Ian Hay was the pen-name of John Hay Beith, (1876-1952) a Scottish novelist and playwright active in the first half of the 20th century. For many years he earned his living as a schoolmaster, only gaining publication in his thirties. He served as an officer during the Great War, ending up as a major. During the twenties and the thirties he blossomed as a writer, with the majority of his work being published during this period.
He is most well known for his books The First Hundred Thousand, 1916, and its sequel, All in it K1 Carries On, 1917, but he also wrote many plays, short stories and war related non-fiction.
The First Hundred Thousand, which I read last year, does not form part of my great grandmother’s collection. It is based on his experiences as an officer in a K1 battalion of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. K1 was shorthand for the first hundred thousand volunteers requested by Kitchener in September 1914. It is still in print and takes a humorous look at life in such a battalion as it trained, although the slightly patronising tone towards the other ranks was not to my taste.
He is credited as articulating the difference in meaning between ‘funny peculiar and funny ha-ha’ in his 1938 play The Housemaster.
In addition to his novels, plays and non-fiction, he also wrote a number of screenplays, and acted as a consultant to Cecil B de Mille. See the Wikipedia article for more info.
My great grandmother had two of his novels, Knight on Wheels, 1914, which I rather liked and A Safety Match, 1911, which I’m not sure that I do at all. I’ll discuss them in due course.
Serious non fiction included, 9th (Scottish) Division Memorial, Arras, 1922
Getting together. (Essays on the relations between America and Great Britain.) 1917
One hundred years of army nursing. The story of the British army nursing services from the time of Florence Nightingale to the present day, 1953
Their name liveth : the book of the Scottish National War Memorial, 1931
Plays included a collaboration with PG Wodehouse, Leave it to Psmith, 1933. While some of his plays are still in print, most of them are long forgotten, the majority dating from the twenties and the thirties.
He wrote about fifteen novels, some of which were adaptations of his plays, for example, Little Ladyship, 1941 and vice versa – The Housemaster, 1936.