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TITLE
'Off in a Boat'
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_NEIL_GUNN_03
PLACENAME
Dunbeath
DISTRICT
Southern Caithness
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
CAITHNESS: Latheron
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Neil Gunn
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1418
KEYWORDS
audio
literary landscapes

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This audio extract is from Neil Gunn's travel book 'Off in a Boat', first published in 1938.

'The rain had taken off while we had been in the cathedral, and the oasis of blue we had seen towards Ireland was now enlarging itself in so wonderful a manner that it brought forth visitors from the houses, who looked at it and called to one another. Clean-shaven faces and bright faces and fine shiny silk stockings and creased and white and coloured clothes; so very clean, this community of the Washed, that we felt a little like bedraggled seabirds, with a hanging pinion or two, so I looked carefully at the anchorage off the pier, which was crammed with small boats, and at the anchorage a little farther down, which is Martyr's Bay, and satisfied myself that, for Iona, we were in the right spot. All the little shops being closed, we turned back, following approximately the ancient Street of the Dead, along which kings and chiefts and other important men (never a woman) were brought, after being landed at Martyr's Bay, on the way to their burial at Reilig Orain. Though Martyr's Bay itself is so named from the first slaughter of the monks by the Danes in 806 (Columba died 597).

The rain had now quite passed away and the air was so full of a soft brightness and warmth, that we had to stop by Maclean's Cross and strip off our oilskins. This is the second interesting cross on the island, and the carving on it seems to have been done about the fifteenth century, though how long its shaft of characteristic bluish schist has faced the sun upright is another matter. This is the spot, we learned, where Columba rested as he returned to the monastry on the last day of his life.'

Neil Gunn was a prolific and distinguished novelist and dramatist, a leading writer of the Scottish Renaissance. His novels are set in the Highlands but are philosophical in tone and allegorical in nature, reflecting wider contemporary issues. A native of Dunbeath, Caithness, Neil entered the Civil Service in 1911 and spent time in London and Edinburgh before returning to the North as a customs and excise officer based in Inverness.

His first novel, 'The Grey Coast' (1926), is set in Caithness in the 1920s. He continued to write novels and contribute articles to magazines and periodicals. After the successful publication of 'Highland River' (1937), Gunn took voluntary retirement from Government service to write full time. He moved to Fodderty near Strathpeffer where he continued to develop his career. His final book, 'The Atom of Delight' is an autobiography of his childhood.

In 1948 Gunn's contribution to literature was recognised by Edinburgh University when they awarded him an honorary doctorate; in 1972 the Scottish Arts Council created the Neil Gunn Fellowship in his honour. There is also a Neil Gunn writing prize, run biennially and administered by The Highland Council and The Neil Gunn Trust.

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'Off in a Boat'

CAITHNESS: Latheron

2000s

audio; literary landscapes

Am Baile

Literary Landscapes: Neil M Gunn

This audio extract is from Neil Gunn's travel book 'Off in a Boat', first published in 1938. <br /> <br /> 'The rain had taken off while we had been in the cathedral, and the oasis of blue we had seen towards Ireland was now enlarging itself in so wonderful a manner that it brought forth visitors from the houses, who looked at it and called to one another. Clean-shaven faces and bright faces and fine shiny silk stockings and creased and white and coloured clothes; so very clean, this community of the Washed, that we felt a little like bedraggled seabirds, with a hanging pinion or two, so I looked carefully at the anchorage off the pier, which was crammed with small boats, and at the anchorage a little farther down, which is Martyr's Bay, and satisfied myself that, for Iona, we were in the right spot. All the little shops being closed, we turned back, following approximately the ancient Street of the Dead, along which kings and chiefts and other important men (never a woman) were brought, after being landed at Martyr's Bay, on the way to their burial at Reilig Orain. Though Martyr's Bay itself is so named from the first slaughter of the monks by the Danes in 806 (Columba died 597).<br /> <br /> The rain had now quite passed away and the air was so full of a soft brightness and warmth, that we had to stop by Maclean's Cross and strip off our oilskins. This is the second interesting cross on the island, and the carving on it seems to have been done about the fifteenth century, though how long its shaft of characteristic bluish schist has faced the sun upright is another matter. This is the spot, we learned, where Columba rested as he returned to the monastry on the last day of his life.'<br /> <br /> Neil Gunn was a prolific and distinguished novelist and dramatist, a leading writer of the Scottish Renaissance. His novels are set in the Highlands but are philosophical in tone and allegorical in nature, reflecting wider contemporary issues. A native of Dunbeath, Caithness, Neil entered the Civil Service in 1911 and spent time in London and Edinburgh before returning to the North as a customs and excise officer based in Inverness. <br /> <br /> His first novel, 'The Grey Coast' (1926), is set in Caithness in the 1920s. He continued to write novels and contribute articles to magazines and periodicals. After the successful publication of 'Highland River' (1937), Gunn took voluntary retirement from Government service to write full time. He moved to Fodderty near Strathpeffer where he continued to develop his career. His final book, 'The Atom of Delight' is an autobiography of his childhood.<br /> <br /> In 1948 Gunn's contribution to literature was recognised by Edinburgh University when they awarded him an honorary doctorate; in 1972 the Scottish Arts Council created the Neil Gunn Fellowship in his honour. There is also a Neil Gunn writing prize, run biennially and administered by The Highland Council and The Neil Gunn Trust.