Allan Massie

For the sailor, see Alan Massey.
Allan Massie
Born (1938-10-19) 19 October 1938
Citizenship United Kingdom
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Occupation Writer
Years active 1978 - Present
Employer The Scotsman
Agent Rogers, Coleridge & White
Political party Conservative Party (UK)
Children Alex Massie
Awards Scottish Arts Council Book Award, Frederick Niven Literary Award

Allan Johnstone Massie CBE (born 1938) is a Scottish journalist, columnist, sports writer and novelist.[1][2] He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He has lived in the Scottish Borders for the last 25 years, and now lives in Selkirk.

Early life

Born on 19 October 1938,[2] in Singapore, where his father was a rubber planter for Sime Darby, Massie spent his childhood in Aberdeenshire. He was educated at the private schools Drumtochty Castle preparatory school and Glenalmond College in Perthshire before going on to attend Trinity College, Cambridge where he read history.



Massie is a journalist and critic of fiction, writing regular columns for The Scotsman, The Sunday Times (Scotland) and the Scottish Daily Mail. He has been The Scotsman's chief fiction reviewer for a quarter of a century and also regularly writes about rugby union and cricket for that paper. He has previously been a columnist for the Daily Telegraph, the Glasgow Herald, and was the Sunday Standard's television critic during that paper's brief existence. He is also a contributor to The Spectator - where he writes an occasional column, Life and Letters - the Literary Review and The Independent. He has also written for the New York Review of Books.

His conservative political outlook is apparent, despite the decline of Conservative influence in Scotland. He was a leading, if lonely, campaigner against Scottish devolution, and a critic of much of the legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament since its re-establishment in 1999. Though initially in favour of greater devolutionary powers for Scotland, his views on devolution changed during the Thatcher years and he came to regret his support for the 1979 devolution referendum.

In his literary reviews, his preferences lie towards traditional novels rather than the avant-garde. He is a great admirer of Sir Walter Scott (and a past president of the Sir Walter Scott Club). Among contemporary novelists, he is a champion of the Russian writer Andreï Makine and Scotland's William McIlvanney. Though he has criticised Irvine Welsh and James Kelman, he has admired some of the latter's work, arguing that Kelman is an important voice for a section of society often ignored in literary fiction.


He is the author of nearly 30 books, including 20 novels. He is notable for writing about the distant past, and the middle class, rather than grittier elements of the present. The most successful of his novels, at least in terms of sales, have been a series of reconstructed autobiographies or biographies of Roman political figures, including Augustus, Tiberius, Mark Antony, Caesar, Caligula and Nero's Heirs. Gore Vidal called him a "master of the long-ago historical novel." His most recent book is The Thistle and the Rose, a series of essays on the often thorny relationship between Scotland and England, in which he takes a strong Unionist viewpoint.

His 1989 novel about Vichy France, A Question of Loyalties, won the Saltire Society's Scottish Book of the Year award - an award he has been shortlisted for more than once. The Sins of the Fathers (1991) caused a controversy when Nicholas Mosley resigned from the judging panel for the Booker Prize, protesting that none of his books (of which Massie's was the favourite) made it on to the shortlist (Martin Amis' Time's Arrow edged out Massie's novel for the final spot on the six book list).

Those two novels, and Shadows of Empire constitute a loose trilogy in which a constant concern is the potential danger of idealism and ideology, as well as the struggle to lead a decent personal life in indecent political times.

In 2009, Massie brought out what he calls "a private novel" (i.e. an examination of private morality rather than the large political or "public" dilemmas examined in his other contemporary novels). This innovative work, Surviving, is set in Rome and concerns a group of English-speaking alcoholics and the intensity of their friendships. It is also a highly personal work, reflecting the author's own experience of Italy in the seventies, although the book is set in the nineties.

His 2010 novel, Death in Bordeaux, sees Massie return to Vichy France in the first of a trilogy.

Other works include critical studies of Muriel Spark and Colette as well as histories of Edinburgh and Glasgow and A Portrait of Scottish Rugby.

Massie was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to literature.[3]

Massie's all time Scotland XV

Allan Massie is a keen rugby fan and writer, and came up with an all time XV in 1984.[4]

Firstly, he excludes any players from before 1951, as he says it is unfair to judge the abilities of players without having been able to see them for himself, and secondly, his list, being published in the mid 80s excludes most of the people involved in the 1990 Grand Slam.

He also supplies a list of reserves:

Players that Massie includes in his early selection, but not in the final team include:


Massie has received the following awards:[2]


This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.



Edited books

The History Man columns in Scots Heritage Magazine

Date Issue : Pages Topic(s)
2014 65 (Autumn) : 18-19 Edinburgh International Festival

Book Reviews

Date Review article Work(s) reviewed
4 October 2008 Massie, Allan (4 October 2008). "A very slippery book". Books. The Spectator.  Alexander William Kinglake (1844). Eothen. 


  1. "The Telegraph". The Telegraph. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 "Writers: Allan Massie". British Council. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  3. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60534. p. 8. 15 June 2013.
  4. Massie (1984), p195

External links

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