Ian Maclaren

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Ian Maclaren
Ian Maclaren 001.jpg
John Watson

(1850-11-03)3 November 1850
Died6 May 1907 (1907-05-07) (aged 56)

Rev. John Watson (3 November 1850 – 6 May 1907), known by his pen name Ian Maclaren, was a Scottish author and theologian.


The son of John Watson, a civil servant, he was born in Manningtree, Essex, and educated at Stirling and at Edinburgh University, later studying theology at New College, Edinburgh, and at Tübingen.

In 1874 he became a minister of the Free Church of Scotland and became assistant minister of Edinburgh Barclay Church. Subsequently, he was minister at Logiealmond in Perthshire and at Glasgow, and in 1880 he became minister of Sefton Park Presbyterian Church, Liverpool, from which he retired in 1905.

Cover of Beside the Bonnie Briar Bush (1894)

In 1896 he was Lyman Beecher lecturer at Yale University, and in 1900 he was moderator of the synod of the English Presbyterian Church. While travelling in the United States he died from blood poisoning, following a bout with tonsilitis,[1] at Mount Pleasant, Iowa. His body was returned to England, and buried in Smithdown Cemetery in Liverpool.[2]

Maclaren's first stories of rural Scottish life, Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush (1894), achieved extraordinary popularity,[3] selling more than 700,000 copies,[4] and was succeeded by other successful books, The Days of Auld Lang Syne (1895), Kate Carnegie and those Ministers (1896), and Afterwards and other Stories (1898). By his own name Watson published several volumes of sermons, among them being The Upper Room (1895), The Mind of the Master (1896) and The Potter's Wheel (1897). Today he is regarded as one of the principal writers of the Kailyard school.[5]

It is thought that Maclaren was the original source of the quotation “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” now widely misattributed to Plato or Philo of Alexandria. The oldest known instance of this quotation is in the 1897 Christmas edition of The British Weekly, penned by Maclaren: “Be pitiful, for every man is fighting a hard battle.”[6]


Fiction as Ian Maclaren[edit]

  • 1894: Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush
  • 1895: The Days of Auld Lang Syne
  • 1895: A Doctor of the Old School
  • 1896: Kate Carnegie and those Ministers
  • 1898: Afterwards and other Stories
  • 1898: Rabbi Saunderson
  • 1899: Young Barbarians
  • 1907: Graham of Claverhouse (novel)

Non-fiction as Ian Maclaren[edit]

  • 1896: The Cure of Souls
  • 1898: Companions of the Sorrowful Way
  • 1900: Church Folks
  • 1912: Books and Bookmen (book)

Books of sermons as John Watson[edit]

  • 1895: The Upper Room (book)
  • 1896: The Mind of the Master
  • 1897: The Potter's Wheel
  • 1898: Companions of the Sorrowful Way
  • 1899: In Answer to Prayer: The Touch of the Unseen - A book of sermons cowritten with Rev. W. Boyd Carpenter (Lord Bishop of Ripon 11), Rev. Theodore L. Cuyler, Rev. Canon Knox Little, William Quarrier, Leonard K. Shaw, Rev. R. F. Horton, Rev. H. Price Hughes, Rev. J. Clifford, G. D. Boyle (Dean of Salisbury)


  1. ^ Papers Past - Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XLII, 8 May 1907, Page 4
  2. ^ Nicoll, W. Robertson (1908). ‘Ian Maclaren’: Life of the Rev. John Watson, D.D. London: Hodder and Stoughton. p. 379.
  3. ^ "Ian Maclaren's Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush is one of the most notorious works of Scottish literature. First published in 1894, the book was an instant best-seller. Millions of readers across the world rushed to devour these nostalgic tales of Scottish life in a bygone age". Kennedy & Boyd. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
  4. ^ "Kailyard School (1886-1896)". The Literary Encyclopedia. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
  5. ^ Campbell, Ian (1981), Kailyard: A New Assessment, The Ramsay Head Press, Edinburgh
  6. ^ Quote Investigator: Be Kind; Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle, June 29, 2010

External links[edit]