Brownsbank cottage was almost a ruin when poet Hugh MacDiarmid and his wife Valda moved into it in 1952. But, restored with the help of friends and supporters, the simple farm workers cottage was to be their home for the rest of their lives.
After Valda’s death in 1989, the cottage might have once again fallen into disrepair, where it not for the efforts of Biggar Museum Trust, and the creation of a writer’s fellowship for the cottage. For the last 17 years, writers have been paid a stipend to live and work in the cottage, and to conduct outreach work in rural communities in the area to encourage writing. It was this project that helped maintain the cottage as a “living museum,” and a place where the written work was still produced.
But the current financial climate means that funding for the project – which was shared between the Scottish Arts Council and South Lanarkshire Council – has ended.
I visited the cottage recently with the first writer in residence, James Robertson. There, we met Anne Matheson, who helped save the building twenty years ago, and what may be the final writer in residence, Carl MacDougall.