Edinburgh Weekend 2015 – booking now open

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Dorothy Dunnett readers are warmly invited to attend the 2015 Edinburgh Dunnett Weekend and the Dorothy Dunnett Society’s Annual General Meeting based again this year at the Royal OverSeas League (ROSL) in Princes Street, Edinburgh.

The first treat of the weekend will be the opportunity to visit the Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Friday 17th April between 2-3 pm to view a self-portrait by Dorothy Dunnett

Later, at 5.45 pm, members are invited to attend a standing drinks reception to launch the Society’s new publication, Edinburgh: The Dorothy Dunnett Guide, written by Nicky Cannon. This will be held in a private room at the Sheraton Hotel, in Festival Square and will be followed at 7 pm by our traditional welcome meal in the main restaurant.

The weekend activities continue on Saturday 18th April when we will gather at the ROSL for a packed day of lectures, debates and conviviality. Our speakers are Pauline Brace, Dr Stephen Lloyd and members of the Edinburgh Renaissance Band. More details about the lectures can be found in Whispering Gallery issue 125 (Dec 2014).

We will end the day with the Annual General Meeting of The Dorothy Dunnett Society. All members are invited to attend and non-members will be able to enjoy refreshments in the ROSL bar. Saturday will culminate at 7 pm with our gala dinner in the ROSL’s Castle Restaurant with its fabulous views across Edinburgh.

On Sunday we will travel by executive coach to Bowhill, home of the Duke of Buccleuch. There we will divide into groups for a guided tour of the house including some rooms not always open to the public, and see an exhibition of exquisite miniature paintings. We will then travel the short distance to the newly refurbished and award winning Abbotsford House Visitors’ Centre where we will lunch, before enjoying an exhibition about the life and work of one of Dorothy Dunnett’s favourite authors, Sir Walter Scott. Afterwards we will again divide into groups for a guided tour of Abbotsford. We return to Edinburgh by coach arriving back by 6 pm. Those who wish may make their own arrangements to dine that evening at one of the many restaurants and bars on offer in Edinburgh.

We hope to see many of you at the weekend. Please note that places are limited – particularly on Sunday – and so a prompt return of your booking form would be advisable.

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Francis Crawford tops best Scottish character poll

DEVOTEES of Dorothy Dunnett, the late historical novelist, have voted the star of her acclaimed novel series into top place in a poll to find Scotland’s favourite literary character!

Francis Crawford, from Dunnett’s books The Lymond Chronicles, beat off competition from the likes of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus, JK Rowling’s boy wizard Harry Potter, Begbie, the fearsome psychopath from Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and Chris Guthrie, the heroine in Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song.

The charismatic character’s adventures across Europe unfolded in the Fife-born writer’s books between 1961 and 1975, becoming her best-known works, although the original’s manuscript was rejected by five different UK publishers.

Despite the young 16th century nobleman making his first appearance more than half a century ago, he emerged as the clear winner ahead of characters including Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary sleuth Sherlock Holmes and Dame Muriel’s Spark’s iconic schoolteacher Jean Brodie.

Read more at the website of The Scotsman.

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The Dunnett Literary Debate 2014

Last year the Dorothy Dunnett Society had a very successful debate on theme of History: Fact and Fantasy with three writers and an historian. The University of Dundee invited us back this year to discuss Effects of reading on mental health, cognition and memory, and why ‘the creation of rich new worlds, whether rooted in history or fantasy, is so important in most people’s lives’.

On our panel was Simon Hedges, a past chairman of the society, who has organized several international Dunnett Gatherings; and Julia Hart who is a long-time member and contributor to our magazine Whispering Gallery. Julia was a teacher of English Literature, and is now an ordained priest of the Church of England. We were particularly privileged to have as our special guests Trevor Harley, Professor of Cognitive Psychology at Dundee University with recently published research  into the effects of language impairments in dementia and Parkinson’s disease; and Stuart Kelly the well known critic and author. Stuart reviews books for a number of newspapers and appears on BBC radio Scotland’s book programmes, and has been a judge for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. He is also reader in residence for Edinburgh Napier University’s Creative Writing MA.

With this particular panel we expected a lively and enlightening debate –  and the discussion exceeded our expectations! Trevor Harley said that reading was a form of mental exercise; he stressed the importance of reading fiction. Acts of imagination were particularly important: parts of the brain can be seen to light up when reading fiction. He also stressed the benefits of book groups. It is a social activity which shares insight and which can stave off cognitive ageing. The audience found Professor Harley’s contribution fascinating.

Stuart Kelly made some stimulating comments, pointing out how we consume reading compared to other works of art like painting or a symphony; we rarely consume a novel in ‘one go’. How does one interpret our ongoing reading of the novel? How do we create a balance of detail and ambiguity? Julia remarked on the distinction between readers who identify with the characters and readers who think of themselves as associates, possibly friends.  Simon chaired the event with wit and wisdom and also remarked that some readers hated the character of Austen Grey [Lymond Chronicles] without examining his motivations, but often discussions and on-line debate tended to moderate views.

The audience in the crowded room –  we were promoted to the big theatre – were clearly enthralled, and the enthusiastic show of hands for questions was evidence of how stimulating the audience found the speakers. Many in the audience  approached Dorothy Dunnett Society members to tell them how much they enjoyed the discussion, and remarked on how much they had learned.

Many thanks to the Dundee team of Barbara Milner, Ann Auchterlonie and Pam Keeling for their hard work and imagination in organizing this event. Great support was given to the Society by the University of Dundee, and it is our hope that the Dunnett Debate will be an annual fixture.

Stuart Kelly is the author of Scott-land: the man who invented a nation. He is currently working on a book on religion.

Professor Trevor Harley’s textbook ‘The Psychology of Language’ (fourth edition) will soon be available.

Ann McMillan
Honorary President
The Dorothy Dunnett Society

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Edinburgh Renaissance Band concert at Rosslyn

The Edinburgh Renaissance Band, who have a long and friendly connection with the Dorothy Dunnett Society, will be giving a candlelit concert at Rosslyn Chapel just outside Edinburgh on Saturday November 14th. The concert will offer an insight into the musical entertainment of a medieval court with a performance of vocal and instrumental music from across Scotland and abroad which would have inspired, captivated and entertained the Barons of Rosslyn and their guests. For tickets go to www.rosslynchapel.org.uk.

The Edinburgh Renaissance Band memorably collaborated with Dorothy Dunnett to produce the ‘The Musical Worlds of Niccolò and Lymond’. This CD is still available from the Band’s website www.edinburghrenaissanceband.com.

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Whispering Gallery 124 now arriving

We are delighted to hear from members in England and Wales that Whispering Gallery 124 has started to arrived following our enquiries to Royal Mail.  If you haven’t received your WG by Sunday 12th October, please let Simon Hedges or Suzanne McNeill know via our contact form.

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