Buchan, John, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir

John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, author, governor general of Canada 1935-40 (b at Perth, Scot 26 Aug 1875; d at Montréal 11 Feb 1940). Buchan published 6 books of fiction, poetry and history while an Oxford undergraduate. He was briefly an administrator in South Africa, a political journalist and tax lawyer, and then was chief literary adviser (later a director) of publishers Thomas Nelson and Son 1906-29. This, and the books that he produced at a prodigious rate all his life, including historical biographies, such as Lord Minto (1924), and fast-paced thrillers such as The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915), gave him a creative outlet and a comfortable income.

There was always a tension in Buchan between his desire to live quietly and his ambition to be a part of bigger things. Despite serious illness, he went to France in WWI as an intelligence officer. He was a popular MP 1927-35 but was too lacking in partisan fervour for a Cabinet post. In Canada Buchan had time to indulge his contemplative side. He loved the variety, beauty and adventure of a big land, and tried to convey a sense of community and unlimited potential on his frequent tours, which included the first by a governor general to the Arctic.

Horrified by WWI, he worked with US President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Mackenzie KING in their peace initiatives of the late 1930s. Although admiring King more politically than personally, Buchan forged strong links with the PM. King noted the governor general's weaknesses - his self-importance and love of titles - but he deeply appreciated Buchan's "real support ... sterling rectitude and disinterested purpose." Buchan's autobiography, Memory Hold-the-Door (1940), was completed shortly before his death. He instituted the GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARDS in 1937.