Canoe Boys on the radio

Following up the earlier post about Alastair Dunnett’s book The Canoe Boys, there is to be a 3 part documentary on Radio Scotland about that epic trip. It starts on Wednesday 14th Nov at 11.30am. There is a feature on the Radio Scotland website which has a number of audio and video segments so you can get a flavour of it and it looks as if there will be a podcast available.

Third Unicorn Tapestry unveiled at Stirling Castle

Any of you who were with us on the DDRA weekend trip to Stirling Castle a few years ago will remember the wonderful Unicorn Tapestries, which we were able to see on the looms and about which we heard a talk the previous day from one of the superbly skilled weavers who are undertaking their construction and who had just finished work on the first in the series – The Unicorn in Captivity.

These recreations of the original Renaissance tapestries – The Hunt of the Unicorn – which belonged to James V and which are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in new York, have a direct link to the time period of our favourite books as well as being delightful to look at.

Now the third in the series of seven – The Unicorn is Killed and Brought to the Castle – has been unveiled and will be on display in the castle’s restored Chapel Royal. If you are visiting Scotland on holiday or live nearby then a trip to see them is highly recommended.

BBC News Article

Sophie Younger Conservation – includes photos of the first two tapestries

Historic Scotland article

Metropolitan Museum of Art feature on the original tapestries

New Yorker article on photographing the original tapestries

New edition of Canoe Boys published

I was delighted to hear from one of my fellow DDRA committee members that Alastair Dunnett’s book The Canoe Boys has appeared in a new edition. I hadn’t realised that the previous edition had run out, as it was still on the shelves the last time I’d checked for it. Which rather shows how easily, even after 21 years in the book trade, you can lose touch with things once you’re no longer working with them day to day.

Canoe Boys really is a classic. Alastair had a lovely writing style and the descriptions of pre-war West of Scotland life and the people that he and Seumas Adam encountered on their voyage north are truely evocative of a culture which has largely passed into history. At that time the sea was still the main means of communication for much of the west coast – roads were poor and slow going – and apart from the Clyde puffers the areas were pretty much isolated away from the Oban and Fort William railheads. You can get a real sense of the feelings he had for the area and the positive attitudes he would take into his work at the Scottish Office and later as editor of The Scotsman. The book now has an introduction and extra notes by his son Ninian and we must hope that it stays in print for many more years. Though I’ve long had a copy of the previous edition I’ll be buying a copy of this one too.

Published by In Pinn,
ISBN-13: 978-1903238998

Orkney views and Crawford visits

There was recently a Dunnett mini-gathering in Orkney organised by Anne Artymiuk which she tells me went superbly well. I would love to have been there for I adore Orkney, as readers of my Modern Orkney Saga and its follow-up will know, but my holidays have been used up for this year (as described in my new personal blog). Apparently Anne, who moved to Orkney because of reading Dorothy’s descriptions of it, has managed to recruit some new Dunnett enthusiasts from the islands, so Dorothy’s ideas on Thorfinn will have some local adherents. It’s just a pity that with King Hereafter not being in print in the UK that the book isn’t on sale there.


While reading one of the newsletters I’m subscribed to I remembered to check a fairly new site that will be of interest to those of you who haven’t been able to visit Orkney or Scotland. It’s called Scotland on TV and is run by Scottish Television – who of course once had Dorothy on their board of directors. They currently have videos available that include a 4-part aerial survey of the Orkneys (The Edge of the Land) and a real Scots treasure in some extracts from the series of programmes called Weir’s Way.

Until his death in 2006 at the age of 92, Tom Weir was the grand old man of Scottish hillwalking and mountaineering and his programmes from the 1960s and 70s have become a cult amongst late-night TV watchers and internet viewers. A superb author and storyteller, his TV shows have a wonderful homely feel to them and his knowledge of Scottish history and geography is gently but enthusiastically communicated. Although the film stock and shooting techniques weren’t always the best you also get some fine views of the Scottish landscapes. Amongst the clips on show at the moment there are four (Weir’s Way – Leadhills, Parts 1-4) concerning the area surrounding the source of the River Clyde and the area and village of Crawford. An added bonus for bibliophiles is that it includes a visit to the historic little library there. Definitely recommended.

There are lots more videos to explore on the site – clips of the new seaplane service from Glasgow to Oban have some good pictures of Loch Lomond, while the film of the Isle of Bute also has some grand landscape. For those of you who wished they could make it over to the Saddle gathering earlier this year there is also an all too short clip on the Crinan Canal, which Dorothy and Alastair visited regularly. Those of you who know Cindy Byrne can get a brief glimpse of the area of the Kintyre Peninsula where she now lives and operates The Old Bookshelf.

Finally, best wishes to the Oxford Day gathering which is due to take place shortly.