10th December 1824

Author George MacDonald is born

Author and poet George MacDonald was born in Huntly and studied at the University of Aberdeen before training to become a priest. He spent some time teaching, and published his first work, Phantastes, in 1858. This was followed by more than twenty others, most of which are set in Scotland. 

Many of MacDonald’s novels have a religious foundation, and around half were written later in life when he was living in Italy. He had travelled considerably in his life, lecturing in the United States, and spending some time in Algiers for the benefit of his health. It was believed that the dry air of Algiers would be good for his tuberculosis. Tuberculosis was a family affliction, which claimed the lives of three of his eleven children.

Inspiration for JRR Tolkien

MacDonald is best remembered as an innovator in the field of fantasy, and is said to have inspired many other notable writers. Among these was Lord of the Rings author, JRR Tolkien.

His hometown newspaper, the Huntly Chronicle, described him on 22 September 1905 as “a genius of first rank, and… one of the purest souls that ever sojourned amongst men.” His books, said the Chronicle, “helped a generation that is fast passing on; they will never lose their power of helping the generations yet to come… his stories were essentially and characteristically Scottish, far more so than many later and more widely-read Scottish stories, but the aspect of Scottish life that he expressed has been comparatively let alone by other writers.”

The Bedfordshire Mercury, again on 22 September 1905, described his early works, David Elginbrod, Alec Forbes and Robert Falconer, as “veritable romances of Scottish life and character, written with humour and pathos, full of light and colour, and abounding in charming transcripts from nature.” He was, said the paper, “the forerunner in Scottish fiction of JM Barrie and Ian Maclaren, but he struck a deeper note than either, for he was the child of a more austere age who had fought his way to moral certitude in an age of doubt”.



Other events that occured in December

FREE Scotland history newsletter

Don't miss our weekly update on Scotland's fascinating history. We promise never to sell your data to anyone else, and there's a super-easy unsubscribe link on the bottom of each email so you can leave whenever you want.