Jim Hewitsons Scottish Miscellany - Book Review

Jim Hewitsons Scottish Miscellany - Book Review
Would you like information about and statistics on Scottish weather? Perhaps you are interested in the top five Scottish lies. Or would you like a recipe for Haggis, or for Orkney Duff from Morag’s Magical Scottish Kitchen? If none of these appeal you might like a detailed breakdown of the top ten Scottish names, broken down by area, using census information; or maybe the first Scottish football match report from 1815 would whet your appetite. Would you like easily digestible servings of Scottish history, or lessons on how to survive Scotland’s roundabouts? If so this book could be your ideal companion; even better you may want to share it with friends and family – a lot of the information lends itself to being read aloud.

I picked up Jim Hewitson’s Scottish Miscellany in a charity shop, liking the compact size and the fact that the book was hardback in a world that seems full of paperbacks and, increasingly, ebooks. Try as I might I do not get the same satisfaction from reading text on a screen that I do from holding a book in my hand – the weight of the book, the feel and texture of the paper, the satisfying thud as a half read book closes, ready to offer up its secrets next time – all attract me and have made me a book hoarder. The other immediate attraction of this book was the cover – a lone, shaggy highland cow throwing its small shadow across a beige, indistinguishable landscape.

The book is an eclectic mix, often dealing with a short subject in a paragraph. There are no chapters, but in the tradition of a miscellany subjects scattered like pearls through the book – for instance in a section headed Some Simply Splendid Scottish Citizens I learned that the politician William Whitelaw had been born in Nairn and that the journalist Kirsty Wark came from Dumfries. It is the kind of book you can pick up, open at a page and start reading at a fresh heading, without needing reference to what has been written before and after. The book is written in a chatty style, and boasts a miscellany of truth, creativity and I would suggest fiction – a fair reflection of the oral tradition that has always been very much a part of Scottish culture.

And finally... I read out some of the quotes from the book under the heading The Complaining Scot to my mother. The author claims to have found these humorous gems in Scottish local authority vaults and they are brilliant. I found myself laughing so hard as I was reading these quotes out I had tears running down my face and had difficulty getting the words of the next sentence out. My mother’s term for the gales of laughter that took us was “belly laughter”. This book is great entertainment – read and enjoy!

Asha Sahni recommends this book from Amazon. It has numerous possibilities - from a great gift (for yourself or others) to a resource to liven up a Scottish themed event or meal.

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