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Fred Urquhart

(1912-1995) - Novelist

Fred Urquhart, born in Edinburgh, and his partner Peter Wyndham Allen a former ballet dancer, lived for 32 years at Spring Garden Cottage, Fairwarp, hidden deep in the Ashdown Forest.

He was a prolific novelist regarded as the finest of Scottish short story writers. Naomi Mitchison described him as ‘a wonderful listener’ with a marvellous ear for all forms of accent, dialect and the vernacular. On leaving school he worked in a bookshop and wrote for periodicals and the radio.

He was a pacifist, declared a conscientious objector, and sent to work on the land as a farm labourer first in Scotland, which was to inspire many of his finest short stories, and later at Woburn Abbey the estate of the Duke of Bedford.

In the late 1940s he was part of the artistic and literary circles in London where he got to know George Orwell, the Scottish painters Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and Dylan Thomas. He was a reader for a literary agent, read scripts for MGM and was a scout for Walt Disney. When his partner died in 1990 he returned to Edinburgh. To visit Fred at the cottage was to be transported back to the literary world of 1940s London.

Research undertaken by Ian Brown, John Manthorpe and Jan Kemsley

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