This author with an OBE lives for the Highlands, his true love…
A Wee Blether With…
You were a founder sponsor for Mallaig’s book festival, A Write Highland Hoolie. Were you surprised by its instant success?
Not really. With such an exceptional committee, I knew it would be a hit. Books and music is a tempting combination.
Does this and Scotland’s other book festivals reflect the nation’s love for literature?
I do sense that people are quietening down, and looking for more peaceful pursuits like reading. I’ve had strangers stop me in the street and ask for book recommendations. I love that.
You’ve lived all your life in the Highlands. Do you ever fancy city life?
There is a cost to rural living like having diabolical internet connection and higher costs, but I wouldn’t swap it for the world. Peace to write, fresh air, neighbours one knows and a sense of community.
How do you have time to write with all your many interests and business ventures?
I only write in the winter, starting at 3.45 in the morning and writing until lunchtime. I love writing. It’s cathartic.
What’s the basis for your latest novel?
In We Fought For Ardnish, Donald Angus grows up on Ardnish in the dwindling community before going off to the Second World War. Of course, there is a girl involved too – Françoise from Nova Scotia.
Your last two books featured Ardnish. What’s so special about it?
The village of Ardnish is a row of ruined houses along a sandy beach with a view of the islands of Eigg and Rum. It’s impossible not to marvel at the beauty of this place. It stirs the soul.
The Scots Magazine No Great Mischief by Alistair Macleod, a book about Highland emigrants written by a remarkable Canadian author. I love Gavin Maxwell’s writing too.
What drives you these days?
I care deeply about the people of the West Highlands and want to help them stay in the area where they were brought up. We’ve had emigration for centuries too long.
What were your feelings about being presented with an OBE?
The citation was for “services to the Highlands” but in reality it was for founding The Caledonian Challenge. I was thrilled, almost as much as my mother was.
What do you wake up worrying about?
The disappearance of sea birds! Over 10 years they have vanished from my view. And sand eels are being swept up by trawlers and used for feeding farmed salmon and chicken farms. They’re even used to fuel power stations.
What’s a typical working day?
Wake up early, get my desk work out of the way, then set off on a kayak. Check to see how The Highland Bookshop in Fort William is doing and whether the planning for the new cinema in Fort William is progressing well. These are two ventures I’m heavily involved in.