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TITLE
'Ring of Bright Water'
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_GAVIN_MAXWELL_01
PLACENAME
Sandaig
DISTRICT
Lochaber
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Glenelg
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Gavin Maxwell
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1317
KEYWORDS
otters
otter
authobiographies
audio
literary landscapes

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This audio extract is from chapter one of Gavin Maxwell's autobiography, 'Ring of Bright Water', first published in 1960. It is read by a pupil from Plockton High School.

'When the Soay venture was finished, the islands and the boats sold, the factory demolished, and the population evacuated, I went to London and tried to earn my living as a portrait painter. One autumn I was staying with an Oxford contemporary who had bought an estate in the West Highlands, and in an idle moment after breakfast on a Sunday morning he said to me:

'Do you want a foothold on the west coast, now that you have lost Soay? If you're not too proud to live in a cottage, we've got an empty one, miles from anywhere. It's right on the sea and there's no road to it - Camusfeàrna, it's called. There's some islands, and an automatic lighthouse. There's been no one there for a long time, and I'd never get any of the estate people to live in it now. If you'll keep it up you're welcome to it.'

It was thus casually, ten years ago, that I was handed the keys of my home, and nowhere in all the West Highlands and islands have I seen any place of so intense or varied beauty in so small a compass.

The road, single-tracked for the past forty miles, and reaching in the high passes a gradient of one in three, runs southward a mile or so inland of Camusfeàrna and some four hundred feet above it. At the point on the road which is directly above the house there is a single cottage at the roadside, Druimfiaclach, the home of my friend and nearest neighbours...'

Gavin Maxwell was raised in Elrig, near Port William in Wigtownshire. He was the youngest son of Lieutenant-Colonel Aymer Maxwell and Lady Mary Percy, daughter of the Duke of Northumberland. His childhood was spent on the family estate and at a series of preparatory schools (as detailed in his autobiography, 'The House of Elrig', 1965). During World War II he served in the Scots Guards before being seconded to Special Forces as an arms instructor. After the war, he purchased the island of Soay, off Skye.

Maxwell had various short-lived ventures including geese collecting in Wigtownshire, studying eider duck in Lapland, creating a shark fishery off Skye, and portrait painting in London. The shark fishery endeavour led to the publication of 'Harpoon at a Venture' (1952). 'A Reed Shaken by the Wind' (1957) was published after his tour of the Southern Iraq reed marshes with explorer Wilfred Thesiger.

Maxwell's seminal work, 'A Ring of Bright Water', was first published in 1960 and told the story of his first ten years living at Sandaig, Glenelg, on the west coast of Scotland. His remote home was a haven for wildlife and he settled there with his otters, Mij, Edal and Teko. His book became a best-seller and was made into a film. Two further volumes, 'The Rocks Remain' (1963) and 'Raven Seek Thy Brother' (1968) completed the trilogy, detailing the difficult last years at Sandaig and the final abandonment of the settlement.

After his Sandaig home was destroyed by fire Maxwell moved to the lighthouse cottage of Eilean Bàn near Kyle of Lochalsh where he died from cancer in 1969.

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'Ring of Bright Water'

INVERNESS: Glenelg

2000s

otters; otter; authobiographies; audio; literary landscapes

Am Baile

Literary Landscapes: Gavin Maxwell

This audio extract is from chapter one of Gavin Maxwell's autobiography, 'Ring of Bright Water', first published in 1960. It is read by a pupil from Plockton High School.<br /> <br /> 'When the Soay venture was finished, the islands and the boats sold, the factory demolished, and the population evacuated, I went to London and tried to earn my living as a portrait painter. One autumn I was staying with an Oxford contemporary who had bought an estate in the West Highlands, and in an idle moment after breakfast on a Sunday morning he said to me:<br /> <br /> 'Do you want a foothold on the west coast, now that you have lost Soay? If you're not too proud to live in a cottage, we've got an empty one, miles from anywhere. It's right on the sea and there's no road to it - Camusfeàrna, it's called. There's some islands, and an automatic lighthouse. There's been no one there for a long time, and I'd never get any of the estate people to live in it now. If you'll keep it up you're welcome to it.'<br /> <br /> It was thus casually, ten years ago, that I was handed the keys of my home, and nowhere in all the West Highlands and islands have I seen any place of so intense or varied beauty in so small a compass.<br /> <br /> The road, single-tracked for the past forty miles, and reaching in the high passes a gradient of one in three, runs southward a mile or so inland of Camusfeàrna and some four hundred feet above it. At the point on the road which is directly above the house there is a single cottage at the roadside, Druimfiaclach, the home of my friend and nearest neighbours...'<br /> <br /> Gavin Maxwell was raised in Elrig, near Port William in Wigtownshire. He was the youngest son of Lieutenant-Colonel Aymer Maxwell and Lady Mary Percy, daughter of the Duke of Northumberland. His childhood was spent on the family estate and at a series of preparatory schools (as detailed in his autobiography, 'The House of Elrig', 1965). During World War II he served in the Scots Guards before being seconded to Special Forces as an arms instructor. After the war, he purchased the island of Soay, off Skye.<br /> <br /> Maxwell had various short-lived ventures including geese collecting in Wigtownshire, studying eider duck in Lapland, creating a shark fishery off Skye, and portrait painting in London. The shark fishery endeavour led to the publication of 'Harpoon at a Venture' (1952). 'A Reed Shaken by the Wind' (1957) was published after his tour of the Southern Iraq reed marshes with explorer Wilfred Thesiger.<br /> <br /> Maxwell's seminal work, 'A Ring of Bright Water', was first published in 1960 and told the story of his first ten years living at Sandaig, Glenelg, on the west coast of Scotland. His remote home was a haven for wildlife and he settled there with his otters, Mij, Edal and Teko. His book became a best-seller and was made into a film. Two further volumes, 'The Rocks Remain' (1963) and 'Raven Seek Thy Brother' (1968) completed the trilogy, detailing the difficult last years at Sandaig and the final abandonment of the settlement. <br /> <br /> After his Sandaig home was destroyed by fire Maxwell moved to the lighthouse cottage of Eilean Bàn near Kyle of Lochalsh where he died from cancer in 1969.