Winter Words Festival 2012


Pitlochry Festival Theatre

27 January – 5 FEBUARY 2012


the Guardian


If I was in the area, here’s who I would go and see ~


Does he wear that blue turtleneck a lot or is it just me?  I think it must be a favorite or maybe it brings out his eyes … I don’t know.  Anyways, I think he’s pretty great. I watched the entire series “A History of Scotland” and now own the book too.  So, next thing is he has a new book and TV series out called “A History of Ancient Britain” and he will be having a chat about it at the Festival during “An Evening with Neil Oliver”.


A “Literary Lunch with Mairi Hedderwick” will be held where she will talk about her book “Shetland Rambles”. This talented author and illustrator will also be hosting a family event where she’ll read “Island Stories” about Katie Morag and her friends. Ms. Hedderwick amuses me with her stories of island life.



Mr. Tom Devine has been a personal favorite of mine through my reading of Scottish history.  I would love to meet him in person.  He’s going to be giving a talk on “To the Ends of the Earth:  Scotland’s Global Diaspora”.



If you’re interested in politics, there will be “An Evening with Alistair Darling”, discussing his book “Back from the Brink” which describes his 1000 days as Chancellor.  Dennis Canavan will also be there with his book “Let the People Decide”, covering his many years in politics.


Sir Chris Bonington
Liz Lochhead
















Other authors include Ann Lindsay, Liz Lochhead, Sir Chris Bonington, Sue Lawrence and Janice Galloway.

There will be a book fair by Yeadon’s Booksellers and if you prefer second hand reading, Pitlochry Station Bookshop will have books for sale.

As an additional bonus, Atholl Palace Hotel is offering some special rates for those of you who may want to stay in the area.






For more information on the Winter Words Festival, here is the website.

Nigel Tranter

Nigel Tranter, one of Scotland’s most prolific writers was born on this day in 1909. Tranter was educated at George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh and published his first book in 1935 at the age of 25. His five-volume series ‘The Fortified House in Scotland’ covered the history and structure of more than 650 Scottish castles. (from History Scotland Magazine facebook page).

Books from Scotland writes:

“Nigel Tranter was born in Glasgow, but schooled at George Heriot’s in Edinburgh. His childhood interests included history and architecture, but his first profession was an account for his uncle’s insurance company. He married Jean Campbell Grieve in 1933, and his first book was published a year later – The Fortalices and Early Mansions of Southern Scotland, which he illustrated himself He turned to fiction, and became a full-time writer in 1936.

During WWII he served in the Royal Artillery, but still found time to write five books. After the war, he returned to writing, producing childrens’ books, romantic novels, and Westerns under the pen-name Nye Tredgold. But Tranter is most famous for his historical novels, particularly the Robert the Bruce trilogy written in between 1969 and 1971. The first of his historical novels was The Queen’s Grace, about Mary Queen of Scots, and was inspired in part by his research into the architectural history of Scottish Castles.

Later novels featured many more Scottish figures, including Kings James II, V and II, Queen Margaret, Macbeth, King David I, the House of Stewart, and others.

Tranter also wrote a number of non-fiction books, particularly on Scottish architecture such as the five-volume The Fortified House in Scotland. He was an active public speaker, particularly on historical and political subjects, and was a firm Scottish Nationalist.

Nigel Tranter died in 2000, aged 91, from the flu. In all, he wrote over 130 books; his final novel, Hope Endures, wasn’t published until 2004.”

Nigel Tranter is near and dear to my heart as he began my foray into the world of Scottish history many years ago. He wrote with such finesse and with deep appreciation for history itself that the reader couldn’t help but be drawn in to his stories.

Ian Rankin – National Post

Ian Rankin is a guest writer this week in The National Post and I’ve provided the link here plus a bit of a write-up from the National Post about what he’s up to in Canada this month.

Ian Rankin is the author of the bestselling Inspector Rebus series, which ended in 2007 with the publication of Exit Music. The Scottish crime writer’s latest novel, The Impossible Dead, just arrived in bookstores. He’s appearing at the Vancouver International Writers Festival on October 20th, 21st, and 22nd, the Ottawa International Writers Festival on October 24th, and the International Festival of Authors on October 26th and 27th. Rankin is guest editing The Afterword all this week.

Another September

September is an interesting month. Everything speeds up again after the summer lull and once more, life takes on form and structure. I was reminded that it is again time to read Rosamunde Pilcher’s “September”, a delightful book set in the lochs and hills of Scotland.

I had picked up a book about Rosamunde’s life (if I may be so bold as to call her Rosamunde, she is something akin to royalty in my heart) in a thrift store and I sat down to read it this afternoon. In it, she speaks about the different places she has lived and what they meant to her. I was struck once more by her vivid use of written imagery to paint a wonderful picture of peace and harmony.

Taken from “The World of Rosamunde Pilcher”, edited by Siv Bublitz (page 14), she describes a property they were considering buying in Sutherland (spoiler alert: which they did decide to purchase).

“Shallow stairs, carved pine banisters, pale green carpet, pale walls, lots of white paint, everything clean and new and scrubbed and shining. On the first floor, curved archways led to rooms on the left and the right, and there was sunlight everywhere, flooding in through long sash windows. The sitting room had beautiful mouldings around the ceiling, and the bay window looked straight out, across the street to the Cathedral.”

Sunlight in the Blue Room by Anna Archer

George MacKay Brown

I am having one of those strange kind of days when you keep finding something or someone everywhere you look.  George MacKay Brown happens to be that person for me today.

I confess I have never read any of his works but I am intrigued by the man and the fact that he wrote about his life on Orkney.  I have spent part of my morning trying to track down his books.


The rabbit trail began with an email I received this morning from “Scotland’s Islands”, telling me that the kick-off for a year-long celebration of all things islandish was beginning today with the Celtic Media Festival. The Orkney Book Festival follows in quick succession and I noticed that the festival was being organized by the GMB Fellowship.  A question arose … GMB? … so to Google I went … the answer was George MacKay Brown.

As I read about his writing, I became very interested in this author.   I found his life history,  selections of his work and then I saw that the BBC had an in-depth biography on their Writing Scotland site.

I was looking for a picture of books (think Google Images … books … nothing to do with GMB) so that I could write a post on the Book Festival but as I found a suitable image and clicked on it, I was taken to the Guardian and wouldn’t you know it … it was an article written about GMB in 2007!

Some things are just meant to be so I have written about this author, fully confessing that I have not read any of his literature.  As part of my fascination with the Scottish Islands this year, I am looking forward to reading some of George MacKay Brown. 🙂


To “flyt” is a Scots word for “quarreling” or “contention” and “flyting” is a contest between two poets (makars) consisting of insults, often in verse.  It is a war of words, not necessarily done out of derision for each other, but more a verbal match trying to outdo each other in oral acrobatics and spoken irony.

In the latest Stirling Castle blog, it is suggested that the Stirling Head shown above might possibly have been Sir David Lindsay of the Mount, who was a key character at the court of James V and liked a bit of flyting.  The Head shows a poet, hand on heart and speaking, and this could infer that he was flyting.

In the first flyting in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice responds to Benedick’s line “What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?” with “Is it possible Disdain should die while she hath such meet / food to feed it as Signior Benedick?”.    The first example of Scottish flyting in poetry was “The Flyting of Dumbar and Kennedie”, between William Dunbar and Walter Kennedy, likely before the court of James IV.

My heart’s in the highlands

Robbie Burns, celebrated worldwide on January 25th (his birthday) or thereabouts, depending on when your local supper is being held.    I enjoy a bit of Burns, maybe not so much as others, but he is rightly remembered in Scotland’s history as he wrote a plethora of literature and was a cultural icon for his times.

My favorite Burns’ song (written in 1789)  is “My heart’s in the highlands” and I found a nice rendition of it by the Barra MacNeil’s.