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Carse of Gowrie author and poet Margaret Gillies Brown dies aged 92

Margaret Gillies Brown.
Margaret Gillies Brown.

Poet and author Margaret Gillies Brown, whose descriptions of life in the east of Scotland thrilled countless readers, has died aged 92.

Three of her largely biographical books were serialised in The Courier and proved hugely popular with readers.

She was also a published poet from the 1960s onwards, mainly on themes inspired by nature.

A mother of seven, all her children lived close by her home in the Carse of Gowrie, where her two eldest sons Richard and Michael run the farm, her son Ron, runs the Cairn o’ Mhor winery and Grant runs a shed business partnership.

Margaret Gillies Brown at home near Errol.

Margaret had written in verse since early childhood but did not take up writing seriously until she was 45 and her youngest child had gone to school.

In the following years, she published at least nine books of poetry as well as the series of Rowan Tree biographies of life in rural Scotland and her spell living in Canada.

Margaret, whose parents came from Aberdeen, was born in Edinburgh and grew up in Dundee during the Second World War.

City life

Her book, A Rowan Tree in My Garden, details life in the city during the war, her training as a nurse at Dundee Royal Infirmary and working on the land.

It was at a nurses’ dance that she met her future husband Ronald Gillies, a sheep farmer in the Sidlaws overlooking the Carse of Gowrie.

Within six months they were married and in the 1950s, with three boys and a baby on the way, the family emigrated to Canada.

Their adventures on a remote frontier farm in Alberta formed the basis of her book, Far From the Rowan Tree.

Back to Perthshire

After three years in Canada, the family returned to Perthshire when her husband Ronald was asked by his father to run East Inchmichael farm in the Carse of Gowrie.

They spent 20 happy years running the farm and adding another four members to the family.

Her book, Around the Rowan Tree, deals with the return to Scotland, life in the Carse of Gowrie as a farmer’s wife and raising a family of seven.

Bereavement

Ronald Gillies died from heart disease in the early 1980s, leaving Margaret and family to run the farm.

In 1984, Margaret married her second husband, Henry Brown.

Margaret was one of comparatively few Scottish women poets who were being published during the late 1960s and 1970s.

She was known for giving talks on poetry and shared the stage with the likes of Edwin Morgan at poetry readings around the country.

Margaret Gillies Brown with copies of her book, Around the Rowan Tree.

In an interview with The Courier in 2019, Margaret spoke of her inspirations.

“I like to write poems people understand. I object to terribly academic ones where you’re supposed to know what the poets are thinking. That puts people off poetry,” said Margaret.

“I like to write about the simplicity of farm life. I keep away from miserable poems, although I have written some.”

Margaret as a founder member of Perthshire Writers and over many years gave talks to organisations around Scotland.

She was an outgoing, optimistic, cheerful person who was a mother to many more than her immediate family.

She loved a party and cooked for Christmas dinners of over 50 children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and extended family.

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