Ernest Redmond Buckler was born in 1908 in the tiny rural Nova Scotia village of Dalhousie West.
Considered “a brilliant student”, he earned many honours and eventually a degree at Dalhousie University followed by graduate studies in philosophy at the University of Toronto where he was awarded an M.A. in 1931.
He had started to write before graduation, but, in the atmosphere of few options and hard times of the Depression, he drew upon his skill in mathematics and accepted work as an actuary and what he would later term one the “cell-mates” in the “penitentiary” of the Toronto offices of Manufacturer’s Life. He stayed there until 1936 when he returned to his family farm in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley.
For the rest of his life, he would define himself first and foremost as a farmer, but eventually as a farmer who also wrote.In 1938, at the age of thirty, Buckler won a modest magazine article contest, which was enough to encourage his writing and to provide a platform for a freelance career. Other successes including a major MacLean’s Magazine prize and support from the magazine’s literary editor W.O. Mitchell culminated in the acceptance of his novel, The Mountain and the Valley, by a U.S. publisher.
This book, published in 1952, is consistently ranked by reviewers and leading authors as among the best novels in Canadian literature and would be the hallmark of his career. A follow-up novel, The Cruelest Month, had some success, but fell short of the commercial and critical achievement of his first book.In addition to these and Whirligig, his only other books were his 1968 memoirs entitled Oxbells and Fireflies and the prose for Nova Scotia: Window on the Sea, a picture book on his home province published in 1973.
As a book reviewer and essayist, he wrote for Esquire, Saturday Night, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications.
A reclusive, life-long bachelor, Buckler lived in a 19th century farmhouse near Bridgetown, Nova Scotia where he read, wrote, maintained contact with the world through his post office, and passed away in 1984.