Archie Hind: Author of 'The Dear Green Place'
Saturday 23 February 2008
Archie Hind was a self-taught writer whose first and only novel, The Dear Green Place (1966), published when he was 38, achieved international recognition after winning prizes sponsored by both the Guardian and the Yorkshire Post. More than 40 years after its publication he was still widely known and respected in his homeland, though his natural decency and graciousness always helped to underpin his literary reputation.
Archie Hind was born on the brink of the hungry Thirties into poverty in Glasgow, his father working for over 50 years on the railways. The young Archie, his mother and siblings had to flee their home due to his father's brutality, violence which often saw the boy being unable to wash in the local public baths, so severe was his bruising.
The family reunited but only after Archie and his brother John, later a slaughterman, had made it plain to their father that they would return his blows if necessary. Leaving school at 14, Archie became a runner in a local engineering works, one of several jobs undertaken before conscription into the Army. He served in Singapore and Ceylon during the Second World War.
He then worked at a number of jobs, including trolley-bus driver and slaughterman's labourer. The breakthrough came when he attended Newbattle Abbey, a college for those with talent but few qualifications, whose principal was the poet Edwin Muir.
Fired by an idealistic passion to produce perfection, Archie Hind and his close friend Alasdair Gray worked long and hard to produce novels on much the same theme – tales of working-class men struggling against enormous odds to create excellent art. Soon Hind was to produce The Dear Green Place and later Gray the even more roundly acclaimed Lanark (1981) – both novels now being seen as among the finest of their genre to come out of Scotland.
Hind was cursed with a nagging self-doubt, however, and unlike Gray failed to capitalise on his talent. He spent much of his subsequent life in relative poverty, working at one stage as a copy-taker for the Daily Mail and then the Press and Journal.
In later life Hind achieved a little recognition, becoming Aberdeen's first writer in residence and being commissioned to write 10 plays and a number of short stories , none of which is known to have survived. He also worked intermittently as a journalist and reviewer of books and plays
His private life was hard, if rewarding, and he was happily married to Eleanor (whom he sometimes cheekily referred to as his "first wife") who bore him three sons and two daughters. Their son Gavin was killed in a car accident as a youth.
Music was Archie Hind's passion. He played a huge variety of instruments and was even able squeeze some jazz out of a penny-whistle. Some of his happiest times were spent cruising on his nephew Donald's charter trawler The Leader, where he would entertain fellow passengers with his quiet charm.
His last weeks were made more bearable by the news that his great novel The Dear Green Place is to be reprinted, along with snippets from his uncompleted second novel, Fur Sadie, and a selection of his other works. The collection is due to be published in March.
Archie Hind, writer: born Glasgow 3 June 1928; married Eleanor Slane (two sons, two daughters, and one son deceased); died Glasgow 21 February 2008.
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