Two years ago on April 16th a small group of people met at the Crockett Memorial in Laurieston to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death. In the late 1920’s a group of men from the Glasgow Galloway Association came to Balmaghie and, finding Crockett’s gravestone the only memorial to one of Galloway’s greatest sons, determined to set about raising money for a more fitting memorial. They called themselves The Galloway Raiders. Over the next few years they raised enough money by public subscription, to commission and build the Memorial which stands in Laurieston to this day. Among subscribers was the then Queen (our Queen’s mother). [Further information on this whole process can be found at the Galloway Raiders website HERE ]
[The Crockett Memorial 2016]
In April 2014 the Memorial site had fallen into quite bad disrepair. The new Galloway Raiders was formed as a literary society with a difference, and two years on, on April 2016 we will be meeting again at the Memorial – where, as you can see – much has changed. Thanks to the Balmaghie Community Council and Dumfries and Galloway Council, work is well under way improving the site. The full ‘launch’ will happen at an event on Crockett’s birthday (September 24th) when the planting scheme will have bedded in. But for now, the Galloway Raiders will be meeting at the memorial once more to commemorate Crockett’s passing on 10.30am on Saturday April 16th. All are welcome to attend.
[picture: Cally Phillips brings The Galloway Collection home to Little Duchrae in 2014]
But what about reading? In April 2014, ‘The Galloway Collection’ was published – 32 volumes of Crockett’s work brought back into print (and virtual print via ebooks) by Ayton Publishing. It was the start of making Crockett’s work more available and accessible to the general public. Since then, 7 volumes of his children’s books have been republished as ‘The Rainbow Crockett’, and a new edition of Malcolm McLachlan Harper’s biography ‘Crockett and Grey Galloway’ republished. In 2015 the first part of the ‘Discovering Crockett’s Galloway’ series was published- covering the Galloway Hills and later this year volume 2, covering the coast and the Glenkens, will be published. And later this year, Dr Islay Murray Donaldson’s definitive biography ‘The Life and Works of S.R.Crockett’ will be republished in a new paperback edition with a new chapter. So there is now no shortage of Crockett for you to read. You might, indeed think that you are spoiled by choice.
[picture: The Rainbow Crockett- sheltering from the rain in their own wee book shelter!]
Regular readers will be aware that we’ve been setting a reading challenge for each month of this year. So what should you read in April? It depends if you want to start at the beginning or the end. If your fancy turns to the Glenkens in spring (and why wouldn’t it?) you might like to delve into Crockett’s boyhood in the Glenkens. ‘A Galloway Herd,’ which was serialised in 1891 and then brought out in an unauthorised, pirated edition in the States – never published in the UK until it found it’s place in the Galloway Collection in 2014 – is a loose narrative which contains many interesting details of a Galloway childhood. The story is somewhat unpredictable and unbelievable as a continuous narrative and Crockett himself was appalled in 1895 that it was published without him having the chance to amend it for novel form. Published ‘warts and all’ 100 years on, it is well worth a read as an indication of his early talent and interest in playing with narrative forms. It is not, of course, his ‘best’ work. But what it lacks in sophistication it more than makes up for in enthusiasm! Roughly the same story is told in a more coherent form in the 1899 novel ‘Kit Kennedy’ and elements of Crockett’s childhood are also to be found in ‘Rogues’ Island’ (Volume Violet) of The Rainbow Crockett. (published posthumously in 1926.)
[picture: Peter the Renegade – a century after serialisation it’s finally published in book form]
Or perhaps after a long winter, you crave some sun and want to venture abroad from the Glenkens. In this case we recommend ‘Peter the Renegade.’ This was Crockett’s last serialised work, commissioned in 1913 and published posthumously in The Grand Magazine during the winter 1914-1915. While soldiers were in the First World War trenches, those back home were reading the boys own adventure of war from an earlier time –The Peninsular War to be precise. Set among the Spanish guerrillas, it is unashamedly popular in style, and juxtaposed against his earlier works shows up the diversity and range of his writing talents. Between ‘A Galloway Herd’ and ‘Peter the Renegade’ Crockett spent more than two decades writing serialised fiction. The modern reader can go on their own journey of history, adventure and romance simply by reading his stories. Some 67 works were published as books – mostly novels but a few collections of short stories and a couple of non-fiction works. His range was broad and his writing style diverse enough for there to be something for just about any kind of reader. The main difficulty can be knowing where to start. So this spring, why not look beyond the obvious. Delve into a lesser known Crockett and prepare to be amazed!
‘Peter the Renegade’ is the first new Crockett novel to be published since ‘Rogues Island,’ ninety years ago and it will be launched at Wag Tongues at the Big Lit Festival in Gatehouse of Fleet at 4pm on Saturday April 16th.
I hope to see you either at the Memorial or Gatehouse – do come and ‘chat Crockett’ with the Galloway Raiders. We always love to meet readers.
You can pre-order a copy of ‘Peter the Renegade’ HERE and copies will be available for sale both at the Memorial and at WagTongues Pop Up bookshop on April 16th.
For other Crockett books available online at unco books go HERE
Article on the Memorial from Raiders site HERE
And to join the Galloway Raiders (our membership now sits at around 100) simply fill in the join form HERE