Main picture: A dangerous place © D.Wilcox
In February we conclude our challenge to read all three of The Raiders Trilogy with ‘The Dark o’ the Moon.’ This sequel to The Raiders is much less well known. It was written some eight years after the first novel and published by Macmillan in 1902.
Crockett had suggested this title originally for ‘The Raiders’ but it was felt that people might not understand the reference. Eight years later, he was still at the height of his celebrity and it was accepted that his name would sell books, so the title became of less importance. It sounded intriguing, but most of all, it promised readers a return to the cast of characters they had loved in the earlier novel.
In ‘The Dark o’ the Moon’ the action features the familiar families of Heron, Maxwell and Faa but there is a significant sub-plot which revolves around a little known historical event – the Galloway Levellers Rebellion of 1724. While Crockett’s treatment of the event is certainly not strictly historically accurate, his research was sound enough to make him want to stick with the real date, even though this compromises the time-frame of the main plot.
It is impossible that Maxwell Heron, the son of Patrick Heron and May Maxwell from ‘The Raiders’ can have grown up in the time frame allowed him – or that Marion Tamson (an important character in the sub-plot) could have stayed so young. But we, used to the Hollywood truncating of real life events, can perhaps allow Crockett the dramatic licence.
[picture –Shiel View © A.Todd]
The two stories play off against each other and the more obvious love story; between Maxwell Heron and Joyce Faa, played out amongst the cliffs and precipices of the Dungeon Range; works alongside an uncompromisingly harsh tale of the practical consequences of the Hanoverian monarchy in 18th century Galloway. Crockett brings the two together to make a novel that both entertains and offers pause for thought into the social history of the time.
Running through the novel is Crockett’s observation that the Hanoverians are more ‘gypsies’ than the gypsies. Their ‘smuggling’ is on a wider scale. They press-gang men and carry off women all in the name of monarchy. Crockett puts the case for the older way, that of honour and respect only where it is due. Gallovidians are seen as fiercely independent and all the better for it. Crockett’s commentary on the social history of the time carries a political message which perhaps resonates with us again today – The Act of Union still casts a long shadow on independent minded Scots. Of course you can read this novel as a light adventure romance, but there is a definite political undertone for those who want to engage with it.
[picture, Ben Tudor view 1 © E.Iglehart]
So much for the story. What of the characters? Being a sequel this is a multi-generational novel. As we know, Maxwell Heron is the son of Patrick Heron and May Maxwell, the lovers of The Raiders. He also has a sister Grizel, who is as feisty as her mother was before her. One generation on, Maxwell is as much the ‘ordinary’ hero as his father –something of a ‘lassie boy’ – though he has enough integrity to refuse to marry under duress – even when he loves the girl he is being forced to marry. It is this integrity (or stubbornness) which causes the problems, and the action of the main story. As with his father, it is the love of a good woman which seems to bring out the hero in him!
It is a story of families and in some ways puts me in mind of the multi-generational ‘Wuthering Heights.’ The main families are the Herons and the Faas. We are already familiar with Silver Sand aka John Faa who is King of the Gypsies, and we have been introduced to his brother ‘Black’ Hector Faa. But here Hector really comes into his own.
In ‘Silver Sand’ we understand the duality inherent in John Faa’s nature as he grapples with his personal desires against his duty as head of the clan. Hector, as younger sibling, has to worry less about such things and turns himself to ‘the dark side’ –revelling in the outlaw life. He is a fascinating, larger than life character who I like to see as a combination of Heathcliff (who went before) and Captain Hook (who was conceived after). He is not a pantomime villain however, and quite against ourselves we might find some sympathy for his ‘badness.’ With Hector Faa there is always the sense of a strong moral code – albeit sometimes warped. He is certainly charismatic – a heroic villain!
In ‘The Raiders’ Hector is thwarted in his attempt to carry off May Maxwell (worth more to him than all the Maxwell treasure) and he still carries the grudge. He will visit the sins of the father on the son. The story starts with the abduction of Maxwell.
Hector has a daughter, Joyce Faa who has been educated abroad but now resides up in the Shiel of the Dungeon of Buchan. She has a mind of her own, but her love for her father is one of the things that enables us to empathise with him as a character and lifts him from being all bad. His methods are unorthodox, but we sense he wants the best for his child. He also wants to right perceived wrongs and cock a snook to the ‘civilised’ world into the bargain. He is a smuggler if not with a conscience then at least one who elicits more sympathy than the Hanoverian ‘smuggler’ monarchs.
[picture, Ben Tudor view 2 © E.Iglehart]
In the land of the sub-plot Maxwell’s sister Grizel has her own adventure, alongside Marion Tamson (who becomes ‘Dick of the Isles’ and leads the rebels) and the two stories offer more than enough excitement to keep you reading.
Plot aside, there are beautiful descriptions of the scenery of the Galloway hills, and breath-taking, heart in the mouth descriptions of the flight over the boulder strewn, precipice laden landscape at night by Maxwell, Joyce and Blind Harry Polwart.
[picture ‘Scree’ from ‘Crockett and Grey Galloway’]
The characters in ‘The Dark o’ the Moon’ seem to roam if not effortlessly then at least freely across the wilds of Galloway in a way that is both appealing and inconceivable to us today. I can thoroughly recommend ‘The Dark o’ the Moon’ even if you haven’t read ‘The Raiders.’ And if you have, you surely want to finish the story – the Heron/Faa/Maxwell/Tamson story is far from complete without straying beyond the last page of ‘The Raiders.’
[picture: Raiders Trilogy]
If you’re playing catch up, remember 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.
Buy The Dark o’ the Moon HERE
Want more Crockett? Join The Galloway Raiders FREE HERE
Next month we keep the Smuggling theme to the forefront and head away from the hills and towards the coast at Auchencairn.
Written exclusively for DGWGO by Cally Phillips
Crockett Country http://www.unco.scot/store/p5/Discovering_Crockett%27s_Galloway.html
Trilogy box set http://www.unco.scot/store/p23/The_Dark_o%27_the_Moon.html
Dark o’ Moon http://www.unco.scot/store/p23/The_Dark_o%27_the_Moon.html
Join Galloway Raiders http://www.gallowayraiders.co.uk/join.html