Published in a pirated edition in the United States, A Galloway Herd was turned down by T.Fisher Unwin in 1894. It was originally serialised in The Christian Leader Magazine in 1891-2 and as such marks Crockett’s first serial fiction. Some of the chapters were later integrated into Bog Myrtle and Peat (1895). It was never revised for novelisation and thus the loose episodic style is somewhat .uneven. However, it is well worth the read. 'A Galloway Herd' also introduces us to the fictional setting of Drumquhat, which is to become familiar in many of Crockett’s later novels. The pastoral setting is realistic but elevated through the eyes of Wattie to become an adventure which ranges even into revolutionary France at the time of the Paris Commune. This gives us the first taste of one of Crockett’s strongest literary skills, placing the ‘ordinary’ characters in the foreground while ‘history’ runs along in the background. ‘A Galloway Herd’ shows us the romantic power of the book as clearly as it shows us the domestic power of women and the stigma of illegitimacy. The minister in the story wants Wattie to become a ‘shepherd’ for Jesus, but Wattie, and Crockett were destined to be Galloway Herds of quite a different kind. The later novel Kit Kennedy (1899) covers much of the same ground but with more mature writerly skill, however this is a very interesting story in its own right. The central character is Wattie Anderson and his story is told initially from the first person dialect voice of Saunders McQuhirr, later to become one of Crockett’s strongest and best loved characters, and a fairly loosely disguised version of his own grandfather. The story shifts into the third person as it develops into Wattie’s romantic view of his life – because for all the third person narrative, we feel like this is a boy, telling us his own story. The adventures and events that happen to Wattie could all be explained away from an adult perspective, but from the child’s view they are heightened, romanticised and offer an insight into both the world of a boy with a vivid imagination, and the melodramatic style itself.
VOLUME 16 OF THE GALLOWAY COLLECTION. BUY THE BOOK ONLINE HERE
The Raiders was first published on 20th March 1894 and was Crockett’s first novel. It is the story of a bonnet laird, Patrick Heron and his adventures in Galloway in the early 18th century. His home, Isle Rathan (a fictionalised Heston Island) is central to the action and offers adventure, intrigue and not a little love-making. In ‘The Raiders,’ Crockett takes the best of Stevenson in plot and the best of John Galt in narrative style and throws in his own unique powers of natural description, to provide us with a compelling story. The landscape of Galloway, from coast into the hills is every bit as much a star of the novel as the hero, or indeed the feisty heroine May Maxwell.
Published by T.Fisher Unwin, the novel was a runaway success and enabled Crockett to give up the ministry and pursue a full time career as a writer. It is, however, the only one of his novels not serialised before publication. ‘The Raiders’ is the first part of a loose trilogy. Its sequel ‘The Dark o’ the Moon’ (1902) takes the story on a generation, focussing on Patrick’s son Maxwell and the gypsy Hector Faa. Silver Sand (aka John Faa the ‘King of the Gypsies’) also features in both stories and is central to the final part of the trilogy, which is in the form of a prequel; ‘Silver Sand’(1914) tells the story of Silver Sand and Patrick’s father John Heron as young men.
VOLUME 7 IN THE GALLOWAY COLLECTION. BUY THE BOOK AT UNCO
SITE LINK TO RAIDERS125 HERE
‘The Stickit Minister’ was first published in 1893. ‘The Stickit Minister and some Common men’ to give it its full title, was compiled out of the many stories Crockett wrote during the 1880s for the Glasgow Penny Weekly and The Christian Leader.
Crockett himself explained how it came about: I was writing editorials on theological subjects for religious periodicals, and one day the editor of The Christian Leader wrote to me and asked me to send him an editorial which was wanted at once. I had no time to write one, and I told him so, but at the same time I sent him one of the sketches which I had in my drawer, and asked him if he could use that instead. It was the story called A Day in the Life of the Reverend James Pitbye, which is in ‘The Stickit Minister.’ I didn't think that the editor would use it. However, he wrote me: 'Never send me anything else.' So I continued sending him these sketches, and they met with a great deal of appreciation, and were widely copied into the papers, especially in Canada and Australia. Almost all the tales in ‘The Stickit Minister,’ appeared in this way in The Christian Leader. I used to get as much as a guinea apiece for them. I did not think of republishing them in a collected form till I was strongly urged to do so by Doctor Nichol. So I submitted them to Unwin, and that is how ‘The Stickit Minister’ came to be. It was successful almost from the very first.'
Of the twenty four stories in ‘The Stickit Minister,’ ministers feature as central characters in the majority. The collection also introduces us to Saunders McQuhirr, a redoubtable character. He is a down to earth Cameronian elder, who is clearly drawn from Crockett’s own grandfather. The title story is told by Saunders McQuhirr and is the story of Robert Fraser who sacrifices his career for his brother. He remains ‘Stickit’ (which means that he was without a parish of his own) in order that his brother may forge a career in medicine. Saunders son Alec tells the same story from a different perspective in the 1900 collection ‘The Stickit Minister’s Wooing.’ We are also taken out of Galloway and get our first introduction to Edinburgh urchin Cleg Kelly, who got a novel of his own in 1896.
The collection offers a good introduction to Crockett’s narrative style, his ironic couthy humour (without which one can fail to understand stories such as ‘The Heather Lintie’) and his uncompromising stance on poverty as well as his use of ‘Scotch’ dialect in his work. It is a good book to dip in and out of and a great introduction to Crockett’s early writing.
Crockett dedicated ‘The Stickit Minister’ to R.L.Stevenson thus: Dedication to Robert Louis Stevenson of Scotland and Samoa I dedicate these stories of that Grey Galloway land where about the graves of the martyrs the waups are crying – his heart remembers how. And in response Stevenson wrote Crockett a poem.
The publisher, T.Fisher Unwin specialised in discovering new writing talent and published some of the most experimental writers of the period, H. G. Wells, John Galsworthy, Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad, George Moore, and Ford Madox Ford. Like Crockett, they moved on to other publishers when they became famous. Unwin published six of Crockett’s early works, which are among his best known, perhaps because Unwin invested so much time, energy and marketing skill in promoting him as a new writer.
VOLUME 13 OF ‘THE GALLOWAY COLLECTION’ BUY THE BOOK AT UNCO
Stories in the collection:
1. The Stickit Minister
2. Accepted of the Beasts
3. Trials for License by the Presbytery of Pitscottie
4. The Heather Lintie
5. The Split in the Marrow Kirk
6. The Probationer
7. The Lammas Preaching
8. The Tragedy of Duncan Ducanson, Schoolmaster
9. Why David Oliphant remained a Presbyterian
10. The Three Maister Peter Slees, Ministers in the Parish of Couthy
11. The Courtship of Allan Fairely, or Earlswood
12. John Smith of Arkland prepares his sermon
13. A day in the life of Rev. James Pitbye,
14. The Glenkells Short leet
15. Boanerges Simpson's Encumbrance
16. A Knight-Errant of the Streets
17. The Progress of Cleg Kelly, Mission Worker
18. Ensamples to the Flock
19. The Siege of M'Lurg's Mill
20. The Minister of Scaur casts out with his Maker
21. John Black, Critic in Ordinary
22. The Candid Friend
23. A Midsummer Idyll
24. The Tutor of Curlywee