Kit Kennedy (Volume 22) First published 1899
This is often seen as largely semi-autobiographical and indeed there are many points of connection between the young Kit and Samuel Crocket (as he was before becoming Samuel Rutherford Crockett at some point during his time at Edinburgh University)
Obviously Crockett drew on his own childhood for Kit’s adventures, but he added a huge dollop of ‘romance’ and adventure – albeit quite domestic ‘adventure’ - into the mix.
We’ve already met the character of Kit Kennedy in Crockett’s fiction, first in ‘Bog Myrtle and Peat’ (1895) and then as Cleg Kelly’s love rival in ‘Cleg Kelly’ (1896). A popular character, he had ‘legs’ and ‘Kit Kennedy’ the novel was first serialised in ‘The People’s Friend’ where, due to the social niceties of the day, we are told the Kit’s mother was actually married to the feckless Christopher Kennedy before he upped and left. It’s pretty obvious though that this is a story of a fatherless bairn who is stigmatised for being illegitimate. Not by his own family, but elsewhere.
The novel covers Kit’s childhood and adolescence in Galloway, including some excellent descriptions of Castle Douglas (as the fictional Cairn Edward) especially when Kit sits for The Galloway Bursary which allows him (and allowed Crockett) to go to Edinburgh University and study.
The scene shifts to Edinburgh and we learn how hard it is for country boys to fit in to the city ways. If you’ve read ‘Great Expectations,’ reading ‘Kit Kennedy’ is an interesting compare and contrast.
Suffice it to say that Kit learns as he goes, and trouble is never far from hand. ‘Kit Kennedy’ is to my mind, a keenly described social commentary – stronger because it is founded on real experience – wrapped up in a story which manages to encapsulate realism, romance and adventure all in the one package.
'Genius it has been said, is only the faculty of recollecting in maturity the emotions of one's childhood.’
This is nowhere more true in Crockett’s writing than in ‘Kit Kennedy,’ which as the reviewer went on to state ‘enshrines something of the wonder, the vitality, the immense zest of life which belong properly to the golden age of youth.'
Crockett writes about childhood and adolescence every bit as well as Dickens and Laurie Lee and if you’ve enjoyed either of these authors, or have an interest in what it was like to be a ‘lad o’ pairts’ in 19th century Scotland, I feel confident you will enjoy this book.
To hear an excerpt from Kit Kennedy (along with a photo slideshow of what was then Grenoch loch, now named Woodhall Loch) see below