ABOVE the quaint little harbour at Crail, he lives in a rambling old

house with a garden which dips to the sea. On stormy nights, the water

comes batter

ing on window panes, heightening St Adrian's as an atmospheric setting

for the novelist-at-work.

It is here, in the East Neuk of Fife, that Oswald Wynd perfects his

prose, writing under his own name or gathering a worldwide following for

the thrillers of Gavin Black.

To me, the biggest mystery of all is how this distinguished Scot, with

such a beautifully controlled talent, has managed to reach the age of 76

without being a household name in his native land.

That injustice will be partly righted on Sunday, when his brilliant

novel, The Ginger Tree, is televised in four parts, a multi-million

pound venture between the BBC and the equivalent organisation in Japan.

Apart from having sold the television rights in this belated

recognition, Oswald Wynd has no other part in the production. He doesn't

even know what they have done to his work, except that the televised

version has been entrusted to playwright Christopher Hampton.

The Japanese interest arises from a curious connection which has

coloured Wynd's work. The Ginger Tree is all about an Edinburgh girl,

Mary Mackenzie, who sets sail at the beginning of this century to marry

a British military attache in Peking.

Her subsequent affair with a Japanese soldier, Count Kurihama, plunges

her into a scandal in the European community and leaves her to face life

alone in an alien culture.

The original author will leave the television to trust and resume the

low profile which he has managed to maintain, over the years, to a

ridiculous extent.

It is an extraordinary story, which he revealed to me in a charming

out-house, with its grand piano and a wooden floor which came from the

deck of HMS Lion, one of our ships at the Battle of Jutland.

Oswald Wynd's father, William, was one of the 12 children of a farmer

in the Carse of Gowrie, near Dundee. At 19, William became a Baptist and

gave himself to mission work, prompting his father's observation that he

was ''a good farmer spoiled''.

In 1890, at the age of 25, he set out with a friend to take

Christianity to the Japanese, landing in Kobe to be told that the

British Baptist mission had gone bankrupt. Without money or language, he

gladly took up an offer to work for the American Baptists, who were

backed by the Rockefeller family. That was the start of a lifetime's

dedication to the Japanese.

He wrote to propose marriage to Anna Morris, a girl he had met in

Edinburgh, and her voyage to the Far East is the only event from reality

which finds its way into the literary version of The Ginger Tree.

Oswald Wynd, a gentle, civilised man, takes up the fascinating story:

''My parents lived in Osaka and soon had two daughters, Cathy and Rita,

who became very Americanised. It was not always safe to have children in

these missions so they were taken off to a school in Boston -- and my

parents didn't see them again for seven years!

''My brother Ronald was born in 1905 and I came along in 1913, by

which time we had moved into Tokyo. We were away at our summer resort

when the house in Tokyo was destroyed by the earthquake fire of 1923.

''We were due home and I remember, aged 10, being asked how I liked

Edinburgh and replying that, while it was nice, I wanted back to Tokyo.

Despite my Scots background, I felt very American and never felt less

British than when having to attend those Empire Day celebrations at the


''I finished high school in Japan, by which time my father was past 65

and planning to retire to America, where my sisters were settled. Before

doing so, however, he wanted another look at Scotland and we came back

in 1932.

''We toured the Highlands in what turned out to be a beautiful summer

and I was now enchanted by Scotland. My father then didn't want to go to

America but mother said we were going. I was given the casting vote --

and said we would stay. I have never regretted it.''

Oswald Wynd was having his first real taste of the homeland, getting

to know people like Auntie Jessie, who wandered down from the farm one

stormy night and noticed a gap in the railway bridge. It was the Tay

Bridge Disaster of 1879, when a train plunged into the river, with 77

dead. She lived to be 100 but never set foot on a train again.

With his parents retired in Morningside, Oswald embarked on four happy

years at Edinburgh University, gaining a well-rounded education but

leaving without a degree.

After a few unsuccessful years of trying to write books, he was

diverted by the Second World War to the Scots Guards and then the

Intelligence Corps, where his knowledge of the language would be useful

for interrogating Jap prisoners.

''I was posted to Malaya and came to board the Cape Town Castle in

Glasgow on the night of a bad blitz,'' he recalls. ''In Malaya, we were

covering the Argylls on the Causeway to Singapore but were ambushed and

I was taken prisoner.

''So here I was back with the Japs, who were intrigued by my

background and the fact that my passport showed I had dual nationality,

British and Japanese! I became useful because they had made no attempt

to speak English and there was no contact with the prisoners.

''I had loved the people when I was in Japan, but I grew to hate them

for their brutality, not that I was ever tortured, though I was beaten.

I spoke Japanese in a kind of pukka, BBC accent and our guards, who were

mostly ex-thugs, were slightly ashamed of doing anything in my


Oswald Wynd was taken back to Japan where, on his way to prison camp,

he had a curious experience. His mother had retained that summer home

and there he was, being driven close past a house which still belonged

to his family!

On his way home from captivity, Wynd was guided through Hollywood --

by film star Basil Rathbone, who was in charge of British prisoners --

before calling on his sisters in New York. There, at a party, he met a

man from Doubleday Books, who heard he had been writing a novel in his

latter days as a prisoner.

''We are putting up a prize of $20,000 next summer,'' he said. ''Your

book might stand a chance.''

Oswald Wynd hot-footed it back to see his mother in Scotland -- his

father died before Pearl Harbour and knew nothing of his imprisonment --

and sat down to finish the novel. He called it Black Fountains, again

with a Japanese interest, and sent it off to New York.

It won that Doubleday Prize of 1947 and the $20,000, a considerable

sum then, set him on his way as a writer. Meanwhile, he met and married

Jan Muir, whose father had been assistant procurator fiscal in Glasgow.

Because of threats, she had to be escorted by police from their home

in Giffnock to Hutchesons' Grammar School -- and remembers feeling

very important. Jan had been involved in de-coding top secrets during

the war but now the couple were heading for the island of Lismore, off

Oban, where they settled in the farmhouse at Baligrundle.

Oswald would seek to make a living as a writer and Jan would look

after the hens, milk the cow and run a local drama group. In fairly

primitive circumstances, they used to play host to Ken McCormack of

Doubleday, who would come straight from staying with Somerset Maugham in

the south of France. For one such visit, Oswald varnished the toilet

seat, a sticky experience which threatened a rather longer visit than Mr

McCormack had intended!

Returning to the mainland, they found St Adrian's in Crail, three

cottages knocked into one and once the summer home of Lord Kilmany who

remembered, as a boy, watching from there as the fleet sailed off to


A later owner bought that battleship deck from HMS Lion which now

supports the Sea Room. The Wynds have lived there for 36 years, during

which Oswald has written 30 novels, including a dozen thrillers under

the name of Gavin Black. He has been more vigorously published in

America than in Britain.

There was a period when he learned much about his craft by writing

fiction pulp for D. C. Thomson's Sunday Post and Weekly News. (He has

been a steady earner without reaching the best-seller class.)

His own favourite Gavin Black was The Eyes Around Me. But he warms

most of all to the story now to be televised, The Ginger Tree, which he

wrote for Collins in 1977 and is out in a new edition from Eland.

Just how it has arrived on our television screens is a story in

itself. It was once read on radio by Scots actress Hannah Gordon, who

felt so strongly about it that she went to Crail with a BBC producer,

anxious to play the part of Mary Mackenzie on television. But nothing

came of it.

The film world then took an interest and there were three Hollywood

options which, in the time-honoured fashion, produced money but no


Then by chance, a retired actress, Juliet Gitterman, who lives on Park

Avenue, New York, read the book and felt it should be filmed. Taking a

personal interest in the matter, she tried to raise the money and flew

to London to discuss it with the BBC. Christopher Hampton was engaged to

write the script as far back as 1983. The project lingered till two

years ago -- then it was scrapped. Then it was revived. And now it is

definitely in the can.

Samantha Bond plays Mary Mackenzie, and Count Kurihama is played by a

leading Japanese film star, Daisuke Ryu. The TV series will be seen in

America and Japan.

Curiously, the work of Oswald Wynd has not been published in Japan,

though that is now being rectified.

At last, the countries which have moulded the life and character of a

distinguished Scottish writer may be about to accord him proper

recognition. At 76, it is not before time.