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Significant Scots
Douglas Gibson

Douglas GibsonDouglas Maitland Gibson was born in 1943 in Kilmarnock and raised in the small Ayrshire village of Dunlop (where his mother still lives) and went to Glasgow Academy before St Andrews, where he gained an MA at the University of St. Andrews. There he boxed for the Scottish Universities team, was president of the Students’ Union, and won the Sloan Prize in Lowland Scots composition, en route to winning the scholarship that took him to Yale for another MA.

He came to Canada in 1967 and entered the world of publishing in March 1968, as an editor with Doubleday Canada. Through a series of accidents he found himself running an editorial department at the age of 25, and publishing books set from Newfoundland (Death on the Ice, by Cassie Brown) to British Columbia (Vancouver, by Eric Nicol) and editing authors ranging from Harry J. Boyle (The Great Canadian Novel) to Barry Broadfoot (Ten Lost Years.)

He joined Macmillan of Canada as Editorial Director in 1974 and became Publisher in 1979. In those years he had the privilege of editing authors such as Morley Callaghan, Hugh MacLennan, Bruce Hutchison, and Robertson Davies. Early in 1986 he joined McClelland & Stewart as Editor and Publisher of a new line of books under his own imprint, a first in Canada. Since then Douglas Gibson Books has published works by authors such as Alice Munro, Peter Gzowski, Jack Hodgins, James Houston, W.O. Mitchell and Mavis Gallant. In September, 1988 the Douglas Gibson Books line was reduced to three titles a year when he became Publisher of McClelland & Stewart, overseeing all of its books and attracting to the house many former associates, including Robertson Davies, Ken Dryden, Myrna Kostash, Jeffrey Simpson, Michele Landsberg, Roy MacGregor and Guy Vanderhaeghe. In June 2000 he became President and Publisher of McClelland & Stewart.

As an old friend of Hugh MacLennan, he was one of four eulogists at his funeral in Montreal in 1990. A year later the anthology Hugh MacLennan's Best, "selected and edited by Douglas Gibson," was published, and in 1994 he contributed to the University of Ottawa Press book Hugh MacLennan. He edited the anthology The Merry Heart; Selections 1980-1995 by Robertson Davies one year after Professor Davies' death, and he has since published posthumous books by his friend W.O. Mitchell.

As a member of the publishing community he has taught courses in editing to many groups, including the Book Publishers' Professional Association and EAC, and contributed the title chapter to the booklet "Author and Editor." From its creation in 1981 he was a Faculty Advisor to the Banff Publishing Workshop, and from 1985 to 1989 was the Co-Director of the course. He was the Chair of the Advisory Board of the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing at Simon Fraser University from 1988-1993 and is now an Honorary Advisory Board Member, and an adjunct faculty member for the Master of Publishing program at S.F.U. In 1995 he delivered the annual Hugh MacLennan Lecture at McGill University. He is a member of the Quadrangle Society of Massey College, and the Scottish Studies Board at the University of Guelph.

As a writer, his work has appeared in the anthology, The Bumper Book, in a book on Alistair MacLeod and in Saturday Night, Toronto Life, Books in Canada, the National Post and the Globe and Mail, and one of his pieces was nominated for a National Magazine Award for Humour. From 1981 till early in 1984 he was the weekly movie reviewer for the CBC radio programme "Sunday Morning." In a more serious vein, he has given speeches to groups as varied as the Canadian Oral History Association, the CNIB, and the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, and he made the keynote speech at the Ottawa press conference in 1987 that launched the campaign "Don't Tax Reading." He spoke as a Canadian representative at the International Publishers' Association Convention in London in 1988. As a Council Member of Historica he has spoken at a number of Canadian Clubs.

In 1991 he received the rarely-presented Canadian Booksellers' Association President's Award "for the numerous important Canadian books and authors he has developed over the years." Since that time his encounters with major M&S books - from The Ice Storm to No Great Mischief, which he extracted from Alistair MacLeod - and with authors ranging from Andy Russell to Toller Cranston and from John Crosbie to Pierre Trudeau, have provided him with material for many speeches across the country.

Douglas is in demand as an authority on Robert Burns (having translated his Address To A Haggis into modern English) and has spoken at Burns Suppers in Toronto, Montreal, and even been invited back to Scotland. He was elected First Vice-President of The St. Andrew’s Society of Toronto in 2005.

In 2005 he was voted "Scot of the Year" and honoured at the Tartan Day Dinner at Casa Loma in Toronto on 5th April 2005.

The father of two daughters, he lives in Toronto with his wife, Jane Brenneman Gibson.

Douglas was awarded the "The Order of Canada" in 2017.

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