.  He was extremely eccentric, wore a very tattered kilt and carried a  cromach  with which he poked holes  in the ground.


However I am really fortunate that  I was given the opportunity of getting to know Neil Munro, through his writing, reading his rather scrappy diary, numerous newspaper cuttings and my sister's book. My role as editor of the Neil Munro Society's  Journal for the past 13 years also meant I spent a great deal of time researching material such as family papers and scrapbooks.

Returning to the young Neil Munro, as a child his first language was Gaelic , and he was often addressed as "Laochain! Balachan ban!"  which means: little hero, fair haired fellow. He started school in Inveraray, but was a reluctant pupil, and often played truant.  Originally attending  the Parish school, at one point he decided he would rather go to the school up Glen, Aray where he had relatives and Gaelic was spoken, but then went back to the town school, where he was put out for disobedience - probably for speaking Gaelic which was not permitted by the lowland Dominie.  He then decided to try out yet another school , at the Free Church, but this lasted only a couple of weeks .  However this self imposed  somewhat patchy formal education was implemented by his growing love of books, which he often read during his absences from the classroom.  He had  discovered the Sunday School library and the rudimentary circulation library in the town and succeeded in reading every book available.

Many years later he recalled his school days as "those lovely, unperplexed and simple days, when I deliberately refused to learn anything and yet, in some mysterious way, was learning all that was to be of use to me in after life."

Schooldays came to an end when he was 12 and he spent his days  working for one of the Duke's tenant farmers herding sheep and harvesting turnips - which was  not much to his liking, but when he reached 14, his life dramatically changed as in his own words, he was "insinuated without any regard for my own desires, into a country lawyers office."  How this came about we don't know, but strings may well have been pulled.  So from being a reluctant scholar he became a reluctant clerk, but at least one part of his work stood him in good stead, as when present in the court, he noticed a reporter from a Glasgow newspaper writing shorthand.  He wrote away for a text book and taught himself Pitman's shorthand, a skill he would use when he himself became a journalist.

At the age of 18 he left his native town to seek his fortune in the city, and he sailed from Inveraray to Glasgow where he managed to find work as a clerk for the next  3 years.  In his spare time he spent many hours reading in Stirling's Library and buying cheap second hand books.  He submitted verse and short articles to the Oban Times which eventually treated him like an unofficial correspondent reporting the doings of West Highland exiles in Glasgow.In fact his first published work was a poem in this paper. Then in 1884 he saw an advertisement for 2 posts on the Greenock Advertiser, so he applied , taking cuttings of his pieces in the Oban Times, and was offered a job as a junior reporter.  This was the start of a long and successful career in journalism.  

As a young reporter he attended numerous and varied events of note such as the opening of the Forth Bridge , the presentation of  the Freedom of Glasgow to Stanley, the explorer , and watching Thomas Baldwin who was the first parachutist, jumping  from a hot air balloon, he also reported major murder trials of the time. However he always called it The Jaw Box of Journalism - and its incessant demands -  a jaw box being the name of a metal sink and comparing it to women being tied to the kitchen sink.  One of the demands of being a journalist is having to work to deadlines, but this followed him into his career as an author as his books were originally serialised in Blackwood's Magazine , so he still had deadlines to contend with.  From the Greenock Advertiser, he went to the Falkirk Herald , eventually ending up with the Glasgow News which became the Glasgow Evening News. As time went on he augmented his income by writing and selling short stories, and his first published book The Lost Pibroch came out in 1896.  

After 10 years he was promoted from being Chief Reporter of the Glasgow News, , to doing extra special literary work, reviews, leaders and special articles.

 Munro never thought of journalism as serious writing.  When he wrote the 3 lots of humorous tales which were based on 3 different characters - Para Handy, the skipper of a puffer on the west coast,  Erchie who was a Glasow waiter and Jimmy Swan , a commercial traveller, he insisted on a nom de plume being used.when they were published in the Glasgow Evening News.  What prompted him to embark on writing comical stories I wonder, was it a jeu d'esprit? when his interest really lay in what he considered as serious writing, the writing of fiction.  He didn't want his real name associated with these stories.  He presumably thought he would be taken more seriously as an author , rather than a journalist reporting events.   We are accustomed to the term a famous author, but not a famous journalist.  And the  day after he left the News , he described it as "First day in the house as a literary man."

And yet it was his journalism which gave him the entree into a diverse world of literary and artistic connections, as well as travel.  With groups of journalists he visited Canada, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland, the latter to report on the distress caused by the famine.

During this period  he met Hornel and MacCaulay Stevenson , two of the group of artists who became known as the Glasgow Boys, both of whom became lifelong friends.  At long last in 1897 he left  to pursue his long held desire to be a novelist  However he still produced two columns for the paper for the next 30 years, and did a lot of freelance writing.

The next 27 years he spent writing fiction :  8  - mainly historical novels, 3 books of short stories, and humorous tales, originally published in the Glasgow Evening News. He also wrote other stories and articles, poetry , and introductions. He  was frequently approached with requests to write  a variety of things ranging from speeches to plays such as a Gaelic play to be produced at the Mod. and a somewhat odd request to update the libretto of the pantomime The Babes in the Wood.

His books were not only published in Scotland , from an old cutting I found a list of 46 publications which had carried reviews and notices of his works.  Interestingly only 17 listed were Scottish, the rest ranged from the Manchester Guardian, the Telegraph, the Spectator, Pall Mall Gazette, the Yorkshire Post to Punch Magazine and the Liverpool Courier.  And from more cuttings it was apparent that many of the English ones had struggled with some of the language in the books. This is from the Birmingham Daily Post: " There is one thing about the book which makes it easier reading than The Lost Pibroch, the author gives us fewer of those unpronounceable Gaelic name and phrases with which his former work was peppered". And  from the Daily News: "But  is the archaic spelling of names such as Inneraora for Inveraray really necessary? It is irritating and it looks priggish." And lastly from the Manchester Guardian :"It is a remarkable fact that it seems impossible for anyone to write a Highland story without plastering his pages with wholly unnecessary patches of dialect."   Interestingly nobody seemed to pick up the fact that his prose was often unusual , the language often didn't sound like ordinary English.  He actually frequently wrote in what has been described as Highland English which adopts idiomatic Gaelic speech patterns which are very different.

Away from his writing Munro had a very busy social life and was invited to many banquets and balls.  I don't think my granny often went with him as she was a very shy and retiring person.  And he had occasion to meet many well known people and writers  - in his diary of 1909 the following entries were recorded:  April 17th visited Barrie, April 18th lunch with Galsworthy,   April 19th lunch with Arnold Bennett,   August 31st left for a tour of Italy with journalists. Barrie, of course, was James Barrie the playwright who wrote Peter Pan, and Galsworthy was the author of The Forsyte Saga.

The Glasgow Art Club was a favourite haunt, and one evening was spent in the company of the famous actor Sir Henry Irvine and Bram Stoker the author of Dracula.  Apparently this lasted from 11 in the evening until 4 a.m. ! He met and  corresponded with John Logie Baird, the inventor of television.  Baird wrote to him at the Glasgow Evening News asking him if he would mention the invention which was originally  called "Seeing by Wireless" in his newspaper. He also looked for an introduction to Lord Weir as he thought his name on the board of the company would be advantageous.  Munro , who was friendly with the Weirs wrote to Sir John Richmond, Lord Weir's half brother , asking him for his opinion, and in his letter he put "It would make me unhappy for life if I withheld from you this opportunity of conferring a scientific boon on the world which wants only the Televisor now to be perfectly happy and incidentally of making a little extra pocket money." Then later he wrote ,  "Take it from me that the whole future lies with gramophones.  Buy that stock in  large blocks and wait a year or two.  Tip regarding Televisors hereby deleted." 

 He obviously was very sceptical about the future of this new invention , and doubtless would have been astonished to learn that not only his novel Doom Castle would be made into a television series, but also Para Handy tales were made into 3 different series.

Somehow he managed to fit in  a sporadic interest in learning new skills.  He took lessons in French, and piano, and at least one lesson in playing the bagpipes.  He also tried riding lessons, played one or two rounds of golf - but none of these stood the test of time, and the only pursuit that lasted throughout his life was fishing.

When looking at his life, it is surprising that he found time to write, and he used to get letters from his publisher George Blackwood querying his lack of progress.  He had a long and continuous correspondence with the Blackwoods which covered everything from suggestions for new works, to prices and publicity.


 His life was interrupted by the Great War when he  went to the front as a war correspondent.  He tried many times to be allowed to go to France as he thought that the exploits of the  Scottish regiments were not satisfactorily covered in the British press.  He visited 4 times and at one point was deported, 


This was reported in the press in November 1914- with the headline:


ARRESTED IN FRANCE Mr. Neil Munro, the well known journalist and author who has been acting as special war correspondent of the "Express" in France, has, we learn, been arrested near Boulogne.

This has been a common experience with British War Correspondents  during the present campaign, and Mr. Munro, will , it is understood, be escorted to British soil. During his visit to France Mr. Munro has been constantly under the surveillance of the authorities and it is this policy of restricting news by correspondents which has excited so much controversy and even the protest of the late Lord Roberts.

Mr. Munro had been in Paris, but finding the censorship so drastic, left for an "unknown destination" and when near Boulogne he was taken into custody, a British officer, two French Gendarmes and a Scotland Yard Detective all taking an interest in his movements.  .

The story of Mr. Munro's adventures from his own pen, should in due course read as thrilling as one of his Highland novels.


Neil Munro himself described the incident as being "politely, but firmly deported by his Majesty's Army." 

All correspondents were considered in danger of seeing too much of the present state of affairs.


Thanks to the British Newspaper Archive I discovered over 20 reports he had written from France, which are extremely vivid, very moving  and written in his inimitable style.   He visited the battlefields as a Scottish eye witness and went among troops from the Highland regiments, the soldiers were always called Jocks and wore the kilt which was much admired by the French people.  And of course he was able to converse to them in their common language - the Gaelic.  He actually experienced what it was like to be present in such horrific surroundings, the dreadful carnage and loss of life, which included his own son who was killed in 1915.  He wrote:  "I stood yesterday on the frightfully battered and malodorous ridge of Vimy, watching the shells that shrieked over my head and burst continuously.."

Despite witnessing the awful scenes of war, his sense of humour still prevailed.  In one report he describes how in order  to get about he and a friend were loaned a General's charger, called Billy  and he wrote: "before MacLean and I were done with Billy, we introduced him personally to almost every kilt in the 9th Division and taught him Gaelic."  And during 1917 when he was back in Scotland he wrote  7 or so   of his humorous  Para Handy stories which contained references to the war.


And then journalism beckoned him back.  In 1918 he was appointed Editor of the Glasgow Evening News , and was forced to work very long hours  finally resigning in 1924.

But of the man himself.  The people who knew him and worked with him must always have been aware of his sense of humour. His friend and colleague, George Blake, writing about him,  referred to "the lightness of the hands on the reigns that guided us.  No editor was ever less solemn in his sense of importance, more blithe in his disdain of the grimmer sciences like politics and economics.  Politically speaking, Munro's editorship was nothing more than a joke."  And jokes he loved.  In a solemn meeting of the Board of Directors of the paper, a decanter of fine old Madeira was served, and its virtues were gravely discussed.  The following week , he purchased a cheap bottle of brown sherry and filled up the empty decanter - the elderly gentlemen partook of it , agreeing along with the Editor that there is after all nothing like a fine old Madeira. As Blake said " The fact is that the Neil Munro of real life was the jolliest of men, friendly , simple, infinitely whimsical," and he also wrote:  The professional psychologist can perhaps reconcile this sublime contempt for the profession of journalism with the ability to make to journalism as fine a contribution as any man ever made." 

There is no doubt that he applied the most rigorous standards to writing prose whether it was fiction or fact.  His wartime pieces, produced in such difficult and dangerous circumstances, were written in prose seldom seen in news reporting.


 As an author , he became a very public figure, and he was given 2 honorary degrees, and also the Freedom of the Burgh of Inverary, the latter which he had previously declined , as he thought he wasn't worthy of the honour.  As a father of a large family, he was quite strict, and my mother told me that when he was writing, the children had to keep quiet.  If they invaded his space they were told in no uncertain terms to Hook it.  But when he was away he always wrote letters to each of them turn about.

Despite his fame he never forgot the friends of his childhood , 3 in particular , the local plumber , a shopkeeper and an innkeeper, and on his visits to Inveraray he always met up with them.

In later life his health became a concern, and from time to time  he suffered from nervous exhaustion.  This became more serious after the war.  As well as losing his eldest son, it became apparent that he had been extremely badly affected by his war time experiences, and I think it is safe to say that he must have been the victim of  what we now call P.T.S.D.

He was occasionally  asked to give an opinion of his own writing, and in 1902 in an article in the paper The Highland News" contained  the criticism  I quote: "Munro has not much respect for the "Celtic Gloom' of which lowland writer have made so much."  "Celtic Gloom, responded Munro.  Why I have an eye far readier to see the fun and splendours and good thing generally of life than its melancholy"

Replying  to someone who asked him what influence started him in the writing of Highland tales, he is quoted as saying "Perhaps the most potent was a very fond regard for my native glens, which to me are the best and dearest in the world.  What you may like of my scenery was born of many hours of sea sickness.  And speaking about The Lost Pibroch" his first literary work he wrote:  My first syllables were Gaelic, and my main object in writing my stories in the rather unusual style they have, is to give an adumbration of the Gaelic language in English.  To reincarnate in English the rich and coloured loveliness of the Gaelic, a certain primitive and choice implicity of phrase is essential in the English, and a very limited vocabulary must be used.

Responding to a written request about his books from an Australian Literary Society, he wrote that he took most pleasure in writing The Lost Pibroch and Gillean the Dreamer.  The first named is certainly the most curious and original, the second is more personal, sincere and unaffected.  Structurally , the least unsatisfactory is Children of Tempest.  He then corrected his previous statement . and said that it was in the book's making of John Splendid he got his happiest hours.  He concluded :  The Shoes Of Fortune wants a soul.  Doom Castle is not bad, but perhaps a little too precious in its style.

After his death in 1930 there was a huge amount of newspaper coverage , and. numerous tributes , one of which started:  Neil Munro is dead and a light has gone out in Scotland.

He was buried in his beloved Inveraray, in the graveyard below the hill called Dunchuach which was the subject of his first published work, a poem which was addressed in heroic terms to the hill of Dunchuach.  

There are several memorials of Munro - the monument at the top of Glen Aray, the engraved flagstone in Makar's Court in Edinburgh - just a few feet away from the cross celebrating the Scottish war poets which has on it a quotation from a Munro poem.  And apart from his written word there are several portraits in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and and a bronze bust in the Glasgow Art Club.

Although I never had the pleasure and privilege of meeting him in the flesh , I feel very strongly that I really did know my grandfather.

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