Monday, August 21, 2006

John Buchan

I've just arrived in Canada for a two-week holiday, travelling from Vancouver to Halifax by train. My holiday reading includes an excellent biography of the Scottish writer and politician John Buchan, who was governor-general of Canada in the late 1930s. Andrew Lownie's book mentions something I didn't know; that Buchan could have been Secretary of State for Scotland. At a lunch at the Athenaeum on 12 November 1931, Buchan claimed to Basil Liddell Hart that Ramsay MacDonald had offered to create room for him as Scottish Secretary but he had declined, arguing 'that Samuel Liberals would soon go in any case'. Indeed they did, and it was Sir Archibald Sinclair who became Secretary of State in 1931 instead of Buchan.

When Sinclair resigned the following year, Buchan expected to replace him but was annoyed to discover that former Liberals, such as the new Scottish Secretary Sir Godfrey Collins, who now supported the government took precedence over him. 'If the National Government means anything,' Buchan wrote to Violet Markham, 'it should be a pooling of the best talents...Scotland is going to be a very difficult post in the near future, and Godfrey Collins, the Scottish Secretary, is simply preposterous.'

[Andrew Lownie, John Buchan: The Presbyterian Cavalier, 218 & 221]


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