He tenement living essay down his authorities, too, and had an odd trick of giving them all a numerical value and then striking a balance, which stood for the reliability of each stage in the yarn. Young John’s childhood was brightened by his father’s love of singing Scots border ballads and playing instruments along with daily family prayers. He would teach all his children the legends and history of Scotland.
On the Fife coast, their big grey manse house was surrounded by a railway, a coal-pit and a bleaching works and further away woods to play in. Buchan did not follow a conventional schooling due to the family’s financial constraints. He first attended a dame’s school, where he learned to knit, but because of his spilling a pot of broth was promptly expelled. He entered grammar school in 1888, then went on to Glasgow University on scholarship at the age of seventeen, where he studied the classics, wrote poetry and published essays in the Glasgow University Magazine to defray his costs of tuition.
In the year 1900 Buchan moved to London, during which the Boer War was raging and of which he had decided he would not volunteer for service. Now that he was residing in London and not just visiting he bore a period of extreme loneliness and homesickness while working with and apprenticing in law firms. Two years later at the end of the war, Buchan accepted a two-year post as private secretary to Lord Milner `the seer of Empire’ in South Africa. 1911 saw the birth of his son John Norman Stuart, on 25 November and it was to be the first year that Buchan would suffer troubles from painful duodenal illness.