Dunnett Newsletter – 20th Feb 2002

Hello Everyone

A few changes since I was last in touch – to say the least!

Many of you who are on the discussion lists will already be aware of it but for those who aren’t the situation is as follows. James Thin Ltd went into administration on 10th Jan after the bank withdrew their overdraft facility, and a few days later the administrators closed down five of the English-based shops and made 128 people redundant. They also closed down the website and made myself, my assistant Pauline, and the order desk staff redundant, along with two of the Marketing Dept, a number of the stock controllers and parts of the Accounts Dept. Sadly, because it was the administrators rather than the management, my 21 years of service didn’t count for much and they were able to do it with immediate effect and without any redundancy payments other than the government-paid minimum. All a bit of a shock for everyone and a great shame that a company that has been around for 154 years should be reduced to such a condition. As yet there is no word of a new buyer for it although a number of names have been mentioned. Apparently the bids for it close at the end of this week so we’ll have to wait and see whether it will survive in a new form or not, and if it does whether all the remaining shops will be kept open.

The web site is actually still there if you know the component page addresses – it’s just the front page that has been replaced by a suspended notice and the ordering system has been switched off. However if they don’t renew the contract with the ISP the whole site will disappear in July. I have copies of all the files from the Dunnett pages – I wrote most of them at home anyway and of course many of the photographs are mine. I intend to rewrite the pages, which of course needed revision anyway to take account of Dorothy’s death, and put them up on a site of my own. Currently that site is http://home.freeuk.net/billmarshall/ but I’ve taken out my own domain address and may move the site to another host that can handle more complex scripting and backend processing. I’ll keep you informed. I’ll also use it for the news from the DDRA unless we later decide to set up a separate site for it.

Please don’t send messages to my old work address but only to my personal address which you’ll find below.

Before going any further I must say thanks to everyone who has sent me messages of support since the redundancies took place. They have been a great source of strength and comfort to me and I’m very grateful for them. With all the complexities of signing-on as unemployed, working on a new CV, registering with employment agencies, etc. I haven’t been able to reply to all of them yet, but I’m sure you’ll understand where the priorities have to lie at the moment. I’ll try and get to them when time allows.


One of the repercussions of the Thins collapse is that the facility for overseas readers subscribing to Whispering Gallery has been stopped. In fact when the company went down it was owing the DDRA a fair sum of money – a cheque was in the pipeline but was stopped when the bank withdrew the overdraft. We don’t know whether this will be honoured later or not. I’m looking into the possibility of using a PayPal account to allow people to continue to subscribe/renew to the magazine and would be interested to hear from subscribers as to whether they would be willing and able to use such a facility. The alternative is to get a UK Pounds cheque or an international money order as there is no way that the magazine can afford to pay for credit card facilities, and it would be a tragedy if the readership eventually dropped below a sustainable level because of this. Please let me know your opinions on this.


I recently heard from Elspeth Morrison and the release of the 2nd volume of the Companion is due to take place on 16th April for the US edition (paperback to match their Vol 1 edition), and 2nd May for the UK edition (hardback, to match their Vol 1).
Of course I can’t sell it to you any more though if I can get the new pages written in time I may try to get an affiliation deal with another online bookseller so that I can at least direct you to a suitable vendor and maybe make a small percentage from it for myself.


This brings me to another question. Many of you sent very complimentary messages to me about the piece I wrote for the newsletter covering the trip to Orkney. One of the things I would like to develop now that I’m no longer working for Thins is my writing, and travel writing about Scotland and other scenic places I’ve visited is one of the thoughts I’ve had. This newsletter will of course remain free, and I intend to continue it for as long as there is news and interest, but I’d like to know if you feel my other writing is worth paying for if I were to turn out other pieces comparable to the Orkney one. And how much would be an appropriate cost?
To be honest I find it hard to imagine charging people on this list, many of who I consider good friends, for my work. Guess I don’t really have the entrepreneurial spirit 😉 But I now have to consider all options and use my time as effectively as possible. Please let me know your feelings on this.


The 2nd AGM of the Dorothy Dunnett Reader’s Association will be held in Edinburgh on Sat 20th April at the Point Hotel, Bread Street. After the AGM in the morning there will be a question and answer session by Elspeth Morrison (a questions form will be sent out with the mailing pack for those attending) and after lunch there will be a talk by Charles Burnett, who is Ross herald and was Dorothy’s advisor on all matters heraldic. We also hope to have Richenda Todd – Dorothy’s editor for most of the House of Niccolo series. After the afternoon talks, assuming the weather is suitable, Elspeth will conduct a walking tour in the Royal Mile, and Joy Madden will be holding a session about Rosslyn Chapel. Places for these will be limited so you’ll need to book early.

The following day there will be a bus trip to Blackness Castle on the shores of the Forth in the morning, and then to Torphichen Priory in the afternoon. I’m sure I don’t need to explain the significance of these places to any of you!!
There are still plenty of places available for the weekend. If you’d like details please get in touch and I’ll pass them on.
The cost is £26 for the Saturday and £25 for the Sunday.


Now that Dorothy’s papers and research notes have been taken to the National Library in accordance with her bequest, Ninian and Mungo are planning to put the house at Colinton Road up for sale and of course there is the sad task of clearing those items for which they have no space. In the garage and various rooms in the house, there were a lot of books which the various publishers had sent her so that she could send copies to readers who wrote to her having and were having difficulties in getting them. There turn out to have been rather a lot of these – it took about three weeks to make an inventory of them and the initial totals were in the region of 2400. These aren’t part of Dorothy’s personal library but some of them were signed. Ninian needs to have these cleared by the end of February in order to be able to show the house – I had initially thought we would have until the end of April – and frankly neither of us has the time to deal with lots of single copy orders; the logistic involved in packing and posting are just completely beyond us. Since the house is obviously the main priority, the books, although in some case quite valuable, were of far less importance to him. However I didn’t want to pass up the possibility of keeping as many as possible of these within the Dunnett community rather than allowing them all to go to a dealer, so I’ve been in touch with a few of you who are known to deal with books on a reasonable scale, and we’ve accepted offers for quite a few of them. The time is now right to throw it more open and I’ve put a list of the books on my website at
I think we can try to take orders for say 10 or more items – please drop me a message if you’d like to make an offer for this sort of amount or more. If we manage to handle those then we may just have time to do a few for smaller amounts, but I can’t promise this so please understand the position. Remember that orders will have to have postage added at the real value – I’m afraid it’s not like the days of Thins absorbing part of the postage costs – and we’ll need to work out some method of payment that Ninian can accept.

Ninian tells me that there may be a sale of some other items from the house, including some of Dorothy’s paintings. I’ll post details of these when the time comes.


You may remember I mentioned in the last newsletter that a course has been run called “State and Society in the Fifteenth Century” based around Dorothy’s work. I had a message from the organiser about it as follows.


I don’t know if anyone is interested but I have been updating the website with readings and questions from our class discussions. I have also started a bibliography. It is only a few items so far but I am hoping that I will have time to expand it.

My students are doing reports on subjects of interest from the various books and I am hoping that they will be amenable to having the short reports posted on the website as well. I am not sure whether their final papers will be posted or not.

So far the class is going well. Even though there is a lot of reading (they are reading one novel almost every week), the group seems to be interested enough in the books to actually read about 5 times as much as students would normally be required to read in an upper-level history class.

Sharon D. Michalove
Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies, Dept. of History, UIUC


For those of you in Australia I’ve just seen mention on the discussion lists of a “Revel” in Melbourne.
It will be on March 16th & 17th 2002. Discussion, videos, book swapping, Lymopoly,
movies and dinner. Enquiries to:
ejcorbett@ozemail.com.au or jencathlee@hotmail.com

Anyone else with events that they’d like me to publicise please get in touch. And please send reports afterwards if you’d like to tell people about how they went. Whispering Gallery would also be happy to hear from you.

best wishes to everyone


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