Dunnett Newsletter – 23rd Nov 2001

Dorothy’s Funeral 

First of all I would like to thank everyone who has made entries in the online Book of Condolence. I know that these have been read by the family and that they have found considerable comfort in them, as have I. I would also like to especially thank those of you who have sent me personal messages of support and appreciation – these have been a great source of strength at a difficult time and I value them immensely. I have tried to keep up with replies to those which seemed to require them or those which I found particularly moving, but the sheer volume of them has inevitably meant that the task has been beyond me. I will try and get through some more of them but if I don’t manage then please take this as grateful thanks and acknowledgement.
In addition I would like to thank again everyone who was at the Dublin O’Spit for their warmth and fellowship on a memorable weekend which was truly a celebration of a wonderful life. And a special thanks to Cindy Byrne for organising it.

On Thursday 15th Nov. I attended the funeral of Dorothy Dunnett.

Walking down from the shop through the old town, it was impossible not to be reminded of her at almost every step. I passed the remains of the Flodden Wall which surrounded the city in Lymond’s time, up St Mary’s Street past Boyd’s Wynd to the corner where stood the Floory Land, which she used for Nicholas’ house. Then down the Canongate, past St John’s Pend with the cross of the Knights on the roadway, to the Canongate Kirk where such a short few years before we’d gathered for Alastair’s funeral.

Though it was a couple of months later in the year the day was not dissimilar, mild but clear with a pale blue sky against which the remaining late Autumn leaves still shone in golden colours. The sort of typical Edinburgh day that she would have loved.

Soon I was joined by other friends and colleagues – Val Bierman and her husband Michael, Richenda Todd, Elspeth Morrison, Paula Garrow – DDRA treasurer, Harrie Evans from Penguin, and Vivienne Schuster – Dorothy’s agent for most of her writing life. Looking at their faces I thought I saw the same sense of bewilderment that I was feeling myself; as if we didn’t quite know why we were there, it was so impossible to believe that Dorothy wasn’t with us anymore.

The old kirk was the same as before – light and airy, plain glass windows and eggshell-blue woodwork. Only the red and gold crown of Scotland atop the front pew hinting at it’s royal associations. It was perhaps not as full as it had been three years earlier but one tends to forget – she was always so young – that so many of the people she and Alastair had known would by now themselves be gone.

The organist and pianist started to play about 10 minutes before the service started and then, to the strains of “Jesu Joy of Mans Desiring”, Ninian and Mungo came in with Alison; the two “boys” dressed in kilts – how it would have gladdened Alastair’s heart to see them – along with the minister, The Reverend Charles Robertson, the Queen’s chaplain.
We sang Psalm 121 – I to the hills will lift mine eyes – followed by prayers. There was then a reading by Mungo Dunnett from King Hereafter. It was from Part IV chapter 15 and as far as I can remember it was as follows.

Then, she did not remember where she had heard him speak these words before.

‘O fair woman!
O Befind! Will you come with me
To a wonderful country which is mine
Where the people’s hair is of golden hue
And their bodies the colour of virgin snow?

There no grief or care is known.
Beautiful people without any blemish
Love without sin, without wickedness.
O woman! Shouldst thou come to my brave land
All this we shall share, O Befind!’

Then the dawn came, and showed her an empty bed, and the spears flashing red in the sunrise.

There followed three scripture readings:
Psalm 15
Ecclesiaticus 39; 6-11
St John 14: 1-6, 27

Amongst these was a passage so apt that it could have been written especially for her. However I have since tried to look them up and cannot find it. If time allows I will write to the minister and ask his advice.
Psalm 23 was sung next, The Lord’s My Shepherd to the tune of Crimond, and then we came to the Minister’s address.

He was a family friend and had known both Dorothy and Alastair well, and this was certainly reflected in his description of her. Indeed there were moments when he seemed to be, like the rest of us, on the verge of giving in to tears. Having gone through the usual list of her life and achievements (though with rather more insight – he was clearly a reader) he paused and said that none of this really touched on the real Dorothy, her vitality and warmth and energy. It was revealed that the last portrait that she painted had been a commission for one of the Queen’s chaplains, him of course, and that it now hung proudly in his manse down the road. He described how she was always interested in everyone else’s activities, encouraging, inspiring and always asking how they were going at every opportunity. He himself had been writing some ecclesiastical text and though it was hardly something she was interested in she never failed to offer help, advice and encouragement whenever they met.

He went on to describe the three aspects of the hospitality that you would experience when visiting the house in Colinton Road. The first was the little shriek of happiness when she answered the door and the warm hug that made you feel that you were the one person in the world that she most wanted to see.

The second was what he called the “Alastair-sized dram” which you were presented with and which was always followed by another!

The third was her parrot!
The plastic parrot in gaudy colours which had a small recording device built into it which repeated the last thing it heard in a voice slightly higher than the original. He gave some humorous examples of this effect and then mentioned that on occasion you might find it regaling you with a string of oaths if she had bumped into the furniture while rushing to answer the door!

My memory cannot do justice to the whole of it but Val tells me that she hopes that a full version of the address will appear in Whispering Gallery with Rev. Robertson’s kind permission. Suffice it to say here that it caught the essence of the Dorothy we all loved and that by the end the tears of sadness had turned into tears of laughter and joy at our memories of her.

We had prayers followed by the Lord’s Prayer and then sang Paraphrase 2 – O God of Bethel – to the tune Salzburg, before the Commendation, Dismissal and Blessing, and then the coffin was carried away.

The family then went to a Service of Committal at Warriston Crematorium and later met up with us all at the Signet Library in Parliament Square (the historic library of the Scots legal profession), just a few yards from St Giles, where, over drinks and buffet we mingled and talked of memories and happy times with her.

The following morning I gave a short telephone interview to BBC Radio 5’s Brief Lives programme – this is a review of the famous people who had died during the previous week. Jenny Brown of the Scottish Arts Council had also done a piece. Unfortunately my piece was later dropped to accommodate another last minute entry.
Half an hour later I was on my way to the airport heading for the O’Spit in Dublin. I had originally intended to be there but had changed my mind a number of times due to clashes of commitments and had eventually decided that I couldn’t face being there while bearing the secret of Dorothy’s illness. With the funeral over there was only one place I wanted to be.

I will attempt to give a summary of the weekend in a later newsletter, but for now will mention just one event. We held a session entitled “Memories of Dorothy” which I had the honour of chairing, and which I started off by describing the funeral much the same as I’ve just done here. A number of people then contributed stories or poems or readings which they wished to share with everyone. It was a very moving experience for all of us, and one that I’ll remember for as long as I live, and at the end of it I read a short passage from Alastair’s “Among Friends” and then proposed a toast – drunk with Highland Park single malt from Orkney – To Dorothy!

The Dunnett Archive

I promised in my last announcement that I would give you details of the Dunnett Archive Trust. They have since been put up on the website but for anyone who hasn’t seen them and wishes to contribute, here they are again. As mentioned below, cheques can be accepted in any currency.

Before her death Dorothy decided to leave her very extensive archive – all her research materials, manuscripts and other papers, plus Alastair Dunnett’s papers – as a bequest to the National Library of Scotland where it will be known as The Dunnett Archive. She was of course a trustee of the library and it was where she did a great deal of her research. A trust has now been set up to maintain that archive and allow it to be catalogued and accessed for future generations. This seems to me to be an excellent way of preserving her memory and utilizing her extensive knowledge for the benefit of all, and I would urge anyone who wishes to mark her death or commemorate her life to make a donation to the trust.

Details of the Trust, set up by Dorothy’s lawyer as part of his firm’s own charitable trust – the Princes Exchange Foundation – are as follows:

Account Name – The Dunnett Archive
Account Number – 00446114
Sort Code – 80-26-02
Bank – Bank of Scotland
Address – 41 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh EH12 9BF

The Dunnett Archive is a sub-fund of Princes Exchange Foundation, a private limited company, Registered Number SC209552,
Princes Exchange Foundation is a Scottish Charity, number SC030452.

Anyone wishing to send cheques can send them to The Archive c/o Princes Exchange Foundation at the Registered Office address. It has now been confirmed that they can accept foreign currency cheques.
If you pay UK tax and wish to make a donation under the Gift Aid scheme then this must be declared when making it. Download this form (in Word 95 format), then complete it and post it along with your cheque.

Audio Books – Disorderly Knights

It hardly seems right to be mentioning the books in this newsletter, but maybe this reminds us that we need to keep her work alive and ensure it is read by as many people as possible.
I heard from WF Howes last week. Firstly the reason for the delay in obtaining new supplies of Game of Kings was because of a fault in one of the cassettes. This is being corrected and they should be with us shortly. Copies of Queens’ Play are now available again.
The good news is that they have just received copies of Disorderly Knight and they should be wish us shortly as well (I reserved the entire first batch of 52 copies). I hope to have the ISBN this week so I can put it on the website and start taking orders. Further, they tell me that Pawn in Frankincense will be available in January 2002 and that they are concluding negotiations for Ringed Castle and Checkmate.

Companion and Companion 2

Just a reminder that the UK reissue of the Companion is due out very soon now. I was told that the publication date for the UK edition of Companion 2 is likely to be May 2002. Again I’ll try and get full details from Penguin in the next few days so that we can start taking orders

Antipodean contacts

There was recently a suggestion on one of the discussion groups that the readers in Australia and New Zealand should get together on a local email list or discussion group. If you fit the bill and would like to participate then drop a message to Jennifer Cameron-Smith at fionnabhair@bigpond.com
I should perhaps mention that I generally get about 20 people drop off this list every time I send out a newsletter with messages being bounced back – usually as “unknown user” as people move ISPs, but I do seem to get a higher than expected proportion of Australian ones. So if you know anyone “down-under” who used to get the newsletter and now doesn’t, do mention to them that they may have forgotten to tell me they’d moved!

The Future

A number of people have asked me in the last week about whether the website and the newsletters will continue. Rest assured that the website will remain in place as long as I do, and if for some inconceivable reason it were ever to disappear I would simply take the files and put them on a site of my own. But I don’t anticipate that being necessary.

As regards the newsletter the original purpose was of course a commercial one – to help James Thin sell as many copies of Dorothy’s books as we could to the people who wanted them – and to a certain extent that purpose is now over, though there are still the remaining audiobooks and the second volume of the Companion to come, and if everyone is happy with it I’ll continue to occasionally mention books which I think are closely related to the time periods in which we are interested. However the newsletter itself has changed a lot in the last few years and as you’ll all realise it has become something that I write largely in my free time. There is now a great deal more activity in the way of Dunnett days and mini-spits etc. and we now have the DDRA on whose council I have the honour to serve. While my thoughts are still in their early stages I anticipate that the newsletters will continue as a means of keeping everyone in touch with what’s going on, and would thus ask that anyone organising events should keep feeding me with information so I can pass it on here, and also be able to keep Val informed for Whispering Gallery. Please also send Val and me reports on how these events have gone and we can tell everyone else and help keep Dorothy’s name and books alive.

Very best wishes


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.