On the wild side I was born in Leeds (in northern England) in 1947 to Scottish parents. I was the grandson of Britain’s first Labour prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald, though he died before I was born. I can recall some furniture and paintings that had belonged to him but I was never much interested in politics and his legacy didn’t affect my early years. Only when my first book was published did I attract attention as his grandson. However, I’ve always had a socialist streak as I dislike unfairness and will fight injustice if need be.
My parents were both busy doctors and I had four elder sisters so I became quite a wild little boy. Eventually, it was decided that I would be sent to boarding school to be “tamed”, as it were. I was packed off to Bramcote School, in Scarborough, on the east coast of Yorkshire, and that’s where I really discovered nature. We would walk along the beach and there were rock pools brimming with bugs, fish and other wonderful things. I discovered geology and soon accumulated a huge collection of fossils, which I stored in the loft, worrying my parents, who thought the weight might collapse the house.