Glimpsing the unicorn

Betty Tindal transports readers to bonny Scotland in her colourful true-life memoir which portrays an authentic glimpse of a world gone by!

Drawing on her childhood experiences of living in the gorgeous countryside of Perthshire and Stirlingshire, Betty Tindal’s work, both prose and poetry, celebrates that rich landscape and dialect.

This fascinating memoir, Glimpsing the Unicorn, written in Betty’s native Scots, explores several ‘landscapes’, and is a true life account of the hardships and characters she encountered as a child growing up in rural Scotland in the 1930s and 40s, when the War had impinged on her family’s lives. As she ‘learns to belong’ to the people and places she encounters, her frequent uprooting leaves her more thoughtful and solitary than is perhaps usual for a child from a large family.

Betty Tindal currently lives in Dumfries and Glimpsing the Unicorn portrays the countryside, Betty’s family and other well-loved characters so clearly and in such vivid detail as, Betty jokes, only ‘a speirin kind of bairn’ could possibly recall.

Price: £12.99 ISBN: 9781911320920

The other monarch of the glen

by Peter Kerr

A comedy-spiced Highland caper from the best-selling author of Snowball Oranges. The feckless laird of Strathsporran plays host to a motley mix of international guests who are paying sweetly to join him on a grouse-shoot. Fortune favours the devious when the seriously-skint laird conspires with two unlikely accomplices to pull off an audacious money-making scam. But who’s conning who? An already complicated scenario is compounded by amorous anomalies crossing social barriers more eagerly than a smart grouse would wing it off the moor at dawn on the Glorious Twelfth. Chicanery stalks the turrets of Strathsporran Castle, and there’s even a sighting of at least one Loch Ness Monster when the tangled threads of this offbeat drama finally unravel.

Published by Oasis-WERP Paperback £7.99 ISBN 978-0-9576586-8-4

Til the cows come home. Loran Sixsmith

ISBN: 978 1 78530 1698 £12.99

One world, two farms, three generations

With a newborn baby in tow, Lorna Sixsmith and her husband swap their pensionable jobs in Salisbury for the dream of ‘the good life’, returning to Lorna’s ancestral farm at Garrendenny, Ireland. Now Lorna’s children play in the same fields she did – and their adventures echo those of generations of Sixsmiths before them.

The discovery of rural life proves more transformative, overwhelming and enriching than anyone could have imagined – but, above all, life-changing.

Lorna brings to life the men who ploughed, tilled and harvested, who loved to work the fields with horses, never quite taking to tractors. Also vividly portrayed are the indomitable women who churned the butter and kept the chickens – selling eggs to earn their ‘hen money’. Peppered with chat about the weather and the price of cattle, this insightful, witty book gives an authentic sense of the poverty, the rituals and the unchanging aspects of country life. As machinery, technology and shifts in social attitudes bring change, the highs and lows of farming life and its people stay rooted in community, landscape and nature.

How to become a first generation farmer

John Terry

ISBN: 978 1 908397 928

£19.99 hardback

A book written for the first generation farmer but at the same time will appeal to a much wider audience, including established farmers. The book gives readers the information they need to commit themselves to a farming life even if they lack experience and finance. It encourages would-be farmers to have a go at farming on their own, whether on a hobby farm, part time farm or a full time enterprise. It covers a wide range of topics, from renting land and buying a field, through to all the livestock enterprises, arable farming, haymaking, diseases, silage making and more.

A humourous read it keeps the topic light and readable, even though there is a lot of information to digest.

Quite Happy

The Diary of James Fyffe, cattle dealer 1836-1840

Edited by Jean Dundas and David G Orr

James Fyffe’s diaries were found by chance in Kirriemuir Old Parish Church and were so intriguing they were given to local historian Jean Dundas. Jean was enthusiastic about the diaries and carried out much background research, but they remained unpublished at her death in 2012. Her friend David Orr, a weel-kent Kirriemuir farmer, continued the task of getting the diaries into print and also fell under the spell of the young James Fyffe. With the help of local society, the Abertay Historical Society, he has succeeded, and the book is proving a hit with the Angus and Perthshire farming community.

Although the diaries only cover a short period in the life of James Fyffe, they leave us with a remarkable record of a young Angus farmer and cattle dealer in the nineteenth century, with a rare insight into his passions in his life. All the more interesting, too, because it comes right at the end of the great era of droving just before the railways arrived and killed off long-distance droving of livestock.

Fyffe makes prolific references to places around Kirriemuir and places and people on his travels, north to buy cattle, and travelling south with his cattle to the Edinburgh cattle market. He mentions over 140 different people, many of whom can be identified from other sources, such as the local directories of Forfarshire and Dundee, the 1841 census and burial records.

As a young man setting out in life with many fine ambitions, James is constantly distracted by his 'courting' of many young ladies (sometimes more than one at the same time). James was a gregarious lad both by nature and his trade, constantly doing the rounds of the farms, often late into the evening drinking toddy with his neighbours. The diaries reveal a solitary vulnerable man doggedly pursuing a living against the odds. But not for him a night outdoors in his plaid like the highland drovers of old, but lodging likes a gentleman, though often in rarely pleasing inns along his way.

These diaries present a picture of a life that is rural but not rustic and one that James himself summed up in one of his favourite phrases – ‘quite happy!’ Prefacing the diaries are essays on nineteenth-century environmental conditions by Richard Oram, on James’ religious beliefs by Kenneth Baxter and on the diarist himself by David Orr.

Published by Abertay Historical Society ISBN 97809000010579 Price: £5.00; please add postage of £1.30 within UK or £3.00 outside UK contact C Smith, Book Sales Secy, Abertay Historical Society, c/o Alder Archaeology, 55 South Methven Street, Perth, PH1 5NX, Scotland, UK tel 01738 622393 email