The Two Welshs

Cymro 1: Louise Welsh

20151112_173256[1]Our first Welsh with local connections is novelist Louise Welsh. Ms Welsh seems to have moved around a bit, and now apparently lives in Glasgow, but she’s also an alumnus of Craigmount High School. Her Corstorphine connections don’t feature at all in her personal online biography or her Wikipedia entry. (Not that you should trust a word Wikipedia says!)

It seems Louise Welsh peaked early. Her first novel, The Cutting Room won her great critical acclaim from most of the major British broadsheets, and was nominated for the Orange Prize. Her second major work Tamburlaine Must Die based on the life of Christopher Marlowe received mixed reviews (see here). She has produced a number of short stories, and several novels since, but none of these seem to have gained the same level of attention as The Cutting Room.

Louise Welsh was also involved in (the now defunct?) Nerve magazine,* and seems to have been writer-in-residence at several locations in Glasgow.

Cymro 2: Irvine Welsh

trainspotting
Trainspotting contains references to Forresters, South Gyle, St John’s Road, and more. One of the main characters also lives in the area.

Our second Welsh is Irvine Welsh. He needs little introduction. Like Louise Welsh, he too has moved around – Dublin, Chicago, Miami – to name but a few. He’s never lived in this part of town as far as I know, and many readers would associate him more with Leith and Muirhouse.

Quite a few local landmarks feature in Irvine Welsh’s novels – The Centurion Bar on St John’s Road, South Gyle Station etc. Areas mentioned in Irvine Welsh’s novels and short stories include – Clermiston, Drumbrae, Murrayfield, as well as nearby Stenhouse and Sighthill.

In fact, it’s actually pretty difficult for me to think of another writer who mentions this area as much as Irvine Welsh – apart from Ian Rankin.

Footnotes

* Not to be confused with a magazine of the same name based in Merseyside.

Picture Credits

The cover images provided are under “fair use”. I do not own the copyright on it, and trust that the authors, illustrators and publishers shall understand is used in good faith.

External links

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More shops?

What can we do to bring people into this area? Make it more interesting? Do something for local culture?

churchill
Recognise this?

We constantly hear in this country how small shops are suffering. I don’t deny that, they certainly are. Whether we’re talking about small towns, suburbs, or even city centres, it’s clear that there is a massive problem with empty shops.

brunton
Or this?

Of course, we can blame the supermarkets, chain stores, or out of town retail parks, but that’s only part of the problem. Ten years ago, it was certainly true that they were responsible for putting many small shops out of business. Like many other parts of the western world, Scottish cities were being turned inside out, as the high street moved out of town. Think Hermiston Gait, Gyle Centre etc. Or what lies on either side of Gylemuir Road.

Today, all shops have a new challenge. It’s called internet ordering. You can order all kinds of things at the click of a mouse. Now it’s the turn of the out of town retail parks and shopping centres to feel the pinch. And many are.

There are two places you can buy new books round here:

  • WH Smiths – This shop in the Gyle Centre has a good selection, but seems to have little or no awareness that it is located in Scotland.
  • Tescos – This has a pretty rotten selection, mostly based on reductions and book charts. Scottish books are ghettoized into a small shelf – tourist kitsch, football books and crime.

Any budding local authors will have great fun trying to get their works sold by either outlet. The charity shops only seem to sell second hand stock.

Of course, there are other options. If we’re going to have shops, make them interesting or quirky. That will draw people into Corstorphine, as opposed to catering to people who already live there. There is one shop that probably qualifies in this regard – Guitar Guitar on St John’s Road. Unfortunately I lack any musical ability.

But shops are not the be all and end all.

There are two other draws in the area – the Zoo, and the rugby stadium. The rugby probably keeps quite a few of the local B&Bs open, but I suspect both the zoo and Murrayfield Stadium are slightly too far from the main part of Corstorphine to draw many people in.

My suggestion… is that some of the uglier buildings* on St John’s Road could be demolished, and a small theatre put in their place. Morningside’s got a theatre. Musselburgh does too. We don’t need anything as big as the Churchill Theatre or the Brunton. A two or three hundred seater would be enough. Put some gallery space in it somewhere, and even better. Yep, and that bookshop?

There are currently no medium sized venues in the area. You have Murrayfield Stadium at one end of the scale – tens of thousands of possible seats… and at the other, schools, church halls and scout halls, all of which sit a few dozen. The CYCC building is unfortunately no more, and it wasn’t on the main road anyway.

This would draw people into the area, and would be an alternative to yet more bland chain stores. And for those who love their shops and cafes – they’d get something out of it too.

That’s enough blether from me. Anybody of any consequence reading this, might like to consider my proposal.

Footnotes

* I’ll leave you to guess which ones I consider ugly. Let’s just say certain buildings which date from after the war…

Picture credits

Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh (M J Richardson) / CC BY-SA 2.0
Churchhill Theatre, Morningside (kim traynor) / CC BY-SA 2.0

 

One that got Away

One that got Away

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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.

Picture Credits

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.

Footnotes

* 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!

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