Tom Hanlin

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Tom Hanlin
Tom Hanlin.JPG
Born (1907-08-28)28 August 1907
Armadale, West Lothian
Died 7 April 1953(1953-04-07) (aged 45)
Occupation Miner, writer
Language English
Nationality British
Notable works Once in Every Lifetime

Tom Hanlin (28 August 1907 – 7 April 1953) was a Scottish fiction writer, known for writing a number of novels which were influential and sold widely.


Hanlin was born in Armadale, West Lothian on 28 August 1907.[1][2] At the age of 14 he left school and worked on a farm for a year, then got a job at a mine where he worked for the next twenty years.[1] While working as a miner he began to study at a journalism school in Glasgow.[1] After a workplace accident in 1945, he spent three months in the Royal Infirmary, and he began to write stories and sell them, thus realising his childhood dream.[1]

Hanlin died at home on 7 April 1953, after developing heart and breathing problems.[1][3]


During his lifetime, Hanlin wrote over thirty short stories, several novels and essays, and eight radio plays, two of which were broadcast.[1] Once in Every Lifetime, published in 1945, was his most popular novel, selling 250,000 copies in the United Kingdom in the first three weeks of publication.[4][5] It also won the £500 first prize in the Big Ben Books Competition,[4][6] and was translated into more than a dozen languages.[1]

Once in Every Lifetime was serialised in Woman's Home Companion,[1] and a radio version was later broadcast on BBC Radio.[1] Norman Collins, writing in the Observer, wrote that "his novel is an idyll of young love that somehow became sour and unlovely amid the grim landscape of the pitheads. It is brief, moving in places, almost unbearably so, and often beautiful. In short Mr. Hanlin is a remarkable fellow."[7] John Steinbeck also spoke enthusiastically of the author, declaring the book "excellent."[8]

In his writing Hanlin draws on the themes of love and religion, but always in the context of the gritty realism and poverty of life in a small mining town. The Scotsman review of The Miracle at Cardenrigg notes "Tom Hanlin uses a miraculously averted pit disaster to bring into sharp focus the life of a Scottish mining community and to present his Catholic and predominantly tragic view of earthly life."[9]

Short stories and articles[edit]

  • "Temper the Wind", Virginia Quarterly, Autumn 1945
  • "Bright and Cheerful is the Day", Virginia Quarterly, Autumn 1945
  • "My Shadow on the Side of the Tunnel", Lilliput, May 1945, Vol. 16
  • "And Always will be", Lilliput, May 1945, Vol. 16
  • "Strange the Way", Lilliput, May 1945, Vol. 16
  • "The Fair" Lilliput, May 1945, Vol. 16
  • "The Road isn't Always Broad", Story Magazine, 1946, Jul–Aug., Vol. 29
  • "Over a Lifetime you may", Good Housekeeping, 1947
  • "One More Chance, a story", Modern Reading 16, edited by Reginald Moore, Phoenix House Limited
  • "The Novel is Doomed"
  • "Tension-Snap-Relief"
  • "Sunday in the Village"



  • One More Chance
  • Beneath the Surface


  • Arthur Markham Memorial Prize awarded by Sheffield University, for the essay Sunday in the Village in April 1944[5]
  • Big Ben Book Competition, first prize of £500,[6] for Once in Every Lifetime

Further reading[edit]

  • National Library of Scotland: MSS.27417 – 27425
  • Scottish Writers: Tom Hanlin by Hugh Macpherson in the Scottish Book Collector, First Series, No.10, (Edinburgh, Feb. 1989), pp19–20
  • Pithead Metaphysics: Tom Hanlin’s Once in Every Lifetime by Manfred Malzahn in ScotLit No 8 (Aberdeen: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, Autumn 1992), pp. 3–4.
  • Once in Every Lifetime reviewed by Carlos Baker (Virginia Quarterly Review, 1946, published by University of Virginia)
  • Review of Tom Hanlin's writing in Annals of Scotland, 1895–1955, ("An Essay on the Twentieth-century Scottish Novel", Related to a Series of Programmes with the Same Title to be Broadcast by the BBC for Winter Listening, 1956–57) by George Blake, pub 1956 by BBC
  • West Lothian Heritage, Newsletter of West Lothian Heritage Services. Article about Hanlin on page 5[10]
  • The Scotsman book review of The Miracle at Cardenrigg[9]
  • The Scotsman book review of Once in Every Lifetime[11]
  • The Guardian book review of Once in Every Lifetime[12]
  • The Guardian book review of The Miracle at Cardenrigg[13]
  • The Observer book review of Once in Every Lifetime[7]
  • The Observer book review of The Miracle at Cardenrigg[14]
  • The Times Literary Supplement book review of The Miracle at Cardenrigg[15]
  • The New York Times book review of The Miracle at Cardenrigg[16]
  • The Toronto Daily Star book review of Once in Every Lifetime[4]
  • Contention in a Bitter World Nathan L Rothman reviewing Yesterday Will Return in The Saturday Review, 9 November 1946[17]
  • Hunger for Life. Slaten Bray reviewing Once in Every Lifetime in The New Masses, 26 March 1946[18]
  • Drowning Underground John Cournos reviewing Miracle at Cardenrigg in The Saturday Review 27 August 1949[19]
  • Conversations with John Steinbeck John Steinbeck, Thomas Fensch, Univ. Press of Mississippi 1988[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Armadale community website". Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "Statutory Births Register". Statutory Births Register 1855-2014. ScotlandsPeople. Retrieved 20 November 2014. (Subscription required (help)). 
  3. ^ "Statutory Deaths Register". Statutory Deaths Register 1855-2014. ScotlandsPeople. Retrieved 20 November 2014. (Subscription required (help)). 
  4. ^ a b c "Scot Miner Writes Moving Novel on Life's Beauty, Love, Horror". The Toronto Daily Star. 28 August 1949. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "review of Once in Every Livetime". Ottawa Citizen. 10 November 1945. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "winners of Big Ben book prize". The Manchester Guardian. 26 November 1944. 
  7. ^ a b "review of Once in Every Lifetime". The Observer. 23 September 1945. 
  8. ^ a b Conversations with John Steinbeck. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "review of The Miracle at Cardenrigg". The Scotsman. 14 July 1949. 
  10. ^ "West Lothian Council Arts Document". West Lothian Council. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  11. ^ "review of Once in Every Lifetime". The Scotsman. 4 October 1945. 
  12. ^ "review of Once in Every Lifetime". The Guardian. 26 November 1944. 
  13. ^ "review of The Miracle at Cardenrigg". The Guardian. 15 July 1949. 
  14. ^ "review of The Miracle at Cardenrigg". The Observer. 10 July 1949. 
  15. ^ "review of The Miracle at Caredenrigg". The Times Literary Supplement. 22 July 1949. 
  16. ^ "Disaster And Faith; Miracle at Caredenrigg". The New York Times. 28 August 1949. 
  17. ^ "The Saturday Review". Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  18. ^ "The New Masses". Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  19. ^ "Saturday Review, August 27, 1949". 

External links[edit]