Spotlight on the South-West
From Burns to Book Towns
There are many areas of Scotland where romance, adventure, history and beauty are taken as a given, but one area of Scotland that is quietly getting on with becoming a literary hot spot is the South West of Scotland. It has a historical pedigree not to be sniffed at, and a growing number of brilliant visitor attractions to tempt all visitors. This month we shine a light on the area's contemporary authors and places of interest, as well as pay tribute to those classic writers from the area who are already widely celebrated.
‘I fixed on Galloway as the best place to go,’ Richard Hannay declared in The 39 Steps. We liked the quote so much at the Wigtown Book Festival that we put it on a bag, and it’s come to mind a lot recently. For the past two years, we’ve been part of an EU-funded project looking at new approaches to literary tourism in rural areas. How can we make Dumfries & Galloway the best place to go for readers – even those not on the run from shadowy criminal conspiracies?
There’s a delicious variety in the Spot-lit project. In eastern Finland, plans are afoot to bring the wonderful (and undoubtedly) weird national epic Kalevala to a wider audience. Our partners at Arts over Borders in Northern Ireland dream of Enniskillen becoming a destination for Oscar Wilde pilgrimage. Meanwhile, along the Wild Atlantic Way, the storytellers and poets of Ireland’s West will be celebrated through new performances.
So what about south-west Scotland? What have we got to offer? More than is sometimes acknowledged. But that’s no surprise: Dumfries & Galloway (D&G) is used to being overlooked.
Let’s start with the classics. Burns’s Birthplace in Alloway often gets the glory, but it was Ellisland Farm outside Dumfries where he wrote “Tam o’ Shanter” and “Auld Lang Syne”, the town’s Globe Inn where he drank and St Michael’s Churchyard where he died. Walter Scott is about as Borders as you can get. But D&G might lay imaginative claim to Old Mortality, Redgauntlet and even ...
Jeremiah’s Bell By Denzil Meyrick Published by Polygon
The book as . . . memory. What is your first memory of books and reading?
My granny was the first person I remember reading to me. I can still see picture books called Mary Mouse, Rupert Bear and Barbar the Elephant. When I got to the stage of reading myself in the late sixties/early seventies, I began to read Enid Blyton – like so many others of my vintage.
I was lucky to have access to the wonderful children’s books by Kintyre Author Angus MacVicar. Much of his work was set in Kintyre in the past, present, or future. He also described places that...
‘I’ve finally realised that (and this time the grimace has become a wince – I can barely look at the screen as I type these words), I miss the social interaction of life in a bookshop.’
‘In the best work of the world’s most representative poet, every word can sound like an effusion of pure spirit.’
‘… when shades of night began to fall, certain young mathematicians shed their triangles, crept up walls and down trees, and became pirates in a sort of Odyssey that was long afterwards to become the …
‘It didn’t matter that he’d saved the village many times over. What mattered was that he was nice and polite, which were definitely not good Viking qualities.’
‘The Bookshop was exactly like it had been in my dream. At least the front room was – but everything else, the house above, Shaun, our friends, Wigtown, the community – were beyond my expectations.’
‘The old ways might be tiring and leave your hands calloused and scarred, but maybe they are the best after all.’
‘Seabirds love islands, as I love islands: the further out of the way they are, the less disturbance there is, the more perfect they are.’
‘After all, without our fabulous rural landscapes there would be no stories to tell! ‘
‘Into this bright, watery landscape Mij moved and took possession with a delight that communicated itself as clearly as any articulate speech could have done,’