Please Sign In | Register
Google pluspinterestShare on Stumble UponShare on RedditFacebookShare on Tumblr
TITLE
'The Heart is Highland' (1)
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_MAISIE_STEVEN_01
DATE OF RECORDING
2010
PERIOD
2010s
CREATOR
Maisie Steven
SOURCE
Maisie Steven
ASSET ID
40980
KEYWORDS
audio
Literary Landscapes

Get Adobe Flash player

This audio extract is from 'The Heart is Highland' by Maisie Steven, first published in 2001.

'The feeling of excitement comes back vividly still, after all the years. New Year in the glen was always special. It was like nothing else, not even Christmas, which to us as children was the most exiting day of all. But this was different! We could sense in the grown-ups an underlying excitement, mixed perhaps with a certain solemnity, and it affected us as well.

It would have begun weeks before, with our mother cleaning the house from end to end, almost like a second spring-cleaning. Maybe for some there was a touch of superstition in it, for one heard remarks such as 'dirty at New Year, dirty all year round', from time to time. But on the great day itself, little work would be done. On the farms and crofts, there would be the animals to feed and the cows to milk; in our own case there were only the hens. But our mother would be busy in the kitchen, preparing the meal that would be served around midday. And what a feast it would be! The smell of a fowl roasting in the oven, or of a plum pudding boiling, is still sufficient to recapture the distinctive atmosphere of the season in a moment.

For my sister Nancy and myself, though, there could at times be some apprehension about the menu. Would it be a hen? And if so, which hen? We had a relatively small flock, usually about 12 to 15 in all, and we knew those hens. They were our friends. Most of all we dreaded the demise of 'our' hens; each spring we were allowed to choose one from the cheeping flock newly hatched - usually a black chick from among a majority of yellows - and these became our pets, readily feeding out of our hands. 'Not Jessie!' we would wail in unison. 'We could never, never eat Jessie!' Although I honestly believe we were normally obedient children, brought up with the strictness customary for the time, we dug in our heels on this particular issue and were, surprisingly, indulged. Perhaps a coileach (cockerel) would have the misfortune to be chosen instead. What Jessie's ultimate fate was, I cannot clearly recall.'

Maisie Steven wrote 'The Heart is Highland' in celebration of her childhood in Glen Urquhart near Loch Ness in the 1930s and 1940s - the kind of outdoor life sadly denied many children today - in a warm and lively month-by-month account which begins with the first snowdrops and ends with the holly-picking at Christmas.

At the same time the book offers the reader an insight into the community life of the glen with its emphasis on strong family values, and a moral and religious ethos which still left room for a great deal of enjoyment and fun. The book, with its evocation of simplicity and freedom from today's materialism, has brought a warm response from readers far and wide, and is now into its third edition. The author emphasises that it should not be regarded as mere nostalgia, although of course is that as well!

As a nutritionist concerned with Scotland's food habits, she also wrote 'The Good Scots Diet', a review of diet and health from earliest times. Introduced to 'The Old Statistical Account' by her late husband, Campbell Steve, a prolific writer on outdoors Scotland, she fell under its spell, and after many years of research produced 'Paris Life in 18th Century Scotland; (Scottish Cultural Press, 1995) which was short-listed for the Longman History Prize, and 'Gems of Old Scotland' (Argyll Publishing, 2008), aimed primarily at schools and colleges.

Maisie Steven is the mother of Dunkeld-based poet and writer, Kenneth Steven.

For guidance on the use of images and other content, please see the Terms and Conditions page.
High Life Highland is a company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland No. SC407011 and is a registered Scottish charity No. SC042593
Powered by Capture

'The Heart is Highland' (1)

2010s

audio; Literary Landscapes;

Maisie Steven

Literary Landscapes: Maisie Steven

This audio extract is from 'The Heart is Highland' by Maisie Steven, first published in 2001.<br /> <br /> 'The feeling of excitement comes back vividly still, after all the years. New Year in the glen was always special. It was like nothing else, not even Christmas, which to us as children was the most exiting day of all. But this was different! We could sense in the grown-ups an underlying excitement, mixed perhaps with a certain solemnity, and it affected us as well.<br /> <br /> It would have begun weeks before, with our mother cleaning the house from end to end, almost like a second spring-cleaning. Maybe for some there was a touch of superstition in it, for one heard remarks such as 'dirty at New Year, dirty all year round', from time to time. But on the great day itself, little work would be done. On the farms and crofts, there would be the animals to feed and the cows to milk; in our own case there were only the hens. But our mother would be busy in the kitchen, preparing the meal that would be served around midday. And what a feast it would be! The smell of a fowl roasting in the oven, or of a plum pudding boiling, is still sufficient to recapture the distinctive atmosphere of the season in a moment.<br /> <br /> For my sister Nancy and myself, though, there could at times be some apprehension about the menu. Would it be a hen? And if so, which hen? We had a relatively small flock, usually about 12 to 15 in all, and we knew those hens. They were our friends. Most of all we dreaded the demise of 'our' hens; each spring we were allowed to choose one from the cheeping flock newly hatched - usually a black chick from among a majority of yellows - and these became our pets, readily feeding out of our hands. 'Not Jessie!' we would wail in unison. 'We could never, never eat Jessie!' Although I honestly believe we were normally obedient children, brought up with the strictness customary for the time, we dug in our heels on this particular issue and were, surprisingly, indulged. Perhaps a coileach (cockerel) would have the misfortune to be chosen instead. What Jessie's ultimate fate was, I cannot clearly recall.'<br /> <br /> Maisie Steven wrote 'The Heart is Highland' in celebration of her childhood in Glen Urquhart near Loch Ness in the 1930s and 1940s - the kind of outdoor life sadly denied many children today - in a warm and lively month-by-month account which begins with the first snowdrops and ends with the holly-picking at Christmas.<br /> <br /> At the same time the book offers the reader an insight into the community life of the glen with its emphasis on strong family values, and a moral and religious ethos which still left room for a great deal of enjoyment and fun. The book, with its evocation of simplicity and freedom from today's materialism, has brought a warm response from readers far and wide, and is now into its third edition. The author emphasises that it should not be regarded as mere nostalgia, although of course is that as well!<br /> <br /> As a nutritionist concerned with Scotland's food habits, she also wrote 'The Good Scots Diet', a review of diet and health from earliest times. Introduced to 'The Old Statistical Account' by her late husband, Campbell Steve, a prolific writer on outdoors Scotland, she fell under its spell, and after many years of research produced 'Paris Life in 18th Century Scotland; (Scottish Cultural Press, 1995) which was short-listed for the Longman History Prize, and 'Gems of Old Scotland' (Argyll Publishing, 2008), aimed primarily at schools and colleges.<br /> <br /> Maisie Steven is the mother of Dunkeld-based poet and writer, Kenneth Steven.