Fred Urquhart (writer)

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Fred Urquhart
BornFrederick Burrows Urquhart
July 12, 1912
Edinburgh, Scotland
DiedDecember 2, 1995(1995-12-02) (aged 83)
Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland
Occupationwriter, reviewer, editor
GenreShort Story
Notable awardsTom-Gallon Trust Award
PartnerPeter Wyndham Allen

Fred Urquhart or Frederick Burrows Urquhart (12 July 1912 – 2 December 1995) was a Scottish short story writer, novelist, editor and reviewer.[1] He is considered Scotland's leading short story writer of the 20th-century.[2][3] Writing in the Manchester Evening News in November 1944, George Orwell praised Urquhart's "remarkable gift for constructing neat stories with convincing dialogue."[4]

Early life[edit]

Urquhart was born in Edinburgh.[2] His father was chauffeur to wealthy Scottish families, including the Marquess of Breadalbane at Taymouth Castle.[5] He spent much of his childhood in Fife, Perthshire and Wigtownshire.[1] He attended village schools, followed by Stranraer High School and Broughton Secondary School.[5][2]

On leaving school at the age of fifteen, he worked in a bookshop from 1927 to 1934.[3][2] Because he was a pacifist and conscientious objector, during World War II, he worked on the land at Laurencekirk in the Mearns and later at Woburn Abbey.[3][5][1] On visits to London, where he later lived, he met George Orwell and the Scottish painters Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde.[3]



In 1936, Urquhart published his first short story, followed by his first novel Time Will Knit in 1938.[2][5] He went on to publish four novels and more eight volumes of short stories.[2][3] The novel Jezebel's Dust (1951) is considered one of his best works.[1] Many of his stories were read on the radio.[3] Palace of Green Days was a Book at Bedtime in 1985.[6][3]

Many of his stories revolved around rural life, set in the fictional town of Auchencairn in the Mearns countryside south of Aberdeen.[1][2] The theme of many of these stories was a desire to escape the drudgery of every-day working-class life.[2] One of these stories, "The Ploughing Match," won the Tom–Gallon Trust Award for 1951.[2]

He also wrote many stories about violence against women and was known for the way he sensitively portrayed women.[2][1][5] Compton Mackenzie said Urquhart had a "remarkable talent for depicting women young and old."[2] "We Never Died in Winter" is considered a good example of one of his stories about working-class girls.[2]

In the 1960s, he published several volumes of short stories with historical and supernatural themes.[2] One obituarist said, "His skill was to show characters in everyday, conversational action".


Starting in 1947, Urquhart worked as a reader for a literary agency in London until 1951.,[2] From 1951 to 1954 he read scripts for Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer.[5] From 1951 to 1974 he was a reader for Cassell and Company in London.[5][2] He was a London scout for Walt Disney Productions from 1959 to 1960.[2] From 1967 to 1971, he was a reader for J. M. Dent and Sons in London.[5][2]

He had a particular love of horses and edited illustrated anthology The Book of Horses in 1981.[1] He also edited a number of books and wrote reviews for magazines and newspapers.[3]


Personal life[edit]

Urquhart was homosexual.[1] He moved to Ashdown Forest in East Sussex in 1958 with his companion, the dancer Peter Wyndham Allen, but when Wyndham Allen died in 1990 Urquhart moved back to Scotland.[1] He was a friend of Rhys Davies, with whom he shared a cottage in Tring in 1946,[7] and of Norah Hoult.[8]

Urquhart died in Haddington, East Lothian at the age of 83.[5]

Selected bibliography[edit]


  • Time Will Knit (Duckworth, 1938)
  • The Ferret was Abraham's Daughter (Methuen, 1949)
  • Jezebel's Dust (Methuen,1951)
  • Palace of Green Days (Quartet Books, 1979) ISBN 9780704322172

Short story collections[edit]

  • I Fell for a Sailor (Duckworth, 1940)
  • Selected Stories ( Maurice Fridberg, 1946)
  • The Clouds are Big with Mercy (William MacLellan, 1946)
  • The Last GI Bride Wore Tartan (Serif Books of Edinburgh, 1947)
  • The Year of the Short Corn and Other Stories (Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1949)
  • The Last Sister (Methuen, 1950)
  • The Laundry Girl and the Pole (Arco, 1955)
  • Dying Stallion: The Collected Stories, Vol. 1 (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1967)
  • The Ploughing Match: The Collected Stories, Vol. 2 (Rupert Hart-Davis,1968)
  • Proud Lady in a Cage (Paul Harris Publishing, 1980) ISBN 9780904505900
  • Seven Ghosts in Search (Kimber / HarperCollins Distribution, 1983) ISBN 9780718305017
  • A Diver in China Seas (Quartet Books, 1980) ISBN 9780704322554
  • Full Score: Short Stories (Aberdeen University Press, 1989) ISBN 9780080377193
  • A Goal for Miss Valentino (Kennedy & Boyd, 2014) ISBN 9781849211116

Writings in anthologies[edit]

  • The Unlikely Ghosts (Mayflower Books, 1969) ISBN 9780583116183
  • Ten Modern Scottish Stories. Robert Millar, ed. (Heinemann Educational Books, 1973) ISBN 9780435135454
  • Scottish Short Stories 1974. (Harper Collins, 1974). ISBN 9780002218917
  • Further Modern Scottish Stories. Robert Millar and John Thomas Low, editors. (Heinemann Educational Books, 1976) ISBN 0435135406
  • Scottish Ghost Stories. Giles Gordon, ed. (Lomond Books, 1976)
  • As I Remember: Ten Scottish Authors recall How Writing Began for Them. Maurice Lindsay, ed. (Robert Hale & Company, 1979) ISBN 9780709173212
  • "Lillie Langtry’s Silver Cup". The Fourth Book of After Midnight Stories ( William Kimber & Co Ltd, 1988) ISBN 9780718307028
  • "Introduction," Creepy Stories (Bracken Books, 1994) ISBN 9781858911366

Writings in magazines[edit]

  • "Cristopher Rush: Peace Comes Dropping Slow." The Scottish Review of Books, no. 31, 1983
  • "Cooee' Cried the Parrot" Cencrastus, no. 44, 1993.

Compiler or editor[edit]

  • No Scottish Twilight: New Scottish Stories. (William Maclellan, 1947)
  • W.S.C. A Cartoon Biography (Cassell & Company, 1955) ISBN 9780947782757
  • Great True War Adventures. (Arco Publishers, 1956) ISBN 9780970822710
  • Great True Escape Stories. (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1958).
  • The Cassell Miscellany 1848-1958. (Cassell, 1958).
  • Freeman, William. Dictionary of Fictional Characters. Revised by Fred Urquhart. (The Writer, Inc., 1974) ISBN 9780871160850
  • Modern Scottish Short Stories (Faber & Faber, 1978) ISBN 9780571119530
  • The Book of Horses (1981) ISBN 9780436549359


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gordon, Giles (28 December 1995). "Obituary: Fred Urquhart". Independent. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Roberts, Graeme. "Urquhart, Fred (erick Burrows)". Encyclopedia | Cengage. Retrieved 17 August 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "About Fred Urquhart". The University of Edinburgh. 3 August 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  4. ^ George Orwell, Collected works, I Have Tried to Tell the Truth, p.471
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Papers of Fred Urquhart". Jisc Archives Hub. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  6. ^ "Listings". Genome. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  7. ^ Osborne, Huw (2009). Rhys Davies. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 112. ISBN 9780708322420. OCLC 438721558.
  8. ^ "Fred Urquhart: An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center". University of Texas. Retrieved 27 September 2017.