Neil Gunn was part of that Scottish Renaissance in the twenties and thirties, which also gave us Fionn MacColla, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Hugh MacDiarmid (C M Grieve) and others. No, Virginia, twentieth century Scottish writing did not start with Trainspotting.
Neil Gunn was born in 1891 in Dunbeath in Caithness. His father was a successful fisherman. Hehad two sisters and six brothers. His father was ambitious for his family and Neil was encouraged to take the exams for entrance into the Civil Service. He was successful and became a customs officer, a post he held for twenty-five years, till he resigned to become a full-time writer. His experience as a customs officer gave him much knowledge of whisky-making, which he put to practical use in his book Whisky & Scotland. It also enabled him to travel extensively over the Highlands. In 1921 he married Daisy Frew, a woman six years his elder. They remain married till her death in 1963.
Gunn started writing short stories soon after his marriage. Soon after he became very much involved in Scottish nationalist politics. After having some success with his short stories, he turned to the novel and, till late in life, published a novel every one or two years, when he turned more to journalism and back to short stories. In 1937, he resigned from the Customs and Excise, bought a boat and sailed around the Hebrides, writing about his adventures in Off in a Boat. He remained active in Scottish politics, while continuing his writing. He died in 1973, ten years after the death of his wife.
Books about Neil Gunn