Published in ArtworkMagazine
Sept 2013 issue: http://www.artwork.co.uk/
By Sam & Gavin Khan-McIntyre
DEEP in the heart of the rural Scottish Borders lies the Ettrick Valley, an area with little internet or mobile connection. Over the summer the old primary school at the top of the valley has been playing host to the James Hogg Exhibition in its hall.
This seemed completely empty until the poet Robert Wilson suddenly appeared from the small office next to the front door with the words “I’m just finishing a poem.”
Looking casual in a T-shirt, he began to show me around. Although no visitors were present, Wilson said there had been a trickle every day. He pointed out that six people a day here is equivalent to a footfall of something like 600 in Edinburgh.
Hogg had lived a few metres from the school between 1770 and 1835, and was a major literary figure and farmer. Wilson feels he ought to be commemorated as part of Scots culture and history and is building on this aspect of the area.
As we chatted about Hogg – his unconventional love life, his debt problems and his extraordinary mask – visitors started appearing. As they cornered Wilson, I slipped away to examine the exhibits.
These included the sinister-looking mask moulded from his face, a spectacle case, a replica of his desk and dog, a first edition novel, and a beautiful sculpture based on a Hogg poem. The exhibition impressed Marlene Wyley from London, who commented that it was “very well curated.”
As the exhibition closed for the day, Wilson and I sat on the steps outside while the last of the visitors drifted away. It transpired that Wilson knows little about sheep but a lot about Hogg.
He had been totally immersed in Hogg’s writings during the first two weeks of the six week residency, which was due to last until the end of September. Funding, he told me, came from The Big Lottery Fund, the Leader programme and the Buccleuch Estate. Wilson is receiving a small salary.
Hogg was, said Wilson, the classic “lad o’ pairts” .”He was a kind of self-educated guy who had to struggle through poverty and he had an innate talent to do that.” For that, and for having written inScots, Wilson felt some identification with him.
Wilson discussed the importance of Hogg’s legacy and his own role fitting into this, he said: “Thehuman condition doesn’t change much. The same challenges face people as they did 200 years ago. “It’s a struggle for the local people to survive economically and it’s one of the challenges of isolation here. The valley depopulated because of people moving away for jobs, and that’s the same today as in Hogg’s time.”
This depopulation occurred he said, when local sheep farms were taken over by trees, by contractors and big companies, and the commercially run forestry ventures sucked the life out of the community: “They didn’t bring anything in, they were just interested in taking out.”
Influenced by his experiences, Wilson’s poems so far have been based on wildlife, topography and place names. He also aims to incorporate locals’ stories and their aspirations for the valley in ameaningful way.
Wardlaw Jackson, 58, a farmer in the Cross Keys pub farther down the valley, also talked about the forestry, and said that incomers to the area tended to be retirees. He said that the farmers, himselfincluded, had capitalised on the situation by selling land to the contractors at something like double its market value.
The contractors, he said, hadpromised jobs to the locals, but these had failed to materialise. Wilson admits to knowing nothing about sheep farming: “I’m not a shepherd, but I can appreciate the tough life that they have.” In fact, many farmers left the area as result of the difficult life.
The aim to revitalise Ettrick could result in drastic changes to its character and landscape. The danger is that this might cause loss of the uniqueness which so influences Wilson’s poetry and the very solitude which helps concentrate his mind in the writing of it.
Published in Scottish Field, November 2012.
By Sam Khan-McIntyre
Book by Jackie Kemp
Neil Wilson Publishing
In a comprehensive, and diverse collection of the work of this charismatic journalist, Scotland’s recent past and its development come to life in this compilation by his daughter Jackie, also a journalist. The stories covered encompass his life, and trace his influences, beginning with his grandfather’s anti-fascist speeches of
Princess Margaret’s famous put-down at the palace: ‘I say’, she said, ‘would you mind fetching me an ashtray?’ on which Kemp dined out for many years.
WWI, to his father’s recollections as aa WWII reporter. This leads to his own recollections of beginning at the Scotsman in 1959 through to his editorship at the Herald. The book is indispersed with political debates and personal stories, on Scotland’s future in which he took an active part. Especially in the halfway House and Doric Taverns at lunchtime with his colleagues. Subjects include de-industrialisation, and the economic changes of the 1980s, Thatcher and Scotland, devolution and the creation of the Scottish Parliamnent. The more personal stories include thoughts on music, poetry, literature, and his childhood. These include the anecdote about Princess Margaret’s famous put-down at the palace when he had asked to speak to her: ‘I say’. she said, ‘would you mind fetching me an ashtray?’ on which Kemp dined out for many years.
The language of this wordsmith is full of panach and liveliness, which renders it an absorbing read, and the journalism is imbued with a sense of immediacy due to his closeness to his sources. Kemp was a journalism purist, and for him, integrity was extremely important. He believed in truth to power as journalism’s purpose, ‘to reveal to the powerless what the powerful would rather keep secret’. Therefore, during his editorship, was not in favour of inteference into the paper of a commercial and political nature. Although he remained a royalist, he was strongly supportive of Scottish devolution, and his daughter regards his legacy as a strong national press in which journalism’s aims of truth to power is more than ever required with regards to the upcoming independence struggle.
This book succeeds in its aim of providing a comprehensive and enjoyable account of the state of the nation and politics in recent history through Kemp’s eyes, as well as of his unique and interesting personal world. Although he died prematurely, he will for a long time through his important contribution to the Scottish press.
34 Murder in suburbia The harsh realities of Scottish wildlife – Alan Cochrane
46 Is this man Scotland’s greatest living painter? Interview with Jack Vettriano
56 A perfect match Judy Murray on growing up and raising her sons in Dunblane
70 Christmas at Kinloch Lodge Fabulous recipes to help cook up a festive storm from Claire Macdonald
92 Scottish first lady How black sheep Christina Stuart became America’s leading lady- Sam Khan-McIntyre
98 The tale of Peter Mcrabbit How Scotland inspired Beatrix Potter
146 Meet marten The loveable but deadly pine marten has made a stunning comeback
154 How to earn a buck Fallow deer stalking in Dumfries and Galloway
161 Too hot to handle – Are rising sea temperatures to blame for a drop in salmon numbers?
Here & now
32 The e-razor gangs Why something must be done to prevent electro-fishing for razor clams
36 Scotland through a lens – Photographer Ian Cameron’s winter wonderland
54 Credo – Comedian Des Clark on childhood, pantomime and who makes him starstruck
88 Welcome to the jungle – Scotland’s top ten plant hunters take centre stage
96 Model of a champion – Commonwealth gold medallist athlete turned model boat builder Lachie Stewart
104 Portrait of an artist – The racy life and times of Scottish colourist JD Fergusson
128 Two horse town – Andy Scott is the creator of Falkirk’s imposing sculpture The Kelpies
250 Lady at leisure The clan chief’s wife feels more at home on the ground than in the saddle – Fiona Armstrong
Homes & gardens
110 Glittering prize Christmas in a festive East Ayrshire home
138 How does your garden flow The gardens of Monteviot House near Jedburgh
The book, ‘Traquair House, A family Life revealed’ on the history of Traquair house has just been published. Written by Catherine Maxwell Stuart, she explores the lives of the Stuart family over five hundred years, with the house, a focal point. The House was a former hunting lodge and is a white-washed Castle set in extensive grounds. The book brings another are alive through letters and photographs between 1491 and 1875 to piece together long-forgotten lives. Catherine is a descendent of the Stuarts and current owner of the property. Talking to her last September , a petite blonde, at the estate offices in the grounds of the house, she told me that the book took 18 months to write, and that she decided to write the book with archivist Margaret Fox. This occurred when her interested was piqued due to a number of small exhibitions at the house, by Margaret, based on material from the archives. ‘It grew arms and legs’ she says, ‘and developed into a history of the Stuart family’
According to Catherine, Christina’s story is an interesting one, because was the only member of the family to emigrate: ‘It’s a lovely, romantic story’ continues Catherine. In 1770, Christina met Cyrus through her brother, while he was a law student at Edinburgh University, and married him against her father’s wishes, John Stuart, the 6th Earl of Traquair. It is presumed they eloped.
Christina went on to become the original first lady of America, and the only Scottish one, and is therefore played an important part in Scottish history. This book explores her life through photographs and correspondence, and the lives of other family members, between 1491 and 1875. Cyrus went on to become one of America’s founding fathers and final president of the confederacy. He governed between 22 January 1788 to 4 March 1789. Directly after this the constitution was signed and George Washington became the United States’ first president.
Christina had been painted as one of the first ladies by Cyrus, reveals Catherine, as she started the tradition of visiting dignitaries being invited back to the home, and offering hospitality. This was an early form of political networking.
However, Catherine feels that although Christina had a hospitable side, she may also have been quite reserved. Continuing ‘she must have had some spark in her, for she went against her father’s wishes. Despite this, she wasn’t a great society lady, for after the period as president, they effectively retired to Williamsburg’.
Beset by money worries, life wasn’t perfect for Christina after she got married, Catherine believes Cyrus could be unpleasant. Catherine goes on to say that he was constantly writing to her father asking for her money, and there is evidence of this in the book. As well as this, Christina had to stay at Traquair for two years after her marriage, while Cyrus studied law at chambers in London. This was until, in a letter sent from her father to his eldest son John suggests the removal of Christina and her child from the house, for her brother was due to marry and reside there. Other evidence for his unpleasantness occurs when in the letter from Cyrus to John, Cyrus unleashes his anger at the family, believing they are in the wrong, calling them for example ‘without fortune, beauty accomplishments…’ and that ‘it seems she is thought of such consequence as to disturb the peace of the new married couple, and he doesn’t understand why. Christina and Cyrus departed for America on the 6th of August 1773; Catherine believes her father never really forgave her for going off with him and their relationship was affected; for she didn’t make contact with him for twenty years. Catharine feels that ‘the situation with the family was really sad.
According to the book, Christina had been entitled to a fortune which she did not receive in the end says Catherine. Cyrus had tried many times to extol this money from her family. According to Catherine, Cyrus had perceived that she was from a wealthy family, but it had already lost a lot of their wealth, due to their Catholic faith and political allegiance. Catherine adds that they had not lived on much money, but is not sure why, despite Cyrus having inherited a plantation.
Despite the financial problems, the Griffins had two boys and two girls, and educated them well. They also moved from New York to Philadelphia before settling in Virginia. After his post as the final president of the confederacy, Cyrus became the Judge of the US district court of Virginia.
Family disagreements arose due to the family’s dislike for Christina, according to Cyrus’s letters. He believes this dislike extended to himself, rather than having begun due to him. This dislike seems to seep into the rest of their lives in America, and is evident from Christina’s numerous letters, which were never replied to. She believes, unlike Cyrus, that it was due to their dislike for him, which she feels had no foundation. These issues must have caused her pain, and were probably the reason she never returned to Scotland. Catherine believes she didn’t return because ‘she had burned her bridges with her family, she knew she had to stay with her husband’. The fact that she wasn’t getting any replies, and the situation with her father, leads Christina to believe that she was distraught at being cut off by her family. Also that due to the lack of response, it would have been a risk to return and that this was a ‘gruesome’ situation.
This situation is confirmed through a letter by her son John. He discusses Christina’s feelings: ‘the anxiety my mother must feel from not having heard from you for a long time’, and her possible ‘apprehensions and fears’ due to this.
According to a letter Christina wrote to her cousin Lady Winifred Maxwell, life had been a struggle for her. Writing about how expensive things were, she also discusses how she had not heard from her two sisters over the last twenty years, and only once from her brother. She also worried about being forgotten by her family, and had been glad to be remembered by her brother.
Ultimately, Catherine regards Christina as having been happy with Cyrus; despite other troubles, for she surely would have returned if things had gone wrong. Christina herself said in regards to Cyrus in a letter to her brother on 1788, that ‘he makes me the most affectionate husband and best father in the world’.
Her obituary acknowledges she had suffered, and that she had borne this with ‘fortitude and resignation’. It also states that she was ‘virtuous’ and ‘pious’ and that she had many friends due to her ‘amiable qualities’. Christina died in October 1807, and Cyrus three years later. They are buried close together in Williamsburg. Cyrus must have ended his life with very little money regards Catherine, for he didn’t want much spent on his grave. Although there is nothing belonging to them left behind, except their tombstones and their house, Catherine says that their descendants often visit Traquair. This is of the ways their memory is kept alive.