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The web site is actually still there if you know the component page addresses – it’s just the front page that has been replaced by a suspended notice and the ordering system has been switched off.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


Dunnett Mini-Newsletter – 1st Dec 2001

Just a quick couple of announcements


To follow up on the mention in the last newsletter – the audiobook of Disorderly Knights is now in and I’ve put hotlinks on the website in Dunnett Book News and in the Bibliography for anyone who wants to order it. Or you can use the following link if your email client supports it. http://www.jamesthin.co.uk/stocksearch/order/item?1841972940 It’s on 17 cassettes and is narrated by Andrew Napier again. Price is UKP 59.95 (+171/2% VAT in the UK) The only downside is that we weren’t in time to correct his faulty pronunciation of Lymond. Lets hope they sort it out for Pawn in Frankincense.

Still no fresh copies of Game of Kings but hopefully it shouldn’t be too long now. Queens’ Play is back in stock.


Our own Mercat Press have just published a book that I know quite of few of you have been looking forward to – particularly those of us who have been to this wonderful group of islands

New History of Orkney
William P L Thomson
529 pages UKP 14.99

It’s a new edition of a book originally published in 1987 which was the first history of Orkney for over half a century It’s been completely rewritten and extended, with important new work on the Picts, Vikings, medieval Orkney, and the Reformation. The author was for 20 years the Rector of Kirkwall Grammar School and has written numerous books and papers on Orkney and Shetland. >From what I’ve seen of it on a quick glance through it looks pretty good.


While searching for up to date information for a reader/listener the other day I came across something that may interest JJ fans. The two Dolly audiobooks that were published by ISIS are now on their new website – and they are selling at greatly reduced prices!! Here are the details:

Moroccan traffic
read by Judith Whale
UKP 19.99
12 Audio Cassettes 15hrs 30mins
ISBN 1856957993

Dolly and the bird of paradise
read by Maxine Howe
UKP 18.99
10 Audio Cassettes 12hrs 15mins
ISBN 1856959171

The ISIS web site is at


and you can order them from there (just run a search under dunnett in their search box). Please don’t try to order them from us, we can’t get them.


A correspondent has just sent me this link about a course called “State and Society in the Fifteenth Century” based around the House of Niccolo, taking place at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The tutor is a reader of this newsletter – hope you don’t mind the mention Sharon, it sounds fascinating. Err, can we all get honorary diplomas? 😉

best wishes to everyone


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


Dunnett Newsletter – 7th May 2001

Greetings from a Scotland which seems to have skipped Spring and gone straight into Summer after a cold and wet April.This newsletter is mostly concerned with the recent first AGM of the Dorothy Dunnett Readers Association (DDRA) and associated mini-gathering. I had hoped to have some more “Answers from Dorothy” but she has been busily working away with Elspeth Morrison on the second volume of the Companion so those will have to wait for a while. They have to have the manuscript of Vol 2 ready for mid-summer although publication is not due until the following summer. Which brings me to the first news item.


Although world rights for the new paperback edition of the original Companion had been sold to Random House/Vintage, I had been having no success in discovering how (or indeed if) the Companion would be distributed in the UK. On turning to Dorothy’s agent for help I heard that Penguin/Michael Joseph were now regretting their sale of world rights and were trying to buy back the UK rights for it. Now this might be good news for UK, Commonwealth and European readers if only it had come sooner, however there are severe doubts as to whether a Penguin edition could be put together in time to match the US publication date – the estimates I’ve been given have suggested November and I’ve told them that if that were the earliest that could be done then most international (and probably most internet connected UK) readers would simply order from the US via Amazon or other US-based internet booksellers. This situation is liable to constant change so please understand the position and that we cannot take orders for it until we have a firm decision on what’s happening.


The second piece of news is that FW Howes are going ahead with the audiobook recording of Queens’ Play and are currently auditioning narrators, having taken on board the comments that I and others have given them regarding Game of Kings. We are probably looking at a date sometime in September/October for release but this is obviously open to change. As is my normal practice I won’t take any orders until I have an ISBN for it, but I will circulate a message both in a general newsletter and a special one to everyone who ordered or expressed interest in GK, so there should be no danger of missing the boat.



This took place at the Point Hotel in Edinburgh on the 21st April and although numbers were a little lower than expected (possibly due to the foot-and-mouth crisis) it was a worthwhile and enjoyable experience for all and we even had a couple of overseas visitors.
The venue itself was spectacular, as we were on the top floor of the hotel with glass on most sides allowing wonderful vistas over the city, with the castle in particular standing out only a stone’s throw away. The AGM itself took very little time as much of it was the formality of approving the constitution and accepting the nominees for council. Val Bierman gave a brief summary of the magazine and of the winding-up of the old Dunnett Trust after the Edinburgh 2000 Gathering. We were indebted to Pauline Brace for chairing the meeting during the handover from the steering committee to the new council.

Elspeth’s Talk

After a short break we were given a talk by Elspeth Morrison in which she described a little of her recent work on the second volume of the Dorothy Dunnett Companion, and how it has differed from the first volume where much of the task was in reconstructing the researches that DD had made. This time there has been much more collaboration possible whereas on the first volume Dorothy was busy writing the HN series.

Elspeth finds it hard to read the books for pleasure as she is constantly looking for things that she may need to research and reference. She acknowledges that there will inevitably be things that are left out that someone will want to know about. Particularly in the original volume there was a great deal of HN material which simply couldn’t be included because it risked giving away parts of the plot.

In many case the quotes that people wish to reference are actually just fragments – there is no more – it is the context that Dorothy puts them into that is important. It is also the case that there isn’t the 20 or 30 years available for research that Dorothy has accumulated, and there are the limitations of the publishing process to contend with, so there has to be some trimming down. Elspeth remarked that she had three criteria – is it relevant, is it fun, is it sexy!!

In doing research related to Scottish history it is important to be aware of who is married to whom. The is an oft-mentioned quote which says that everyone is related in Scotland and without church dispensation no-one would be able to marry anyone else. She mentioned that in many cases she found herself treading the same paths as Dorothy had and that many of the items that she was able to trace are in footnotes or in bibliographies in the secondary sources – which means a great deal of reading for often quite minor points. This time around she has been able to use Dorothy’s own library but of course there is far too much to go through everything and she found herself constantly having to resist being sidetracked by interesting volumes that happened to sit next to crucial books on the shelves. On occasion there would be delightful discoveries – one such was to find that a historical character in the HN was the source of a quote used by Lymond – “amiable as a fawn lively as a girl” (unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough in my note-taking to catch who this was – I shall have to ask Elspeth next time we speak).

Elspeth then went on to give a quick verbal tour of the Royal Mile, as an addition to the excellent notes she provided to the delegates for their own excursions. These are too detailed to repeat here but one interesting item that came up was in reference to the old Tolbooth building – where Kathi goes on various errands and overhears the plotting. The Tolbooth records are all documented – who paid what rent etc. – so we know exactly what business went on there and who was involved.

Following a break for an excellent (if rather cramped) lunch where there was much lively discussion, not to mention an impromptu demonstration of divining by Jo Kirkham who had featured a professional diviner at a recent Rye get-together, we settled down to listen to our second speaker – Pauline Brace. Pauline gave us a detailed talk on plurality in King Hereafter and compared and contrasted the story given us by Shakespeare with that given us by DD, with a look at the historical sources and inherent politics involved in the former’s depiction, and looking at why he extracted the elements he did for dramatic purposes. Later she went on to look at the historical character of Thorfinn and gave us some reasons behind Dorothy’s theory. Now I must confess that my note-taking was quite useless in the face of the stream of information, reasoning and theorising that Pauline presented us with – and her mellifluous speaking voice frequently had me lost in thought as I tried to consider her arguments, only to discover that while I’d been thinking she’d already moved well into the next point! All I can say is that you should take any chance to hear her speak and hope that she may present her own summary of this talk in Whispering Gallery.

Towards the end of the afternoon, just before Pauline finished her talk, a special visitor arrived – Dorothy herself of course! I know of at least two people who had never been to a Dunnett gathering of any sort who were almost speechless with pleasure to be introduced to her, and as always she managed to find time for everyone.
I should also mention that after all her hard work, Val Bierman was forced to dash away and indeed missed the Sunday trip altogether, as there came an urgent report that she was about to become a grandmother. As it turned out the baby didn’t arrive that weekend after all, though I hope by now everything has been safely and successfully resolved.


The original trip to Dean Castle having been cancelled because of the foot-and-mouth outbreak, we instead had a two-part trip to Linlithgow Palace and Rosslyn Chapel. Unfortunately we were not favoured by the weather which was rather wet, but the worst of it seemed to occur while we had coffee and cakes at the Bridge Inn at Ratho (which is an centre for sailings on the Union Canal) on the way to Linlithgow. As we drove on, local enthusiast Val Dean was able to point out to us the area where the recent find was made of a complete iron age chariot, which is causing great excitement amongst archaeologists. Prior to entering the Palace we were grateful to the elders of St. Michael’s Church for allowing us to pay a quick visit to the plaque which commemorates Anselm Adorne.

Linlithgow is a magnificent building in a superb setting overlooking the loch, and yet for some reason is often underappreciated on the usual tourist trail. Mary de Guise rated it finer than all the palaces of France and to see it in it’s splendor before the fire which destroyed its roof and interior paneling and decorations must have been a great experience. My one disappointment on this trip was that the courtyard fountain was covered in boarding and scaffolding as it is being conserved at the moment. However there was plenty to explore and photograph, and it was a great pleasure to go round with others of a similar interest (and in particular Elspeth).
I’ve added some pictures to the Dunnett Places to Visit page on the website which I hope will give you a flavour of the place, even in the rain. (www.jamesthin.co.uk/duvisits.htm)

After returning to the bus we headed off to Roslin where we met up with local Dunnett fan and Rosslyn Chapel expert Joy Madden, where we first had lunch at the local hotel before heading up to the chapel itself. I had not been inside the chapel for some years and I must confess I had forgotten just what a marvel it is. If the carvings were instead plasterwork it would still be magnificent – but you have to constantly remind yourself that this delicate tracery of foliage or that leering face or graceful angel is actually solid stone. The mind is continually overwhelmed by the layers of detail as you look at, for instance, an archway, then see the shaping of its columns, then the pointed decoration on them, then the fact that all those points have flat surfaces which are again decorated, and that there are figures and symbols and faces at all the intersections and in all the nooks and crannies. Then there is the Apprentice Pillar, which would be a substantial achievement if it were a computer projection with the machine available to work out the DNA-like geometry for you and layer the spiral decoration on top of a pre-existing fluted column – to imagine a mason actually carving it from stone almost defies belief.
Joy was a great help to us all in explaining aspects of the construction and renovation work, and also the Sinclair, Templar and Masonic signs and symbolism, and trying to divide fact from fiction in some of the more outlandish theories which abound in this unique building. Down in a lower section she was able to show us some of the mason’s geometrical workings inscribed on the stone and I would have dearly loved to have been on a one-to-one tour and to have discussed it all in more detail.

A trip up to the roof which is currently covered with an elaborate canopy to assist in drying out the damp stonework showed that the decoration continued even at the top of the building, while it was amazing to hear from Joy that the original foundations indicate that the chapel was to have been another 91 feet long.

Again I have added some interior picture of the chapel to the website – I was pleasantly surprised that nearly all the shots I took were sharp, as all those I’ve so far had back were taken at long shutter speeds of up to two seconds with only a monopod for support (tripods are frowned on in the chapel). I did take some others with flash later but have yet to get them developed.
All in all an excellent day despite the rain and I hope that all the visitors enjoyed themselves over the weekend.


Before moving on I must mention, for those of you who didn’t see the announcement on the discussion groups, that at the beginning of April I added to the new Dunnett Places to Visit in Europe page a large number of pictures of Malta and Gozo which were very kindly sent to me by Monica Murray, who also supplied the quotations which are included. As if this were not generous enough she also sent a picture of a chateau which she thinks may have been the inspiration for Sevigny and a description of a very Gaultier-ish sounding restaurant. Many thanks Monica, and also thanks to Kathleen Shaw who also sent in a description of the Loire area and a useful website address.


It’s quite a while since I last gave you “Confessions of a Dunnett Reader”, and perhaps it is in any case a rather different beast now than back in the days when I was a novice reader working my way through the LC and reviving everyone’s memories of their own first time.

A year ago I was on holiday on the island of Islay, and struck down with the flu, was reading the Icelandic scenes of TWLW – an interesting exercise when lapsing in and out of fever and dreaming some very strange dreams during which I was totally convinced that I had complete understanding of the entire series. For some reason I couldn’t quite remember the secrets when I returned to the land of the feverless!!

TLWL struck a number of chords with me, the most important being the relationship between Nicholas and Kathi. That they are spiritually close is by now a given, and this is of course continued through the rest of the series. Some people have problems with the fact that he seeks her out for some activities and that there are some areas that he and Gelis never share – music being the most obvious. Many of these readers find it difficult to allow him to have two “loves”. My own take on this is coloured by an unhappiness with a common social attitude that has been prevalent, at least in this country, until very recently, which says that it is impossible for married men to have a friendship with another woman without sex being involved. This is an attitude I have always disliked because I’ve often found myself having friendships with women and vehemently object when it is assumed that there is something else going on.

I have long believed that in the HN Dorothy was giving us a story that was much more like real life than the obviously heroic story of Lymond. In the LC it was natural that L & P would turn out to be soul-mates and compliment each other in every way – the perfect match. Though for the most part hardly romantic at all, the LC was in its later stages the ultimate in heroic romance. She’d done that and HN was always going to be very different. To me Nick’s relationship with Gelis is much more like a real marriage – if you ignore for the moment the years of conflict over Jodi; and therefore his other relationship with Kathi needs to be seen in the same light. In real life men and women often relate fine on one level but not at all on another – how many wives completely fail to understand what it means to their husbands to play golf, or climb mountains, or play music or chess or even just go out with the lads every now and again. Naturally it works the other way too and husbands totally miss the point over some aspect of their wives’ activities that means nothing to them. Yet these are often perfectly stable and fulfilling marriages. This is what we see in the Nick, Gelis, Kathie triangle (though as always with Dorothy there is more going on as well) – Nick and Gelis have a great shared interest in the mechanics of trade and business and she is his equal in this area. There is also their wonderful sexual compatibility which is illustrated so well later on in C&R and Gemini. However she doesn’t have music in her skill set and this becomes an area which is essential to Nick’s existence – without someone to share this with he isn’t whole. I don’t see this as some people do as meaning that he needs two loves, in fact Kathi could just have easily have been male in this respect, merely that in real life we find different elements of contact in different people. Admittedly we see far less of Gelis’ side of the story, which is perhaps a shame but then the series would have ended up being another couple of volumes long and practical considerations always have to be born in mind. The thought occurs that there is an amusing contrast in things that Nicholas and Lymond have to learn in their respective journeys – Nick has to learn that you can love someone without sex being involved; Lymond took a long time to realise that you could have sex and that love *could* also be involved!

However, to return to TLWL, one of the things I most enjoyed about it was seeing Nicholas put back into a more basic and unrefined arena than the high-politics one in which he usually operates. Seeing how he wins over a native population who have no reason to side with him other than what they see of his character. He is also nicely contrasted with Pauel Beneke, who is first his opponent and then an essential part of his small party who have to work together to survive in a hostile environment. Their later relationship in Poland is perhaps the ultimate expression of the sort of male friendship that is seen in football or rugby team-mates who play hard , fight hard and drink hard – who would come close to killing each other in a fight but would as certainly defend each other to the death if required. The very opposite of the platonic man-woman relationship that exists between Nick and Kathi.

This is of necessity a short summary of reactions which omits a great deal of importance to the series and is coloured by the continued readings of the later books, and the discussions on the various internet groups, which even when I can’t keep up enough to contribute in I try to keep up with reading. I moved on to Caprice and Rondo in that same April of last year – desperate to finish it before Gemini appeared so I could approach that with the required perspective along with everyone else. Just as I never entirely subscribed to the “Lymond as Ice-Man” approach to RC, seeing instead the re-emergence from an isolated period that was the inevitable result of the trauma of PiF, I didn’t feel the same horror at the Nick descending to the depths of depravity interpretation which many see in C&R’s early chapters. Yes he was close to giving it all up and going off with Beneke to a pirate’s live, yes he was careless of his own and other lives in a way that was unlike him, but to me it was always going to be an episode that was a relief from the tangled life and only-hinted-at complex responsibility of his extended family. I had no doubt that he would revert to his normal self, if such a thing can be said of a man who is gradually learning a broader perspective that someone of his station in life should normally have had as part of their upbringing We are of course continually kept guessing at his true morality – his gallant offering of his bow to Adorne to avoid the other’s humiliation despite their apparent position as enemies is immediately contrasted with his wounding of Julius in mysterious circumstances. And what on earth is going on between him and Anna during the trip south to Caffa and beyond? And yet by then one has the feeling that he is back in command of a basically moral attitude which we have to contrast with some other dubious episodes such as the “Scottish Plan”. Then of course we have the reappearance of Ludovico de Bologna who has been cast as the annoying interfering religious bigot for much of the series, but is gradually being seen in a rather more positive light. If I was a genius or a charlatan I would now claim to have immediately spotted the required reassessment of the early denouncement of Julius by this same curious churchman. Alas I can claim no such flash of inspiration but only a gradual and growing awareness that things may not be what they seem in all the old relationships.
More later.


Dorothy will be appearing at the Edinburgh Book Festival on the 15th August at 11.30am. Tickets will be available via the Festival organisers –
please check their site at http://www.edbookfest.co.uk for booking details.

Best wishes to you all.