Dunnett Newsletter 27th May 2003

Greetings from EdinburghThis time round we concentrate on the DDRA AGM but before we look at that I’ll bring you up to date on the changes I’ve made recently to the website. At the time of the last newsletter I’d just changed the menu system but in rushing to get it ready before the AGM I’d entirely forgotten that I hadn’t added the necessary alternative CSS files for older browsers like Netscape 4.X – most embarrassing for a web designer, particularly as we seem to have a higher proportion of Netscape users than in the wider world. Incidentally for anyone still using Netscape 4 I can highly recommend the Mozilla browser on which Netscape 7 is based.

When making the necessary changes I found I was still unhappy with the menu layout so I’ve gone right back to basics and stripped out a lot of old code that was left over from previous versions, and replaced it with fully revised style sheets. While it doesn’t look terribly pretty in Netscape 4 it should work correctly, while in the version 5+ browsers it should be a great improvement. If anyone finds any problems with it (for instance I don’t currently have access to a Mac to check it there) then please let me know what platform, operating system and browser you are using.

At the same time I’ve made a few additions. A photograph of Alastair has been added to the Biography page. This was sent to me a few years ago by a reader and I’ve temporarily lost track of who it was (it’ll be somewhere in my 800Mb email database!!), so if you recognise it as yours please tell me so I can credit you. A number of images of Dorothy’s paintings have been added to the Paintings page to go with the picture of Archie. If anyone has any other of Dorothy’s paintings or knows where there are any then I’d love to hear from you. Most of her best work is in private hands but it would be lovely to see if we can get permission to photograph any of it.

I’ve added more photos of Culross from two visits there, and Falkland from the AGM weekend visit, to the Places to Visit pages and added the contents of this newsletter to the AGM reports along with some photos of the event. I’ll be adding more details about both places in the near future.

The Book Covers Page has been split into the current book covers and the older book covers as I’ve added some more images of the older ones and the page was thus getting a bit slow. Additions include a couple of the Johnson Johnson series and three of the Cassell versions of Lymond. The Lymond Poetry cover is on the Book News page.

Since I’m beginning to run out of room on the webspace that I’ve been using I’ve reduced the sizes of some of the older photographs but I may soon have to move the site to commercial space in which case I’ll use the address www.dorothydunnett.co.uk which I registered a while back.

The Lymond Poetry

The book is due to be published in in the UK in June but it doesn’t look as if it will be published in the US. However we were able to get advance copies for the AGM direct from the printers warehouse and I have the remaining unsold copies which Elspeth signed for me. I’ve already sold a number of them by people sending me money via PayPal and if there is sufficient demand I’ll order some more when these run out. I also have copies of the Edinburgh Renaissance Band CD which can be bought the same way. I’ve upgraded my PayPal account to accept credit card payments as well as PayPal money transfers – it means a small percentage is taken off at my end but it makes it easier for anyone who doesn’t keep any money in their account. Use my billmarsh@bigfoot.com address for the PayPal payments.

Prices are as follows

The Lymond Poetry – UKP 10.99 (not the provisional 9.99 that I’d said last time)
postage and packing:
airmail to US – 3.50
surface mail within the UK – 1.60
airmail to Europe – 2.20

Renaissance Band CD – UKP 11.50
postage and packing:
airmail to US – 2.40
surface mail within the UK – 1.30
airmail to Europe – 2.00

Edinburgh in the Spring 2003 – The DDRA AGM and Mini-Gathering

Saturday Talks and AGM

The mini-gathering is always as much a lovely social occasion as it is a formal event and with Olive Millward’s usual prompting about 20 of us had gathered in a Chinese restaurant for a meal on the Friday evening to kick things off. The huge banquet we consumed left me feeling full for two days! Having had only one day of rain in the previous two months – very unusual for Scotland! – we were worried that the weather had broken as it poured down most of the evening but we needn’t have been concerned. The weekend proper started on the Saturday morning when we gathered as usual on the top floor of the Point Hotel, where the view was better than ever this year with the bright clear conditions making the castle appear almost in touching distance and giving us superb views over the city to the Forth.
There were around 55 of us in attendance with readers from Germany, France and the USA as well as from various parts of the UK.
On this occasion we started with two of the talks before holding the short formal AGM proceedings.

Elspeth and Richenda on the Lymond Poetry

The AGM day simply wouldn’t be the same without Elspeth Morrison and Richenda Todd who’ve become a lively and entertaining double act. This year they gave us an insight into the work they had done together in editing the manuscript that Dorothy had originally written in 1976 between finishing Game of Kings and starting King Hereafter.

The Lymond Poetry, copies of which we had obtained early especially for the event, contains 66 poems in various European languages with Dorothy’s own translations. She intended that this be a collection of the best love poetry and ballads from the period as well as giving extra insight to the Lymond Chronicles which contain fragments of around 200 poems. The original plan had been to publish them after Checkmate (in fact one suggestion was that it be published at the same time) but although her agents were enthusiastic the publishers seemed not to see the potential and for a while Dorothy intended to publish privately. However these plans had to be put aside when Alastair suffered a major heart attack and although a number of the poems were later reworked and added to the two Companions, the full original manuscript only came to light after her death. Elspeth set to work tracing the original sources with her usual mixture of diligent research, inspired thinking, and close understanding and affinity with Dorothy’s writing and research techniques, and with Richenda’s help they put together backgrounds and biographies which they placed on the facing pages to the poems.

Between them they gave us an glimpse of the choices and difficulties they faced in trying to adhere as closely as possible to Dorothy’s wishes and the original sources, while dealing with proofreaders and publishers. Proofreading was particularly difficult as the spellings were often different within poems – one poem switches from Spanish to Italian and has misspellings in it – while punctuation often varies from one source to another and they felt it was important to make sure that the choices Dorothy had made were accurately reflected, even if she herself had made the occasional mistake. Only very occasionally did a source prove impossible to find, but in three instances a poem was quoted which they were unable to find in any of the six Chronicles. Penguin are now offering a prize for anyone who can find the references to these three.

All this background was conveyed with the light touch and humour that we’ve come to expect from them, and everyone, whether or not familiar with the intricacies of research and publishing, was left with a sense of both the expertise required and the immense fun that they both had in working on the project.

Jenny Smith on Music

It’s obvious to anyone meeting her that music is Jenny’s passion – both it’s execution and history. Here she gave us an impression of the rich background that lurks within the musical references contained in the Lymond Chronicles.

Starting with an analysis of Joissance vous Donneray – the music which Francis played for Christian while she lay dying in Flaw Valleys – she traced the connections and inferences which can be gathered about his skill as a performer and the political and cultural clues that are apparent in those people he deals with. She touched on the Netherlands as a centre of musical excellence, their influence reaching the Italians, and what can be read into Marguerite asking Lymond if he can play Palestrina. She also discussed the academic and social place of music in the period – its connection to mathematics and the wide ranging availability of degree courses in universities.

Philippa’s musical abilities were mentioned and the contrast made between Flaws Valleys which had a music room and Midculter which, perhaps surprisingly, did not, but had instead the cold room containing Lymond’s books and broken lute.

These are just a few of the points covered but I’m told that Jenny is producing an article about her talk for Whispering Gallery which I very much look forward to reading.

Jenny finished her talk by leading a brave band of singers in a rendition of “It was the Frogge in the Well”, which plays a prominent part in the early chapters of Game of Kings. The performers doing an excellent job despite having had no real chance of rehearsal.

The AGM itself

The AGM was fairly short with two important aspects. The present committee was re-elected with the welcome addition of Simon Hedges to fill the one empty place. I’m particularly happy to see this as it means I’m no longer the only male committee member!
The second important item was the Treasurers report and subsequent discussion. This revealed that in the last year the subscription income had dropped by around UKP 1800 and it was therefore proposed to raise the subscriptions by UKP 3. It will be obvious that such a reduction in income cannot be sustained for long so it’s important that we try to regain as many of the international subscribers that we lost after the demise of Thins, and the facility they provided for Credit Card subscribing, as possible. Simon’s assistance in this area by acting as a go-between for overseas readers who would otherwise find it impossible or prohibitively expensive to convert their currency into Sterling has been invaluable.

If you’ve been considering subscribing but don’t have access to UK currency or bank accounts, then do visit his website at www.simonhedges.co.uk or follow the links to it from my site under the Whispering Gallery page.

Henk Beentje – From Blue Hands to Racing Camels

For the afternoon session Henk gave us a follow up to his legendary Flora and Fauna of Lymondshire at the Edinburgh 2000 Gathering, and once again had compiled an astonishing number of slides of animals and plants mentioned in the eight books of House. As he said, where would be be without natural history? – most of the book titles wouldn’t exist and there would be no “date stones”. And there would be no food – nothing to describe sticking to Fra Ludo’s clothes. No Ostrich for Nick to ride and he wouldn’t have the love of his life – Chennai the camel. No oysters in Gemini, sugar in Cyprus or apricots in Sinai.

I won’t even try to list a fraction of the items which Henk described, quoted, and illustrated – my attempts to record the highlights in my notes were overwhelmed by half way through and I just sat back and enjoyed them – but again look forward to seeing an article in Whispering Gallery in due course. Suffice it to say that it was a delight to be reminded of so many of the wonderful images that Dorothy filled her stories with, particularly with Henk’s mellifluous accent. It must have taken many hours of re-reading and preparation but it was certainly worth it.

The Sunday Coach Trip to Culross and Falkland

Sunday morning turned out to be far better than the meteorologists has predicted as we set off from the Point towards the Forth Bridge and Fife. As in previous years we were joined by Charles Burnett.

As we crossed the bridge the clear conditions allowed us to pick out Blackness, which we had visited last year on a windy, grey, and damp day. Once across the bridge we turned left and took the minor coastal road past Rosyth naval yards and through the villages of the area. It has to be said that this is not one of our more scenic areas with the view up the firth being dominated by Grangemouth oil refinery on one side and Kincardine Power Station on the other, but again the clear sunlight picked out the famous Abbey in Dunfermline which lies to the north of the road.

Through the village of Torryburn the houses became gradually older and more attractive, until we reached the outskirts of Culross, our first stop. As anyone who has read the entry on my website will know, the village, or to be more exact, the Royal Burgh, is a remarkably well preserved example of 17th and 18th century buildings which, because of the way in which the local industry declined, was not subjected to the demolition and improvement that occurred elsewhere. This gave the fledgling National Trust for Scotland an ideal opportunity when they were offered the “palace” for £700 in the 1930s, and they went on to purchase many more properties in the area, resulting in a uniquely preserved and renovated village which still manages to maintain a healthy living community.

After a refreshment of tea and scones in the Bessie Bar Hall, which was originally a malt house, our party was split into two and one started their tour of the palace while the other went up to the Study. The intention had been that Elspeth and Charles would take the groups round but in fact we were assigned local guides who clearly had their own ideas on what subjects the visitors would like to hear about. Under normal circumstances I would have enjoyed the eccentric character of the guide and there were certainly some snippets of information that I had not heard before, but knowing Elspeth’s vast store of knowledge and meticulous preparation I suspect we’d have heard a lot more of relevance to our favourite reading had she had the chance to impart it.

The Study is a fine building constructed around 1610 and is painted a brilliant white. It forms part of the small square which houses the Mercat Cross dating from 1588 and its facade is pierced by the typical windows of the period with half-wooden shutters and diagonal leaded glass upper sections. There is a crowstepped gable in traditional Scottish style and a corbelled outlook tower from which the occupant could look over the Forth and watch the ships as they entered and left. It is reputed to have been used by Bishop Leighton of Dunblane as his study room.

On the first floor is a fine room with wonderfully painted ceilings by a man who had studied the ceilings of the Palace while they were still clearly visible. The guide told us he had a visit from the painter’s nephew who was able to telephone his father to confirm that the work had been done while lying on his back! There was also a fine piece of 17th century panelling and a Witches Ball – a glass ball filled with Mercury which was supposed to protect the house from evil spirits.

The study itself is at the top of the tower up an extremely tight spiral staircase and is a small room with windows on three sides.

Although we didn’t have time to climb further up the hill to the Abbey and Church, it is well worth the walk up the narrow inclined street of brightly coloured houses with wooden steps up to their front doors. The Abbey was set up by the Cistercians in the early 13th century and was where the young St Mungo was taught by St Serf before moving to Glasgow to found his own community. It was said he was the son of a princess who was cast out of her home in the Lothians and whose boat landed at Culross.
It was the Cistercians who first made Culross a prosperous town by mining the “black stone that burns” – coal, and thus developing both its trade and the closely connected industry of the salt pans.

Near the Abbey is the Abbey House, an very advanced design which looks almost Georgian but in fact dates from as early as 1608. Later it was the home of the famous naval hero Admiral Thomas Cochrane – The Sea Wolf as Napoleon described him – whose life was the inspiration for many well known naval stories.

Returning to the palace we were first of all shown a video describing the history of the town and the Trust’s involvement before learning more about the man who created it. The palace was built by Sir George Bruce, a descendent of King Robert the Bruce, who had taken over the running of the colliery and brought in many engineering techniques from the continent that enabled deeper mines to be dug by improving drainage and ventilation. While the mines had previously been only 30 feet deep, his techniques, such as the horse-powered 36 bucket Egyptian Wheel, allowed a depth of 240 feet to be reached and the mine was probably one of the most advanced in the world at that time, eventually extending a mile under the Forth. The shaft even had an outlet in a substantial round stone building on a tidal island and James VI was taken there on a visit to the mine where he was apparently so surprised to find himself surrounded by water that he feared treachery and panicked.

We were taken up to the main hall, withdrawing room, guest rooms, and the painted chamber, with their panelling and painted barrel ceilings. In the hall we heard the origins of the word “threshold” and had a description of 16th century toilet facilities that was probably more information than some would have preferred! We were also told the reason behind the yellow ochre colouring of the outside walls – it was originally covered in sheep-dip!! This was often applied to houses at that time as there was nothing else that could be done with the liquid – you couldn’t put it in the river or on the land due to its poisonous effects – and since the roof would originally have been thatch it was useful for keeping down the insects which would otherwise live there. In fact the guide reckoned that the palace colour was too brown because as the richest house in the area it would have had fresh sheep dip which would have been a lighter yellow.

Sadly there was insufficient time to properly explore the restored gardens which lie on the slope behind the palace or to walk much more around the village before we were due in the Red Lion for lunch, though some people did manage a quick visit to the Town House and the Trust shop, where the attendant had heard of Dorothy and knew she’d been born in Dunfermline.

An excellent meal allowed time for interesting conversation before we headed for Falkland and the favourite palace of Mary de Guise. Though the weather briefly threatened to close in it had cleared again by the time we arrived and although the gardens were only just beginning to show glimpses of the rich and fragrant blossoms that it will have in a few weeks time it was still a lovely sight in the sunshine.

The guides happened to be in period costume that day, with one in each room available to answer questions. This time however we had Charles and Elspeth to describe the surroundings for us. There were a number of paintings of 16th and 17th monarchs including one of James V and Mary de Guise, an ornately carved and inlaid four-poster bed, and some fine panelled and painted ceilings. There is also a fine tapestry gallery which runs the length of one wing.

A quick trip down to the end of the garden and the royal tennis court gave mixed results – on this occasion there was no-one playing and the viewing angles didn’t really allow a good photograph, but I was delighted to find that there were newly arrived swallows in the viewing gallery – always a welcome sign of Spring. Diverting out through a side gate brings you to the tranquil adjoining meadow where pink blossom adorned the trees and bluebells shimmered in the grass. It’s a timeless view over to the turrets of the Palace gate and the roofs of the old inns on the main street and that feeling was compounded by the sight of a man in full armour and helmet on the main lawn next to the ruined north wing. However it proved to be a photoshoot rather than a time warp!

All too soon we had to head for home and maybe in retrospect we tried to fit too much into the day, but when people are coming to Scotland for what may be the only time you want to give them as broad an experience as possible. Incidentally we are always looking for suggestions for places to visit on the Spring weekends so if you have any ideas please send them to me. I think we’ve pretty much covered the accessible western and northern sides having been to Linlithgow, Torphichen, and Blackness, as well as Rosslyn in the south and St Mary’s Loch at the time of the 2000 Gathering. Within Edinburgh Elspeth has often taken guided walks down the Royal Mile but we haven’t done Edinburgh Castle itself – should we include this or would people prefer a coach trip further afield. Craigmillar Castle is fairly close and Haddington is interesting although there is nothing left to see of the nunnery where Kathi visited. Likewise North Berwick is a lovely town but the Dunnett sites are not accessible – the final scenes of Gemini are now within the grounds of an old people’s home. Traquair, which is the oldest house in Scotland, is on the site of the fictional St Mary’s and has its own brewery so it might be a good place to go, and there is a nearby printing museum which while much more recent than our time period would surely be in the spirit of Lymond’s interests. Let me know what you think.

Certainly everyone I spoke to seemed to enjoy the day and hopefully many will have seen enough to encourage return visits. We certainly all enjoyed renewing friendships and making new ones, as is always the case at Dunnett gatherings. I hope we can continue them for many years to come.

A big round of thanks to all the committee for their work on the AGM weekend, and a special one for Val Bierman who puts in a tremendous effort in the organisation for this as well as all her work on the magazine, much of it way beyond anything that could be reasonably expected.

Finally I should mention a couple of recent deaths. The first is that of Seumas Adam, the other half of the Canoe Boys to Alastair Dunnett, who died in April at the age of 95. He was a lifelong friend of Alastair and Dorothy and like them was heavily involved in a great many projects in Scottish life. The year after his epic canoe trip up the West Highlands with Alastair he made the first solo canoe crossing of the Minch – the stretch of water between the Inner and Outer Hebrides. He worked in journalism for most of his life, having started with the Scottish Daily Express and then after war service as a staff captain was features editor with the Glasgow Evening News and Daily Record before become assistant editor of the Evening Times. Later he moved to Edinburgh and was General Manager of the Scotsman Publications before moving to the Chester Chronicle and Middlesborough Evening Gazette. After retiring and moving back to Edinburgh he was asked to organise the first International Gathering of the Clans. He continued to write books and poetry in Scots and Gaelic as well as English and was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, and the Institute of Directors. His interest in physical activity was reflected in his work on the Scottish Council of Physical Recreation and he was a natural choice as President of the Scottish Canoe Association.
I’m told he continued to drive until he was 90 and I recall seeing him at the Edinburgh New Club reception that Penguin organised for Dorothy following the publication of Gemini. At the age of 94 he and his wife had moved down to Wales to be near their daughter. A very remarkable man.

The second is somewhat more peripheral but may be of interest as it relates to a film that has often been discussed on the Dunnett internet groups. One of the great British actresses, Dame Wendy Hiller, died at the age of 90 recently. She first became a star in the 1930s in a play called Love on the Dole and was seen by George Bernard Shaw who invited her to play the lead roles in Pygmalion and St Joan. He later insisted that she also play the roles in the film adaptations and she was nominated for an Oscar for the part of Eliza opposite Leslie Howard. She was to win an Oscar for a film of Rattigan’s Separate Tables, and in 1966 she was again nominated for the part of Alice More in A Man for All Seasons. She continued to work in acclaimed stage productions for many years including seven visits to the Edinburgh Festival, and even appeared in the film Murder on the Orient Express.

Her connection to Dunnettworld came through starring in the wonderful Powell and Pressburger film, I Know Where I’m Going, with Roger Livesy. The filming on Mull was made possible by Alastair, then working in the Scottish Office, who was a friend of Michael Powell, and who promptly took a holiday in order to watch the filming. The yellow oil-skin jacket that she wore in the crucial Corryvreckan whirlpool storm scene was actually Alastair’s – her own didn’t show up well enough on the black and white film and Powell appropriated it.

Not sure what colour her eyes were or how she’d have looked as a blond, but looking at a photo of her I can see her as a perfect icy Sybilla – can’t think why that hadn’t occurred to me before!

That’s all for now

best wishes to you all


Dunnett Newsletter – 16th April 2003

Greetings from Edinburgh where we’ve been having the brightest March and April for many years. Keeping my fingers crossed that it lasts till the DDRA AGM which is now less than two weeks away!

I’ve been mostly out of contact the last few months as I try to carve out a new career, and more recently have been juggling the problem of a couple of serious family illnesses. As a result I’ve been struggling to answer even some of the personal messages that I still receive and to send out back copies of the newsletters to new subscribers. My apologies to anyone affected by this and please be assured that if there had been any way of my answering earlier I’d have done so.
The old newsletters will shortly be archived on the website so anyone who wants to can download them from there.

When I started writing this I said – “Hopefully things will be a bit easier now and I may even get a little spare time to catch up with what’s being discussed on the email lists and contribute a bit more – something I’ve greatly missed.” – however in the last few days I’ve just been made redundant again so it looks like no peace for the wicked, and time to really make a determined try on the freelance route.

I’d originally hoped to send a newsletter on the 9th Nov but pressure of work, the aftermath of a bad roof leak, and my wife’s diagnosis of the need for intestinal surgery prevented it. I’d felt the need to mark the anniversary of Dorothy’s death in some way as I’m sure all of you will have been thinking of her as the date approached as I was. For a long time the passing of the year had seemed to make little impact on the sense of loss felt at the time, and I’d found the DDRA AGM and meeting in April last year particularly difficult, though perhaps other traumas including Thin’s demise kept the wound open for longer than might otherwise have been the case. When she died I implored everyone to celebrate her life rather than mourn her death but I always was lousy at taking my own advice. However not being able to make the anniversary deadline somehow put things in perspective and showed me that it is the living that must come first, and has allowed me time to stand back and remember her with happiness and thanks rather than sorrow. I’ve started to read the books again, starting with Disorderly Knights and now Pawn in Frankincense, which was something I couldn’t bring myself to do earlier, and after so long a gap I’m finding lots of little elements and echoes that I’d forgotten and have connected a few references that had remained tantalizingly out of grasp for a while.

Many of you will be aware of the events that followed my last newsletter about the auction, but for those of you who aren’t on the discussion groups perhaps I should reiterate them.

Following discussion with Ninian, the Rosebush was withdrawn from the auction of the last of Dorothy’s possesions and I was asked to decide on the best home for it. After consulting with a number of people I was confirmed in the belief that the DDRA was the only appropriate body to look after it. Subsequently however there was a further twist. It became apparent that Dorothy had said that she would like the Rosebush to go to her granddaughter, but that somehow the family hadn’t been aware of it. Once they realised this they were only too happy to follow her wishes.

The rest of the items and books that were in the auction were the subject of much debate, and a consortium of bidders was put together to avoid anyone inadvertently bidding against each other. This was organised with his usual energy and enthusiasm by Simon Hedges, with the considerable help of Cindy Byrne and Denise Gannon, who all attended the auction and made bids on everyone’s behalf. Cindy even managed to persuade the auctioneers to arrange the book lots in a more sensible order and Simon bid on most of the important ones and was wonderfully successful in keeping the working library with its forest of post-it notes together.

Many of the best items were bought by members of the online community and I’m happy to say that some others were bought by Elspeth Morrison. So the bulk of items of sentimental and literary research importance have found good homes, and what was a sad event for all of us who were there has been turned to a positive use.

As some people seem to have been unsure about it, it’s worth mentioning that all of these items had previousy been offered to various museums and libraries and that only items which they were not interested in or had no room for were included in the auction.

Simon initially put the large quantity of books, nearly a full van-load, in temporary storage until they could be collected and transported down to his home. Since then he has been periodically cataloguing them when time allows – a massive task and one in which I imagine it is all too easy to be sidetracked by an interesting find or an intriguing post-it note!

Edinburgh in the Spring – The 3rd Dorothy Dunnett Readers Association AGM

The next AGM is almost upon us – it takes place on the 26th of April – and will return to the same venue as previously, the Point Hotel, for the Saturday events. While there has been a small amount of criticism of the Point for its minimalist decor and more justifiably for the poor level of toilet facilities (we are assured that this will be remedied), the fact is that the excellent deal that Val Bierman has arranged with them is far better than any other we could possibly get in a city centre venue and costs would have to be considerably raised were we to go elsewhere. And where else would we get a view like the one from the rooftop conference room?

We are delighted to say that the guest speaker for the Saturday is our botanical expert extraordinaire Henk Beentje, who gave such a wonderful talk at the Edinburgh Gathering in 2000. How he will top the now legendary sheep in helmets slide I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to seeing him try.

Elspeth Morrison and Richenda Todd will be there again – this time to talk about the Lymond Poetry book which is mentioned below.

The Sunday trip will be to the village of Culross and the Palace of Falkland. The former is a village on the north shore of the Forth which has the closest remaining architecture to that of Lymond’s time, while the latter is of course closely connected to the books and was a favourite of Mary of Guise. The palace at Culross is a particular delight with its original panelling and painted ceilings and really gives a feel for how it must have felt in a substantial house of the period. Only the rushes on the floor are missing. Once again we’ll have Elspeth and Charles Burnett to help us interpret the history of the two areas.
In the Dunnett Places to Visit section on my website I’ve added some more pictures of Culross (in the North section) after a recent visit there, so those of you who can’t easily visit it can get a flavour of the place.

Falkland is of course a much more grand building as befits a royal palace, and there is plenty to see, both inside, and out in the lovely gardens, while the picturesque village is hardly any bigger than it was in the 16th century. Hopefully if the current light conditions continue I’ll have some new photos of it. If we’re very lucky there may be someone playing royal tennis on the courts at Falkland as was the case on my last visit and we can imagine Phelim playing King Henri!

I’ll do a report on the weekend for the next newsletter and add some pictures of it to the website.

A New Book!

A few of you have heard rumours of this but I’m happy to confirm that a book of Lymond poetry will be published this year. It was written by Dorothy and was discovered in her papers by Mungo. It has been completed by Elspeth in conjunction with Richenda and they’ve worked their usual research and editorial magic on it.
It’s due to be released in June, but I’m delighted to say that we should have advance copies in time for the DDRA AGM and they’ll be on sale there. Additionally I’m hoping that I may be able to get hold of copies myself and thus be able to sell them to anyone who wants them by using my PayPal account.
It will be a B format paperback and the cost is expected to be around £9.99

Dorothy’s Portrait of Archie

Many people have asked to see a picture of the only portrait Dorothy ever made of one of her characters and I’ve now been able to take photographs of it and have added it to my website. Strangely enough it looks different seeing it away from the house where I’d seen it before. I fancy that anyone who knew him may detect a slight element of Alastair in the facial features.

The Edinburgh Renaissance Band CD of Lymond and Niccolo Music

Many of you bought copies of this through Thins and a number of you have asked about where you can get it now. Since of course the CD was privately pressed it was never on general sale by any other means. I’ve now been in touch with them and they’ve sold me some copies which I can now offer for sale directly to anyone who doesn’t already have it. Again you can use my Paypal account if you are overseas.
They also tell me that they will shortly be releasing a new CD of early music which some of you may be interested in. As soon as they have details I’ll let you know.

DDRA News – A word about Whispering Gallery and subscriptions

As many of you will know it’s been difficult for many overseas subscribers to Whispering Gallery to continue their subscriptions in the year since Thins collapsed and the online payment system was lost (along with £600 pounds of the magazine’s money which was caught up in the crash). The magazine has no way of utilizing credit cards and although we did look at various other online payment methods none of them was felt to be suitable.
Recently Simon Hedges generously offered to act as a central point for people to send money to and then pass it to the DDRA, and a number of people have been able to take advantage of that. Please see
for further details

I do hope that more of you will subscribe in the future – the continued existence of the DDRA very much depends on the solvency of the magazine and conditions are not easy at the moment. Many overseas subscribers were lost in the last year and if they drop too much the unit cost of printing will rise due to the smaller print run. It was perhaps always inevitable that there would be some contraction with no more books to look forward to, but Thins demise unfortunately accelerated that. However when you look at the various associations devoted to authors, the majority of their subjects are also no longer with us, so there is no reason why we can’t keep ours going and keep Dorothy’s work alive for future generations as she surely deserves.

My own prospects

While it really has little place here, many of you have asked for word on how I’ve been doing since Thins went down.
I’m been working for a company called Bigmouthmedia Ltd for the last year, doing web design, traffic analysis, and search engine optimisation, but unfortunately with the current economic conditions there hasn’t been enough of the work that I do coming in and they are refocusing on their search engine marketing strengths rather than the design and development side so my role is disappearing and I’ll be finishing with them at the beginning of May.

A couple of the sites I’ve been working on with Bigmouth can be seen at

While I’m now searching for another job I feel the time is now right to concentrate on the freelance work and see if I can make a real go of it. As I mentioned before I’m specialising in authors and also musicians. A good part of last summer and autumn was spent designing a site for the award winning children’s and teenager’s author Theresa Breslin
– her books are excellent and having read them all in preparation for the site design I can heartily recommend them. Theresa has been most enthusiastic about the site and a great encouragement for me.
Shortly after finishing that one I put together a new site for the Edinburgh Chess Club which I’d previously had some pages for on the Thins site.

The combination of my mother having a heart attack just before Xmas and my wife’s surgery and recuperation meant a bit of a break but lately I’ve been building a site for my good friend the musician and actor John Sampson who I’ve been staying with for the last few months
His site went live last week, although there are a few pages that will be developed further when he comes back from his latest job with the Young Vic in London. Do take a look at it – he’s an expert in early music and has in fact guested with the Edinburgh Renaissance Band as well as playing with other early music orchestras in Scotland. Some of the German readers may have seen him perform in comic theatre with The Bath Natural Theatre Company and in cabaret, as he’s a frequent and popular visitor to that country.

It looks likely that I’ll be doing a new site for the Scottish Association of Writers shortly – I went over to their Annual conference near Glasgow recently and hope to give some talks to their members as well as building their site. Hopefully that will lead to more contacts and work. To that end I’m also working on a new site for my freelance company which I’m calling Spiderwriting – the site will be at

My writing has largely taken a back seat but I did write a travel piece about the Ardnamurchan area which just needs a bit of polish so if anyone would like to read it I may put that on my personal website. There was also one of Mull which needs a slight re-write. Last September I went back to Orkney for another holiday and I must try to add some of the photos from there to the site too.

That’s all for now. Hope to be more in touch over the next few months but obviously that will depend in part on the employment situation. I’ll try and put together some of my reactions to my re-read of DK and PF for next time.

Very best wishes to you all


Dunnett Sale Announcement – August 2002

Greetings from Edinburgh.
I was planning to do a newsletter soon but just received the following from Ninian Dunnett and given the closeness of the date had to pass on the information immediately. There may be some more info next week.

I should just mention that I had some severe problems with my email for a few weeks – my redirect service changed their terms of operation and both my ISPs had problems with outgoing mail while one of my old addresses was discontinued. As a result a number of messages to me are known to have bounced and some of my replies weren’t getting out. If you were expecting to hear from me or if you sent anything to me and didn’t get a reply, then please contact me again. My bigfoot address should be fully working again but if you have any further problems then try using bill.marshall@blueyonder.co.uk


Dunnett items on sale at Thomson, Roddick & Medcalf, 10-12 noon, Saturday 17 August.

Commission bids will be accepted from prospective purchasers who are unable to attend the sale. For further information, please contact the auctioneers on trm@virgin.net, tel (0131) 454 9090.

Note from Ninian Dunnett:
Our mother served for many years until her death on the board of the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, an organisation to which she was energetically devoted. It was her wish that after she died her manuscripts, correspondence and other papers – which had been coveted by academic institutions on both sides of the Atlantic – should be donated to the National Library. Her sons in turn have undertaken to commit a proportion of the proceeds of this sale towards the ongoing cataloguing and maintenance of the Dunnett Archive at George IV Bridge.

The sale will include items from the Dunnett household at 87 Colinton Road, as well as more personal items relating to Dorothy Dunnett’s life and work.

The sale also includes the Dunnett library, including a substantial amount of DD’s research library. The sale will be on view Friday 16th, 10am to 6pm and on Saturday 17th from 9am.

– – – – – – – – – –

Artefacts from the personal collection of Dorothy Dunnett

James Gillespie’s 1st prize for class work in session 1932-3, when DD was nine: ‘Twenty-six Adventure Stories for Girls’. The then Dorothy Halliday attended the school four years after Muriel Spark, winning a scholarship every year which paid her fees. She won the intermediate dux’s prize, among this and other trophies.

Toy Theatre. The first entertainments devised by Dorothy in her childhood and early adulthood centred on her beloved toy theatre. Initially using the characters and equipment supplied by toyshops, she graduated to designing and making her own sets, lighting and characters for entire productions, and latterly would divert her family with miniature performances of operettas such as ‘The Mikado'(with music from her 78rpm record collection – see below) complete with an interval during which she would serve refreshments appropriate to the fictional setting. This collection includes extensive sets and characters, preparatory sketches and production notes.

Vocal score for ‘The Pirates of Penzance’, with cover painted inside and out by DD. DD’s lifelong affection for Gilbert and Sullivan was kicked off by this school production when she was in fourth year. She had other reasons to remember the show; her forehead bore a small permanent scar as a result of an accidental encounter with the truncheon wielded by the ‘Policeman’.

DD’s early collection of 78rpm records, including bound sets of ‘The Mikado’ and ‘The Pirates of Penzance’.

Pair turned wooden candlesticks. DD was always proud of her father, who died in the 1950s when she was still quite young. An engineer by trade, he had a well-equipped workshop in the family home, and in turn, when she hosted readers at her home in Colinton Road, DD would show them the candlesticks her father has made. (In fact, as the attached note makes clear, at one point she erroneously thought she had given one to a reader.)

Rachmaninov 3rd Symphony (mint 78rpm bound set). This was presented to Dorothy at her Scottish Office desk on her 21st birthday by her bosses, Alec Yeaman and Alastair Dunnett – with the latter of whom she would have her first date that night, and marry two years later. Signed with a humorous note by AMD.
Various DD artwork.

In the 1940s, Dorothy tried a range of commercial enterprises based on her painting and drawing skills, including book illustration, painted mugs and Christmas cards. From 1944-6 she was painting wood and perspex brooches which she sold to shops in Edinburgh (T. Ford, George St.), Newcastle (The Brunswick Picture Shop) and Falkirk for between 12/6 and 15 shillings. Subjects included ‘ballet’, ‘medieval’ and ‘flower’.

two badges, oil on clear plastic; one Edinburgh castle, one medieval courtship
box of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ badges on wood, various designs

In the 1940s and 1950s DD took evening classes at both Glasgow and Edinburgh colleges of Art, and from that period:

portfolio of pencil portraits labelled ‘Art School Studies’
roll of 29 pencil nude studies

From the days when as a schoolgirl she would strap a sketchbook and box of watercolours to her bicycle and head into the country, through the 1950s, when she began to exhibit her portraits in the Royal Scottish Academy and other galleries) DD painted throughout her life.

various oils and watercolours
portfolio of watercolour landcapes

Carved African figure. This was a centrepiece in the downstairs WC at 87 Colinton Road, a room whose collection of glowering masks prompted the actor Russell Hunter to describe it as “a monument to constipation”. The carved figure featured in several DD paintings (including one in the collection above).

Framed oil painting, signed ‘Dorothy Halliday 1951’, of DD’s father, Alec Halliday.

Pouch of early Dorothy Halliday publications: ‘Dorothy Halliday’s Scotland’, a booklet produced in 1949 for the Board of Trade; ‘The 1952 Buyer’s Guide To British Industries’, “completely rewritten by Miss Halliday”; and the ‘Scottish Field’ for May 1953, which features a four-page article written and illustrated by DD, describing an early pony-trekking holiday with AMD.

Olivetti portable typewriter, complete with instruction booklet. DD actually had two identical machines, on which she typed all her novels between the mid-1950s and the early 1980s, when she became one of the first writers to switch to a PC. The typewriter went everywhere with her; she described going into hospital in 1964 “and emerging with a chapter and a new baby”. (The other typewriter, in less good condition, is in the collection of the Writers’ Museum, Lady Stairs House, Edinburgh.)

Framed coat of arms for Francis Crawford of Lymond. This was designed in 1975 by a heraldic expert (whose name must remain confidential, for it is not proper for an office-bearer at the Lyon Court – Scotland’s ancient royal heraldic authority – to be moonlighting in the design of fictitious coats of arms). Considerable research went into making the coat of arms both historically accurate according to the heraldic traditions of the time, and incorporating characteristics apt for Lymond, such as the vine leaves which pun on the ‘Sevigny’ part of his name. As DD wrote: “In the style of the mid 16th century, and including all the elements described in the books, the phoenix rising from the flames with the pheon, which is an upturned arrow, and a coulter, which is the blade of a ploughshare, and a play on the family name of Culter, all within the engrailed border denoting the younger son of a baronial house.”

Coat of arms as above engraved on heavy glass vase. “Argent, a phoenix Azure enflamed Gules, in base a pheon of the second, all within a border engrailed Or.”

Miniature silver tree with gold rose and inscription from a DD poem, ‘Thy flying wit I braid with jewellery.’ This was brought to DD in 1987 in Edinburgh by a group of readers of ‘Marzipan & Kisses’, the American DD letterzine. DD wrote of “the amazing presentation”: “The deputation who brought it to me, who were mostly strangers to one another, became determined to meet again, and on a larger scale. From that came the first International Gathering with a banquet in Edinburgh University in 1990, followed by Boston in 1992 and Edinburgh again in 1994…”

Framed menu from the Medici Banquet at the 1990 Edinburgh Gathering. This hung above DD’s desk.

Other Dunnett Gathering memorabilia:
DD 2000 blue pouch.
Packet of blank postcards featuring covers from Niccolo books.
– Packs of Niccolo playing cards.
– ‘Dorothy Dunnett 1990’ post-it notes, pack of five blocks featuring Lymond coat of arms.
– CD, ‘The Musical Worlds of Lymond and Niccolò’, and ‘Music from Lymond and Niccolo’ cassettes, by Edinburgh Renaissance Band.
– Two t-shirt transfers featuring six Niccolo covers and DD’s signature.
– ‘Confraternity of Lymond and Niccolò’ leather bookmark with crests of characters.
Mug with Niccolò crest.
Enamel DD badge with decorations representing DD characters.
Pewter bowl inscribed: ‘Dorothy Dunnett Philadelphia 2000 With Thanks From Your Readers And Non Readers’.

Unicorn on golden chain. In celebration of the 1993 Dunnett Gathering and publication of ‘The Unicorn Hunt’, Ross Herald Charles Burnett designed a reproduction of the first collar of honour granted by a Scottish monarch as an order of chivalry. (James III gave the grant in 1469 to a Flemish knight, Sir Anselm Adorne of Bruges, and it is also worn, in the book, by DD’s fictional hero Niccolò.) The full-size collar, of which this is a smaller derivative, is in the collection of the Writers’ Museum.
Books dedicated/inscribed to DD:

DD’s library included a substantial numbers of books whose authors claimed her as an influence or inspiration. Among these are:

Lindsey Davis, three inscribed ‘Falco’ novels – ‘Shadows In Bronze’, ‘Venus In Copper’ and ‘The Iron Hand of Mars’.

Other inscribed hardback first editions – ‘Outlander’, by Diana Gabaldon; ‘Too Deep for Tears’, by Kathryn Lynn Davis; ‘Robert The Bruce’, by Nigel Tranter; ‘This Rough Magic’ and ‘The Moon-spinners’ by Mary Stewart.

‘Anne Eliot’ was the writing name of Lois Cole, the American editor who discovered Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone With The Wind’ and Dorothy Dunnett’s ‘Game of Kings’. Three inscribed hardback Anne Eliot first editions – ‘The Dark Beneath the Pines’, ‘Return to Aylforth’ and ‘Murder at Villa Rahmana’. In addition, the third book is dedicated ‘To my good friend and favourite author Dorothy Dunnett, with admiration and affection.’




Dunnett Newsletter – 24th April 2002

Greetings from Edinburgh where we’ve just held the 2nd AGM of the Dorothy Dunnett Readers Association (DDRA). Just over 50 people gathered in the Point Hotel for the meeting and the associated talks by Elspeth Morrison and Richenda Todd, and by Charles Burnett, with many of them coming on the bus trip to Blackness Castle and Torphichen Priory. I’ll report on the event in full later, but it went very well and I think everyone enjoyed it.

This main purpose of this quick newsletter is to let you all know that I’ve now set up the Dunnett web pages on my own site after partly rewriting them and adding a new navigation system. Go to


and click on the Dunnett button.
There is still some further re-writing to be done but I wanted to get them back available to you all as soon as possible. It’s likely that both my pages and the Dunnett pages will move to a different server in the future, but you’ll always be able to get to them by following that address.

Please let me know if the new drop-down navigation system works ok for you – it’s a little experimental but should work cross-browser on most modern systems, though I haven’t had the opportunity to test it on a Mac yet. And if you spot any typos or broken links I’ll be glad to hear about them – there are a few adjustments to be made and one or two of the drop downs don’t yet go anywhere (Dublin for instance) but at least they’re back up and can now be worked on when time allows.

I also wanted to let you know that the latest revision of the list of books from Dorothy’s house that are for sale is now on the site. I’ve been having trouble with the redirect so use the address


It was originally thought that we had to get the books out of the house very quickly, but thankfully this has been extended somewhat. The Colinton Road house has now been sold but the new owner is not coming in until June, so we have a few more weeks to go. This time I’ve attempted to put prices to the books, as many of you with no experience of buying older editions didn’t know what to offer for them. To be honest it’s a bit of a black art and one that I don’t claim too much expertise in, so we’ll still look at offers, but the prices listed should be a reasonable guide.

I’ve had very little time recently due to the work placement I’ve been on and the small business startup seminars and workshops I’ve been attending, so I’ll be passing any further orders on to Mungo and Ninian for processing and they will deal with you directly.

The US paperback edition of the new Vol 2 Dunnett Companion has just been released. The UK hardback edition is due in the shops shortly, though we managed to persuade Michael Joseph to give us some copies early to sell at the DDRA AGM.

Although I haven’t had time to read very much of the discussion groups recently, I did notice some people were asking about getting US copies in the UK and vice-versa, and whether booksellers were allowed to do this. This must be a tricky one since there are the two different editions with neither publisher likely to produce an edition in the “opposite” binding. Technically it depends on who owns the rights where, and how they are worded. In practice some booksellers may be cautious about it and some may not. World-wide internet selling has rendered the whole system of regional rights something of an anachronism, but the fact is that publishers do pay substantial amounts of money for these rights and have a valid interest in protecting them. However I can’t see companies like Amazon being bothered about that since they haven’t been in the past, and if they do it then everyone else will be forced to follow suit or risk their customers deserting them.

In the old days a few overseas sales by mail order didn’t matter much but now the potential is there for much larger transfers of sales. I suppose I was the main catalyst for Dunnett books with James Thin, but I suspect that it was the internet sales of UK editions of Harry Potter in the US that really woke the publishers up about this. You may well see simultaneous publication happening more often to avoid demand being generated when one country lags behind another. This may be hard for some companies as there are valid cultural differences why a book should be promoted at different times of the year. However I suspect that the increasing globalisation of publishing will eventually see world rights become the norm for anything other than small specialist publishers

Many of you have been asking about what has happened to James Thin. The position isn’t entirely finalised yet, but basically it is being sold off in two parts. Ottakers, who are a general bookselling chain based in England have bought the outlying Scottish shops and the remaining English ones. They will likely rebrand these as Ottakers shops. The branches in Perth and Ayr have been closed along with Huddersfield and Wimbledon, as no buyers could be found for them. It was announced to the press on Saturday that the academic shops including the South Bridge head office where I worked is being bought by Blackwells, who are the last of the independents and are well known as academic specialists based in Oxford. All the upper and middle management at South Bridge have either gone or are due to go shortly, and it looks as if there will be no head office functions retained. It seems that even the name will go and the Blackwells name used.

As for myself I’ve been doing a job placement with a search engine optimisation company in Leith and am hoping to be offered a permanent position soon. I also hope to start a small business, probably part-time at first, combining web design, writing and photography, with the web design side specialising in authors and publishers. Any of the authors on the list needing a web site designed for them?

It’s possible I may do some bookselling as well but the dispatching side of it takes so much time that this may not be a realistic option. As you’ll recall I had thought about trying to deal with the audiobooks but I’m glad now that I didn’t because there simply wouldn’t have been time to do it justice during the last few weeks – I seem to have even less time now than I did when I was working at Thins. I may look at it again but with Howes arranging sales in the US it would probably only be a small operation.

Will be in touch again soon with a report of the AGM.

Best wishes to you all and thanks for the continued messages of support.