(1897-1963) UK author, historian and archaeologist, who wrote three magical fantasy novels, all set in Scotland and describing the adventures of two children, Donald and Jean. In Borrobil (1944) they go Into the Woods and meet a friendly magician, Borrobil, who transports them back to the legendary past – a world of Celtic mythology and Beltane Fires – and encounter the White King of Summer, the Black King of Winter and a poison-breathing Dragon. Donald and Jean travel through Time to less fantastic but equally exciting medieval settings in the two sequels: the Eildon Hill above Montrose in The Eildon Tree (1947) and Flodden Field in The Flag from the Isles (1951). In the latter novel, they devise their own "magic circle" after consulting an old book of Spells. All the characters in this story, especially the alchemist Damien, were based on real people researched by WCD in old documents and "historical warrants".
WCD's penchant for fantasy and magic, combined with his wide knowledge of Scottish history, naturally led him to try his hand at Ghost Stories. His first short Supernatural Fiction for adults, "The Sweet Singers" (1947 Blackwood's Magazine), which had as its background the imprisonment of the Covenanters on the Bass Rock, was the basis of his first collection The Sweet Singers (coll 1953 chap). Together with nine more ghost stories, it was assembled as Dark Encounters (coll 1963). Ancient clan feuds provide the source of some of the most effective malevolent Hauntings in the collection, notably by the Witch of Morar in "The Return of the Native" and Black Dougal in "Return at Dusk". His last story was "His Own Number". Also memorable is "The House of Balfother", in which the narrator, a university student, seeks shelter at a strange tower-house not recorded on any Map and meets a naked, incredibly old man secreted away like the Monster of Glamis. [RD]
William Croft Dickinson