Robert McLellan was born on the 28 th January 1907, at his grandparents’ farm, Linmill, in Kirkfieldband, Lanarkshire and it was boyhood holidays here which inspired his “Linmill Stories” (collected 1977) and exerted a lifelong influence on all his work.
After an education at Bearsden Academy and Glasgow University, McLellan dedicated himself to writing in Scots, the living language of the communities he grew up in. He was particularly interested in writing for the stage and his first play – the one act “Jeddart Justice” – was produced in 1933, followed swiftly by a full length play “Toom Byres” in 1936 and his best known masterpiece, “Jamie the Saxt” in 1937.
As he himself said in an article written for The Scottish Field in 1956: “ When I found that what I wanted most to do in life was to write for a Scottish Theatre I knew that I should always be poor, but I consoled myself with the thought that I could at least live where I liked.” That place was a tiny white-washed cottage, within the clachan of High Corrie on the Isle of Arran, which Robert and his wife, Kathleen made their home. Here, from 1938 Robert and Kathleen lived and worked, devoting themselves to writing, the bringing up of their two children, Johnny and Kathleen, their beloved garden and working for the well being of the Arran community.
Few dramatists have matched Robert McLellan’s skill at deploying the vigorous vocabulary of Scotland and his language is a beautifully lyrical, witty and intelligent Scots of his own time. As a younger Scots playwright, Donald Campbell, said: “ Robert McLellan wasn’t just a playwright, he was something else – something different, something special. He was a superb lyric poet who happened to have the additional gift of a theatrical imagination.”
That superb combination of gifts has given Scotland sixteen outstanding plays for the stage including the seminal, “Jamie the Saxt”, “The Flouers O’ Edinburgh”, “ Torwatletie”, “ The Carlin Moth” and “ Young Auchinleck”. It has also given us five radio plays, “The Linmill Stories”, two beautiful poetic works – “ The Arran Burn” and “ Sweet Largie Bay” which was awarded The Scottish Arts Council’s Poetry Prize in 1956, an unsurpassed history of the Isle of Arran published in 1969 and a pride in our linguistic heritage.
Robert McLellan was made honorary president of The Scottish Society of Playwrights and awarded the OBE in 1975. He died in 1985. The work of this modest man of intellect, integrity, lyricism and wit has exerted an enormous importance and creative influence on the development of Scottish literature and drama and it is our hope that it can continue to do so.