George Douglas Brown
Born: 26 January 1869 Ochiltree, Ayrshire
Died: 28 August 1902 (aged 33) Edmonton, Middlesex, England
Pen name: George Douglas or Kennedy King
Occupations: Journalist, Teacher, Novelist, Short Story Writer, Critic
Notable work - 'The House with the Green Shutters' (1901)
George Douglas Brown (26
January 1869 28 August 1902) was a Scottish novelist, best known for
his highly influential realist novel 'The House with the Green Shutters'
(1901), which was published the year before his death at the age of 33.
George Douglas Brown was the illegitimate son of 52 year-old George D.
Brown originally of Sorn, Ayrshire, but then the farmer of the 230 acre
Drumsmudden Farm in Ochiltree, and his 32 year-old dairymaid Sarah
Gemmell/Gammell of Irish descent.
Sarah was illiterate, and
the Registrar on George's birth registration witnessed her 'X' as 'Gammell',
and not as it appeared on several other occasions as 'Gemmell'.
Baby George's father
George subsequently married another of his dairymaids, Margaret
Morrison, in Ochiltree, in April, 1871.
But by then young George
was residing with his mother Sarah, Grand Uncle John Gemmell and Grand
Aunt Mary Gemmell at 13 Main Street, Ochiltree.
Later in the 1870s,
Sarah, with her son, found employment at Duchray Farm, Coylton, where
she was again listed as a dairymaid by 1881.
Meantime, George senior's
marriage to Margaret Morrison had produced four children, one boy,
James, and three girls, Susan, Margaret and Helen.
From his schooling at Ochiltree, Coylton and Ayr, George's academic
performances subsequently allowed him to study Classics at the
University of Glasgow.
He thereafter went to
Balliol College, Oxford. However, his studies were interrupted in
early 1895 when his mother, Sarah Gemmell Hare, became seriously
ill. This persuaded him to return to nurse her at Crofthead, Ayr.
However, Sarah died
on the 13th of May, 1895 at Crofthead, and thus, thereafter, George
returned to Oxford to pass his final Greats Examinations and obtain
a 3rd Class Degree.
N.B. Sarah's Death
Registration reveals that her maiden name was actually HARE,
daughter of Arthur Hare (Farmer) and Rebecca Gemmell in Ireland c.
George Douglas Brown Snr.
died in Manse Road, Ochiltree on the 28th of September, 1897.
Later, George travelled
to London and worked as a journalist, contributing articles and stories
to Blackwood's Magazine, as well as a part-time editor and reader for
At one point he was a staff writer for Sandow's Magazine of Physical
Culture. In 1899 he published 'Love and a Sword' under the pseudonym
Kennedy King, the same pseudonym he used for his articles.
The next year he started work at Haslemere on 'The House with the Green
Shutters', which was published in 1901 under the pseudonym George
The book was a success,
and he planned a second novel to be called 'The Incompatibles', but
shortly afterwards in August, 1902, he contracted pneumonia and died in
London at the home of his friend and publisher Andrew Melrose.
The 'Green Shutters'
novel gives a strongly outlined picture of the harder and less genial
aspects of Scottish life and character, and was regarded as a useful
corrective to the more roseate presentations of the kailyard school of
J. M. Barrie and Ian Maclaren. Reprinted frequently throughout the
twentieth century, it was most recently re-issued by Birlinn of
Edinburgh. An annual event in Brown's memory, The Green Shutters
Festival of Working Class Writing, is held in Ochiltree, the town
believed to be the model for the village of Barbie.
In 1980, the BBC filmed a version of the novel as a play written by Bill
Craig, called, 'The House Of Green Shutters; and in 1983, the
Communicado Theatre Company toured Scotland with Gerry Mulgrew's
adaptation of it called, 'House Of Green Shutters'.
In December 2004, the house in which he was born was gutted by fire. As
of August 2007, the house in which he was born in Ochiltree has been
re-opened as "The Green Shutters Pub" and a memorial plaque to George is
located on its outside wall.
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