Neil Miller  Gunn

Neil Miller Gunn was born on 8 November 1891, in the Caithness fishing village of Dunbeath, which is situated on the North Eastern coast of Scotland. He spent his early boyhood years in the village, which sets the backdrop of his novels Morning Tide, The Silver Darlings and Highland River. He moved to Dingwall at the age of 13 to study with a private tutor and live with his sister. After schooling he entered the civil service and worked as a Customs and Excise Officer , with postings in the Highlands, London and Edinburgh, before returning to the Highlands in 1921. 


Neil M Gunn Courtesy of Durmid Gunn

Neil M Gunn Courtesy of Durmid Gunn

During the 1920’s Gunn began to publish short stories, poems and short essays in literary journals. His first novel The Grey Coast was published in 1926 and The Lost Glen in 1928. His writing brought him into contact with other Scottish writers at that time, who came to be identified as Scottish Renaissance writers (which is the Scottish version of 20th century modernism)  and included writers such as Hugh MacDiarmid, James Bridie, Naomi Mitchison, Eric Linklater, Edwin Muir, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, and George Blake. An aim of the Scottish Renaissance writers was to establish a national printing press for Scotland with Porpoise Press ( now an imprint of Faber & Faber) and  Gunn’s first two novels were printed with them. An interest in Scottish Nationalism led Gunn to be active in the early National Party of Scotland. Gunn continued to write for the following years and became known as a leading prolific novelist, critic, and dramatist of the Scottish Renaissance writers.


By the time Gunn had published his third novel Morning Tide in 1931, he was married to the great love of his life Daisy Frew, from Dingwall, and living and working in Inverness. By 1937 he was a well established writer and resigned from the Civil service to become a full time writer. In that same year he published Highland River, that won him the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. 


After moving to Dingwall with his wife Daisy, Gunn produced over the next 12 years, 11 of his 20 novels.  His final novel The Atom of Delight was written in 1956 and marked the end of a 30 year writing career. Gunn spent the last part of his life living on the Black Isle, north of Inverness.


By the time Neil Miller Gunn died on 15 January 1973, his reputation as one of Scotland’s greatest writers was already rising to much critical and popular acclaim. 




Neil M Gunn Courtesy of Durmid Gunn

Novels by Neil M Gunn


The Grey Coast (1926)

Hidden Doors (1929)

Morning Tide (1931)

The Lost Glen (1932)

Butcher's Broom (1934)

Whisky and Scotland (1935)

Highland River (1937)

Off in a Boat (1938)

Wild Geese Overhead (1939)

Second Sight (1940)

The Silver Darlings (1941)

Young Art and Old Hector (1942)

The Serpent (1943)

The Green Isle of the Great Deep (1944)

The Key of the Chest (1945)

The Drinkinng Well (1946)

The Shadow (1948)

The Silver Bough (1948)

The Lost Chart (1949)

Highland Pack (1949)

The White Hour (1950)

The Well at the World's End (1951)

Blood Hunt (1952)

The Other Landscape (1954)

The Atom of Delight (1956)


Secondary Reading 


Neil M. Gunn: The Man and the Writer edited by Alexander Scott and Douglas Gifford (1973)

Neil M. Gunn: A Highland Life by F. R. Hart and J. B. Pick (1981)

Essays on Neil M. Gunn edited by David Morrison (1971)

Neil M. Gunn and Lewis Grassic Gibbon by Douglas Gifford (1983)

The Novels of Neil M. Gunn: A Critical Study by Margery McCulloch (1987)

A Bibliography of the Works of Neil M. Gunn by C. J. L. Stokoe (1987)

A Celebration of the Light: Zen in the Novels of Neil Gunn by John Burns (1988)

Neil Gunn's Country: Essays in Celebration of Neil Gunn edited by Diarmid Gunn and Isobel Murray (1991)

The Fabulous Matter of Fact: The Poetics of Neil M. Gunn by Richard Price (1991)

Landscape to Light. Essays compiled by Dairmid Gunn and Alistair McCleery (2009)

Belief in Ourselves. Essays compiled by Dairmid Gunn and Alistair McCleery (2010)



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