Please Sign In | Register
Google pluspinterestShare on Stumble UponShare on RedditFacebookShare on Tumblr
TITLE
'Highland River'
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_NEIL_GUNN_01
PLACENAME
Dunbeath
DISTRICT
Southern Caithness
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
CAITHNESS: Latheron
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Neil Gunn
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1415
KEYWORDS
audio
literary landscapes

Get Adobe Flash player

This audio extract is from Neil Gunn's novel, 'Highland River', first published in 1937. It is read here by James Miller.

'The little Highland community in which Kenn lived was typical of what might be found anywhere round the northern and western shores of Scotland: the river coming down out of the wooded glen or strath into the little harbour; the sloping croft lands, with their small cultivated fields; the croft houses here and there, with an odd one on a far ridge against the sky; the school, the post office, and the old church, where the houses herded loosely into a township; and inland the moors lifting to blue mountains.

On flat ground by the harbour were the cottages of most of the regular fishermen, but many of the crofters also took part in the fishing seasons, for wealth was unknown amongst them, and poverty had to be outwitted by all the means in their power. Sea-fishing and crofting were the only two occupations of the people, and however the rewards of their labour varied from season to season they were never greatly dissimilar over a whole year or over ten years. Thus in the course of centuries there had developed a communal feeling so genuine that the folk themselves never thought about it. They rejoiced and quarrelled, loved and fought, on a basis of social equality. Even the big farm was absent and so there were no bothies and farm servants, and none of the children that went to school had a father who thought of someone above him as "the master". The solitary exception was the laird's farm. It was run by a grieve and had a bothy where two ploughmen from a southern county lived. These ploughmen always referred to the grieve as "the maister", and this provoked a certain laughing astonishment amongst the children of that place, for the grieve was a cross-grained wizened little man and when he found boys playing about his stackyard or around the steading, he would shout at them in a high-pitched voice. They would vanish as if the devil were after them, and when they had got together again they would mimic him and double up with mirth.'

Neil Gunn was a prolific and distinguished novelist and dramatist, a leading writer of the Scottish Renaissance. His novels are set in the Highlands but are philosophical in tone and allegorical in nature, reflecting wider contemporary issues. A native of Dunbeath, Caithness, Neil entered the Civil Service in 1911 and spent time in London and Edinburgh before returning to the North as a customs and excise officer based in Inverness.

His first novel, 'The Grey Coast' (1926), is set in Caithness in the 1920s. He continued to write novels and contribute articles to magazines and periodicals. After the successful publication of 'Highland River' (1937), Gunn took voluntary retirement from Government service to write full time. He moved to Fodderty near Strathpeffer where he continued to develop his career. His final book, 'The Atom of Delight' is an autobiography of his childhood.

In 1948 Gunn's contribution to literature was recognised by Edinburgh University when they awarded him an honorary doctorate; in 1972 the Scottish Arts Council created the Neil Gunn Fellowship in his honour. There is also a Neil Gunn writing prize, run biennially and administered by The Highland Council and The Neil Gunn Trust.

For guidance on the use of images and other content, please see the Terms and Conditions page.
High Life Highland is a company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland No. SC407011 and is a registered Scottish charity No. SC042593
Powered by Capture

'Highland River'

CAITHNESS: Latheron

2000s

audio; literary landscapes

Am Baile

Literary Landscapes: Neil M Gunn

This audio extract is from Neil Gunn's novel, 'Highland River', first published in 1937. It is read here by James Miller.<br /> <br /> 'The little Highland community in which Kenn lived was typical of what might be found anywhere round the northern and western shores of Scotland: the river coming down out of the wooded glen or strath into the little harbour; the sloping croft lands, with their small cultivated fields; the croft houses here and there, with an odd one on a far ridge against the sky; the school, the post office, and the old church, where the houses herded loosely into a township; and inland the moors lifting to blue mountains.<br /> <br /> On flat ground by the harbour were the cottages of most of the regular fishermen, but many of the crofters also took part in the fishing seasons, for wealth was unknown amongst them, and poverty had to be outwitted by all the means in their power. Sea-fishing and crofting were the only two occupations of the people, and however the rewards of their labour varied from season to season they were never greatly dissimilar over a whole year or over ten years. Thus in the course of centuries there had developed a communal feeling so genuine that the folk themselves never thought about it. They rejoiced and quarrelled, loved and fought, on a basis of social equality. Even the big farm was absent and so there were no bothies and farm servants, and none of the children that went to school had a father who thought of someone above him as "the master". The solitary exception was the laird's farm. It was run by a grieve and had a bothy where two ploughmen from a southern county lived. These ploughmen always referred to the grieve as "the maister", and this provoked a certain laughing astonishment amongst the children of that place, for the grieve was a cross-grained wizened little man and when he found boys playing about his stackyard or around the steading, he would shout at them in a high-pitched voice. They would vanish as if the devil were after them, and when they had got together again they would mimic him and double up with mirth.'<br /> <br /> Neil Gunn was a prolific and distinguished novelist and dramatist, a leading writer of the Scottish Renaissance. His novels are set in the Highlands but are philosophical in tone and allegorical in nature, reflecting wider contemporary issues. A native of Dunbeath, Caithness, Neil entered the Civil Service in 1911 and spent time in London and Edinburgh before returning to the North as a customs and excise officer based in Inverness. <br /> <br /> His first novel, 'The Grey Coast' (1926), is set in Caithness in the 1920s. He continued to write novels and contribute articles to magazines and periodicals. After the successful publication of 'Highland River' (1937), Gunn took voluntary retirement from Government service to write full time. He moved to Fodderty near Strathpeffer where he continued to develop his career. His final book, 'The Atom of Delight' is an autobiography of his childhood.<br /> <br /> In 1948 Gunn's contribution to literature was recognised by Edinburgh University when they awarded him an honorary doctorate; in 1972 the Scottish Arts Council created the Neil Gunn Fellowship in his honour. There is also a Neil Gunn writing prize, run biennially and administered by The Highland Council and The Neil Gunn Trust.