George Mackay Brown (1921-1996)

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George Mackay Brown (1921-1996) was a key figure in 20th-century Scottish literature, achieving equal prominence as poet, novelist, and short-story writer. His work was rooted in the history, mythology, landscape, and speech of his native Orkney.

George Mackay Brown read English literature as a mature student at Edinburgh (1956-60) where he became part of the circle of poets associated with Milne’s Bar, including Hugh MacDiarmid (1892-1978), Norman MacCaig, and Sydney Goodsir Smith (1915-1975). After graduating, Mackay Brown began teacher-training at Edinburgh Provincial Training Centre, at Moray House, but was forced to give up due to ill health. He subsequently began a post-graduate degree on the poetry of Gerald Manley Hopkins, but again health problems intervened, and in 1964 Brown returned permanently to Orkney to pursue a career as a full time writer.

Edinburgh University Library holds an extensive collections of manuscripts by George Mackay Brown among its Scottish Literary Papers. These include correspondence between George Mackay Brown and Edinburgh University Library, including letters dealing with Mackay Brown's successful application for a summer job at the Library in 1957 (Gen 767/9 and Gen 1777).