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Duncan McLaren

George MacDonald Diary


No story ever really ends, and I think I know why.
George MacDonald
Looking at the life work of George MacDonald from the perspective of a fictitious grandson

Duncan was Deveron Projects' writer-in-residence in 2007 during Huntly's celebrations of George MacDonald's life and legacy.

Much of George MacDonald's writing is informed by his experiences of growing up in Huntly. His novels represent a link to his early memories and the part Huntly played in his upbringing. He has also produced novels about the life, language and customs of early 19th century Scotland. But what would an actual diary of this man look like? It would be difficult, even impossible to determine, since George MacDonald's subjective and unique experience of Huntly would have been just as varied as each of the current residents today.


As a writer and artist, Duncan is particularly interested in blending biography, fiction and contemporary art in various forms. In Duncan's George MacDonald Diary, he documents his own experience of visiting Huntly, through engaging with a kind of George MacDonald 'trail'. Pretending to be MacDonald’s grandson for a wee while he takes us to his school, his church (which is now a bakery) and tells us childhood tales of the writer.

The publication is primarily a description of Duncan's experiences as he wanders through Huntly; two writers and their experiences of one place converge on the same page. Each of the stops on his journey possess a story to be told or information to be shared about George MacDonald; whether it is the local bookshop's current relationship with the writer in these days of Harry Potter or a walk around Ba' Hill. This process brings George MacDonald to life for the contemporary reader through Duncan's self-referential method that is both effective and somewhat humourous. Indeed, at one point in the narrative, Duncan slips in between biography and fantasy as he talks directly to George MacDonald through an agricultural pipe, only to try and explain to him about the Scottish Arts Council. What Duncan does through this episode is to highlight the distance between the past and present, though throughout the book he also suggests how the two can be simultaneous: the persistence of memory.


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A book with the text by Duncan McLaren and imagery of Kenny Hunter's sculpture was produced and is available from our Shop.