Born: June 30, 1922; Died: July 31, 2012.
Mollie Hunter, who has died aged 90, was one of the greatest Scottish writers and storytellers – and a passionate Scot.
Born in Longniddry, East Lothian, she educated herself by getting a job at the age of 14, working in an Edinburgh flower shop and studying in the National Library. One of her finest books, A Sound of Chariots, was semi-autobiographical, telling of a young woman working in the city, struggling to educate herself to become a writer and also meeting the man she would marry.
Her late husband Mike (Thomas) was a former school friend and the pair were devoted to each other, with Mike her constant companion, travelling worldwide with her on speaking engagements.
Her writing became internationally known, especially with The Kelpie's Pearls, The Thirteenth Member and The Lothian Run. But her greatest triumph was winning the Carnegie Medal in 1975 for The Stronghold, an extraordinary story of life and death in an Orkney broch.
Her writing gathered inspiration from the glen where she lived, a small village near Drumnadrochit. Here she wrote most of her extraordinary books, becoming totally immersed in her characters, as her husband found one day when returning from work. She recalled: "I had been aware of someone else in my study, I looked at him, my husband of 30 years, and said 'who are you?' The story had taken over – I was there. I was living it."
She spent a great deal of time touring schools and libraries, and was especially welcomed in the US where she was awarded a prestigious lectureship at the University of Pennsylvania. Inspirational, especially to youngsters who'd never read a historical novel, she created an unprecedented demand for her books.
Most of her books were based on Scottish history and legends – selkies, famous and infamous characters – everything and everyone from the past fascinated her.
But she did not suffer fools gladly and could usually be relied upon to be provocative, demanding and infuriating but put her in front of an audience and she electrified them. Her portrait by Elizabeth Blackadder hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, an accolade which made her inordinately proud.
I last saw her in 2007 when I went to interview her for Carousel magazine. The door opened and Mollie appeared with cigarette in one hand and a glass in the other – we talked and talked – she hadn't lost her old magic. She told me: "If your imagination has not been captured by the lives of people who lived yesterday, how can you be aroused by those of today?"
She died in Inverness. Hopefully she will now be reunited with her beloved Mike, no doubt sharing a few drams and talking, talking, talking -
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