One that got Away
“Of Brownyis and of Bogillis full is this Buke.” – Gavin Douglas*
You know when you think you’re (almost) finished, and something else comes up? Well, recently I was delighted to find out about Belle Robertson’s quirky Book of Beasties, which should appeal to cryptozoologists and local historians alike.
This one fell into my lap, due to my involvement in a Leith soundscape/walking tour, which Citadel Arts Group have been running. Liz Hare (or was it Stewart Emm?) of Citadel had made a few photocopies of articles which s/he thought were of interest. An Evening News article on Book of Beasties appeared amongst them, since it discusses the inappropriately named “Fairy Boy of Leith”. It turned out from this article that Belle Robertson is based in Murrayfield, and grew up in Corstorphine which falls within the remit of this blog and my forthcoming book Literary Corstorphine. As stated earlier, I don’t just aim to deal with Corstorphine proper, but also the surrounding areas. (The illustrations are by Canadian artist Larry MacDougal.)
Anyway, it looks as if I’m going to have to update the Literary Corstorphine book, again, before it comes out. Belle Robertson will get an entry, as will Book of Beasties, and she’ll have to be mentioned in the entries on Murrayfield and Women’s Literature.
This one also came in slightly late for my Halloween post, but it looks as if it shall entertain folklorists, cryptozoologists, local historians, monster hunters, ghost watchers, older children, fantasy fans, and Scottophiles alike. The review in the Press and Journal states:
“Fusing fantasy and Scottish history, this enchanted book of sketches and stories will appeal to children and adults alike with a universal story-telling appeal. Legendary creatures making an appearance include the Giant of Bennachie, the Unicorn of Stirling Castle and Morag, monster of Loch Morar.”
The Evening News mentions “The White Stag of Holyrood”, “the Pentland Imp”, and that the book “examines the otherworldly creatures said to haunt the hills, glens and cities of Scotland – from naughty imps to bone-crushing giants.” It further states that Ms Robertson got the idea “after living in Brittany and seeing how the French** celebrated their local myths.”
Belle Robertson says “Visualising Scottish myths and legends is a part of our history – but we’ve sort of lost it. We really do have such a strong Celtic culture and we don’t really do that much with it.” This is perfectly true, and I totally agree with this sentiment. In the recent referendum debate, philistinism and ignorance of our history were visible on both sides. The mainstream media is dismal on this score, and sadly, as are some of the books documenting the local history of this area. As for our Celtic identity – this seems to be sadly conflated with Glasgow football, and New Age misrepresentation!
Placename origins and Murrayfield info
Murrayfield was originally called “Murray’s Field”, and was originally a polo ground. The whole area has various different sporting connections, most notably rugby union. Apart from rugby, there is an ice rink, which hosts the Edinburgh Capitals ice hockey team, bowling clubs, a tennis club, and on the grounds surrounding the stadium, you can often see cricket and football being played.
The stadium has been mentioned in numerous books about rugby – too many for me to track down or even mention – and has also hosted association football (Hearts are based nearby at Tynecastle, and “borrowed” the stadium for a while), the lacrosse world cup, American football (when the doomed Claymores were still in existence), and even the rival code of rugby league.
The cover image provided is under “fair use”. I do not own the copyright on it, and trust that the author, illustrator and publisher shall understand is used in good faith.
* As quoted at the beginning of Robert Burns’ Tam o’ Shanter.
** The Bretons are a Celtic nation who pre-date the French state by a number of centuries. Although France has made a very good job of assimilating Brittany/Breizh, I strongly would dispute whether they are “French”, even if some self-identify as such!