GEORGE Orwell’s "Scotophobia” – and how he overcame it while writing his masterpiece 1984 on the Hebridean island of Jura – is to be explored in an upcoming book by an award-winning Scots writer.

Les Wilson, who won the prestigious Saltire Society award for best history book in 2018, said he had always admired Orwell – and set out to uncover the reasons behind his “perplexing” anti-Scottishness.

“I’ve used the word Scotophobia and Scotophobic but I don’t know if you’ll find that in a dictionary,” Wilson laughs. “But it sums up pretty well his attitude to the people of Scotland.”

READ MORE: Evidence from the book exploring George Orwell's 'loathing for Scots'

In his upcoming book – George, Jura And 1984: Orwell’s Island – Wilson uses extensive research into Orwell’s writings and those of his contemporaries, as well as interviews with people living on Jura, to explore the evolution of and reasons behind the great writer’s aversion to all things Scottish.

The three elements to George Orwell’s Scotophobia

There were, Wilson concludes, “three elements to his anti-Scottishness”.

The first was Orwell's (whose real name was Eric Blair) distaste for his own background. The writer was descended from slave-owning aristocracy with the name Blair – which is derived from the Scots Gaelic blàr, meaning field.

“He told people that he hated his name,” Wilson explains. “He hated the Eric part because it sounded like something from a Norse saga. And he was embarrassed by the name Blair because it made him sound Scottish. He decided to ditch that.

“Of course, the patron saint of England is Saint George, as well as many kings, and Orwell is the name of an English river. George Orwell. You could hardly think of a name more English and that’s what he went by.”

The National: George Orwell

The second element to Orwell’s Scotophobia was built during his time in prep school, Wilson says. As a boy, family connections helped the young Eric Blair gain a place at St Cyprian's School, in East Sussex.

“His first encounter with Scots were these little Scottish snobs at a prep school who talked about going fishing in the Highlands on mummy and daddy’s estate,” Wilson says, arguing that Orwell had further rebelled against a “cult of Scottishness” imposed by the schoolmasters.

And the third, and perhaps strongest, element to the great writer’s Scotophobia was his experience in Burma.

“It was like a Scottish colony,” Wilson says. “Burma oil, which basically fueled the British fleet, was headquartered in Glasgow.

READ MORE: Jura: Visiting the Scottish island that spawned George Orwell's 1984

“The Irrawaddy Flotilla Company which ran the ships in Burma – there were a lot of waterways – it was based in Glasgow. A lot of the teak planters, they were Scots as well.

“So a huge number of Scots, and in those days the lower-class Scots out there found they lived like lords. Their money would buy them all sorts of class, distinction, servants and they treated the local people as ‘dirrt’. Orwell thought they were racist.”

Wilson’s rhotic R in “dirrt” is a reference to one of Orwell’s characters from the 1934 novel Burmese Days.

Described as “an old Scotch gin-soaker”, the character tells another: “Remember laddie, always remember, we are sahib-log [masters] and they are dirrt!”

The National: Les Wilson outside Barnhill, the cottage on Jura where George Orwell penned 1984Les Wilson outside Barnhill, the cottage on Jura where George Orwell penned 1984 (Image: Les Wilson)

Wilson’s book is replete with quotes and evidence of the Scotophobia these three elements implanted in Orwell’s mind.

One, from a former partner, goes: “He had his own prejudices. Fearful prejudices. For example, he claimed that all Scots people were like the whisky-swilling planters he’d met in Burma. Fearful prejudices, and he wouldn’t take any argument about them.”

Elsewhere, Wilson notes that Orwell once wrote how “calling them ‘Scotchmen’, not ‘Scotsmen’ [is] a good, easy way of annoying them”.

“I’m a Scotsman and it would annoy me!” Wilson jokes.

George Orwell overcoming his hatred of Scots

“Having examined the reason for his anti-Scottishness, and how he overcame it, I admire him even more,” Wilson told The Sunday National.

In his book, Wilson explores how a move to Jura in 1946 would soften Orwell’s attitudes to Scots through encounters with ordinary working people – and their Gaelic culture.

In 1947, the great writer penned an article for the Tribune where he declared to have formerly thought it “absurd to keep alive an archaic language like Gaelic” – but noted the reasons for his change of heart.

READ MORE: George Orwell’s Animal Farm translated into Scots for first time

A friend would later say that support for the survival of Britain's minority languages was one of the last opinions Orwell ever expressed before his death in 1950 aged just 46.

Wilson writes that on Jura: “For the first time in his life, Orwell had begun to seriously regard a part of Britain that was not England.”

In an odd move for the writer, he took his Gaelic name, Blair, during his three years on the island.

“I’m not quite sure why,” Wilson says. “Maybe it was just not wanting to be seen as the now-famous writer. Animal Farm had been a huge success and he had more money than he’d ever had before.

“Then, maybe his chequebook was in the name Blair,” he jokes.

The National: George Orwell's son Richard Blair. Picture: Polly Hancock

Whatever the reason, Orwell’s adopted son, Richard Blair (above), would always go by that name.

Wilson, who has met the now 79-year-old, says: “He was a brought up a Scotsman, and he can play the bagpipes!

“Quite a turn up for the son of an English writer.”

Wilson is the creative director of Caledonia TV, which has made documentaries – including one about Orwell’s Scotophobia – for the BBC’s Gaelic-language Alba service.

He has also authored books, including Islay Voices and The Drowned And The Saved: When War Came To The Hebrides, for which he won the Saltire Society award for best history book in 2018.

George, Jura And 1984: Orwell’s Island will be published by Saraband and available from September 14. RRP: £9.99. Find more information here.