The John Buchan Story, The Chambers Institution, Peebles, Scottish Borders, EH45 8AG

Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation No SC042519

The John Buchan Story Peebles


Something to look forward to!                               Updated 3rd March 2017

Ursula read Modern History at Cambridge and was for many years a gardening journalist and author, but has recently turned more to social history, with a study of gardening in the Second World War. She has written 17 books so far. She is a daughter of John Buchan's second son, William.

We are delighted to hear that Ursula Buchan is busy with her pen! We will keep you posted on her progress!

It's been more than twenty years since the last full-length biography of John Buchan was published, so it's good to know that another one is on the way. Ursula Buchan is at present engaged on writing a 'life' of her grandfather, to be published by Bloomsbury Publishing in late 2018, all being well. Ursula is very grateful that she's been able to study the archives and photographs held in the Museum in Peebles, amongst many other places. Last year, she spent several weeks in Canada, doing research in the archives held by Queen's University, and visiting the places where John Buchan and his wife, Susan, lived when he was Governor-General. She hopes to finish the book by the end of the year. When asked, she said it was the most fascinating project that she had ever attempted.

Multimedia in the Museum - 14th April

We are pleased to announce that our multimedia is now operational thanks Russell Eggleton of Peebles-based Abound Design & Interpretation Ltd. The presentation features various aspects of John Buchan's life and work. So visitors to the museum will be able to experience Buchan's scenes from the films, his work as a statesman as Governor-General of Canada,  the background to “Greenmantle” - just to mention a few of the exciting features.

Peebleshire War Memorial Remembered – Peebleshire News Friday 25 November 2016

THIS week sees the first in our new series of features from the team at Live Borders Museum & Gallery Service, Tweeddale Museum.

In the first edition, we look at the history of the Peeblesshire War Memorial. Standing 40ft high within the quadrangle of the Chambers Institute, the Peebles Burgh and County War Memorial is one of the finest in Scotland.  The beautiful, contemplative shrine – which uniquely combines graceful Renaissance architecture and vibrant Moorish art – commemorates those 541 men and women of Peeblesshire who fell in the Great War 1914 to 1918 and the 110 who died in World War II between 1939 and 1945.

The memorial was unveiled on October 5, 1922, by Field Marshall Earl Haig, Commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force.

Two of the fallen in World War I were awarded the Victoria Cross: Piper James Richardson (aged 20, Seaforths, British Columbia), who played his men ‘over the top’, under fire, at the Somme in 1916; and Lt. Thomas Colyer Fergusson (aged 21, Northamptons), who, with a few men, took an enemy trench and two machine-gun posts during a single engagement at Ypres in 1917.

The memorial consists of a domed, classical pavilion in striking Renaissance style, which is flanked by screen walls.

In 1919, the architect, BNH Orphoot, outlined his design proposals thus: “The central interest of the scheme is a delicate cross, standing on a low pedestal, enriched with mosaics in the colour of those in the Cathedral of Monreale at Palermo. The cross is sheltered by a light arcaded stone canopy, or baldachio, hexagonal on plan with domed roof covered with copper. The canopy is flanked by simple stone walls, with recesses for stone seats and bronze panels to contain the names of the fallen. “By the use of copper in the canopy, and the introduction of the rich Saracenic mosaics on the cross, it is hoped to get a bright note of colour, which is otherwise lacking in the surroundings.”

Orphoot reflects the round-arched, keystoned openings of the Burgh Hall in the arcading of the shrine, and celebrates the ogee-capped towers of the Institute in the design of the roof. The Celtic cross of Sicilian ‘billiemi’ – a rare, grey nougat-like marble – and the intricate mosaics were executed by Professor Guiseppee Matranga of Palermo. The great bronze panels were made by the Bromsgrove Guild of London. The lettering was carved by Thomas Beattie; the contractors were James Millar and Sons from Edinburgh; and the mosaic tile was by Leonard Grandison and Son from Peebles

  Alastair Buchan Commemoration Service – April 2017

On 9th April 2017, the centenary of the death of Alastair Buchan, John Buchan’s  treasured younger brother, will be marked in Peebles Kirkyard, where the family grave is.  A short Service of Commemoration and Dedication will take place at 2 p.m., conducting by the Very Rev. Dr Ian Bradley, a Buchan scholar and now a Chaplain to the British Legion in Scotland.

In 1919, Alastair’s mother, Helen Buchan, commissioned a wooden replica of the cross on his grave in Duisans  Cemetery , a few miles West of Arras.  It was placed on the family grave   here in Peebles but, after nearly a century, it succumbed to the rigours of the weather.  It has been restored by Alastair’s great-nephew and will be reinstated and blessed on this occasion.

Alastair was killed on the same day and in the same battle as Thomas Nelson,  John Buchan’s great friend  from Oxford and with whom he worked in the eponymous Edinburgh publishing house.  Also killed was Edward Thomas, the poet, perhaps best known for Adelstrop  but in the winter of 1916 he had written these lines :

Now all roads lead to France

And heavy is the tread

Of the living, but the dead

Returning lightly dance

John Buchan, in a long narrative poem dedicated to Alastair , recalls his first visit to the grave later that April:

And as I stood beside the grave,

 Where, ‘mid your kindly Scots you lie.

I could not think that one so brave,

 So glad of heart so kind of eye.

And found the deep and dreamless rest,

 Which men may crave who bear the scars

Of weary decades on their breast,

 And yearn for slumber after wars

You scarce had shed your boyhood years,

 In every vein the blood ran young.

Yours soul uncramped by ageing fears,

 Your tales untold, your songs unsung.

As if my sorrow to beguile

 I heard the ballad’s bold refrain:

I’ll lay me downe and bleed awhile,

 And then I’ll rise and fight again.

Do join us for this short Commemoration , followed by tea and shortbread in the John Buchan Story Museum.

Watch: New tourism video aims to get visitors flocking to the region -

Peebleshire News 3 March 2017

news headline / lead story

Mountain biking at Glentress. Photo: VisitScotland/Kenny Lam

A FILM inspired by renowned author John Buchan’s ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’ has been created by tourism bosses to attract more visitors to the region.

The video, which has been produced by VisitScotland in partnership with Scottish Borders Council, brings the Borders to life by showing off everything from the award-winning mountain bike trails at Glentress to the Abbeys at Dryburgh, Melrose, Jedburgh and Kelso.

And the work has been influenced by the famous author, whose parents grew up in Tweeddale.

Doug Wilson, VisitScotland regional director, said: "This unique film builds of the success of VisitScotland’s Spirit of Scotland global campaign and #ScotSpirit social movement which aims to raise the profile and reputation of the region as an outstanding place to visit, and to invest, live and work in.

"The film invites visitors to literally step into the Scottish Borders and discover all that there is on offer. 

"The film is an additional asset for VisitScotland and our partners to promote the region and its many assets to visitors at home and further afield. We hope it will encourage people to share their own experience on our online iKnow community and entice others to discover the magic of the region for themselves."

And many Borders businesses, attractions and festivals have been featured, including: Abbotsford House, Dawyck Botanic Garden, Bowhill House & Country Estate the Tweedlove Festival, Kailzie Gardens, Cocoa Black, Seasons, the Traquair Brewery, Glentress Forest, Lindean Mill Glass, Robert Smail’s Printing Works and the Velvet Hall Alpacas to name a few.

Click to view the video: Step into the Scottish Borders


Councillor Stuart Bell, executive member for economic development at Scottish Borders Council, added: "Videos are becoming an increasingly popular and successful method to interact with online audiences, and this engaging film aims to celebrate Buchan’s most famous novel and highlight the wide variety of attractions available for visitors in the Borders.

"Also featured is the Borders Railway, which has already proven to be a hugely popular and easy way of seeing the region either for a day or for longer."