DAUGH­TER’S LABOUR OF LOVE

Les­ley re­launches ram­bler dad’s Clan books that cham­pion get­ting out into the Scots coun­try­side

The Galloway News - - FRONT PAGE -

More than 30 years ago, Scots ram­bler Ren­nie McOwan would en­chant his kids with a se­ries of bed­time sto­ries de­signed to in­spire a love of the great out­doors.

The noted out­doors cam­paigner and for­mer jour­nal­ist cre­ated an in­cred­i­ble world of High­land ad­ven­tures which be­came the ac­claimed Clan se­ries of chil­dren’s nov­els, be­gin­ning with Light on Dumyat.

De­spite ini­tial suc­cess and adap­ta­tion for BBC ra­dio, the books have be­come for­got­ten by many.

But that is about to change thanks to Ren­nie’s daugh­ter Les­ley Andrews, who lives in Cas­tle Dou­glas. She has re­launched the books for the 21st cen­tury and is on a mis­sion to help them find a new au­di­ence while her fa­ther is still around to see it.

Ren­nie, 84, from Stir­ling, has been bat­tling Parkinson’s for a decade and can’t move or eat by him­self due to the rav­ages of the dis­ease.

Last year, Les­ley re­pub­lished the first in his Clan se­ries and, not long af­ter that, she had the de­light of telling him that the first run had com­pletely sold out and needed reprinted.

Book two, The White Stag Ad­ven­ture, hit shops last week and Les­ley, who worked in pub­lish­ing in Lon­don and was a key part of Ama­zon’s UK launch into the book mar­ket, said she feels the time is right for the ex­cit­ing se­ries to be re­vis­ited by a much wider au­di­ence.

While Dumyat was adapted into a BBC Ra­dio Scot­land se­ries 30 years ago, Les­ley is hop­ing that her labour of love can at­tract TV pro­duc­ers with a fran­chise she de­scribed as “Out­lander for kids”.

She said: “My dad grew up with the out­doors, but we lived in the city, and ev­ery night he would tell us these amaz­ing sto­ries at bed­time, in­clud­ing us in those char­ac­ters. My brothers and I be­came the Clan.

“One day he told a pub­lisher friend about the sto­ries and the friend sug­gested he should write a chil­dren’s book. That was Light on Dumyat, which came out in 1982 and im­me­di­ately took off. It sold well but they were un­der-mar­keted and didn’t get the push they needed.

“He is in the fi­nal stage of his life now and that’s why I feel I just want to get this out there.

“It’s my dream to get these books back on the cur­ricu­lum and on the telly. It’s Scot­land’s time – look at shows like Out­lander. Dad was ap­proached in the past by peo­ple want­ing to make a TV show and peo­ple have al­ways seen po­ten­tial, it’s just the time was not right. Now the time is right.

“I’ve heard them de­scribed as lost Scot­tish clas­sics and I feel their time has come.”

Les­ley be­gan the push to bring the books back to promi­nence seven years ago when she moved back to Scot­land with hus­band Richard to raise her twins Alexan­der and Char­lotte in the coun­try­side.

Mean­while, her fa­ther was in­creas­ingly af­fected by his con­di­tion, and the fam­ily – in­clud­ing mum Agnes and brothers Niall, Michael and Tom – had been frus­trated by the way the books had been mar­keted.

Ren­nie gifted Les­ley the rights and she set up her own la­bel to re­launch the books.

With a few amend­ments to the dia­logue to up­date it for the 21st cen­tury and the clothes of the kids on

the cover il­lus­tra­tions, the repack­aged Light on Dumyat came out last year and sold well in stores and on Ama­zon.

She said: “Word of mouth has kept them go­ing. They have lasted with noth­ing be­hind them. I speak to so many peo­ple who have read them and loved them to this day, and have done read­ings in schools and see just how much chil­dren love them.

“There are no wands, no gad­gets, just chil­dren be­ing self-reliant and con­fi­dent play­ing in the great out­doors.

“Light on Dumyat has a loyal fol­low­ing, which seems to be gen­er­a­tional. We are con­tacted reg­u­larly by schools and read­ers of the book who are now grown up ask­ing where they can buy it for their chil­dren.

“And so we are ab­so­lutely de­lighted to be reprint­ing it and al­low­ing it to in­spire the imag­i­na­tions of an­other gen­er­a­tion.”

The story fol­lows an English boy sent on hol­i­day in the Ochil Hills with his Scot­tish cousins, who stum­ble on a se­ries of mys­ter­ies they need to solve us­ing their out­door skills, while tak­ing on var­i­ous vil­lains.

Les­ley said: “For him, it was also about im­part­ing his views of the coun­try­side and out of doors. The books are all based on real peo­ple with a fic­tional twist.

“His pas­sion was that chil­dren should be al­lowed out of doors, should be self-reliant and have a great re­spect for na­ture and wildlife. It is packed full of Scot­tish his­tory.”

Ren­nie was raised in the Ochils and be­came a jour­nal­ist with news­pa­pers in­clud­ing the Daily Record and was also the first press of­fi­cer for the Catholic Church in Scot­land.

But it’s as an out­doors­man he is best known, hav­ing pi­o­neered the ram­bling move­ment and be­ing de­scribed as the ar­chi­tect of Scot­land’s free-to-roam ac­cess.

He was awarded an honorary doc­tor­ate from the Univer­sity of Stir­ling for his ram­bling work, as well as the Out­door Writer’s Guild’s Golden Ea­gle Award.

He was di­ag­nosed with Parkinson’s in 2005 and is now mainly con­fined to his home in Stir­ling, where Agnes looks af­ter him.

It’s been tough for Les­ley and her fam­ily to see their moun­tain-man fa­ther un­able to take a sin­gle step.

She said: “He was hav­ing symp­toms for four or five years be­fore he was di­ag­nosed – he is sharp as a tack but can­not move or feed him­self.

“It has been hard to see him like this but in credit to my mother, who acts as his main carer, he says his qual­ity of life is ex­cel­lent. The world is brought to him.” He had the priv­i­lege of at­tend­ing the book launch in Stir­ling last year, in one of few such out­ings these days.

Les­ley said: “It was great to have him at the launch and then it was very emo­tional telling him the first print run had sold out. It felt like an en­dorse­ment.

“I wanted to do a good job as a pub­lisher and the book to be a suc­cess, but I also wanted my fa­ther to be happy with the end re­sult. I think we did both of these things.

“For us, I’d say there’s great pride but also a feel­ing that these books have been on a jour­ney and they haven’t yet reached their des­ti­na­tion; un­fin­ished busi­ness. “I strongly feel that, with my pub­lish­ing hat on, they are to­tally com­mer­cial and would do very well in places such as Aus­tralia and the United States. “It’s this great big Scot­tish ad­ven­ture, like Out­lander for kids.” Light on Dumyat and The White Stag Ad­ven­ture are both out now on Rowan Tree Pub­lish­ing. www. rowantreep­ub­lish­ing. co.uk.

Ap­peal Au­thor Ren­nie McOwan dis­cusses his books with pri­mary school pupils in the Cen­tral Belt, above and be­low left

New gen­er­a­tion Les­ley shows one of the books to her twins Char­lotte and Alexan­der

Bond Ren­nie and Les­ley

Out­doors man Ren­nie on the summit of Dumyat

Out now The sec­ond book in the se­ries, right

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