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Biography of John Buchan

Photo of John Buchan

John Buchan (First Baron Tweedsmuir) was an early twentieth century novelist.

When and Where was he Born?

26th August 1875, Perth, Scotland.

Family Background:

Buchan was the son of a free church Minister.


Hutcheson’s Boys School. Glasgow University. Brasenose College, Oxford.

Timeline of John Buchan:

1901: Buchan finishes his studies as a lawyer and is called to the Bar. He becomes private secretary to Lord Milner who was the High Commissioner for South Africa.

1903: He returns to Britain to become a director of the firm of Nelson’s the publishing house.

1907: He marries Susan Grosvenor.

1909: He had begun writing adventure stories in his spare time which culminates in the publication of his first novel “Prester John”.

1914: At the start of the First World War he serves on the staff at Army headquarters, a post he held until 1917.

1915: Publication of his most famous thriller “The Thirty Nine Steps” featuring his spy Richard Hannay which he wrote in Broadstairs, Kent whilst recovering from an illness. Hannay was based on a young Army officer Lieutenant, Edmund Ironside, whom he had met in South Africa during the Boer War.

1917: Buchan is made Director of Information.

1927: He is elected Member of Parliament for the Scottish Universities.

1928: He writes a biography of Montrose.

1932: Buchan writes a biography of Sir Walter Scott.

1935: He is raised to the Peerage as the First Baron Tweedsmuir as he was made Governor-General of Canada.

1937: He is made a Privy Councillor and Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh.

1940: On 6th February he suffers a severe stroke after falling at Rideau Hall. Two operations by Doctor Penfield of the Montreal Neurological Institute were unsuccessful.

When and Where did he Die?

11th February 1940, Montreal, Canada of complications from a stroke after a received after a fall.

Age at Death:


Written Works:

1909: “Prester John”.
1922: “Huntingtower”
1915: “The Thirty-Nine Steps”.
1916: “Greenmantle”.
1917: “Poems Scots and English”.
1919: “Mr Standfast”.
1924: “The Northern Muse”, “The Three Hostages”,
1927: “WitchWood”
1928: “Montrose”.
1932: “Sir Walter Scott”.


1907 To Susan Grosvenor.

Site of Grave:

St. Thomas of Canterbury Churchyard, Elsfield, Oxfordshire, England.

Places of Interest:


The British Library.


The John Buchan Centre in Broughton closed in 2012. The collection (and much more) moved to a new purpose-built museum in Peebles called the John Buchan Story, which opened in November 2012. (See for more details). The new museum explores the variety and scale of Buchan’s public, personal and literary life through displays, personal memorabilia, photographs and books.

John Buchan Story, The Chambers Institution, High Street, Peebles, Scottish Borders, EH45 8AG.

Further Information:

John Buchan Society, c/o Kenneth Hillier, Green Mairn Street, Kings Newton, Malsonne, Derby, DE73 1EX.