Getting Reaquainted with the Scottish Highlands

No, not the landscape itself, though it’s far too long since I went hill walking in the north and west, this is the name of the pictorial book that Dorothy and Alastair wrote together along with photographer David Paterson in 1988.

Although immersed in all things Dunnett and with a house full of multiple copies her books, I don’t quite have a full set of every title she produced. Specifically I only have two of the Dolly series – at least in English, I do have some copies in German but unfortunately that’s a language I don’t speak. The other gap in my collection was The Scottish Highlands, which I’d always meant to buy a copy of during my time at James Thin, when I sold a fair number of them, but which unexpectedly went out of print and denied me the chance. Until today.

Having unexpectedly received a cheque from a client instead of being paid by electronic transfer, I had to visit the bank in Morningside, not far from the old Dunnett home, and having paid for 20 minutes extra parking than was required something told me to nip into one of the many secondhand bookshops in that area. Scanning first the history books and then the Scottish books I suddenly spotted a familiar cover and happily acquired a copy of the missing book for a mere £3.99 and in good condition.

Memory sometimes plays odd tricks – there is a little more text than I remembered, both the initial section by Dorothy and the chapter descriptions by Alastair, and it’s interesting to find that in this context their writing styles were very similar. It’s lovely to read snippets of stories of their travels by hill pony, yacht and motor cruiser, and their clear love of the Scottish countryside, even though they explored it in different ways. It seems that unlike Alastair, who wandered the hills with friends like Michael Powell and Seton Gordon, Dorothy was no hill walker.  We also learn that although she enjoyed skating she hadn’t good balance and wasn’t very good at it. Apart from cooking that must have been about the only things she wasn’t good at!

I’ll enjoy dipping into this old friend of a book after so long. Finding the other Dollys may prove a bit harder!

Dorothy Dunnett’s death – 10th anniversary

As most of you will realise, today is the 10th anniversary of Dorothy’s death. It is not a day I will ever forget, and the letter to everyone announcing it was the hardest I ever had to write. In some ways it seems only weeks ago and in others a lifetime. So many things have changed since then, yet the memories of her effervescent intellect and kindness are as fresh as ever.

The important thing is to remember the continuing fellowship of countless Dunnett readers throughout the world which she made possible, and the immense and lasting pleasure she gave to us all; changing lives, educating us while entertaining us, inspiring travel and studies of myriad aspects of history and other related subjects.

She was the best, and she will not be forgotten.

Thank you Dorothy.

International Dorothy Dunnett Day – 15th October 2011

The first International Dorothy Dunnett Day will take place on the 15th October. It has special significance as it marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Dorothy’s first book – The Game of Kings – which started The Lymond Chronicles and was responsible for all our wonderful journeys into the history, geography and culture of the Renaissance.

There will be meetings all over the world; in Belgium, Canada, England, Spain and the USA, and of course here in Edinburgh where we’ll be gathering at the Makar’s Court off the Royal Mile, next to the stone that commemorates Dorothy’s life and work. If you’re attending any of the meetings then when you raise your glass (which I hope will contain the best malt whisky that you can find!) to her memory then you’ll be doing so together with many others.

Do enjoy the memories, whether they are of reading the books for the first time, of the first time you communicated with other readers, of any gatherings you may have attended, or, if you were lucky enough to meet her in person, of that warm smile and sparkling wit that she graced us all with. And if you wish to share any of the stories or photos old or new then I’d be more than happy to receive them.

Have a very good day!


Maps maps maps, …and a Dunnett bonus

Today I followed a link from a friend on Twitter to the National Library of Scotland site. The NLS was of course an organisation dear to Dorothy’s heart, and they have proven to be very imaginative in their developments on their website. I’ve mentioned before the old maps that they’ve put online, now they’ve combined their old maps as overlays with Google maps. For instance if you want to see Edinburgh as it was in 1849-53 and compare it with the current views you can go to and zoom in and out as you would with normal Google maps. Of course it’s not Lymond’s time, sadly mapmaking was rather more primitive then, but it’s interesting for those of us who like seeing how the landscape and cityscape have changed.

But then I started to explore a bit more, as I hadn’t had time to spend on the site for quite a while due to moving into my new house a few months ago. And what I found was this – – it may not look much to begin with but try zooming in. (The controls are slightly counter intuitive – click the symbols above and then click the map.) Then zoom in again, and again, and again…

You can go through various layers of different maps but you can get down to detail such as this

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace - click for a larger version

This is Linlithgow Palace and St Michael’s Church from between 1848-72.

Which immediately gave me an idea. As I’ve mentioned in the past you can’t see the site of the old house that belonged to Archie and Robin because it’s been obliterated by the modern Grangemouth oil refinery and I’ve always meant to go and find an old map which had it marked – I knew it was marked because Dorothy used to have an enlarged copy of an old map on her study wall which I saw on one of my visits. So over I swung to the area and zoomed in again. And the result was


Berecrofts - click for a larger version

Interesting that the spelling is slightly different, Bearcroft rather than Berecrofts, but this must be the place, situated just across the river where Lucia died on the night of Nicholas’ fight with Simon in the salt pans. And this isn’t the final level of detail – zoom in a bit more and the layout of the house becomes visible.

Berecrofts Detail

Berecrofts Detail - click for a larger version

I rather think Dorothy would have liked this development. Enjoy exploring!