At the opening meeting of the 2018-19 session of North Bute Literary Society on October 2, the members and visitors enjoyed an interesting talk by the author Lachlan Munro.
This was the entertaining story of Robert Cunninghame Graham (1852-1936) – writer, politician, horseman and extremely colourful character.
Born into an aristocratic family, Robert, then aged 17, was sent to Argentina to work as a gaucho on the family-owned cattle ranch.
While in South America Robert acquired his love and skill with horses, developed a desire to be politically active, and discovered a taste for adventure.
Lachlan Munro gave a quick description of Robert’s eclectic politics – becoming a Liberal MP in 1886, fighting a number of elections, helping to form the Scottish Labour Party in 1893 with Keir Hardie, being instrumental in the Home Rule Movement, forerunner of the Scottish Nationalist Party, and becoming the latter’s first president in 1934.
Robert was really an idealist rather than a regular politician – an anti-racist and anti-imperialist, a socialist and a radical.
His maiden speech to parliament was a sensational attack on hypocrisy and he was even jailed for six weeks for attacking the police during a Trafalgar Square demonstration.
Robert’s writing career is also fascinating. A prolific output of travel, biography, history and short story books. He wrote regularly for many years for the Scottish Review and was a special correspondent for the Glasgow Herald. Among his friends was a who’s who of great literature – Oscar Wilde, T E Lawrence, Henry James.
Lachlan also described some of Robert’s colourful personal life. The fact that he colluded with his mother to give his wife the exotic background story of being a Chilean poetess when she was really the daughter of a Yorkshire doctor was only uncovered 80 years after her death by some family researchers.
After such an entertaining and informative talk many members went home planning to learn more about this fiery character who touched many aspects of early 20th century life.
Lachlan chose the title of his talk (and book) to indicate Robert Cunninghame Graham’s predilection for ruffling political feathers and finished by saying ‘whatever your politics he was a great character’.
The North Bute Literary Society meets fortnightly in the Baptist Church, King Street, Rothesay. The next meeting of the Lit is this evening (Tuesday) at 7.30pm in the Baptist Church, King Street, Rothesay – “Mining in Argyllshire” by Marian Pallister.