George MacDonald is best known as an author of children's books and fairy-tales such as At the Back of the North Wind and The Princess and the Goblin. His friends included Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) who would read Alice in Wonderland to the MacDonald children. Today (2007), interest in the man and his work is undergoing a revival. Deveron Arts commissioned a new biography and a brochure for visitors. A sculpture inspired by his work has been unveiled in the Brander Museum and the MacDonald Town Trail links place names in his books – Huntly was given the names Rothieden or Glamerton – to real life settings. MacDonald was born at 41 Duke Street, now the dental surgery and lived much of his life in London but returned time and again to his roots. His adult fantasy novels Phantastes and Lilith influenced an extraordinary number of writers including CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, CK Chesterton and WH Auden.
Author Liz Laighton of Orb's bookshop (01466 793765), 33a DeveronStreet carries MacDonald's books. The Brander Library & Museum on The Square (792179)houses a collection of Macdonald artefacts and a full collection of his works.
Take a trail around town inspired by Macdonald's life. The walk takes you past his birthplace and other buildingsconnected to him and links place names in hisbooks with real-life settings. Pick up a leaflet from the Tourist Information office in the Square.
Milne came from Kennethmont – a few miles outside Huntly. Refused entry to China he travelled all over the Malay Peninsula and Java distributing translations of the new Testament in Chinese. He founded the Anglo-Chinese College in Malacca later overseen by James Legge from Huntly.
Legge became the first Professor of Chinese at Oxford University. He trained as a missionary and after graduating from Aberdeen University ran the Anglo-Chinese Missionary College in Malacca before it moved to Hong Kong where he lived for 30 years. He translated 28 volumes of Chinese classics into English and wrote a series of books on Chinese philosophy and religion including The Life and Teaching of Confucius.
McVeagh, instigator of Huntly''s 'industrial revolution', was responsible for introducing linen manufacture to town. An Irishman, he arrived in 1731 and brought with him a new linseed which produced high quality flax. At its height Huntly was earning £50,000 a year from linen. The River Bogie was used for washing cloth in the bleaching process. Trade crashed with the Napoleonic Wars and competition from cheap American cotton in the early 19th century .
Born in Aberdeen in 1913, Ronald Center was the youngest of a distinguished musical family. He studied with two eminent musicians of the day, Julian Rosetti (piano) and Willan Swainson (organ). Center went on to build his life as a musician and was much in demand as a performer, accompanist, teacher, church organist and choral conductor. At the age of 30 Center settled in Huntly with his wife Evelyn, where he remained until his death thirty years later in 1973. During this time he taught music for six years in the Gordon Schools and then devoted himself to private tuition and composition. From as early as 1944 many of his piano compositions and songs were performed on the BBC Home Service in the Modern Scottish Composers series. His symphonic poem "The Coming of Cuchulain" was played by the Scottish Orchestra, conductor Warwick Braithwaite and other works were publicly performed and broadcast to acclaim. As a composer he wrote for voice, solo instruments, strings and full orchestra. In the orchestration of his musical scores he was greatly aided by his wife, herself a notable soprano. He was her accompanist when she was on tour or broadcasting and together they formed a musical partnership.
Since Center's death his music has been very little performed despite his undisputed skills and the compelling beauty of his art. However, his work has never ceased to be admired and efforts are now being made to bring his compositions to a wider audience. The Deveron Arts project "Center of Huntly " is a major part of this movement.