Neil Munro is best known for his ‘Para Handy’ stories these days but his writing career encompassed journalism, poetry and criticism, as well as his novels, making him one of the most visible literary figures of his time. His books fell out of fashion for a while but reprints of his work in the early 1990s and the appearance of a biography has brought him to the attention of a new audience.
Born in Inveraray in Argyll, in 1863, he came from a family of Gaelic speakers and though the language was beginning to lose its currency in that part of Scotland and Munro wrote in English, its influence can be felt strongly in his writing.
He began his career as a journalist on newspapers in the Glasgow area. After the publication of a short story collection, followed by two or three novels, he cut back on the journalism to concentrate on his writing. The appearance of a new character, Para Handy, in a short story in 1905 introduced a new comic strain in his work and the three collections of Para Handy stories (including The Vital Spark) were immediately successful. They transferred to the small screen in two separate sitcom series with the eponymous hero played by Duncan Macrae in the 1950s/60s and Gregor Fisher in the 1990s.
Munro returned to journalism during the First World War, becoming editor of a Glasgow evening paper in 1918. He died in Helensburgh in 1930.