Tag Archives: Rennie McOwan

Might have got some things right

Or an unmitigated success.

It’s been what, four or five days since the Christmas presents were handed out? The Resident IT Consultant has reported two (of mine) book presents read and seemingly enjoyed. And there have been so many wrong books in the past.

The first one was Antonia Hodgson’s The Devil in the Marshalsea. I only worried about that one because there was something a little bit familiar about the title and I considered the possibility that he’d read it before. Or that I’d already given it to him on an earlier occasion…

But it’s fine, and it’s now on my tbr shelf.

The White Stag Adventure by Rennie McOwan followed quickly, presumably because it’s a shortish children’s book. It’s the sequel to Light on Dumyat, which has long been a family favourite. Being a bit local in its setting, it tickled the recipient’s sense for working out where the characters might be having their adventure. I suppose there could even be a walk from that.

These two successes are of course only adding to my own future reading burden.

Rennie McOwan

Rennie McOwan died in early October. He was a children’s author who lived a few minutes away from us, whose Light on Dumyat was reissued a couple of years ago. If you recall, it’s a Famous Five style adventure, set on Dumyat, in the Ochils, above Stirling

I knew a little bit about him, both from the press release in 2016, and from the Resident IT Consultant, who was a fan. They even went walking together, a long time ago. And while I always hoped to run into Rennie in our neighbourhood, I don’t believe I did. Whereas the Resident IT Consultant found him in the library one morning. That’s the real man, not his book.

The Stirling Observer published a lovely obituary last week, telling me so much more about his life. He converted to Catholicism, met the Pope and was horrified to discover that the Vatican wrote its press releases in Latin.

It looks like most of the Scottish papers published ‘the same’ obituary, and I’m hoping the link to this one works. I always like finding out more about people, but wish it could have been while they were still alive. Good to know, though, that Rennie had such a long and interesting life, and that there was much more to him than his Dumyat adventure for children. The Swede in me highly approves of his efforts to make the right to roam in Scotland a legal right.

The funeral is today.

Rennie McOwan in the Stirling Observer

Another Light on Dumyat

And by that I mean a brand new edition of Rennie McOwan’s Light on Dumyat, and some extra ‘light’ on the book in the local Waterstones shop window. It’s as it should be, since Rennie is very local and so is his adventure, up in the Ochils, just above town. As I said in my review last year, this is Enid Blyton in Stirling. A bit better written, but not as well known as it deserves to be.

Light on Dumyat at Waterstones

Now is your opportunity to rectify this. If you are near me, you can buy it at Waterstones this week, whereas the rest of you need to wait another week until its general release date.

Rennie McOwan

Because he lives a few streets away, I thought I might occasionally see Rennie out and about, but that honour befell the Resident IT Consultant a few weeks ago when he discovered Mr and Mrs McOwan occupying ‘his’ table at the local library. They chatted a bit about the new Dumyat, and the window launch at Waterstones. (That should teach me for not visiting the library too.)

Rennie has kept ‘a lively interest in the run up to the publication of LOD and was able to mark up page proofs’ for the book. There has been plenty about the new edition in the local press, with one columnist reminiscing about reading Light on Dumyat as a boy. If only we were that young!

Rennie McOwan, Light on Dumyat

I quite like the new cover. It manages to look retro and up-to-date all at once. I prefer the retro, but I can see that in order to attract new readers you need to have something for them to identify with as well.

IMG_4393

(According to the Resident IT Consultant the map in the window is showing the wrong bit of the map… Only he would notice a thing like that!)

Stirling Literary Society

The Resident IT Consultant had been a couple of times, but I needed something special to tempt me out on a wet and dark Monday night, so it was my first time. Stirling Literary Society meet at The Smith [local museum] once a month, and the thing that got me out of the house was Scottish Children’s Literature. Dr Maureen Farrell from the University of Glasgow drove through floods to tell us about it.

When she realised that her degree didn’t cover any Scottish books Maureen decided to do her PhD on Scottish children’s literature, but was dissuaded because it was thought there wasn’t enough material for a doctorate… (I was unsure in the end if she went ahead with it anyway, or not. But whichever way, Maureen knows a few things about those non-existent children’s books.)

In the ‘beginning’ there were books, and some children read them. And there were chapbooks, sold by travelling chapmen. In the 18th century James Janeway published A Token for Children. Often books were written by puritans who wanted to educate, and needed to use language accessible to children. As early as 1744 there were ‘magazine giveaways’ with balls for boys and hoops for girls.

Then we had Sir Walter Scott. Naturally. He wrote a book for his grandson, but as a ‘very wordy writer’ it probably wasn’t all that easy to read. But he enjoyed it so much he wanted to give up writing adult books. The first proper children’s book in Scotland seems to have been Catherine Sinclair’s Holiday House, where children played and were naughty.

Maureen Farrell’s criteria for what counts as Scottish literature are books by someone Scottish, set in Scotland or about Scottish people. If not, we couldn’t lay claim to J K Rowling or Julia Donaldson.

There wasn’t really time enough to talk even quite briefly about most Scottish authors. Maureen galloped past Treasure Island, The Light Princess, Peter Pan, and on to Theresa Breslin and Eric Linklater, explaining what the Carnegie Medal is (very elderly audience, but maybe not necessary?), Molly Hunter, Joan Lingard, and she showed us covers of lots of books, including The Wee Free Men.

She described the beginning chapter of Nicola Morgan’s Fleshmarket, and I decided I could possibly avoid fainting if I was lucky. Jackie Kay cropped up with both fiction and poetry, local author Rennie McOwan got some attention, as did Mairi Hedderwick and Debi Gliori.

And then there were the books in Scots, of which she had many to show us. I particularly liked Roald Dahl’s The Twits, which became The Eejits.

I reckon you can deduce that there’s enough for a PhD there, somewhere. We could have gone on for hours and only skimmed the surface. There was a lot I knew about, obviously, but there was also quite a bit I didn’t, because I was never a small Scottish child, unlike others in the audience who had strong and fond memories of many of the books mentioned.

Light on Dumyat

Light on Dumyat is an old book, but not as old as I’d believed. First published in 1982, Rennie McOwan doesn’t say when it is set, but I’m guessing the 1950s. There are sheep in the middle of Stirling, and that rather determines the period. As the Resident IT Consultant said, there were just about sheep in his time, so I’m thinking this is a little before then.

Rennie McOwan, Light on Dumyat

Rennie McOwan lives very locally. Maybe I see him out and don’t know it. The Resident IT Consultant once went walking with him, when he was a teenager. That’s the Resident IT Consultant, not Rennie, who as an adult was a good companion because he had a car and could offer a walk somewhere more interesting.

Not that Stirling isn’t interesting, and Dumyat, which is a hill in the nearby Ochils, is as worthy as anywhere. You can tell that Rennie knows about walking and living wild. Light on Dumyat is basically the Famous Five in the Scottish countryside, and by now a wonderful period piece as well.

The book features 12-year-old Gavin who comes to stay for the holidays with his aunt and uncle near Stirling, and this young Englishman really takes to the hills. He meets three local children who seem to have adventures all the time and they set him a challenge to see if he can join their gang.

Gavin is stronger and more cunning than they thought, but the whole adventure is sidetracked when thieves try to steal his uncle’s valuable silver. That’s when his new friends really come into their own.

Very nice and innocent, and the kind of thing I’d have lapped up at the right age. Now, I’m too unfit to attempt Dumyat [that’s dum-eye-at], so will have to gaze at it from afar instead.

(I see there are a few more books about these children.)