Archives » Dumbarton

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 hear 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.

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.
Edited again to add:- I have added even more than these to the “have now read” list.)

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.

Arthur The King by Allan Massie

A Romance. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2003, 292 p.

A novel about King Arthur? What new is there to be said?
Well, Massie’s approach is different. This is the second part of his Dark Ages trilogy as told by Michael Scott (known as the wizard) to his pupil, the Hohenstaufen Prince who would become The Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.

In Arthur the King the focus is not so much on the legend we all think we know as on Arthur the man, a very human creature, from his humble upbringing, through his kingship to his gritty death. The effect is to demystify, to demythologise, to render Arthur into history. Michael Scott has his own reasons for this, to educate the prince, to remind him of a monarch’€™s duty to maintain peace and justice, to underline the burden of kingship but it also serves to emphasise the Hohenstaufen line’s links back to the Roman Empire. It’€™s a nice piece of ventriloquism by Massie and allows the use of wonderful Scottish words like howdumdeid.

In addition he has Scott locate Camelot in Scott’s boyhood environment – the Scottish border country – and mentions, among others, the legend of Arthur still residing in a hollow under the Eildon Hills. There are of course many parts of Great Britain which claim Arthur as their own. Indeed a cave by the Clyde shore at the Havoc in Dumbarton was/is known as Merlin’€™s Cave (though others have it as Bruce’s cave, such is legend.)

In the narrative the point is made that most of the tales of Arthur are actually those of the Knights of the Round Table. Here, there are some digressions of that sort but they are short and we are never away from Arthur for long.

Characters who might have seemed important, like Merlin and Lancelot, are bit parts; even Morgan Le Fay isn’€™t Arthur’€™s main antagonist. Merlin, though an instigator of the sequence of events which lead to the complications inherent in the tale, is disappeared offstage about halfway through.

The main problem with all this is the narrative style. Massie, as Scott, digresses frequently and irritatingly, leading to a certain turgidity in the delivery. I remember this trait as being worse, though, in the first book of The Dark Ages, The Evening of the World, which I read before I started blogging. So much so in fact that I left off reading this one for years.

It probably won’€™t be so long, I suspect, till I undertake the last in this series, Charlemagne and Roland.

Selling The Jerseys

How to explain the move of David Beckham to Paris Saint Germain?

It can’t be on footballing grounds. He has been playing for six years in the US, where the standard isn’t the best, he’s 37 years old and plays in midfield where it’s hard to hide. Okay, he admits himself he never had any pace to speak of, but still. How many minutes playing time do you reckon he will have for PSG between now and season’s end?

In any case I have always thought he was more than a touch overhyped as a footballer. He could take a free kick and put in a cross but rarely dominated a game in the way great players do. As for his most famous feat in England – scoring from his own half – that’s not even unusual. Chic Charnley did it in a Dumbarton shirt, and it’s a regular occurrence at Gayfield (wind-assisted of course.)

The news programme I first saw this on yesterday implied Beckham was a big football name and mentioned, condescendingly, that PSG had also recently signed players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic. As far as the present football scene is concerned Zlatan is a much bigger star than Beckham – and more valued.

For some unfathomable reason Beckham is still assumed to have a superstar’s lustre. PSG can only have signed him to promote their global brand and sell jerseys.

In football, British football anyway, the phrase “selling the jerseys” means to make a mistake that costs your team – a goal, two points, the match. PSG may have scored an own goal here.

Art Deco in Tranent, East Lothian

On the way back from seeing Eric Brown in Dunbar we stopped off at Tranent. The main reason is my mother was born there – or at least it was her first home. Her family later moved to Eyemouth before coming to Dumbarton.

I found it a typical Scottish small (post)industrial town with all that implies. But it has Art Deco.

Art Deco Shop, Tranent, East Lothian.

The above is Homezone – on Edinburgh Road just after it branches off from High Street. This is a close-up on the detail:-

Art Deco Detail on Homezone, Tranent.

At the other end of High Street is this solicitor’s. The stepping on the roof line is good – and the triangular effect on the upper stone blocks.

Art Deco Frontage, Tranent.

To its left (on the right in the above photo) the deco feel continues. The pillars on the stone work are nicely detailed. The premises were to let, as you can see.

Art Deco Frontage, Tranent, 2.

Two Firsts

Not only will Wednesday night’s game be our first play-off final it will also be our first ever appearance on live TV.

Brush up your Gaelic, though. It’s on BBC Alba. See here for its availability.

To get through to Dumbarton on a midweek night and back again in a decent time would be pushing it for me. This news eases that dilemma. This week I won’t have the Europa League (sic) final to take my mind off things, I’ll have the Sons game itself.

Atletico Madrid 3-0 Athletic Bilbao

Europa League* Final, Arena Națională, Bucharest, 9/5/12.

The difference here was in a striker who could fashion goals for himself from very unpromising situations (Madrid’s Falcao) and one who may have been carrying an injury (Bilbao’s Llorente) though Madrid’s defending contributed to the latter’s ineffectiveness. Bilbao laboured in the first half and, apart from Falcao, so did Madrid.

In the second, Bilbao had to chase the game and swarmed all over the Madrid half but weren’t able to create a clear cut opportunity – except once when Courtois made a great block. Bilbao also seemed unable to get enough width into their play.

Vulnerable to the break, Bilbao fell to the sucker punch from Madrid’s Diego, another goal created from an unpromising situation. It might have been better defended just the same.

Bilbao’s players are mostly young so may come again. Muniain, with his scurrying run and combative attitude, reminded me of ex-Son Andy Geggan (but an Andy Geggan who can play.)

Speaking of the Sons, a narrow 2-1 win over Arbroath last night makes Saturday’s second leg (with our rank record up there) very iffy.

*So-called.

Prepare To Meet Thy Doom?

Take a look at these historical league tables (top four only) which show when Cowdenbeath FC has won the Scottish Second Division.

Scottish League Division Two 1913-14

1 Cowdenbeath P 22 pts 31
2 Albion Rovers P 22 pts 27
3 Dundee Hibernian P 22 pts 26
4 Dunfermline Ath P 22 pts 26

In those days promotion wasn’t automatic so Cowdenbeath were in Division Two the next year. Cowdenbeath were one of three teams on equal points at the top.

Scottish League Division Two 1914-15

1 Leith Athletic P 26 pts 37
2 St Bernards P 26 pts 37
3 Cowdenbeath P 26 pts 37
4 East Stirlingshire P 26 pts 31

A three-way play-off decided the league winners. Cowdenbeath defeated Leith Athletic at East End Park and St. Bernards at Easter Road to take the title.

Scottish League Division Two 1938-39

1 Cowdenbeath P 34 pts 60
2 Alloa Athletic P 34 pts 48
3 East Fife P 34 pts 48
4 Airdrieonians P 34 pts 47

Cowdenbeath’s only other Championship was in Div 3 in 2006. Their other promotions came as runners-up, through play-offs or as a result of another club’s financial problems leading to a readjustment in the leagues.

So does anyone spot something here?

Well, I notice that every time Cowdenbeath have been Champions of a Division 2 in Scotland the UK has been involved in a major (world) war the next September.

Now take a gander at the present position in the SFL Div 2 (as of 7/2/12) :-

1 Cowdenbeath P 20 pts 41
2 Arbroath P 20 pts 39
3 Stenhousemuir P 20 pts 31
4 Dumbarton P 19 pts 28

Gulp!

Come on Arbroath!!! (And the Sons, obviously.)

free hit counter script