Midsummer. Scarcely dark. We put the crab pots out and have caught a good few brown crabs and one dogfish so big he couldn’t swim inside the pot and so died and became bait for the crabs. I caught another massive dogfish on the darrows the other day, but, mercifully, he fell off the line. They are almost indestructible and can bite your toe or finger off – and they are immensely strong and aggressive.
Window to the West has received a wonderful review from one of the most respected of Gaelic scholars, Ronald Black. He has understood and embraced the intention as fully as Meg Bateman and I could ever have hoped. Here are some of his comments:
“[it] is a very fine book, and in many ways an extraordinary one ... its breadth and depth are astonishing ... Window to the West is nothing less than a rounded portrait of Scottish Gaelic civilisation ... instead of saying with MacGregor ‘our Gaelic learning isn’t worth a spit, study other people’s’, they say, ‘let’s respectfully examine the Gaelic contribution to understanding, in all its different categories, and see what it has to tell us’. That is the point of Window to the West, and the result is so impressive that it might have made even James MacGregor have second thoughts ... The lack of a historical time-line in Window to the West is thought-provoking. We are accustomed to viewing history like a tree which produces more and more fruit the higher up it grows, because the earlier centuries, down at the bare trunk, tell us so little. Window to the West isn’t like that. It’s a tree which keeps on giving, from the root almost to the very top. And all historians can learn from it.” (West Highland Notes and Queries, Series 5, No.2. July 2021.
Of course both of us are much indebted to Ronnie’s scholarship over the years, not least in his wonderful series of essays ‘The Quern-dust Calendar’ in The West Highland Free Press, and his seminal edition of Campbell’s The Gaelic Otherworld. His approval of what we have done is heart-warming.
John Purser is widely known as a composer, musicologist, poet, playwright, and broadcaster.