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TITLE
'The Testament of Gideon Mack'
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_JAMES_ROBERTSON
PLACENAME
Evanton
DISTRICT
Dingwall
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
ROSS: Kiltearn
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
James Robertson
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1365
KEYWORDS
audio
literary landscapes

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This audio extract is from 'The Testament of Gideon Mack' by James Robertson, published in 2006. It is read here by the author.

'Come on.' I said to Lorna and I put my arm through hers. 'Let's go and see the Black Jaws.'

We could already hear them. The last few days of rain had poured off the hills and swollen the upper reaches of the Keldo, and now thousands of gallons of water were being funnelled through the ravine every minute. The black cliffs were drumming with the sound of it. It was difficult to tell if the haze surrounding the trees was part of the fresh rainfall or spray rising from below. The path took a turn to the right and dropped a little towards a wooden bridge stretched across the ravine - an innovation since Augustus Menteith's day. Immediately to our left, at the path's turn, the ground fell away even more steeply, with trees stretching from it at odd angles, some almost horizontal, their roots like clawed hands clutching fiercely at the earth. The roar and reverberating boom of the river seemed to be coming up through the soil itself, through the layers of rock, through the trunks of the trees and the very soles of our boots. Even Jasper, who had shown only curiosity towards the crashing waves at the beach, trembled a little and slowed to a walk, keeping himself within easy reach of us. If he hadn't been behaving like this, I would have suggested to Lorna that she put him on the lead. As it was, there seemed little risk of him doing anything daft.

But I had reckoned without the appearance of the rabbit. As we came down to the bridge, there was a sudden burst of movement to our right, and a brown shape shot across the path and into the undergrowth on the other side. Jasper was after it in a second. Lorna and I both yelled at him, but he was oblivious to anything but the rabbit. I have never seen a dog move so fast. The pursuit was over in seconds, however, because the rabbit, plunging down through the wet grass towards the wetter ferns and creepers which marked the edge of the cliff, took one leap too many as it strove to outpace the dog. Suddenly it was in flight, launched from the last scrape of rock into the spray-filled air. It hung there for a long second and then dropped out of sight like a flung toy. We couldn't hear above the din but we could see Jasper's desperate efforts to halt, the shower of mud and twigs and grass his back claws threw up as he skidded down the slope, and then he too disappeared. For one ghastly moment we waited to see his taut black body also flying into space, but there was nothing. Lorna let out a long scream, 'Jasper, O God, Jasper, O God, O God.' Nothing. And then, faintly above the terrible roar of the Black Jaws, a pitiful howl came back to us. Beyond our vision, but evidently perched somewhere on the edge of the precipice, Jasper was still alive.'

James Robertson was born in Kent in 1958 but has connections to Easter Ross and Sutherland - his ancestors on his father's side came from Kindeace and his parents live in Dornoch. He grew up in Bridge of Allan in Stirlingshire and studied history at Edinburgh University. His first book of short stories, 'Close', was published in 1991.

From 1993 to 1995 James was writer-in-residence at Brownsbank Cottage, near Biggar in Lanarkshire, the former home of the poet Hugh MacDiarmid. He is the editor of 'Itchy Coo', the Scots language children's imprint, and has also edited two volumes by Hugh Miller, the Cromarty stonemason and geologist.

His novel 'Joseph Knight' (2003) won both the Saltire Society and Scottish Arts Council book of the year awards while the 'The Testament of Gideon Mack' (2006) was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and Commonwealth Writers Prize. He received a Creative Scotland award in 2006 and is working on a fourth novel. He lives in Angus.

James used the Black Rock Gorge, near Evanton, as his model for 'the Black Jaws' featured in 'The Testament of Gideon Mack'. The gorge is also the setting for a legend retold by Hugh Miller in 'Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland'.

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'The Testament of Gideon Mack'

ROSS: Kiltearn

2000s

audio; literary landscapes

Am Baile

Literary Landscapes: James Robertson

This audio extract is from 'The Testament of Gideon Mack' by James Robertson, published in 2006. It is read here by the author. <br /> <br /> 'Come on.' I said to Lorna and I put my arm through hers. 'Let's go and see the Black Jaws.'<br /> <br /> We could already hear them. The last few days of rain had poured off the hills and swollen the upper reaches of the Keldo, and now thousands of gallons of water were being funnelled through the ravine every minute. The black cliffs were drumming with the sound of it. It was difficult to tell if the haze surrounding the trees was part of the fresh rainfall or spray rising from below. The path took a turn to the right and dropped a little towards a wooden bridge stretched across the ravine - an innovation since Augustus Menteith's day. Immediately to our left, at the path's turn, the ground fell away even more steeply, with trees stretching from it at odd angles, some almost horizontal, their roots like clawed hands clutching fiercely at the earth. The roar and reverberating boom of the river seemed to be coming up through the soil itself, through the layers of rock, through the trunks of the trees and the very soles of our boots. Even Jasper, who had shown only curiosity towards the crashing waves at the beach, trembled a little and slowed to a walk, keeping himself within easy reach of us. If he hadn't been behaving like this, I would have suggested to Lorna that she put him on the lead. As it was, there seemed little risk of him doing anything daft.<br /> <br /> But I had reckoned without the appearance of the rabbit. As we came down to the bridge, there was a sudden burst of movement to our right, and a brown shape shot across the path and into the undergrowth on the other side. Jasper was after it in a second. Lorna and I both yelled at him, but he was oblivious to anything but the rabbit. I have never seen a dog move so fast. The pursuit was over in seconds, however, because the rabbit, plunging down through the wet grass towards the wetter ferns and creepers which marked the edge of the cliff, took one leap too many as it strove to outpace the dog. Suddenly it was in flight, launched from the last scrape of rock into the spray-filled air. It hung there for a long second and then dropped out of sight like a flung toy. We couldn't hear above the din but we could see Jasper's desperate efforts to halt, the shower of mud and twigs and grass his back claws threw up as he skidded down the slope, and then he too disappeared. For one ghastly moment we waited to see his taut black body also flying into space, but there was nothing. Lorna let out a long scream, 'Jasper, O God, Jasper, O God, O God.' Nothing. And then, faintly above the terrible roar of the Black Jaws, a pitiful howl came back to us. Beyond our vision, but evidently perched somewhere on the edge of the precipice, Jasper was still alive.'<br /> <br /> James Robertson was born in Kent in 1958 but has connections to Easter Ross and Sutherland - his ancestors on his father's side came from Kindeace and his parents live in Dornoch. He grew up in Bridge of Allan in Stirlingshire and studied history at Edinburgh University. His first book of short stories, 'Close', was published in 1991.<br /> <br /> From 1993 to 1995 James was writer-in-residence at Brownsbank Cottage, near Biggar in Lanarkshire, the former home of the poet Hugh MacDiarmid. He is the editor of 'Itchy Coo', the Scots language children's imprint, and has also edited two volumes by Hugh Miller, the Cromarty stonemason and geologist.<br /> <br /> His novel 'Joseph Knight' (2003) won both the Saltire Society and Scottish Arts Council book of the year awards while the 'The Testament of Gideon Mack' (2006) was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and Commonwealth Writers Prize. He received a Creative Scotland award in 2006 and is working on a fourth novel. He lives in Angus.<br /> <br /> James used the Black Rock Gorge, near Evanton, as his model for 'the Black Jaws' featured in 'The Testament of Gideon Mack'. The gorge is also the setting for a legend retold by Hugh Miller in 'Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland'.