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Issue 46 - November 2014
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Editorial

A great step backwards

Twenty-odd years ago, a group of Arran people were so fed up with broken glass cutting children's feet on the beaches that they set up the Arran Recycling Company. The Co-op helped by supplying some bottle banks surplus to other locations and even NAC, after some head-shaking, came up with some spare banks from the mainland. Glass went to British Glass on the mainland, using empty capacity on lorries returning from making island deliveries. The enterprise covered its costs, though it was susceptible to fluctuation in world prices for cullet (waste glass).

Now, the Council has removed the island's bottle banks, saying that glass can go into the blue recycling bins. This may work for resident householders who always have blue bin capacity, but the great influx of visitors in the summer will be left with nowhere to put bottles discarded from a picnic or outing. Inevitably, they will leave bottles to be smashed by the tide on the beach, and we will be back to the dreadful situation of children, adults and dogs cutting their feet on shard of glass among the sand or between rocks.

Officials assure us that the glass in the blue bins will be separated from other materials and go for recycling, but - they must forgive our cynicism - just how, and at what stage, can smashed glass be retrieved from anything else? The idea is nonsense. Clearly, the purpose is to save money, but the island has already proved that glass can be handled in a separate stream from general recyclate, and will pay for itself. In our experience, proposals touted as 'progress' need to be looked at very carefully, for they may in fact be going backwards.

 
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Tim’s one-man show in Bond Street

Tim Pomeroy, long known on Arran as a brilliant sculptor, has been offered a one-man show in the centre of London's West End, at the Fine Art Society in New Bond Street. It will run from November 11th to 27th. The handsome invitation card shows two of Tim’s works. On the facing side is an astonishingly intricate twin spiral in white stone, where the radiating lines are expressed through the incised spaces between them. Mathematically, it is so complex as to baffle the mind, and yet it has a quiet, self-contained beauty. The reverse side shows a heavy, beautifully smooth poppy seed in Belgian blue marble, as sleek and dark as a gun-shell, full, one feels, of potential to destroy, or, simply as a seed head, to create others of its kind. It’s a double potential that will runs strongly through all the work.

Tim has for many years been finding themes in both natural and manufactured objects, but his new work seems to sing with confidence and perception. Each thing created evokes a multitude of responses. The sleek, torpedo-like shape of a dark slate form, narrow as a fast-moving fish, seems essentially aquatic, yet it lives in its surrounding air as a moment of stillness that goes on suggesting movement. There is, too, a sense of widely sensed religion in Tim’s work. Some pieces have the mystery of a reliquary, with a treasured centre seen through and under layers of protection. Significance blooms again and again, each time unexpectedly and in its own terms. Tim, who is also a poet and musician, has an Eastern sense of the quiet moment that can be found at the centre of activity, and his forms have a completeness in themselves that works powerfully on the viewer.

Many of the larger pieces are already in the London gallery, in preparation for the show, but next week Tim will be setting out on the long drive south with a truck-load of carefully packed recent work, including the ones shown in our photos. He deserves every success, for his creative journey has been (and continues to be) a demanding and arduous one. Nothing less is possible if the work is to find its own silent life through the powerful language of its material and form. It’s an ongoing search with no end, and we, the viewers, are given an astonishing gift through seeing these quiet, immensely beautiful sculptures.

 

!Green MSP on Arran

On Sunday 19th October Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian, had an informal meeting with members of the rapidly growing Green Party. Although on holiday, she was keen to talk and to learn about the island and its many activities, and everyone present was struck by her lively readiness to exchange ideas. Scotland’s ‘other’ Green MSP shares with Patrick Harvie an impressive grasp of facts, combined with a friendly approachability that endeared her to everyone as well as commanding respect.

 

Funny pianist

!David Scheel, who was last on Arran nine years ago, broke with all tradition in his concert at the High School theatre last week. Nothing was treated with reverence, and funny stories abounded, interspersed with astonishingly fluent playing, hardly any of which needed any written music. This was a pianist and composer with a head full of music, some of it (he confessed afterwards) made up on the spot. David belongs to the great tradition of performers, relying on a mind brimful of music. His phenomenal skill and memory perhaps worked against him, leaving the audience wanting more music and perhaps a little less talk. But then, he was performing for people used to evenings filled with music, and this was very different. The lovely Kawai piano was shown off in all its range of sound, and much enjoyed. It will feature several times in the coming year’s programmes, though the Music Society will be back at Brodick Hall for the concerts that do not need a piano.

 

Next Music Society concert

!On Saturday November 15th, in Brodick Hall at 1:30 pm (please note, winter concerts will be in the afternoon) a brilliant young quartet called Total Brass will be performing. They won the hotly contested Tunnell Trust competition, and as a result are touring Scotland. Arran, to our great good fortune, managed to book a date with them, and a highly enjoyable evening can be promised. These players are in huge demand, for good reason. Outstanding graduates of the Royal College of Music, they are each masters (and in one case, mistress) of their art, and a lively and refreshing evening is guaranteed. Google Total Brass if you want to see dozens of pictures of them.

Don’t forget, this concert is in the afternoon. On balance, most members say they prefer this during the winter when the roads may be bad, and for busy players, it gives them a chance to be back on the mainland the same day. Apologies to those who can’t manage Saturday afternoon concerts - from Easter onwards (or thereabouts) performances will be in the evening again.

 

Poet/professor at Ormidale Pavilion

!On Wednesday, 19th November, as a guest of the Saltire Society, Professor Alan Riach will be at Brodick’s Ormidale Pavilion, speaking about his work as Professor of Scottish Literature at Glasgow University. Not content with being a leading academic, he has published five collections of poetry, and on 19th November he will be talking about his own work and about what he calls ‘unlocking the genius of our country’. Despite his leading status, there is no trace of elitism about him. He is a great entertainer as well as a rivetingly intriguing speaker, and anyone who hears him will take away a fresh influx of energy and possibility.

Professor Riach came back to Scotland from a long stint of working in New Zealand, and arrived as a fresh voice that still retains its distinctive energy. Never conventional, he is filled with belief in Scotland and its many creative voices, and his own poetry is fearlessly energetic. Island poets should not miss this chance to hear a leading academic on the importance of poetry, and of the poetic vision in shaping what our country can become.

A sample of his work follows, written to MacDiarmid on Whalsay:

Glass of Cold Water, Mid-Afternoon

Some like it hot, after dinner, but poets know their
preference: A house at home in Arctic winds in
the outbreak of war, the North Sea when it was
the German, spike-helmetted, silver and black,
glittering (ever the best in uniform, the Nazi sky
and ocean, inhumanly and humanly unmerciful). And
you’re there trying hard, doing what you can to help
the listed poems escape. Weather is one thing,
daily, accumulating change. This is another: this
is the climate. Set yourself against it: the words
lean on the window-panes and rattle their frames
like iron bars; night and the stormtroops lean in.

 

WW2 at Corrie Film Club

Went the Day Well, an Ealing Studios film made by Cavalcanti in 1942, was a slightly belated effort to warn good Brits that the enemy might infiltrate us on our own ground. Invasion had been a very real possibility in the tense early days of the war. The threat had faded in the more pressing reality of the blitz, and by then, this spirited stand by the fictional village of Bramley End against a German invasion was a touch too chirpy to be purely propaganda.

!The story is told in flashback by a villager as though to a person visiting after the war. He remembers the strange Whit Saturday when a group of seemingly authentic British soldiers arrive in Bramley End, welcomed by the villagers until doubts grow. They are in fact German soldiers intended to form the vanguard of an invasion of Britain, and when the villagers realise this, they are rounded up and imprisoned in the church. When the vicar rings the church bell as a warning signal, he is promptly shot.

Based on a Graham Greene novel and with music by William Walton, Went the Day Well introduced a young actress called Thora Hird in a spirited performance as a gutsy land-girl, and there are countless cameo performances. Though a fantasy, and propaganda, the film is more than a nostalgia-fest. It has much to say about resourcefulness and the usefulness of humour. Bramley End has a tough time of it, and not everyone survives, yet the indefatigable Ealing Studios talent for entertainment shines through. Is this an England now lost? Discuss.

The screening is in Corrie Hall at 8:00 pm on Sunday November 9th.

This is the first film in the 2014-15 series. Films are shown on the second Sunday of the month, with no charge, though donations are welcomes. You can become a member of the Film Club for an annual payment of £15, which helps to buy in the DVDs and pay for the hire of the hall. If you enjoy film, please consider joining.

 

Print SyllabusFilm Club Annual programme for the 2014-2015 season

November 9th
Went the Day Well - British, 1942
December 14th
Ernest and Celestine (animation), Chimes at Midnight and the classic short comedy, Dinner For One. A Christmas double bill, with supper between the two films.
January 11th
Sweet Hereafter - Canadian, 1998
February 8th
Two Days, One Night - France 2014
February 28th
The Club’s annual Day in the Dark, when films are shown in Corrie Hall from morning to late evening. Just the thing to ward off the winter blues.
March 8th
A Passage to India -USA 1984
April 12th
The Wind Rises - Japan 2013 (animation)
May 10th
The Past - France 2013
June 14th
Kaspar Hauser - Germany, 1974
July 12th
Ida - Poland, 2013
August 9th
Ilo Ilo - Singapore, 2013
September 12th
Under the Skin - USA, 2014
October 11th
Boyhood - USA, 2014

You can download a printable copy of the 2014-2015 syllabus by clicking on the icon at the top of this article.

 

A Yes evening at Corrie

On the Saturday evening of October 4th, a crowd of about 120 people assembled in Corrie Hall, rather mysteriously. There had been no posters or notices in the press, yet here were all these people, bringing bottles and food and musical instruments, as a continuation of the Yes spirit that had excited so many with its possibilities. Strangely, the evening was not a wake, but something closer to a new birthday. People who had worked very hard for a shared dream came together to confirm that the ideal was not lost, and that the closeness that had sprung up was still alive and strong. Music was played, stories told, ideas exchanged. We were there until gone midnight, and dispersed eventually in a new spirit of closeness.

Many thanks to Chris Attkins and Andy Surridge for sending the photos.

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Women for independence event, Perth

Cicely Gill sends us this report

The keynote speaker was Elaine C. Smith, who said the Yes campaign ‘did not do enough to make women less afraid’. Others agreed. A 23-year-old Yes convert from Paisley Labour Party suggested ‘we need our own mainstream media for balance’. Others underlined the usefulness of Facebook, especially for engaging young people and the disabled. There was a call for for more local groups to nurture the ability of the disabled to make their voices heard.

Elaine C. Smith encouraged us to criticize every television panel that is not gender-balanced, pointing out that even Channel 4 has a 25% public subsidy and is thereby accountable to us. She urged that all the different organisations that have sprung up should keep going. Jeanne Freeman called on everyone to engage with the Smith Commission and tell it what issues should be devolved. See here for more.

Margaret Cuthbert, macro-economist, offered to do training lectures for any woman interested in learning how to discuss economics in the home or at the supermarket. To boost the Scottish economy, it was suggested that large companies should sell more Scottish products and the £11 billion allotted to pay for school meals and such like should go to Scottish providers.

A school student said there had not been enough campaigning in schools and the Ullapool MSP backed her up, citing examples of debates being cancelled because a ‘balance of speakers’ could not be found.

The mood at Perth was about contemplating a future for everyone, not just those who voted Yes. We now face the question of Devo max. It was agreed that all women needed to consider what that would mean for them and how they could find a way to make their voices heard.

 

Jim's journey

Jim Henderson sends an account of his travels this summer through some of Scotland’s other islands. The first section appears here, and there will be more in subsequent issues.

I left Arran our own braw Island, on the 08:15 ferry to Claonaig, heading for Oban to connect with the ferry for Barra. Weather conditions were glorious and the roads wonderfully smooth. In the 63 miles to Oban, I only saw one pothole, and it was so small that I nearly missed it. With time to spare before the ferry departed, I had a walk through the harbour area, main street and shopping area of Oban, overlooked by McCaig’s Folly, standing up there on the hill. I looked with new interest at the link span for the ferries, as the new one proposed for Brodick harbour will be based on the same design.

The Clansman was an old friend, as she is used so often as a relief boat on the Brodick-Ardrossan route. She was pretty full with cars, motorbikes, commercials, caravans and camper vans, so my relatively small car was directed to the mezzanine deck. From Oban, it’s a 5-hour sailing to Castlebay, Barra - a pleasant journey through the Sound of Mull, passing Craignure and Tobermory. The sea was relatively calm and the time passed comfortably, reading papers and magazines. Visiting the cafeteria for a meal just after 17:00, I was surprised at the range and quality of the food on offer.

 

One door closes …

When our son Richard became the youngest Master Chef of Great Britain (an association of fewer than 300 top professionals), Jan and I felt it was time for him to run his own restaurant. Strapped for cash and tied to Arran with our other businesses, our only option was to find suitable island premises. Over the next couple of years we monitored footfall at local eateries, consulted numerous visitors about their dining preferences and gradually developed a business plan. Originally we hoped to take over what had been Kames shop (now Jolly Molly), but the premises proved too small, so we returned to the drawing board. A year or so later Bilslands Outdoors became available - nothing remotely like a restaurant, but a large open space, with a landlord very willing to let us convert it as necessary.

Until the premises were almost ready, Richard was fully committed as head chef in a Sussex restaurant, so mum and dad became project managers, dealing with the architect, council and licence application, together with all the trades involved. Friends and family were invited to invest in our ‘premises conversion fund’ and to minimise our costs Jan and I did as much of the building work as we could. Jan proved adept at working with micro bore piping, manoeuvring great lengths of the stuff to plumb in the numerous radiators. I spent three weeks in the toilets, tiling and decorating. Friends responded admirably to our cries for help. The winter of 2009/10 was very cold and prior to getting the heating on we worked in literally freezing conditions, consoling ourselves that at least we would soon be enjoying wonderful meals out. It never entered our minds that we might end up running the business.

With black comic timing, we opened just as the recession began to throttle the restaurant trade up and down the country, especially at the fine dining end of the scale. Richard’s fabulous food was appreciated by an ever dwindling number of customers and after a couple of years it became clear that our restaurant was not furthering our son’s career as intended. Having signed a five-year lease, we had no option but to continue trading, though could no longer afford to employ our son and his team of chefs. What to do? We negotiated with someone interested in sub-leasing the premises, but in the end they backed out, so our options were limited. Having previously served dinners for our guests at Belvedere for many years, in a moment of madness I suggested that Jan and I should take over the business as we would work without remuneration. “Dad, you can’t run a restaurant!” was Richard’s initial response, but in the end none of us could think of an alternative, so Richard drew up a simplified menu and proceeded to teach me how to cook everything. By this time he had committed to join a luxury yacht, cooking for the rich and famous in Canne, Monaco and St Tropez so we only had two and a half days together for him to teach me everything I needed to know.

Although I had done a lot of cooking, I’d never had to turn out anything like the number of meals ordered in such a short timescale. In the beginning it terrified me when more than a couple of orders started coming in and I had to cope with so many different elements on the go at the same time. A rare steak quickly becomes well done while you’re chucking mussels into a pot with white wine, cream, herbs and seasoning, and then there’s the fillet of salmon blushing under the grill, the sauces threatening to boil over on the stove and the soufflé in the oven. It’s a multitasking nightmare! Of course we had help, but the buck stops with the owner, who has to take responsibility for food safety, staffing issues and customer complaints. Having never once received a complaint for any of the meals we served at Belvedere, it came as a shock to be on the receiving end of Joe Public’s disdain. Most fair-minded people would not believe the sort of complaints people make - such as returning a smoked salmon salad because the salmon is not cooked! Sadly, most complaints are not made on the premises, even when customers are specifically asked if everything is alright. Instead, people post anonymously on Trip Advisor, which damages the business and demotivates the staff. Even though less than 1% of customers complain, you can be sure that any sense of achievement for satisfying 99 people is entirely undermined by that one stinging criticism, whether warranted or not.

It’s been hard work getting up at 6:30 day after day to prepare breakfast at Belvedere, then put in a twelve-hour shift in the kitchen down the road. We’ve been well supported by local suppliers of course. For example, we’ve cooked more than a ton of Arran Lamb, always delivered when we’ve needed it. However, in spite of offering an extensive menu, as the recession bit deeper, nothing outsold chips. Fifteen tons of them! We seriously considered becoming a chip shop. There is nothing quite like the cleaning ritual of a deep fat fryer to keep both your feet on the ground. It’s right up there with cleaning the toilets and unblocking the drains. So as the end of our lease approached, and people suggested we would be feeling sad to leave the business we had spawned, I had to admit that it was with a great sense of relief I would be chucking out my chef’s whites. Now I just need to persuade Jan to cook guests’ breakfasts at Belvedere.

Meanwhile Richard has gone from strength to strength, turning around a failing pub restaurant in the Midlands, catering for royalty and training numerous chefs up and down the country. He is about to launch another new business, but this time, I’m out.

 

!… And another one opens

Janet & John - Out to Lunch…

This was our wonderful lunch menu at Altachorvie, the new restaurant on Shore Rd in Lamlash. It was so good I had to pass it on.

John started with the caponata, very light and fresh. Janet started with the chicken confit, richly delicious with a wonderful combination of flavours and textures.

Our main meal was the Tom Yum Hot and Sour Broth, which was one of the best dishes I'd eaten in a very long time; the fish absolutely perfectly cooked and the broth a delight to the senses.

What a treat to find such wonderful food at under a tenner, charmingly served in a lovely location…… congratulations to Joni and her staff.

 

Rumpus over exclusion of the Greens

When it was blandly announced that the Green Party would not be included in the TV Leaders’ Debates ahead of the 2015 General Election, there was a gale of protest. Over 150,000 people signed a Change.org petition within 36 hours, and the numbers continued to swell as the protest spread like wildfire on social media. At some points the petition was receiving 7,200 signatures an hour - that’s 120 a minute on average, more than two per second.

A poll released by YouGov revealed that 47% of respondents felt that the debate (which includes Nigel Farage) should also include Natalie Bennett of the Green Party. Natalie herself said, “The broadcasters are demonstrating just how out of touch they are with the public mood, and how ridiculously they cling to the idea that the future of politics looks like the past. It is clear from votes and polls that the public are fed up with the three business-as-usual parties and are looking around for alternatives.”

Green Party membership in England and Wales has increased by 56% in 2014.

 

Bridge Challenge

South to make six no-trumps. West leads the ♣3.

 
 

Poem of the month

selected by David Underdown, who supplies the footnote

Late Air

by Elizabeth Bishop

From a magician’s midnight sleeve
the radio-singers
distribute all their love-songs
over the dew-wet lawns.
And like a fortune-teller’s
their marrow-piercing guesses are whatever you believe.

But on the Navy Yard aerial I find
better witnesses
for love on summer nights.
Five remote red lights
keep their nests there; Phoenixes
burning quietly, where the dew cannot climb.

Elizabeth Bishop was born in Massachusetts in 1911 but brought up by her grandparents in Nova Scotia after her mother was consigned to a mental hospital. She led a restless and unconventional life forming strong associations with, amongst others, Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell. This poem taken from her first collection ‘North and South’ can be found in her marvellous ‘Complete Poems’. It shows her trademark wit - the fortune teller’s guesses being ‘whatever you believe’, the ‘Phoenixes burning quietly’, and uses arresting imagery - the red lights that ‘keep their nests’ on the Navy Yard aerial.

 

Print CrosswordCrossword

by Dave Payn

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Across

 1 Wasted on gin in the shed? It'll all be over soon (3,3,2,4)

 8 A cert to be drunk on board ship with leading lady (8)

 9 How a German might be heard to describe poetry that's not so good? (5)

10 Ruler in west Sardinia (4)

11 Dr. Gorse removed film composer (7)

13 Get some grief at home (6)

14 Sentimental like a hairpiece? (6)

17 Revolutionary absorbs change of fortune. It's a laugh! (7)

19 Edit mistake, fast! (4)

22 A Glaswegian's favourite racecourse? (5)

23 Six balls? In an era of excess! (7)

24 Lover decrees alteration to disc protector (6,6)

Down

 1 2 dispenses with old flame; that's the plot (5)

 2 Passage where altered text included rescue service (7)

 3 Wish to manipulate, so it's said (4)

 4 Admit endless resting is wrong (6)

 5 In these times, no way's teddy boy hairstyle admitted (8)

 6 Wolf canyon (5)

 7 Wrongly jeers unknown top (6)

12 Bird mistaken for a spaniel as well? (8)

13 Fay shall misunderstand beauty treatment (6)

15 Spoon-bender from the north took in leak (7)

16 Behind the first back-up (6)

18 150 taken in by one French relative (5)

20 Mostly not here? (5)

21 You and I will misunderstand injury (4)

 

Answers for the October crossword

Across
1 The Lord of the, 8 Auction, 9 Berne, 10 Tease, 11 Earnest, 12 Almaty, 14 Pepper, 17 Ragtime, 19 Rings, 21 Egret,
22 Archive, 23 Tour de France.

Down
1 Tract, 2, Exclaim, 3 Opine, 4 Dinner, 5 Faberge, 6 Horde, 7 Hector, 12 Agreed, 13 Twitter, 15 Pension, 16 Female,
18 Garbo, 19 Recur, 20 Siege.

 

Fracking gets even nastier

David Cameron’s love-affair with fracking reached a new level of passion when the industry’s plan to to drill under our homes was rubber-stamped by the House of Lords - but even worse was to come. At the last moment, the proposal was updated to allow fracking firms to pump “any substance” under people’s homes and property -- and leave it there. Never mind if it’s toxic or even radioactive - the underneath of people’s homes has suddenly become the approved dumping-ground for muck that nobody else wants to handle.

This makes a mockery of Cameron’s claim that UK fracking regulations are some of the most stringent in the world. Far from being stringent, they are an open ticket for frackers to dump what they like, where they like, while they themselves walk away dusting their hands, free of any responsibility. Click on this link, where a petition may still be running.

If in any doubt about the toxicity of fracking wast, consider this. As long ago as April 2009, cattle were found dead near a drill site in Louisiana. Fracking fluid had leaked from the well pad and run into an adjacent pasture, and killed all of them. Have no illusions - the law that Cameron has just rushed through is highly dangerous.

 
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!Women for Independence

Philippa Whitford will be speaking in the social area of Arran High School on 28th November, 7 pm for 7.30. Philippa is a highly qualified breast cancer specialist, and is passionate about the need to preserve and support our National Health Service. She is an excellent speaker, as those who heard her on a previous visit will know, and became quite a star during the referendum campaign. She is on the new board of the Common Weal project as well as many other things, and is guaranteed to give a forthright and inspiring talk, and to answer all questions directly and with understanding.

 

!Dramatic Scottish History

For this year's Edinburgh International Festival, the Scottish playwright, Rona Munro, was commissioned to write a series of three plays on the lives of James I (The Key Will Keep the Lock), James II (Day of the Innocents) and James III (The True Mirror). Epic in its concept, this trilogy – each play over 2 hours long – entertained and educated in turns and the effect was, for the most part, exhilarating. I was particularly interested in this wondering how it might compare to Robert McLellan's Jamie the Saxt.

We had chosen to do the marathon – all 3 plays on one day. Whilst this was a tad mentally exhausting it did bring a narrative continuity and an artistic totality to the experience.

The Scotland of 600 years ago was presented very cleverly, through Munro's writing and an intelligent and adaptable set design with a contemporaneity which led the audience to the conclusion that our long dead political ancestors were facing circumstances not so very different from today – they simply had a different way of dealing with them, through “up close” personal violence and vengeance instead of spin and denigration through the media!

!James I only reigned for 13 years, having been a prisoner of the English king, Henry V for 18 years and marrying Henry's cousin, Joan Beaufort which thirled him to England for the rest of his reign. His tenure was distinguished by bringing law to an unruly Scotland and establishing the power of the monarchy in order to improve government but ended in his own violent death.

The role of James I was played superbly by a young Scottish actor called James McArdle who portrayed the young king with passion, dignity and, at times, ferocity. A huge cast, including a sterling performance from Blythe Duff, created a breathless medieval world of battle, intrigue and turmoil and left us desperate to see what would emerge in the second play.

!James II was a minor when he became king at the tender age of six so that the rule of Scotland was divided between two powerful families, the Crichtons and the Livingstons. William Crichton was keeper of Edinburgh Castle and Alexander Livingston held Stirling Castle but as ambitious as these two were, a third earl was destined to shape the history of Scotland – William, 8th Earl of Douglas of the infamous Black Douglases. On his majority, James II spent most of his time bringing these powerful earls under his control and freeing the Scottish borders from the last remaining English garrison. It was achieving this in 1460 at the Castle of Roxburgh when he was killed by flying metal when one of his own canons broke apart. Again, convincing performances and clever stage design, including effective puppetry used to portray the boy king, left the audience keen to move on to James III.

!Yet another Scottish minority heralded the reign of James III. This time, his mother, Mary of Gueldres, ensured that powerful earls were kept at bay and a successful marriage to Margaret of Denmark which brought Orkney and Shetland under Scottish rule secured the largest territorial status of Scotland to date. James III, however was not destined to be a happy or successful monarch and died in a civil war fighting his eldest son on the opposite side.

This play had an extremely modern feel with interesting and powerful performances from Jamie Sives as the king and Sofie Grabol as Queen Margaret. Grabol is best known to us for her role in The Killing but she is a very talented stage actress.

The verdict on the plays was that they were an important addition to the modern Scottish canon but opinions might have varied as to their message.

Performed in Edinburgh just before the referendum might have seemed to some a resounding performance for the YES vote, although those on the NO side might have disapproved of the plays as propaganda and it will be interesting to see how they fare during the London tour.

Neither view would be correct, I think. These were plays about politics and humanity in the widest possible context using a neglected era in Scottish History to tell the tale. I think Robert McLellan would have approved given that the research was as meticulous as this period allows and there was humour and pathos in measures which would be favourable to the author of Jamie the Saxt. The only thing he would not have liked was the very minor use of the Scots tongue.

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