When the Scottish writer John McNeillie died on the 24th June 2002 aged 85, he left behind a collection of over 40 books, several of them minor classics, and several decades of weekly journalism in the dentist's favourite sedative, Country Life. Nearly all were written under his pen name, Ian Niall. He made his debut at the age of 22 when Putnams published his novel Wigtown Ploughman: A Part of His Life in 1939, a Scottish classic that caused a national controversy and provoked improvements in social conditions. In later life John McNeillie did not like to be reminded of his 'ferocious account of peasant life in Galloway', as one fan described it! He saw himself differently, an essayist and a recorder of landscape and natural life. It is certainly here that McNeillie's output is best represented and where his well crafted prose reveals the eye and the ear of a poet, a gift for telling a good story and just something of the realism that haunted his first book.