The last few days have seen the annual Dorothy Dunnett Society AGM and Weekend in Edinburgh.
We had new venue this time as the Royal Over Seas League, where we’ve been for quite a number of years, is being completely renovated. In any case the weekend has been getting higher and higher attendance levels recently and we were outgrowing the ROSL, so we’ve moved to John Macintyre Centre in the grounds of the Edinburgh University Pollock Halls of Residence. With a much larger lecture theatre with modern equipment and much better acoustics it looks like being our new home for the forseeable future.
For me the weekend started early with a lovely reunion with longtime Dunnett enthusiasts Olive and Kell De Pont, who were over from California for the weekend. We hadn’t seen each other for about 10 years so it was great to have dinner with them on Thursday evening – particularly as it was my birthday that day.
The official events started with the opening dinner at the Radison Blu hotel on the Friday evening, and it was good to find when walking down the High Stree to get there that the sun had made a welcome reappearance for our very late Spring (March had seen heavy snow and April has been pretty wet so far).
Lots of old friends to greet and the chatter went on till late.
Saturday saw us at the John Macintyre Centre which is close to Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park and the combination of the yellow broom bushes and the first blossom on the trees gave us fine views once the early rain cleared.
Return of an old Friend
The first speaker allowed us to welcome a dear friend back into the fold. Dr Henk Beentje from Kew Gardens is a renowned botanist and had given a wonderful talk at the Edinburgh Gathering of 2000. We were delighted to see him return with an updated version of that talk on The Flora and Fauna of Lymondshire. There are a great many obscure and unexpected botanical and animal reference in the Lymond Chronicles and Henk has spent countless hours researching them. Complete with deeply researched and often contemporary illustrations his talk combined expert knowledge and lots of fun and it was delightful to hear him again, even if he did cast some doubt on whether you can really attach a soldier’s helmet to a sheep’s head with twine!
Friends and Romans
After coffee we had another rare treat. Author Lindsey Davis, known and loved all over the world for her Falco series of detective novels based in Roman times, and a friend and admirer of Dorothy, gave us a talk entitled “We Need to Talk About Influences” in which she recalled her early reading of Lymond and how she was inspired by Dorothy’s skills, as well as being taught by another of our old friends – Pauline Brace. She went on to tell us how she became an author and what issues are faced in the process of creating a series of very popular books and the pressures from fans and publishers. She later gave us some thoughts on her new series featuring Falco’s daughter Flavia Alba and answered questions on how she goes about writing. The whole session was conducted with the lovely wry humour for which she is well-known and went down very well indeed.
Book and TV News
After lunch we heard the latest news on the reissues of the books in the UK and also in the US. As we know the new editions of the Chronicles and King Hereafter have already been published, and we expect the House of Niccolo to appear in the Autumn. There is also a possibility that both The Lymond Poetry and the Johnson Johnson series will also reappear at some point in the future. The audiobooks, which are currently unavailable in their previous form, are being re-recorded and will be handled directly by Penguin this time.
The news on the proposed TV series is less certain but there has been positive discussion on the first screenplay and a revised one will be written in the next few weeks and resubmitted. If they go ahead then it’s likely that Game of Kings will be split into around 6 episodes and US money would ensure that the productions would be lavish and have the greatest chance of maintaining the sort of high production values that we all hope for.
Walking while sitting still
The final event before the AGM was a talk by Nicky Cannon on an imaginary stroll down the Royal Mile. Nicky is an expert on early Edinburgh and is the author of the Society’s Edinburgh: The Dorothy Dunnett Guide and her excellent talk would be a fine insight into Edinburgh geography and history for members who are not as familiar with it as those of us who live here. Indeed one piece of information which she had picked up recently was news to me but ties in very nicely to a story I’d heard from my father about tunnels under the High Street.
Since my days on the committee are long past, and ex-chairmen should not be ghosts at the decisions I left before the AGM and returned home to freshen up for the evening’s gala dinner at the Caledonian Hotel. I should however mention that Betty Moxon was retiring as Chairman this after an excellent period in post. Betty has been a superb Chairman and ambassador for the Society and we all wish her well.
The Castle Suite of the Caley is a fine setting for the dinner and a good time was had by everyone. The four speakers who gave us readings from Dorothy’s work to round off the evening all did an excellent job of bringing their chosen passages to life; I particularly enjoyed Stephen Hart’s accent for Marie de Guise in the final scenes from Game of Kings.
Today the delegates were visiting the Signet Library which I’m sure will have been a fascinating trip. I decided not to go – partly as I often do to make sure that no-one from overseas would lose out on a place to a local who can visit any time, and partly because my last memory of being there was for the reception following Dorothy’s funeral, and even after all these years I still didn’t feel I wanted to go back. I believe that some of our members were then going on to visit the historic Greyfriars Churchyard and if so they had a lovely sunny day for it. Maybe Spring is really here at last!
Safe journey home to all our visitors and we hope to see you all again in the future.