Edinburgh in the Spring 2009 – the DDRA AGM weekend

This year has seen one of the best Springs we’ve had in Edinburgh for many years – it arrived early, stayed largely clear and bright, and the blossom has stayed on the trees for longer than I can remember for many a long year. So it was that delegates to the DDRA AGM had a warm sunny day to view the castle from the Royal Overseas League through a haze of pink blossom. (They also got a traffic noise free environment since Princes St is completely dug up for tramline laying but it kinda spoilt the view).

Numbers were down this year – partly due to the economic climate no doubt, and probably partly due to the overseas contingent being much reduced in anticipation of next year’s Le Spit gathering in Paris. However we still managed a healthy enough number.

After the AGM itself we had a talk from Prof. David Bradley, entitled “The Open Sea, with some Charts”, on the history of maritime exploration which included ship design, maps, and navigation as well as some of the personalities involved. He took particular care to mention Richard Chancellor. This was clearly a broad subject which could be studied for a lifetime and time was limited, but Prof. Bradley did extremely well to get through an illuminating session conveying a wealth of information.

After a fine lunch we had what for me was the highlight of the day – “Weaponry and Arms of the 16th Century” by Hugh Robertson, a demonstration of 16th century weapons, swordsmanship and fighting techniques. However this was far from a dry demonstration – rather it was a humorous, engaging, and sometimes knockabout session which educated while being immensely enjoyable. Would that we had had a higher ceiling so that Hugh (dressed as a gentleman) and his assistant (dressed as a soldier) had more freedom to swing their weapons without hindrance. With examples of many different swords, pikes, and pieces of armour on show – which we were able to handle while peppering the two men with questions afterwards – it was an ideal way to get a feel for the sort of warfare which our characters would have been engaged in. My thanks to them both and I do hope we’ll be able to invite them back at some stage.

With fewer delegates we were able to use the round tables for the evening dinner rather than the long lines of tables, which made for a more spacious and convivial experience. No formal speeches this time but the evening was again enlivened by Anne Buchanan’s readings of poems by William Topaz McGonagall.


After considerable thought over many months I had decided to step down from both the chairmanship and the membership administrator role that I’ve held for some years now, and I did so at the AGM. There are various reasons for this but the primary one is sheer lack of time due to increasingly complex personal, family and business developments. In hindsight I should have relinquished the membership role when I took on the chairmanship and I feel that I have not had anything like enough time to devote to steering the association’s development. Since time is likely to be in even shorter supply this year I feel that it is right to hand on to someone else. It was an emotional decision and not one taken lightly, as I never like to leave a job unfinished. However as a notorious perfectionist I also can’t face doing a job less than well.

I have also long wanted to redevelop the Dunnett website which, apart from this blog, has had little attention in the last few years. I need to take a step back from organisation for a while but I hope that after a few months break while I concentrate on business I’ll be able to devote some time to bringing the site, which I’ve always regarded as Dorothy’s as much as mine, back up to an appropriate level.

I had originally planned to step down completely but with two members retiring and only one joining I have been prevailed upon to remain on the committee for another year as a general member without specific remit other than to offer my experience and knowledge where required. Olive Millward will be taking over the membership administration as soon as we can successfully convert the database. At the short committee meeting following the AGM Simon Hedges was elected chairman and I leave matters in his capable hands. I would say that all the roles in the committee take considerable time and expertise that in most organisations would require professional input. That we have had a series of committee members of the last few years who have sacrificed large parts of their personal lives to the cause says a great deal about their integrity and commitment.


Edinburgh in the Spring 2009 – the DDRA AGM weekend — 2 Comments

  1. Bill. I put off thanking Dorothy for all the many hours of enjoyment she allowed until she was gone. I did not thank Simon. I AM thanking you for all you have done to help steer the readers through Dorothys masterpieces. Much I have not understood has been mentioned. There is still much to understand. I adore Francis Crawford.
    I have struggled with Nicholas. I have read all several times and just concede that Dorothy was much above me.

  2. Thanks Carol, happy to know the site’s been of value to you. Dorothy knew her readers’ fascination, enthusiasm, and gratitude and I think was equally appreciative of the ones who didn’t write to her as the ones who did – at the height of her popularity the response could often be overwhelming.

    There is always more to understand in the books; I have lots to learn about the Niccolos which I haven’t read as often as the Lymonds. The level of multi-layered complexity is a constant source of challenge and inspiration. I’m quite certain that there are hidden connections and facets that Dorothy planted in both series that have yet to be discovered despite the erudition of all the many participants in many re-reads of the books in the online discussion groups. Occasionally one turns up even in passages that have been poured over endlessly but I’m sure there are many more to be found. Her breadth of knowledge and imagination were very special indeed.

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