The Scottish Warrior: Event at the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen

Looking forward to speaking about Jacobite men as well as Jacobite women as part of a panel at the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen next Monday, 6th November, on the subject of ‘The Scottish Warrior in Commemorations, Museums and Politics.’ This is a free event but booking is required here. 

Doors open at 5.30, when refreshments will be available and a selection of my books will be available to buy. Panel presentations start at 6.00 and end after an audience Q & A at 7.30.

#ScotWarrior2017 #jacobites #university of aberdeen #gordonhighlandersmuseum

 

 

A Scottish Nurse in the White War: The Italian Alps, 1917-1918.

In the Sunday Herald of 22nd October 2017, Angus Robertson, SNP MP and journalist, wrote a moving article on the ‘forgotten front’ of the First World War, the struggle between Italian forces and those of the soon-to-crumble Austro-Hungarian Empire. Because so much of the fighting took place in the snows of the foothills of the Alps, the Italian front became known as the White War.  

The White War by Mark Thompson

The Italian Front also inspired Ernest Hemingway’s novel, A Farewell to Arms. 

As Angus Robertson pointed out in his Sunday Herald article, 24th October 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the 12th Battle of the Isonzo, when, after more than three weeks, Austro-Hungarian troops broke through the Italian defences. The previous eleven battles had been indecisive. The fighting in the White War resulted in huge loss of life, with more than a million casualties.

Some of the wounded were nursed by Scottish volunteer Red Cross nurse, Henrietta Tayler, (1869-1951). Weeks and months after the Armistice of 1918, she was still caring for prisoners-of-war in Montecchio Maggiore, west of Venice and east of Verona. Her wartime memoir includes the dry comment: ‘Nursing prisoners in tents in the snow was somewhat of a new experience for me.’

She did her very best for them, making sure the dying were comforted and those recovering from injury and illness were nursed, washed, cared for and reassured. Hetty, as her friends and family called her, was a gifted linguist, which was just as well. Her prisoner-patients were of a variety of nationalities: Austrian, Hungarian, Bosnian, Serbian, Czech and more. She made sure to learn as many helpful words in each language as possible.

Her patients conferred and decided to call her Mutter, mother in German. That moved her to tears, especially when they told her that, as prisoners, they hadn’t expected to be treated with such care and kindness. Hetty’s comment on that was simple. A patient was a patient, whatever their nationality, ‘and weakness and misery must always appeal to one wherever found.’

As A & H Tayler, Hetty and her brother Alistair were prolific historians. Before the war, they published The Book of the Duffs, a detailed and entertaining account of the wider family to which they belonged. After the First World War, they researched and wrote numerous books and articles on Scottish history, particularly that of the Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revisiting the Jacobites – The History Behind the History

On Thursday 12th October, from 18.30 – 20.00 (doors open 18.15), I’ll be one of a panel addressing different aspects of the 1745 Jacobite Rising at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. I’ll be talking about the women I wrote about in Damn’ Rebel Bitches: The Women of the ’45, Arran Johnston will be talking about the Battle of Prestonpans, about which he’s just published a book, On Gladsmuir Shall the Battle Be, and Professor Robert Dunbar will be talking about Gaelic language and culture and the suppression of those after Culloden. There will be a panel discussion and Q & A with the audience after our brief presentations. It’s sure to be a lively debate, this is such contested history. More information and how to get tickets from the NMS website.

 

 

 

 

Twenty Years of Damn Rebel Bitches: Event at NTS Culloden

On Saturday 30th September, I’ll be in conversation about Damn’ Rebel Bitches: The Women of the ’45 with my friend and colleague Lin Anderson, founder of the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival and award-winning author of the Rhona MacLeod series.

The event starts at the NTS visitor centre at Culloden at 1.30 pm, doors open 1 pm. Book your ticket here. I understand they’re going fast!

 

 

 

 

 

Damn Rebel Bitches: Research Then & Now

When I did my research for Damn’ Rebel Bitches: The Women of the ’45 twenty years ago, that had to be done the hard, albeit very enjoyable way. I’ve just written an article on the subject for Historia, the online magazine of the Historical Writers’ Association, which you can read below.

 

 

Damn’ Rebel Bitches: Research Then and Now

 

 

Damn’ Rebel Bitches 20th Anniversary

This year I’m celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication of Damn’ Rebel Bitches: The Women of the ’45.

 

 

Writing this book was a labour of love for me. With no Internet to speak of back in 1997, I did the research in the old-fashioned way, travelling to libraries, archives, museums and locations up and down the country, from the Public Record Office in Kew in London through York, Carlisle and Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Inverness.

DRB, as we call it in our house, has had some wonderful plaudits over the years.

‘glitters with eye-catching gems that shed light on everyday 18th century Scottish life.’ Roddy Philipps, Aberdeen Press and Journal.

‘a racily written, well-researched and heart-warming account.’ Elizabeth Sutherland, Scots Magazine.

‘a modern classic.’ The Herald.

‘bold and argumentative … resounds with authority.’ Scotland on Sunday.

‘This book changed my life.’ Young woman at Linlithgow Literary Festival. 

Originally published by Mainstream of Edinburgh, Damn’ Rebel Bitches: The Women of the ’45 is now published by Penguin Random House.  It is available from High Street and online booksellers, including Amazon UK and Amazon US, as is its companion volume, Bare-Arsed Banditti: The Men of the ’45.  

 

 

Readers furth of Scotland and the UK might like to know that The Book Depository send books worldwide at no extra cost for postage and packing. All my books are also available worldwide as ebooks from Amazon, Kobo and other online retailers.

 

Upcoming Events in 2017

20th May 2017 at Aviemore Highland Resort, Outlandish UK Gathering

Delighted to be speaking to #Outlander fans at their 2017 gathering in the Highlands, organized by @Outlandish_UK.

I’m doing two events on Saturday 20th May. In the morning, I’ll be speaking about some of the real people who played their parts in those interesting times and who feature in my two non-fiction books on Jacobite history, Damn Rebel Bitches: The Women of the ’45 and Bare-Arsed Banditti: The Men of the ’45. 

In the afternoon, I’m hosting a wee Jacobite afternoon tea party. Tea played a crucial role in the Rising of 1745, even if one prominent Scotsman back then described it as a “vile drug and a contemptible beverage.” Or maybe because he did!

 

 

 

 

Daft Friday — The Start of Yule in Scotland

Today is Daft Friday, two Fridays before Christmas Day, and traditionally the start of Yuletide celebrations in Scotland, stretching through to Hogmanay and the all-important seeing-in of the New Year.

Daft Friday 1743 has been a day that has stretched for me. In fact, I am worn out after living through Daft Friday 1743, over and over again, like Groundhog Day or 12:01. That’s what comes of racketing around Edinburgh with Captain Robert Catto of the Town Guard and Kirsty Rankeillor, lady apothecary and Jacobite, the main protagonists of my novel, Gathering Storm. That pair keep getting themselves into trouble. I understand that, I really do, but does it have to be snowing so heavily, just to complicate things even further? (Of course it does. Ed.)

Daft Friday and the Daft Days were a time to turn normal behaviour on its head. The records are full of people getting into trouble, chiefly from the Kirk, for doing just that. Another classic source of information is F Marian McNeill’s 4-volume work on Scottish folklore and calendar customs, The Silver Bough. 

Here’s how I describe Daft Friday in Gathering Storm:

Daft Friday: when the world went mad. Boys put on their sisters’ dresses, girls pulled on their brothers’ breeches. Drunken revellers danced through the graveyard, cocking a snook at death itself. Ne’er-do-wells and the lowest of  people spoke back to their betters and, on this one day and night of the year, expected to get away with it. On Daft Friday everything turned tapsil-teery. The normal conventions did not reply.

Robert Fergusson, the Scottish poet who died tragically young at 24 but who is now immortalised as a young man in a hurry outside the Canongate Kirk on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, wrote a poem called The Daft Days

fergusson-robert-by-david-annand

Sculpture by David Annand, image courtesy of Scottish Poetry Library.

Here’s one verse. You can read the whole poem on the website of the Scottish Poetry Library.

 

Let mirth abound: let social cheer

Invest the dawnin’ o’ the year;

Let blithesome innocence appear

To crown our joy;

Nor envy wi’ sarcastic sneer

Our bliss destroy.

 

In the same poem he takes a swipe at those killjoys, the City or Town Guard, calling them ‘that black banditti.’  Never very popular, the Town Guard. Not that Robert Catto loses any sleep over that. Other things, maybe.

So to celebrate the start of Yule in traditional Scottish style, we should eat, drink and be merry, dress up in the clothes of the opposite sex, dance through the graveyard and be cheeky to (those who think they are) our betters. Sounds good to me.

Have a cool Yule!

christmasgarland2017

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Book Week Scotland 2016

I had a lovely time at Brechin Library in bonnie Angus during Book Week Scotland. I hadn’t been there before and was impressed by the lovely building and the warmth of the welcome inside. My thanks to Christine Sharp, Ann Morrice (both pictured below with myself) and the rest of the team.

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brechinlibrary

These events are often billed as “Meet the Author”. They could equally be titled “Meet the Readers” and “Meet the Librarians.” For writers, who spend so much time alone with a keyboard – well, apart from our imaginary friends – it’s so nice to get out and about. An informal talk like this one also allows for general chat afterwards, often an exchange of stories. It all helps feed the imagination and refill the well.

brechinlib2

As a bonus, I learned that Sir Robert Watson-Watt, pioneer of radar, was a Brechin lad. His dramatic statue stands outside the library.

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#bookweekscotland

One Sweet Moment by Maggie Craig

This month, November, I’m showcasing my novel One Sweet Moment. It’s a love story, if not one for the faint-hearted. Life for a poor girl in 1820s Edinburgh could be difficult and dangerous and I wrote the book with the realities of life back then in mind. I call it romance noir.

OneSweetMoment-web

One Sweet Moment is also a coming-of-age tale and a love letter to Old Edinburgh. Richard and Kate’s touching and poignant romance plays out against the colour and pageantry of King George IV’s pivotal visit to Edinburgh in 1822 and the heart-stopping drama of the Great Fire of Edinburgh of 1824.

The book has had great reviews and is available as a paperback, ebook and as an audio download. You can buy One Sweet Moment from High Street and independent bookshops, Amazon UK and Amazon US. Overseas readers who would like to buy the paperback rather than the ebook might like to know that The Book Depository dispatches books worldwide with free delivery.

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