Person NameBrown; George Mackay (1921-1996); poet and novelist
ForenamesGeorge Mackay
Epithetpoet and novelist
ActivityGeorge Mackay Brown was born in 1921 in Stromness, Orkney, the son of a postman. He attended school in Stromness but after leaving school fell ill with tuberculosis and spent a period in hospital. He later studied at Newbattle Abbey College near Edinburgh and, with the support of the warden Edwin Muir (1887-1959), began writing and publishing poetry. Despite further bouts of illness Brown graduated from Edinburgh University in 1960 and did postgraduate work there from 1962 to 1964. Themes of death and resurrection are commonly examined in Brown's poems, which also draw upon the history and myths of Orkney, and upon Brown's experience of life there. He converted to Catholicism in 1961. Several collections of his poems have been published but his short stories and novels have generally proved more popular: 'Beside the Ocean of Time' (1994) was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and in 1998 he was awarded the James Tait Black Prize for 'The Golden Bird'.
He was made an OBE in 1974 and received honorary degrees from several universities. He contributed a weekly column to 'The Orcadian', having previously written regularly for 'The Orkney Herald'. From 1967 Brown resided at the same address in Stromness. He continued writing until his death on 13 April 1996.
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