Dorothy Dunnett Society Edinburgh weekend

The AGM weekend will be just coming to an end, and hopefully everyone has had a good day at Stirling Castle as the heavy rains of Friday and part of Saturday thankfully made way for a bit of sun.

I very nearly didn’t make the weekend at all. Away at a wedding last weekend I picked up a virus and spent the week in bed – worried that I wouldn’t be able to give my scheduled talk on Marthe on Saturday morning. As it turned out I made it, but it was a very close run thing and I had to skip the Friday night opening meal to ensure I was sufficiently recovered for the Saturday.

The first two Saturday speakers gave us talks on the archaeological work that’s been done at Stirling Castle – useful preparation for the Sunday excursion – and then after a short coffee break it was my turn. Fortunately my voice held up sufficiently to get through it and I was happy to hear plenty of good feedback. It remains to be seen whether I converted anyone to my point of view since most people seemed to start with fairly negative views of Marthe, though a couple did say they would be reconsidering their opinions on their next read. I’ll be posting the text of my talk here soon so you can all judge for yourselves.

The afternoon talk was by Dr Jennifer Scarce on Ottoman Dress and how it was used to differentiate the various levels of society. Shortly before the end I found the effects of the virus catching up on me and headed for home for a couple of hours of much-needed sleep so I could return for the evening meal, and only just woke up in time to make it back. An excellent meal and stimulating conversation, along with a short talk by Judith Wilt and presentations to Simon Hedges and Olive Millward brought the day to a satisfying close; well a least once Ann McMillan, Simon and I had indulged in our now-traditional discussion on politics in the bar afterwards. 😉

Simon and Olive

I must say a few words about these two stalwarts of the society. Olive, having organised many AGMs previously, responded to the call and stepped in again this year with her usual efficiency and flair. She’s even managed to sort out next year by persuading Kathy Lewis into taking on the job.

Simon was stepping down as Chairman after a very successful tenure. A long standing committee member he had previously been Secretary, always a difficult job in any organisation, before following me when I decided to step down due to insufficient time. During his chairmanship the society has moved forward substantially and, while all the committee members deserve credit, much of that is due to his stewardship. How he’s managed to combine it with the very complex organisation of the Dunnett Siege of Istanbul which is due to occur later this year I don’t know, (Olive is of course involved there too) but it’s been an astonishing effort and he will certainly be missed. All our thanks are due to them both for many years of sterling work.

The last few months have been so busy for me that I was horrified to realise during the dinner that I hadn’t contributed to Simon’s book of thanks, so I hope he’ll accept this as my way of saying thanks for all his work for the cause of Dunnettry.

Dolly Sails Again!

Moroccan Traffic

Good news for fans of bifocal-wearing detective/spy Johnson Johnson. The Dolly series are being republished in both book and ebook format and should be out in about two weeks time. They’ve been out of print for many years and of course are usually overshadowed by the much better known historical books, but they have an idiosyncratic charm and are full of wry humour.

They are being published by Cornish-based publisher House of Stratus and will be available in both paper and ebook versions. As soon as I have full details I’ll post them here along with links to order them. They will appear with the most recent UK titles (see the Dolly page on the main site for the full list)

Happy sailing!


Major Archaeological Discoveries on Orkney

Long-time readers of this blog will recall that I’ve mentioned the excavations of the Ness of Brodgar site on a couple of occasions. Situated on the strip of land between two lochs and between the famous Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness as well as the nearby Maes Howe, work started there in earnest in 2007 after earlier digs in 2004 had hinted at something major.

I confess that through pressure of work I’d rather lost touch with the latest developments until I caught a TV programme on the BBC last night. Neil Oliver, well known for the Coast programme and a series of Scottish history programs, is actually an archaeologist and in this special edition of A History of Ancient Britain: Orkney’s Stone Age Temple he outlines the astonishing discoveries that have been made on this site in the last few years. If you are in a country that can view the BBC iPlayer I urge you to take a look while it’s still available to view. This could well be THE most important stone age discovery, eclipsing everything else on Orkney (which takes some doing!) and even the Stonehenge and Avebury complex.

If you can’t see the program then take a look at the Orkneyjar site – particularly and  and for a couple of panoramas of the dig site try  and

The discoveries are too numerous to attempt to list in the slightest detail here – a series of complex stone structures which suggest a temple complex which may have been associated with ancestor worship, two large (2 metre wide) walls which appear to have run the width of the Ness and funnelled people into a predetermined path, the first examples of painted neolithic walls in the UK or northern Europe, a number of mace-heads apparently broken deliberately, a number of “dressers” similar to the ones found in domestic areas of Skara Brae but here appearing to be free standing and possibly used as altars, a figurine which has been nicknamed the Brodgar Boy, and a mass of cattle bones which appears to suggest a large ceremonial feast.

There are probably decades worth of work still to be done on the site and an anonymous benefactor has bought the land on which the site stands along with the house for the people of Orkney. I look forward to reading of the discoveries and theories around this site for many years to come.