Samuel Rutherford Crockett

September 24, 1860 - April 16, 1914

Penicuik’s Free Church Minister - a popular storyteller of his times

Brought up on a Galloway farm at Duchrae, Balmaghie, in Kirkcudbrightshire, in 1859, Samuel Rutherford Crockett went to school in Castle Douglas and graduated from Edinburgh University in 1879. After travelling across Europe as a tutor he was appointed minister of the Free Church in Penicuik in 1886. In that same year he published Dulce Cor a collection of verse.  J.M. Barrie and the Kailyard school of writing had created a demand for stories in Lowland Scots when S.R. Crockett published his successful story The Stickit Minister in 1893.  It was followed by a rapidly produced series of popular novels frequently featuring the history of Scotland and his native Galloway. He gave up the ministry and concentrated on his writing.



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How did a hardworking Minister take up the pen as a novelist?  Ministers as tellers of tales

Some background

Galt’s Annals of  the Parish

Rebirth of Scottish Presbyterianism in the disruption

Weekly Journalism –Dickens, Norman Macleod, William Robertson Nicoll

Good works: Thomas Guthrie, Norman Macleod

Fictional Ministers as writers “John Strathesk

J, M, BarrieG


Norman Macleod 1812-72, Scottish clergyman. He was one of the foremost preachers of his time and was also noted for his work among the poor of Glasgow, ready to devote his eloquence and his talents to all schemes for her spiritual, moral, and sanitary advancement. His heart's desire was to break down if he could the barrier that existed between rich and poor - to name, as he used to phrase it, the east and the west unite together. His heart, too large to know distinctions of class, knew as little of distinctions of sect, and the very catholicity of his spirit was perhaps the only weapon which was ever employed to wring his own heart. For it was sometimes said he was too "broad." Too broad! "So long," he said, in the last speech he ever delivered in the General Assembly, "as I have a good conscience towards God, and have His sun to shine on and can hear the birds singing, I can walk across the earth with a joyful and free heart. Let them call me broad.' I desire to be broad as the charity of Almighty God, who maketh His sun to shine on the evil and the good: who hateth no man, and who loveth the poorest Hindoo more than all their committees or all their Churches. But while I long for that breadth of charity, I desire to be narrow - narrow as God's righteousness, which as a sharp sword can separate between eternal right and eternal wrong."  He was editor (1860-72)

Writers in Lowland Scots found a ready market in the “Peoples Friend” and similar Dundee-based journals. Alexander Anderson (1845-1909) a surfaceman on the Glasgow & South Western Railway, had launched his poetry in this way and eventually became Librarian of the University of Edinburgh.  The Free Church minister turned journalist William Robertson Nicoll (1851-1923) became an industrious outrider of the improving school of journalism through his British Weekly. The upheaval of the Disruption of the Church of Scotland was now a fading memory, but the ministers sought to reach a much wider audience in popular culture and there was a ready market for historical morality.

Grierson, Reith, Sim some 20th century examples

People’s Friend, and the British Weekly elsewhere, and among othe émigré Scots all over the world.

accused of sanitising Scottish life and creating an overly sentimental and unrealistic view of rural living hiding many of the hardships.

Kailyard style associated with  J.M. Barrie.

Crockett’s writing however was not always so idealistic. His stories were often realistic depictions of the working life of miners or factory workers or dramatic and bloody affairs about Covenanters, family feuds and even , in ‘The Grey Man’ the horror of the legendary story of Sawney Bean and his family of cannibals.




The Raiders, The Lilac Sun-bonnet and Mad Sir Uchtred in 1894

The Men of the Moss Hags in 1895

Cleg Kelly and The Grey Man in 1896

The Surprising Adventures of Sir Toady Lion (1897)

The Red Axe (1898)

The Black Douglas (1899)

Kit Kennedy (1899)

Joan of the Sword Hand and Little Anna Mark in 1900

Flower o' the Corn (1902)

Red Cap Tales (1904)

“For such monsters have not been heard of, much less seen, in the history of any country as were Sawney Bean and his crew in the cave upon the seashore of Bennanbrack.”

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Ill health

Crockett often spent the winter abroad

died suddenly in France in 1914.


• The Stickit Minister – 1893

• The Raiders - 1894

• The Lilac Sun-bonnet – 1894

• Mad Sir Uchtred – 1894

• The Men of the Moss Hags – 1895

Cleg Kelly – 1896

• The Grey Man – 1896

• The Surprising Adventures of Sir Toady Lion – 1897

Lochinvar - 1898

• The Red Axe – 1898

• The Black Douglas - 1899

• Kit Kennedy – 1899

• Joan of the Sword Hand – 1900

• Little Anna Mark – 1900

• Flower o’ the Corn - 1902

• Red Cap Tales – 1904

• Adventurer in Spain – 1904

• The White Plumes of Navarre – 1906

• Men of the Mountain – 1909

XLIII - TO S. R. CROCKETT (On receiving a Dedication)


BLOWS the wind to-day, and the sun and the rain are flying,

Blows the wind on the moors to-day and now,

Where about the graves of the martyrs the whaups are crying,

My heart remembers how!


Grey recumbent tombs of the dead in desert places,

Standing stones on the vacant wine-red moor,

Hills of sheep, and the howes of the silent vanished races,

And winds, austere and pure:


Be it granted me to behold you again in dying,

Hills of home! and to hear again the call;

Hear about the graves of the martyrs the peewees crying,

And hear no more at all.




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