AN AWARD-WINNING author has published the last in her trilogy of historical novels focusing on Haddington-born leader of the Reformation John Knox.

The Last Blast Of The Trumpet concludes more than eight years of work by writer Marie Gilroy Macpherson, who sadly had to endure the loss of her husband, Matt, the day after she submitted her manuscript to the publisher.

Marie said: “He’s been with me all the way through it and not to have him there is hard. Everybody in and around Haddington knew him; he’d come along to my launches.

“Everybody’s had hard times to face but having to cope with bereavement, social isolation and launching a book…

“But in some ways it gave me a purpose. I’d submitted the manuscript so then you’re on this roll, you’ve got to keep going with it and I didn’t see any point in holding back. It was done. It needed to be edited.

“It gave me a reason to get up in the morning. He’d have said: ‘Just get on with it. You started this, so finish it!’”

Born and raised in Musselburgh, in sight of Fa’side Castle, Marie told the Courier she had always been fascinated by local history: “I was born on the site of the Battle of Pinkie, which was fought in 1547, and then you’ve got Carberry Tower up the road where Mary Queen of Scots took her last stand, and Fa’side Castle, where Mary of Guise watched the Battle of Pinkie. So I was brought up with all this rich history.”

Marie was inspired by the film Dr Zhivago to study Russian at the University of Strathclyde; she then spent a year in the former Soviet Union to research her PhD thesis on the 19th-century Russian writer Mikhail Lermontov.

It was when she returned to Edinburgh in 1985 that she met Matt; and their move to Gifford in 2001 when she retired rekindled her interest in East Lothian history.

The Knox Trilogy is a fictional biography of theologian John Knox, set during the 16th-century Scottish Reformation.

The three books follow him through his life and career, detailing his upbringing, his time as a Roman Catholic priest, his conversion to Protestantism, how he ended up a galley slave, his flight from persecution to Geneva and Frankfurt, his return to Scotland and his battle of wills with Mary Queen of Scots.

Marie said: “What piqued my interest in writing about Knox was the Treaty of Haddington in 1548, which was signed in Haddington at St Mary’s Cistercian Abbey. The abbey was a huge Cistercian abbey about the size of Jedburgh [Abbey], on the outskirts of Haddington. It was one of the wealthiest abbeys in Great Britain and there’s nothing left of it.”

Her research led to Marie finding out about abbey prioress Elisabeth Hepburn, a member of one of the largest landowning families in Scotland, and John Knox’s birth and upbringing in Haddington.

Marie said: “I started to make speculative connections between all these people.

“We don’t know anything about [Knox] in his early life because, him being who he was, it’s almost as if his life began when he became a Protestant.

“It was all these disparate threads that I began to sew together to make this rich tapestry. But I didn’t plan to write a trilogy.

“Prioress Hepburn’s story fascinated me but when I submitted the book to my first publisher, he said: ‘This is great, have you got anything else? We’re really interested in this John Knox character!’”

The Last Blast of the Trumpet is available at Kesley’s Bookshop and The Reading Room in Haddington, and online.