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James Barke (1905-58) - Novelist

He was bom at Torwoodlee, Galashiels, but spent most of his childhood in Tullieallan, Fife where his father worked on an estate. After leaving school he worked for a time as an engineer in the years after World War I, but turned to writing and editing for a living after the publication of his first novel The World his Pillow (1933). Barke's best novel is The Land of the Leal (1939), a thinly disguised autobiographical novel which traces the journey through life of Jean Ramsay, an aggressively practical woman
from a peasant background, and her weak-willed, poetic husband, David. It spans three-quarters of a century of Scottish life and Barke traces the couple's wanderings from the idyll of their childhood in Galloway, through work for the landed gentry in the Borders and Fife, to their fall from grace in the depression years in industrial Glasgow. Inevitably, as their children are born and grow up and as the years slip away, their rural background becomes another Eden, but Barke keeps sentimentality in check in his reflective description of the changing face of Scottish society. Jean and David are "pawns in the development of economic cause and political effect"; Barke had
already explored this theme in Major Operation (1936), which examines the industrial system in Glasgow from a worker's and a businessman's point of view. Barke edited the works of Robert Burns and was responsible, with Sydney Goodsirsmith, for the definitive edition of The Merry Muses of Caledonia; he also wrote a series of five novels about Robert Burns's life, which was published under the title Immortal Memory (1946-54).

WORKS: The World his Pillow (1933); The Wild Mac-Raes (1934); The End of the High Bridge (1935); Major Operation (1936); The Land of the Leal (1939); The Green Hills Far Away (1940); The Wind that Shakes the Barley (1946); The Song in the Greenthom Tree (1947);
The Wonder of All the Gay World (1949); The Crest of the Broken Wave (1953); The Well of the Silent Harp (1954); Bonnie Jean (1959).

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