Friday, July 10, 2015

Gathering Scottish Moss

10th July 2015

I just did one of those readings in Scotland that I have done a few of in America, where people trickle in and you read aloud from your pages.  It wasn't in a book shop, but in a farmhouse with a view  across Loch Sween. This is what I was looking at through the window as I was talking and describing how I came to belong to the league of pen-pushers.


I was reading about things my American audience struggles to picture. Everyone at this reading had been to Dunadd Fort - not a fenced-in compound for soldiers, as forts are on this side of the Atlantic, but an ancient rock citadel ringed with dry stone walls. Dunadd used to house royalty back in the early part of the first millenium when my book takes place. But these days it is home to nothing but a small group of Hebridean black sheep who like everything else here smell of bracken and earth, munching away on the softer vegetation, without so much as a nod to the heavenly vista of sea and islands.  My corner of Scotland is a quiet place, not just in terms of decibels, but because life has a pace here that is really only determined by the land itself in its cycles and seasons. It's a place where man seems almost insignificant.
The great houses of yesteryear, like the one below, are slowly being swallowed by the silence, by trees and moss, being taken back inch by inch as though they only ever really existed in in the minds of a gentrified class.

I grew up in this ghost estate, in the house once reserved for the head-gardener who oversaw sixty-three labourers. Those men and boys planted exotic species like rhododendrons that have spread wild and become part of the landscape that threatens to take the place back. The indentured gardeners of yesteryear once lined walkways around this house with moss for the silk shoes of ladies who didn't know how to boil a pot of tea. And now there is only this echo. Perhaps growing up in an echo was the soil out of which my story-telling grew. Perhaps it's the only way I have of stopping the moss growing on me. 


  1. That is Poltalloch House former home of the Chief of Clan Malcolm - my late father went to Balls there before WW2.

  2. Yes, indeed. And I grew up in POltalloch Garden House. Does your dad have any good stories about being there? I'm intrigued by the fact that they had an orangery!

  3. Hi! This is a little out of place but I really enjoyed Veil Of Time and am very interested in reading Druid Hill. Will it be available any time soon?

  4. Hi. Druid Hill is currently with the publishers and I am waiitng for the green light on that. So, not too soon, I'm afraid. This publishing business is very frustrating! FYI I have another novel about the theft of the Lewis Chessmen by a group of Scottish Nationalists - I'm trying to get my agent to take this one right to Scotland instead of publishing it in the USA first. We'll see.

  5. I will definitely look to other novels of yours as I thoroughly enjoyed your writing in veil of time. I look forward to druid hill whenever that may be!