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The Persistence of Scott

My previous post’s title was of course a reference to the alternative title of Sir Walter Scott’s first novel Waverley otherwise known as Tis Sixty Years Since.

I am of course reading that author’s The Heart of Mid-Lothian at the moment which means he has been on my mind.

Scott’s influence continued to be felt long after his death. Edinburgh’s main railway station is named Waverley in his honour and there is of course the huge monument to his memory on Princes Street.

Scott Monument

On seeing this Belgian author George Simenon is supposed to have asked “You mean they erected that for one of us?” then added, “Well, why not. He invented us all.”

Also named after him is the main steamer on Loch Katrine in the Trossachs, the SS Sir Walter Scott, which was built by Denny’s of Dumbarton, dismantled, its pieces numbered, then the whole transported by horse cart to Stronachlachar on Loch Katrine where it was reassembled.

SS Sir Walter Scott
SS Sir Walter Scott

She is by no means the only ship with a Scott connection which I have sailed on.

The Heart of Mid-Lothian‘s main female character is named Jeanie Deans, a name previously familiar to me – at least in her second steamship incarnation – from several of those trips “Doon the Watter” that used to be so much a part of a West of Scotland childhood.

PS Jeanie Deans
PS Jeanie Deans

There was a short branch line (now long gone) off the main-line station at Craigendoran (about 8 miles from Dumbarton) which took trains right up to a platform on the pier where the ship would be waiting for its passengers to detrain and embark – usually for Rothesay. I believe something similar pertained at Wemyss Bay.

One of the delights of the trip was to descend into the lower parts of the ship to see the engines; mesmerising visions of gleaming, oiled steel and brass, powerful flywheels spinning, pistons thundering, regulators twirling. “Taking a look at the engines” was also used as a euphemism by those suitably aged gentlemen patrons who wished to avail themselves of the licensed facilities on board.

There was also an earlier PS Jeanie Deans. Indeed the North British Packet Steam Company and North British Railway seem to have named their ships almost exclusively after Scott characters. Have a look at this list of their ships, some of which were transferred to later operators.

Only one of these floating mini-palaces still exists. The second PS Waverly (built in 1949) is now the sole ocean-going paddle steamer left in the world and still carries out excursions from its base on the clyde near Glasgow Science Centre, in the Bristol Channel, from London, the South Coast and Wales under the auspices of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society.

PS Waverly at Ilfracombe
Waverley at Ilfracombe

If you can avail yourself of the opportunity to take a trip on the Waverley (or indeed the SS Sir Walter Scott, though she is much smaller and does not quite afford the full experience) I would urge you to do so.

War Memorial, West Bridgend Church, Dumbarton

West Bridgend Church hall was where I started playing badminton, long, long ago now.

I had never explored its churchyard till last October when I discovered this Memorial to the men from the church who died in the Great War:-

War Memorial, West Bridgend Church, Dumbarton

The names:-

West Bridgend Church War Memorial Names

There was also a Commonwealth War Grave. Private William C Douglas, RAMC, 7/12/1916, age 19:-

War Grave West Bridgend Church

And this gravestone commemorates, as well as his father, one Captain William Learmonth Buchanan, 5th HLI, killed in action in Palestine, 20th November 1917, aged 25:-

Gravestone, West Bridgend Church

St Augustine’s, Dumbarton

St Augustine's, Dumbarton

St Augustine’s Episcopal Church, Dumbarton (above; dedicated to St Augustine of Hippo) is possibly the most important building in my life. Not just because it was where I got married – though that can’t be minimised. It was the church where my grandfather (the original Jack Deighton) was the incumbent Rector in the 1930s and 1940s. The Episcopalian ministry was more or less the Deighton family business. Not only my grandfather but his brother (my great uncle,) his son (my uncle,) and his grandson (my brother) took up holy orders – or as I used to put it, “I come from a long line of penguins.” My generation was where the tradition ended though.

The church was where I spent a fair part of each Sunday in my youth as a member of the church choir. There were two accompanied services each Sunday; Matins/Morning Prayer or Sung Eucharist in the morning and Evensong in the evening.

More germane to its importance to my life is that it was where my mother first laid eyes on my father as he entered church in the choir procession and she told herself, “I’m going to marry that boy.” At the time they were both aged nine! My mother was a strong-willed woman and knew her own mind from a young age: her mother said she was so thrawn she’d walk on the other side of the road because she didn’t want to walk with the rest of the family. My father never had a choice. Still, without that I wouldn’t be here.

Since I moved to Fife the only times I have entered St Augustine’s have been for family funerals or as in Saturday’s case a memorial service for an old family friend who died earlier in the year. It was a chance to see how cruel time is to us all. One woman said to me, “I know you,” but couldn’t work out who I was till she was told. Mind you I didn’t recognise her either. My excuse is that she’d changed her hair colour.

I took the photograph below of the chancel, high altar, reredos and stained glass window at the east end; now all much more visible from the nave since the rood screen was removed during restoration. (The pictures on the lower altar are from the life of the old family friend.) The reredos is a particularly fine example of the form.

Interior, St Augustine's Episcopal Church, Dumbarton

The War Memorial to St Augustine’s congregation members used to be to the right of the entrance door. When the church was refurbished with heritage funding – the church is a grade A listed building – it was relocated to halfway or so up the left hand side:-

War Memorial, St Augustine's Episcopal Church, Dumbarton

It only occurred to me when I got home that this was probably the last time I’ll ever attend St Augustine’s. With the loss of that old family friend I no longer have a connection to the church and none with Dumbarton – except for the glorious Sons of the Rock of course. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t take more photographs, especially of the stained glass windows facing the High Street.

Dumbarton War Memorial

The Memorial is unusually situated some way out of the town centre, in Levengrove Park, on the banks of the River Clyde near its confluence with the River Leven, with a great view of Dumbarton Rock.

This is the view looking from the Park towards the Clyde. It’s the front of the Memorial which as a whole is surrounded by a metal fence and features a bronze angel. Note the Elephant and Castle crest of Dumbarton on the gate:-

Dumbarton War Memorial, View Towards River Clyde

Reverse of the Memorial – the view towards the Park, again with Dumbarton crest on the fence:-

Dumbarton War Memorial

Again looking into Levengrove Park but from an angle:-

Dumbarton War Memorial from Side

The names of the First World War dead are on each side, above in the original engraving; Second World War ones added below, on two sides only. This is the east side of the Memorial:-

Dumbarton War Memorial Names

The west side:-

Dumbarton War Memorial Details

The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett

Oxford World Classics, 1998, 353 p, plus 22 p notes, ix p introduction, 7 p bibliography of works by or about Smollett and 2 p chronology of his life. (Edited by Lewis M Knapp and revised by Paul-Gabriel Boucé.)

Another from the 100 best Scottish Books. Also, I borrowed it from a threatened library.

Smollet was born at Dalquhurn, in Renton, which is only two miles from Dumbarton. Since he was educated in the town that just about makes him a fellow Son of the Rock.

The Expedition of Humphry Clinker cover

I found this difficult to get into at first, perhaps because of its epistolary structure. In an innovation by Smollett (previous epistolary novels had consisted of letters “written” by one character) we are given the missives of several; Matthew Bramble, his sister Tabitha, his niece and nephew Lydia and Jery Melford and the lady’s maid Winifred Jenkins: but not, you will perhaps have noticed, any by the eponymous Humphry Clinker, a destitute who turns up around page 80, gets employed as a footman and thereafter performs the company various services. Coupled with the orotundities of 18th century language (the book was first published in 1771) this means the threads are slow to gel. Tabitha’s letters are full of misspellings as are Win Jenkins’s, with in her case the addition of multiple malapropisms.

The structure means that some incidents are rendered from more than one viewpoint – which is not in itself a problem but tends to impede the flow of narrative. It does though give Smollet ample scope to anatomise the society of the latter half of the 18th century and to poke fun at various aspects both of it and of human nature. Tabitha Bramble sets her sights on any available male, Lydia Melford’s sympathies are engaged with a man thought unsuitable by her family, Bramble dislikes the closeness of city life, decries the insanitary aspects of taking the waters at Bath and the adulteration of food.

Smollet does not forego the opportunity to guy his English readers. One character tells Mr Bramble that “the English language was spoken with more propriety at Edinburgh than in London,” that the Scots language was true, genuine old English since it had retained the guttural sounds, that the English render simple vowels as diphthongs and moreover they mumble and run their words together. (The same passage says that wright, write, right and rite were each pronounced differently by Scots in Smollet’s time. No longer – except perhaps for those who still say “a’ richt”.) On the understandings within the two countries we have, “What between want of curiosity, and traditional sarcasms, the people at the other end of the island know as little of Scotland as of Japan.” This is still largely true but the reverse never was and remains so. Later, Mr Bramble is informed in no uncertain terms that, far from Scotland benefitting from the Union, much the greater advantage was derived by England.

We also here the authentic voice of the traditionalist in the sentiment, “Woe be to that nation where the multitude is at liberty to follow their own inclinations!”

Pedant’s corner:- the intentional misspellings, malapropisms and differences in the language over two and a half centuries make any such listing otiose.

Scotland’s Art Deco Heritage 11c. Dumbarton Yet Again

Familiarity must breed not looking. How I missed this building in this sequence up to now I don’t know. Anyway I caught it early in May when I was over for the last game in the season.

It’s the ex-Savings Bank of Glasgow building in Dumbarton, now a TSB.

Dumbarton TSB

The former Woolworths has been given a makeover and is now a Wotherspoons, The Captain James Lang. The frontage has cleaned up nicely. Compare this to the photo I took in 2009.

Dumbarton Former Woolworths

On the wall inside is a photograph of Dumbarton Woolies in its heyday.

Dumbarton Old Woolworths

As a homage to the building’s past this array of old Pic’n’Mix bags and sweets is also on display.

Pic n Mix, Dumbarton

Ben Lomond From Dumbarton Football Stadium

A snow-capped Ben Lomond on 2/5/2015. Photographed from stand of Dumbarton Football Stadium. Ben Lomond is the only Munro I have climbed. (I say climbed. There’s a path. You can walk up it.)

Ben Lomond From Dumbarton Football Stadium

On the same day and from the same location I took this photo of Sons players applauding the fans after the last game of the season vs Raith.

End of Season Farewell

Most of these players have now left the club.

100 Best Scottish Books (Maybe)

I came across this list a week or so ago. There are some odd choices in it. The Woolf and Orwell are surely pushing it a bit to qualify as in any way Scottish. And The King James Bible? Yes he was primarily a Scottish King but the endeavour was undertaken for reasons to do with his English realm.

Those in bold, I have read. There’s a lot I haven’t. Time to pull my socks up.

(Edited to add:- Those with a * I have now read.)

John Galt – Annals of the Parish* (1821) I’ve read The Member and The Radical. See my review here.
Aonghas Pàdraig Caimbeul – An Oidhche Mus Do Sheòl Sinn (2003) This is written in Gaelic and hence beyond my competence.
Kate Atkinson – Behind the Scenes at the Museum – (1995) I read this years ago.
Ian Rankin – Black and Blue* (1997) I’ve not read this Rankin but I have Knots and Crosses.
Laura Hird – Born Free* (1999)
Tom Nairn – The Break-Up of Britain: Crisis and Neo-Nationalism (1977) Non-fiction
Frederic Lindsay – Brond (1984)
Naomi Mitchison – The Bull Calves (1947) Not a Mitchison I’ve read but I’ll need to catch up with more of her work. (As of May 2016 on tbr pile.)
Anne Donovan – Buddha Da* (2003)
Matthew Fitt – But n Ben A-Go-Go (2000) Science Fiction in Scots! Brilliant stuff.
Patrick MacGill – Children of the Dead End (1914)
AJ Cronin -The Citadel (1937) Cronin was from Dumbarton. I’ll need to read him sometime.
Frank Kuppner – A Concussed History of Scotland (1990)
Robin Jenkins – The Cone-Gatherers* (1955)
Thomas De Quincey – Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1822)
Iain Crichton Smith – Consider the Lilies* (1968)
R. M. Ballantyne – The Coral Island (1858) I may have read this as a child but I cannot actually remember doing so.
Louise Welsh – The Cutting Room (2002) (tbr pile)
Robert Alan Jamieson – A Day at the Office (1991)
Archie Hind – The Dear Green Place* (1966)
James Kelman – A Disaffection (1989) I read years ago. Kelman is essential.
RD Laing – The Divided Self (1960) non-fiction
William McIlvanney – Docherty (1975) Again read years ago. Again McIlvanney is essential reading.
David Hume – An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) Philosophy. I haven’t read this.
Andrew Greig – Electric Brae (1997) A superb first novel. See my review here.
Tobias Smollett – The Expedition of Humphry Clinker* (1771) Smollet was from Renton, which is 2 miles from Dumbarton.
Violet Jacob – Flemington* (1911)
Agnes Owens – For the Love of Willie (1998) See my review here.
Ian Fleming – From Russia, With Love (1957) Fleming? Scottish? Only by extraction it seems.
Dorothy Dunnett – The Game of Kings (1961) (tbr pile)
Denise Mina – Garnethill (1998) (tbr pile)
James Frazer – The Golden Bough (1890)
Nancy Brysson Morrison – The Gowk Storm* (1933)
Bernard MacLaverty – Grace Notes (1997)
George Mackay Brown – Greenvoe* (1972)
Alistair MacLean – The Guns of Navarone (1957) I read this many years ago. Decent enough wartime thriller.
J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)
Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness (1902) Conrad was the favourite author of the original Jack Deighton (my grandfather.) I’ve read The Secret Agent and always mean to get round to more. But… Wasn’t Conrad Polish?
John Prebble – The Highland Clearances (1963) Non-fiction
Ali Smith – Hotel World (2001) See my review here.
Arthur Conan Doyle – The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902)
George Douglas Brown – The House with the Green Shutters (1901) A Scottish classic; see my review.
Willa Muir – Imagined Corners (1931) (tbr pile)
Luke Sutherland – Jelly Roll (1998)
Chaim Bermant – Jericho Sleep Alone (1964) is on the tbr pile.
James Robertson – Joseph Knight (2003) Robertson is another of those very good present day Scottish authors. My review of Joseph Knight.
Various – King James Bible: Authorised Version (1611) ???? See comments above.
Alasdair Gray – Lanark (1981) Absolutely superb stuff. More essential reading.
Ronald Frame – The Lantern Bearers (1999)
James Boswell – The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
Bella Bathurst – The Lighthouse Stevensons* (1999) Non-fiction. I bought this for the good lady and it’s another I keep meaning to read.
George MacDonald – Lilith (1895) The Scottish tradition is to write fantasy rather than SF. I’ll need to catch up with this.
John Burnside – Living Nowhere (2003)
Anne Fine – Madame Doubtfire (1987)
Alan Spence – The Magic Flute (1990) I’ve read his Way to Go.
Des Dillon – Me and Ma Gal* (1995)
Margaret Oliphant – Miss Marjoribanks (1866)
Alan Warner – Morvern Callar (1995) I think Warner’s most recent books The Worms can Carry me to Heaven and The Deadman’s Pedal are more successful.
George Friel – Mr Alfred, MA (1972) (tbr pile)
Neil Munro – The New Road (1914)
William Laughton Lorimer (trans.) – The New Testament in Scots (1983)
George Orwell – Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) I know it was written on Jura but Orwell? Scottish?
Alexander McArthur and H. Kingsley Long – No Mean City: A Story of the Glasgow Slums* (1935)
Alexander McCall Smith – The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (1998)
Christopher Brookmyre – One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night 1999) Brookmyre is a fun read – if a little too liberal with the violence. But this isn’t even his best book. See my review here.
Catherine Carswell – Open the Door!* (1920)
Andrew O’Hagan – Our Fathers (1999) I have yet to warm to O’Hagan. My review of this book.
A.L. Kennedy – Paradise (2004) Kennedy’s more recent Day and The Blue Book impressed me more.
Muriel Spark – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) My review is here.
James Hogg – The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) The quintessential Scots novel. The döppelganger tradition starts here.
Suhayl Saadi – Psychoraag (2004)
Nan Shepherd – The Quarry Wood* (1928)
Walter Scott – Rob Roy* (1818) Scott more or less invented the Scots historical novel but I can only remember reading Ivanhoe.
Thomas Carlyle – Sartor Resartus (1836) Anothe disgraceful omission on my part I fear.
Toni Davidson – Scar Culture (1999)
Margaret Elphinstone – The Sea Road (2000) I’ve read Elphinstone’s A Sparrow’s Flight and The Incomer; but not this. (tbr pile)
Jimmy Boyle – A Sense of Freedom (1977)
George Blake – The Shipbuilders (1935) (tbr pile)
Gordon Williams – The Siege of Trencher’s Farm (1969)
Neil M Gunn – The Silver Darlings* (1941) Of Gunn’s work I recently read The Well at the World’s End.
Ron Butlin – The Sound of My Voice (1987) I’ve not read his poetry but Butlin’s fiction is excellent. My review of The Sound of my Voice.
Robert Louis Stevenson – The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde* (1886) Following on the döppelganger tradition from Hogg. Again I can’t remember if I’ve read it or just watched adapatations on TV.
Jeff Torrington – Swing Hammer Swing! (1992)
Lewis Grassic Gibbon – Sunset Song (1932) A brilliant novel. Worth its status as a classic. See my thoughts here.
John Buchan – The Thirty-Nine Steps* (1915)
Virginia Woolf – To the Lighthouse (1927) (tbr pile)
Irvine Welsh – Trainspotting (1993)
Janice Galloway – The Trick is to Keep Breathing (1989) I fear Galloway is an acquired taste. See here.
Jackie Kay – Trumpet (1998) I read this last year.
Christopher Rush – A Twelvemonth and a Day* (1985)
Michel Faber – Under the Skin (2000)
David Lindsay – A Voyage to Arcturus (1920) In the Scots tradition of the fantastical but has a weirdness all its own.
Iain Banks – The Wasp Factory (1984) The much lauded Banks debut. I’ve come to think A Song of Stone may outrank it.
Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations (1776) The foundation stone of Economics.
Compton Mackenzie – Whisky Galore (1947) (tbr pile)
Jessie Kesson – The White Bird Passes (1958) To be reviewed within the week!
Kenneth Grahame – The Wind in the Willows (1908) I may have read this as a child but can’t honestly remember.
Alexander Trocchi – Young Adam* (1954)
James Kennaway – Tunes of Glory (1956) (tbr pile)
John Gibson Lockhart – Adam Blair (1822) (tbr pile)

Raw Spirit by Iain Banks

In search of the perfect dram

Century, 2003, 368 p.

I bought this mainly for completeness. I’ve read all of Banks’s fiction and so his only non-fiction book kind of rounds things off. It also qualifies for the Read Scotland Challenge.

Raw Spirit cover

It is strange to be writing about this in the wake of the referendum. While the book is ostensibly about whisky it is in reality a hymn to Scotland, in particular its landscape, its “Great Wee Roads” and its inhabitants, not forgetting the West Highlands’ voracious midges and prodigious rainfall. Banks’s liking for fast cars can’t be missed and the numerous inns and hotels he frequented as well as the distilleries and their visitor centres (there is, it seems a whisky “experience” look) will be grateful for the exposure. Had the book been solely about whisky I would not have been the best person to appreciate it as I have never taken to the stuff.

That said, the history and processes of whisky production are described in extremely accessible terms. While Banks attempts descriptions of the single malts he samples in the course of his travels (for which he had no shortage of willing companions) this is perhaps an impossible task – in the way that descriptions of music are often lacking – but the word “peaty” does appear quite often.

Parts of Raw Spirit read like Banks’s non-SF fiction. The verbal interplay between the author and his friends is just like the conversations encountered in say Espedair Street, The Crow Road or Complicity, the asides and digressions – his journeys were undertaken and the book written around the time of the (second, the illegal) Iraq War, occasioning familiar Banksian rants – typical of his mainstream work.

As a book Raw Spirit is barely ten years old yet so much has changed since it was published. Banks himself is sadly no more, as are the Inverleven Distillery at Dumbarton and (not so sadly) the Forth Road and Skye Bridge tolls. The landscape, the Great Wee Roads, the whisky, though, remain – at least those bottles as yet unconsumed.

A delightful addition to the Banksian œuvre.

Great Tapestry of Scotland and Edinburgh’s Art Deco Heritage 10: TSB Bank London Road

A couple of weeks ago, mostly on the good lady’s volition, we travelled to see the Great Tapestry of Scotland which was on show at the Scottish Parliament building. Its exhibition there finishes sometime in September and it will eventually end up in Melrose when the new rail line to the borders is complete.

It’s quite an impressive collection – of embroidery rather than tapestry but Hey-ho – of over 100 panels stitched by volunteers from round Scotland each one illustrating a piece of Scottish history.

I may get round to posting other views of the panels but this one featured Dumbarton Rock, which in 870 AD (or 870 CE if you prefer) fell to the Vikings:-

on the way back to where we’d parked I captured the building below on pixels. I’d passed it many times before in the car but never stopped near enough by. It’s the TSB bank in East Norton Place (London Road) Edinburgh.

The pillars on the corners are good. The street sign on the bank also says East Norton Place. From the other side the pillars are again stand outs. The style of the number 30 is nicely deco too.

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