Margaret Elphinstone lives once more in Galloway where she was working as a gardener when her first novel was published in 1987. She is the author of eight novels as well as poetry and short stories.
She is a graduate of Durham University and an Emeritus Professor of Strathclyde University where she was a member of the English Studies Department from 1990-2008. Apart from spells of academic work in the USA, she has spent her working life in Scotland including Shetland, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Moray.
When she was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Association of Scottish Literary Studies, the then ASLS President, Professor Ian Brown, said in his oration:
"Margaret Elphinstone’s career has been varied, including eight years living in Shetland and time as a gardener in Galloway. So, she has worked the length of Scotland and her writing has a parallel range. This is not just geographic. She herself has said, ‘My fiction is mostly historical and I usually write about people living “on the edge”’. She writes of the Stone Age, of Vikings, of mythical lands, returning often to the theme of journeying. Behind her work is impeccable research; her love of nature shines through; her prose embodies the beauty of words. She gives back to the writing community, too.
"A member of the Strathclyde University English Studies Department she became in 2003 Professor of Writing, and remains Professor Emerita. She has regularly offered classes in centres of creativity like Moniack Mhor, encouraging and critically supporting the next writing generation.
"Distinguished critics respect her – Professor Ian Campbell writes in The Edinburgh History of Scottish Literature: ‘Her work – assured, attractive, innovative – has the attraction of rarely offering the same pleasures twice, though certain themes recur. These include interest in the historic and mythical past, the Norse and Scandinavian invasions and influences on Scotland, a perceptible interest in the fantastic, a strong feeling for nature.’
"And the general public also admires her work: The Sea Road appeared in The List magazine’s ‘100 Best Scottish Books of All Time’. One may have sensible reservations about such lists, but they convey the public’s respect for the authors chosen. Margaret Elphinstone’s work is undoubtedly worthy of the highest respect."
Article in Kosmos - The Lie of the Land
Margaret Elphinstone's Essay The Lie of the Land appears in the Spring 2019 edition of the on-line quarterly magazine Kosmos
In an interview with Marie Goodwin which accompanies the article. Margaret says:
"No one wants to destroy the things they love, but it’s hard for us to stop being violent because we’ve grown up amidst carnage. All my life it’s been normal to see trees, hedgerows, marshlands, peatlands, shorelines bulldozed into oblivion, one habitat after another rendered uninhabitable to millions of living beings. It’s happening now, in this glen where I live, and its surrounding hills, while I sit here writing. I’m trying to write about life, and even as the words hit the page, they form an elegy. I don’t want elegy, I want celebration."
The Edinburgh History of Scottish Literature
In 'The Edinburgh History of Scottish Literature'. [Edinburgh University Press 2006.] Ian Campbell, in his chapter: Disorientation of Place, Time and ‘Scottishness’: Conan Doyle, Linklater, Gunn, Mackay Brown and Elphinstone says of Margaret Elphinstone:
"Her work – assured, attractive, innovative – has the attraction of rarely offering the same pleasures twice, though certain themes recur. These include interest in the historic and mythical past, the Norse and Scandinavian invasions and influences on Scotland, a perceptible interest in the fantastic, a strong feeling for nature......
"Elphinstone’s characters often travel over huge distances: her world is one of expanding vision, an attempt to connect to a half-understood natural world, to understand the perplexities of human characters in affection as well as danger and stress. She has mastered the short story (An Apple From a Tree, 1991) and full-scale fantasy (Hy Brasil 2002). Voyageurs (2003) is a confident and convincing excursion into those who explored and settled eastern Canada, the settlers who fought climate, indigenous people and misunderstanding at home to carve out lives in a really new world. "
Gleanings from the Glenkens
Gleanings from the Glenkens* is a compilation by members which celebrated the fourth anniversary of the CatStrand Writers, led by Margaret Elphinstone. This has been a group project but each individual voice is unique, whether writing poetry, prose or memoir. The experiences of 12 lives have gone into this book; a rich resource in terms of memories, ideas, humour, talent and philosophy.
To purchase a copy of Gleanings from the Glenkens, price £5.50 (+ £1.50 p&p to the UK), send an email.
*'The Glenkens' is the name given to the northern part of the ancient Stewartry of Kirkcudbright in Galloway in southwest Scotland.
Writedown : Lockdown in the Galloway Glens in the Time of Covid
When the Glenkens Writers’ Group, led by Margaret Elphinstone, based at the CatStrand, New Galloway, stopped meeting because of the Covid-19 pandemic, she launched an online writing group with 22 members living in Galloway or with connections with the area. Over the first 12 weeks of lockdown they recorded their feelings and views in lyrical poetry, desperate rants, droll humour and quiet endurance.
Writedown is the result of their work, tracking changing moods and attitudes as events unfolded and the writers expressed their fears, shared unexpected joys, spoke candidly of loneliness, dared to hope for a better future and despaired at the folly they witnessed. This is a moving record of thoughts, fears and hopes in one rural community living in exceptional times.
To order your copy email the Catstrand giving your phone number and address. You will be phoned and asked to make payment by credit/debit card. Writedown costs £7 plus £2 UK P&P.