DGWGO S.R.CROCKETT MONTHLY/ New Year, New Challenges or ‘Good things come in trilogies.’

A long time ago in a Galloway far away, before Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, there was another trilogy. Few people now know of this ‘homegrown’ trilogy although most people have heard of one of the novels in it.
Crockett is best known for his 1894 novel ‘The Raiders.’ It was his breakthrough novel and probably remains his ‘bestseller’ from a range of 67 works. So it should not be ignored. But it only tells a very small part of the story. ‘The Raiders’ is in fact the middle book in a loose trilogy, written over 20 years and spanning both sides of the Act of Union (1707). As such it records quite a significant transition in Scottish society from ‘The Killing Times’ of the Covenanters (1680’s) up to the Galloway Levellers Rebellion (1724). Crockett uses history as the backdrop for his adventure romances, and for us, with the benefit of 21st century hindsight, there is much to be learned and enjoyed from The Raiders Trilogy, quite apart from some cracking adventure romance stories.
People who have only read ‘The Raiders’ usually see Patrick Heron as the central character, and he is a hero of kinds. But the character who links the three books is Silver Sand himself (aka John Faa – King of the Gypsies). In The Raiders Trilogy we follow his life from young man to old retainer and his many adventures introduce us to a range of other characters. He is friends to three generations of the Heron family.. He is brother to the redoubtable villain Hector Faa (Black Hector) who steals May Maxwell in ‘The Raiders’ and for my money steals the show in ‘The Dark o’ the Moon.’
Reading ‘The Raiders’ in isolation is like only watching one Star Wars Movie, or one part of Lord of the Rings, you don’t get anything like the full story. This year at DGWGO I’m setting you a Crockett readers challenge. I’ll flag up books each month and give you the low-down on why you might like to read them, what to look for and where to get hold of a copy.
And for January, what better place to start than with The Raiders Trilogy. The weather is bad, so why not settle down inside and go on an adventure with Crockett through 17th and 18th century Galloway.
[picture Raiders Trilogy]
It may be too much to hope that you will read the whole Trilogy in a month so this month the challenge is to read Part One ‘Silver Sand’ as well as read (or re-read) Part Two ‘The Raiders.’
The novels will introduce you to John Faa (King of the Gypsies) and you will find out why he is called Silver Sand. ‘Silver Sand’ will take you on a journey across Galloway in ‘The Killing Times’ from Wigtownshire to the coast off Auchencairn, stopping at Loch Enoch on a sunny day with Juliana Stanley who:
‘slipped from her pony at the sight of the blue lake set in its granite frame, with the dainty white beaches of silver sand, the like of which are not to be found in Scotland, and the little green meads where the burns run down, gay and fresh, among the heather.
She had not dreamed of finding anything so fair in the high wilderness of moor and mountain. So she went down to walk by the waterside, fearing (as all must who look upon Enoch from a distance) that such beauty must vanish into nothingness, as when one walks towards the end of a rainbow.
[picture Loch Enoch © D.Wilcox]
Do not be lulled into a false sense of peace, this is a bloody story, full of action and adventure along with the romance. Crockett is expert at juxtaposing calm and storm and the intentionally dull narrator Nathan Crogo is a favourite of mine, showing Crockett lampooning himself in that role. A vast range of humorous minor characters such as Rantin’ Rob, Thomas Macatterick and Smith the Killer entertain. Higher up the social scale, Sir Andrew Agnew also plays his part in the panoply of Gallovidian characters.
Silver Sand is a man caught between two worlds and the duality and conflict of his position should keep you engaged, and more importantly, keep you thinking about duality in the history and culture of Scotland.
In ‘The Raiders’ you’ll travel with ‘bonnet laird’ Patrick Heron from the Isle of Rathan (a fictionalised Hestan Island) into the Galloway hills, facing the perils of the Wolf’s Slock, the ice covered Loch Neldricken and The Murder Hole, and revisiting the beauty of Loch Enoch. This story is set loosely around the time of the Jacobite Rebellion, when George I is on the throne, and is written retrospectively by Patrick, perhaps at the very time his son is going through his own adventures in the sequel ‘The Dark o’ the Moon.’
There is adventure aplenty here too as we travel into the hills with Patrick:
‘The darkness drew swiftly down like a curtain. The valley was filled with a steely blue smother. From the white clouds along the top of the Dungeon of Buchan fleecy streamers were blown upward, and swift gusts spirted down. Behind, the thunder growled like a continuous roll of drums…thither I must climb. Yet though there was no light in it, it was through it that I could best see the hell-brew of elements which was going on up there. Here on the side of the opposite brae did I lie face down on the grass and heather and look upwards… then it was for the first and last time a kind of shuddering horror came over me, which now I shame to think upon. What right had I to be there?- I that might have sat safe and smiling on my Isle Rathan?
[picture ‘a wide, wild place’ © A.Todd]
If you’re ready to adventure through Galloway, in the company of the Maxwells, the Faas, the Herons and the Tamsons, you should start reading The Raiders Trilogy without delay! DGWGO readers can pick up The Raiders Trilogy as a special ebook box set from unco books during January and February by using the discount code DG2016 at point of sale.
You can also buy The Galloway Collection paperback editions (Volumes 7, 8 and 9) from unco. You can get a free ebook copy with each paperback you purchase. And if you’re really hardcore and want an adventure into the Galloway hills which includes excerpts from The Raiders Trilogy plus many others, contextualised into a modern day armchair adventure, you can get your hands on Discovering Crockett’s Galloway Volume 1: Crockett Country as well.
Happy Reading. See you under ‘The Dark o’ the Moon’ next month.
Next month we’ll give you the opportunity to ‘Meet the Faas.’
Buy Silver Sand HERE, The Raiders HERE, and The Dark o’ the Moon HERE
Want more Crockett? Join The Galloway Raiders FREE HERE

Written exclusively for DGWGO by Cally Philips

Latest Articles