Tom Hanlin



If you have information about Tom Hanlin that you would like to share with the website,

Other website links that may interest you:

Dale Poetry, formerly hosted by Davie Kerr

Have you read his updated version of Heatherfield Roondaboot yet?

Dale Tales

Publications (fiction and non-fiction)

History of Armadale Association for a list of their publications


Billy Kay during his talk about Tom Hanlin of Armadale at Armadale Community Centre on Monday 28 November 2011 (part of the West Lothianís Hidden Literary Connections series)


Our thanks to Alex Gault for the following letters found with a copy of Tom Hanlin's Yesterday will Return

We are delighted to post these two letters on the website.  Above is a letter received by Tom Hanlin from an admiring New Alliance editor who was interested in publishing his writing.  In a style that Wastewise would be proud of, the letter was recycled, the reverse being used to write the letter to Miss Haughie (shown below).  In a few words, it gives the reader an illuminating view of Tom Hanlin's personality, concerns and interests.

Our thanks also go to Lorraine Barranger (nee Brady) who purchased some early edition books of Tom Hanlin for her father's birthday and, within the cover of one, was the Viking Press N.Y. letter to Previewers (shown below).  She told us that her grandfather Edward Brady and his siblings, Francis and Annie, were raised by Tom's mother ('Aunt Hannah') after the death of their parents in 1913.  Lorraine's father, Andrew,  remembers that, as a young boy, he used to run to the store and buy a paper for Tom when he was writing.  Davie Kerr has also told us that he remembers seeing Tom typing at the window of his home in the evenings.



Items from an exhibition that appeared at Armadale Library  April - May 2008

Tom Hanlin was born in Armadale in 1907.  He showed promise at school and was interested in becoming a writer from an early age. However, he had to leave school at fourteen years of age to begin work. He worked on a farm for a year, and then he worked down the mines for the next twenty years, from the age of fifteen until 1945. In 1942, he attended a school of journalism in Glasgow, making the fifty-mile weekly journey while still working down the pit.

As a result of a pit accident, he spent three months in the Royal Infirmary. During that time of convalescence, he wrote five stories, which he was able to sell. One of them, Sunday in the Village, won the Arthur Markham Memorial Prize, awarded annually by Sheffield University and available to those who were 'manual workers in or about a coal mine, or have been injured when so employed'.

Later, he won the Big Ben prize of £500 for his long story, which became his first novel, Once in Every Lifetime.  250,000 copies of the Big Ben paperback edition were sold in England in the first month of publication.  A popular book in Europe and Scandinavia, it was translated into more than a dozen languages, and, eventually, was broadcast in a BBC radio version.  About the novel, John Steinbeck, 'A wonderful, young, strong, true book.'

In 1945, he became a full-time writer and his story Bright and Cheerful is the Day (which includes what is believed to be an overview of Armadale) appeared in the Virginia Quarterly magazine that autumn. In 1946, his second novel, Yesterday will Return, was published.

He was a dedicated, conscientious writer who was interested in the process and in the business of writing. One notable essay, written in the 1940s, considered the impact of television and the cinema. Once in Every Lifetime was serialised in Woman's Home Companion. It was a popular story of a man in hospital falling in love with a nurse, and how, despite an unfulfilled relationship, her influence guided him (a familiar story to those aware of Ivor Gurney's relationship with his Armadale nurse, Annie Drummond).

In 1949, his novel The Miracle at Cardenrigg was published. His move to London was followed by the publication of his short stories in magazines such as Atlantic Monthly, Lilliput, The Strand Magazine, as well as Virginia Quarterly. He was offered lucrative work in Hollywood, but he rejected it as he did not want to lose his independence.

In his late 40s, he developed heart and breathing problems, which led to his death in 1953, leaving behind over thirty short stories, as well as novels and essays, and eight radio plays, two of which were broadcast.

One commentator summed up his work as 'motive and pressure and destiny made plain' because his fascination with detail and the overall design of things is often demonstrated in his portrayal of wider issues through the minutiae of daily life.

Essay (won the Arthur Markham Memorial prize awarded by Sheffield University): Sunday in the Village
Articles: The Novel is Doomed; Tension-Snap-Relief
Novels: Once in Every Lifetime (Nicholson & Watson, 1945) (serialised in Woman's Home Companion, Nov 1945); The Miracle of Cardenrigg (London: Gollancz, 1949); Nor is the Night Starless; Yesterday will Return (Nicholson & Watson, 1946) also published later as Mima (Bantam Books, New York, 1952) ; One Summer is All
Short stories: Temper the Wind; Bright and Cheerful is the Day (Virginia Quarterly, Autumn 1945 pp 572-86.); My Shadow on the Side of the Tunnel; And Always will be; Strange the Way; The Fair (Lilliput, May 1945, Vol. 16 (5) (no. 95), pp 373-376.); The Road isn't Always Broad (Story Magazine, 1946, Jul-Aug., Vol. 29, No. 120, pp 80-91); Over a Lifetime you may (Good Housekeeping, 1947); One More Chance, a story (Modern Reading 16, edited by Reginald Moore, Phoenix House Limited).
Plays including: One More Chance
; Beneath the Surface

Criticism and Biography

  • National Library of Scotland: MSS.27417 - 27425

  • Scottish Writers: Tom Hanlin by Hugh Macpherson in the Scottish Book Collector, First Series, No.10, (Edinburgh Feb. 1989), pp19-20

  • Pithead Metaphysics: Tom Hanlinís Once in Every Lifetime by Manfred Malzahn in ScotLit No 8 (Aberdeen: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, Autumn 1992), pp. 3-4.

  • Once in Every Lifetime reviewed by Carlos Baker (Virginia Quarterly Review, 1946, published by University of Virginia)

  • Review of Tom Hanlin's writing in Annals of Scotland, 1895-1955, (An Essay on the Twentieth-century Scottish Novel, Related to a Series of Programmes with the Same Title to be Broadcast by the BBC for Winter Listening, 1956-57) by George Blake, pub 1956 by BBC

  • West Lothian Heritage, Newsletter of West Lothian Heritage Services  Article about Hanlin on page 5


The Viking Press, New York, printed October 1945

Dedicated to the memory of
Private John Hanlin, HLI, killed in action, Normandy, June 1944



First published by Nicholson & Watson, London, 1946

printed by Love and Malcomson Ltd



Bantam Book, printed December 1951

'Gripping from first to last' New Haven Register
'There are passages in the novel that Zola could have signed.'
St Louis Post-Dispatch
'prose that carries the emotional pulse-beat of poetry'
New York Herald Tribune