Posts Tagged ‘Argyll’

Rest and Be Thankful: intro.

May 8, 2008

Officially it is the A83 Trunk Road. For centuries however travellers have known it as the Rest and Be Thankful and have welcomed the chance to draw their breath and enjoy the view as they crossed the summit at 860 feet on the road that leads from Loch Long to Loch Awe via Glen Croe and past the picturesque Butterbridge into Glen Kinglas. There can be few roads in Scotland so well documented by travellers over the centuries or so affectionately named as the Rest.

 

 

 In the beginning, of course, there wasn’t a road at all.  There was just a track, a path, made by generations of travellers, and beaten out by herds of black cattle being taken by drovers from Argyll to the trysts and cattle markets of the Lowlands.

 

The making of a road, in any sense that we would now recognise it, had to wait until the eighteenth century. Some work was done in the 1730s on roads in Argyll by local government agencies  – the Commissioners of Supply.  However the real impetus for road building came after the 1715 and 1719 Jacobite Risings. General George Wade was sent to Scotland to examine the military situation in the Highlands.  His report made a number of recommendations, including the construction of forts at various points and the development of a network of roads to link these strong points. 

 

In 1743 it was decided to construct 44 miles of military road from Dumbarton to Inveraray, via Loch Lomondside, Tarbet, Arrochar, Glen Croe and thus down to Loch Fyne. Major Caulfeild, Wade’s Inspector of Roads and successor as mastermind of the Highland roads network, was ordered to survey the route and work started that summer – although progress was interrupted by the outbreak of the 1745 Jacobite Rising.

 

 

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Doom Castle

April 24, 2008

Like most of Neil Munro’s fiction Doom Castle, first published in 1901, is set in and around his home town of Inveraray.  The period is 1752 and the Doom Castle of the title is in reality Dunderave Castle on Loch Fyneside, just a few miles from Inveraray.

Dunderave Castle, the “Doom Castle” of the novel

The after effects of the 1745 Jacobite rising are still to be felt and the hero of the book Count Victor de Montaiglon comes to Scotland on a mission of revenge to seek out and kill a mysterious Scot who has been betraying the Jacobite exiles in Paris and turns up at Doom Castle, the seat of a Jacobite sympathiser Baron Lamond. He also finds in the Castle Lamond’s daughter Olivian and his pawky Lowland manservant and general factotum Mungo Boyd.

Doom Castle was warmly received when published – the British Weekly commented that “Since Kidnapped and Catriona there has been no Scottish novel of more unmistakable genius.”  Like most of Munro’s fiction it had gone out of print and I was delighted to be able to write a new introduction to it for its 1996 reprint by B&W Publishing.

Click on the cover below to go to Amazon.co.uk where this book can be ordered.

John Splendid

April 1, 2008
John Splendid was Neil Munro’s first novel, published in 1898 after serialisation in Blackwood’s Magazine.  Like most of Munro’s fiction it is based in and around his home town of Inveraray in Argyll and is set in the troubled period of the 1640s and the Civil War. War however in Argyll took on much of the character of a clan battle. The Campbell stronghold of Inveraray is burned by the Royalist forces under Montrose, assisted by Alasdair MacDonald or MacColla, who saw the struggle between King and Parliament as an opportunity to strike back at his clan’s traditional rivals the Campbells, represented by Archibald, the 1st Marquis – Gillespeg Gruamach (Archibald the Grim).
As I write in my introduction to the B&W reprint of John Splendid the story starts in 1644 when: “… Colin, heir to the Laird of Elrigmore returns to his native parts after a long absence. Five years of study in Glasgow University had been followed by seven years of campaigning in Germany and the Low Countries as a soldier of fortune campaigning in one of the Scots regiments fighting in the Thirty Years War.” He returns to Argyll where his family were allies to the Campbells and finds himself in another war zone and meets McIver of Barbreck, a distant cousin of the Marquis and the John Splendid of the title.
Munro’s cast of characters reveal the Highlands in all their complexity – John Splendid for all his military prowess is shown to be less than noble, always ready with the answer that the Marquis wants to hear, while the Marquis, fated to be a war-leader of a fighting clan, has all the instincts of a lawyer and a politician. When his town of Inveraray is burned he takes the prudent but unheroic course of sailing away to seek reinforcements.
John Splendid was a bold choice for Munro’s first novel – the same story of Montrose and Argyll had been dealt with by Sir Walter Scott in  A Legend of Montrose – but it is tribute to Munro’s skill that his version is capable of being compared with the Scott novel.

Click on the box below to go to amazon.co.uk where this book can be ordered

For more information about Neil Munro go to the Neil Munro Society website www.neilmunro.co.uk

Cradle of the Scots: an Argyll Anthology

March 26, 2008

the-old-road-small.jpg

Argyll, where the Scots from Ireland first settled, has many claims to be the homeland of the Scottish nation. It has also got an unrivalled wealth of literary associations – local writers in Latin, English and Gaelic – from St Columba to Iain Crichton Smith – are joined by visitors to this beautiful corner of Scotland. With the invaluable help of Ronie Renton as our Gaelic expert Ronnie Armstrong and I have edited an anthology of writing with its roots in Argyll. When one goes over the Rest and Be Thankful into Argyll [pictured above] one enters a very different world and this anthology should interest anyone with a love for the area.

Click on the image below and you will go to the Amazon.co.uk website where this book can be bought.