When caught up in fiction it's often easy to forget the real life people surrounding the stories. Here is a a particularly interesting letter (written in Gallovidian Scots) from S.R.Crockett to his friend John Macmillan of Glenhead, from 125 years ago... planning his sojourn in Galloway:
August 6th 1894
My Dear Friends at the Bonegill, I have been wearying to hear from you. We are still at home and have been ever since I saw you. I am about half through with the big Covenanting book, an have to work hard at it in order to get the matter in to Good Words in time, but I am not going to do much when I come to you… but lie on my back in the sun and kick my heels in the air. Sometimes I shall arise for the purpose of following the Mistress to the milkhouse on the lookout for buttermilk – like a suckle calf. Sometimes I shall take the hill with the guidman, and sometimes I shall bide at home and read the papers… all according to the freedom of my own will as the Quastion Buik says. I never put in as muckle hard work in my life as I hae dune thae last months an’ I am gye weel sure that I deserve a holiday…
Dear sirce, but I’m wearyen’ to speak a word or twa or the rale Gallowa’ that I get nae bit sae weel as at Glenhead. But I gie the Guidman (falsely so called for he was a Badman that day whatever) fair warnin’ that gin he gies me siccan a travel as I got gaun to Cove MacKitterick, I’ll e’en gar him gang screevin’ hame ‘without the breeks’ like Gibbie Macallister o’ the Langbarns in the tale o’ Mad Sir Uchtred.
I am sendin’ ye that same wi’ this post, an I howp that ye’ll like it. Ye’ll hae to let the travellers see whaur Sir Uchtred made the puir bit whutterick play whush ower the Clints o’ Clashdaan.
There’ll be a man up wi’ yin o’ thae nasty photographin’ things, sae see that ye hae a’ the lees ready for him. It’s no the truth they’re seekin’ onyway.
There was a callant her the ither day wi’ sicklike, an’ I tried to tell him the truth as best I could, though I am a minister. An’ haith, but the body just gaed awa’ an pat doon a pack o’ lees. So I hae done wi’ the truth noo. Yer minister loon wrate to me to want me till preach, but when I come away, fegs, but I’ll neyther preach nor pray for six weeks!
Dear sirce me… Glenhead, I wunner to hear ye, you for you wi’ your crappen fu’ o guid meal, to misoaa’ a puir man for talkin’ balderdash! It’s juist afore supper-time, an’ wha can talk sense when they are bein’ keepit waitin’ for their parritch?
The wife sends her guid w ull, an’ ye maun tell us gin it is per-pately convenient to hae us on the first o’ September
Wi’ a’ guidwull frae maysel’
I think this is a powerful letter, in respect of putting Crockett into a really human context. Amidst all the unpleasantness of the literary press, he was able to relax (and write Scots) to his rural friends. It shows (to me at least) that he was managing to keep a sense of proportion about things. We also see his weariness, both in terms of his job and in terms of the criticism he’s receiving. The plan to go to Glenhead for the month of September was, fortunately, followed through. It's just sad that 125 years on, Glenhead itself has been a victim of 're-development' which essentially means it no longer exists. This is the danger of not recognising the value of literary houses... even if they don't crumble, (Glenhead was a substantial, if a bit ugly, granite building) they can be pulled down. It was impossible to 'save' Glenhead - believe me, we tried.
Above, as it was 125 years ago and below 5 years ago
Now it is just a shell... in the name of 'progress'?! It is supposed to be being redeveloped into a 'bunkhouse' but all that seems to have happened is that it has been razed to the ground (it's the roofless building centre left) and a couple of temporary buildings thrown up. After the event there was quite a stooshie, but the result is that instead of preserved as the valuable cultural legacy it might have been it is now just a memory in fiction and photograph. Shame on all those who let this happen.
meet the authors
Introducing some unco Scots writers and their works. Our featured author is S.R.Crockett (it's his 160th anniversary this year)