From 1993 to the early 2000s seven writers lived at Brownsbank for periods of between one and two years.  They have all since gone on to become major figures in the Scottish literary landscape.  Below we present these writers who are living testimony to the inspirational power of Brownsbank as well as powerful ambassadors for the institution of writer in residence.

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‘Brownsbank changed my life: as simple as that. Being offered a stipend and a roof over my head - and not just any old roof but one that had previously sheltered my great literary hero, Hugh MacDiarmid - allowed me to give up full-time employment and begin to make my living as a writer, which I have been doing for 25 years. It wouldn’t have happened without my two years at Brownsbank. They are full of good memories, for which I will always be grateful, and it’s time now to enable Brownsbank to work its magic on a new generation of writers and readers.’


‘Steyin at Brounsbank chynged ma life. There's nae ither wey tae pit it. But n Ben A-Go-Go wis scrievit there. And Itchy Coo wis stertit there. It remains at the hert o Scottish literature and the Scots language. Wioot Brounsbank and Hugh and Valda's immeisurable legacy, Scotland's culture wid be a puir shilpit craitur insteid o the fiery phoenix lowsed by MacDiarmid fae the cauldside o a Lanarkshire hill.’

But n Ben A-Go-Go (Luath Press, 2000)

Kate o Shanter's Tale (Luath Press, 2003)

Time Tram Dundee (Waverley Press, 2006)

The Eejits trans. (Itchy Coo, 2006)

Mr Mingin trans. (Itchy Coo, 2015)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stane trans. (Itchy Coo, 2017)


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My two years in MacDiarmid’s cottage were life-changing. They gave me a settled base for a predetermined time after the uncertainties of caravan living in Ayrshire; they gave me my first experience of being a poet in a community setting, and acknowledged as such; they introduced me to the pleasures of introducing children in schools—especially primary schools—to poetry and the natural world; they furnished me with writing silence to develop my own work. As a former caravan dweller, I also loved the creatively nurturing sense of the cottage itself: its solid walls, its coal fire, the frosty skinklings of constellations on winter nights over the hills. The fire which features in the title poem of my most recent book of poems, Notes for Lighting a Fire, is the one in the hearth at Brownsbank.


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'Brownsbank Cottage was an iconic and intriguing place to be attached to for three years.  I enjoyed the sense of being one of a number of people connected to a creative life there, being part of its legacy and passing this onto visitors. The residency gave me the skills and confidence to make the transition between a writing life that was an adjunct to a demanding job, and making my writing life my work.  I intended to depart from Brownsbank as a freelance writer and creative writing teacher in 2005 and haven't looked back since. A particular creative highlight for me was my radio play about Valda Trevlyn Grieve, recorded on location. This connection between my imaginative life and the cottage consolidated for me a tangible and memorable sense of place which I retain with great affection.’


“I found Brownsbank a wonderful resource, creatively and socially and have very happy memories of working alone late at night with the wind and the dog for company.’


When the last Brownsbank Fellowship ended in 2011 ten writers lived at the cottage for month long retreats.  They were:

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'I was writer-in-residence at Brownsbank Cottage from Nov. 2005 until Nov. 2008. I was living in Kelso so under terms of my contract would do one week at Brownsbank and one week at home. The Brownsbank week would see me working with writers and writing groups throughout South Lanarkshire: Biggar, Lanark, Strathaven, Kirkmuirhill, Carluke and other places. I would also host writers, visitors and events at Brownsbank Cottage, including annual Open Days. The work was interesting, enjoyable and good for my own writing (mainly poetry) which progressed during that time. Staying overnights at Brownsbank was always an 'adventure': mice,plumbing problems,  water shortages and keeping the fire going for warmth. I got to know the cottage well.'  Brownsbank Writing Fellow 2005-2008


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A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle

 ‘And let the lesson be - to be yersel’s,
Ye needna fash gin it’s to be ocht else.

To be yersel’s - and to mak’ that worth bein’,

 Nae harder job to mortals has been gi’en.’