125 years ago to the month (almost to the week) that Crockett visited Ruskin in Brantwood, I was booked to speak at the Literary Houses Group Conference. It was a very interesting day on a number of levels.
First, obviously, to see Brantwood and stand where Crockett stood. Crockett visited Ruskin at a time which is little recorded, Ruskin suffering from regular and prolonged bouts of ‘madness’ (depression?stress?) and those at Brantwood were interested to hear of the visit. There’s much more research to be done in this area, but it serves to remind us that there is always another door to be opened, another corner to be looked into, another story to be brought into the light.
Second, the Conference itself was interesting in terms of discussing the relationships between Literary Societies and Literary Houses, as well as looking at ‘best practice’ and ‘models’ of how to engage members/friends/public with authors. I am thinking about many of the issues raised and these will inform the intended ‘refresh’ of Galloway Raiders into 2020.
Thirdly, my presentation went down very well. At least, when I showed Glenhead as it has been ‘developed’ the entire room of more than 50 people pulsed with a communal intake of breath - shocked and disgusted that such a thing should have been allowed to happen - and even more so about the decimation of the Glenhead Yew. It was somewhat cathartic for me to discover that there are people who do care about literary and historic cultural conservation and who can see cultural vandalism for what it is. It’s such a shame that in Galloway itself this is not recognised either by the general public or the bodies tasked with looking after and promoting the area from tourism to natural environment. If Galloway took a lesson from Hardy Country, both Crockett and all of us, would be better served. On a positive note, there was enthusiasm about the ‘saving’ and possibilities of Balmaghie Kirk and I hope that the Balmaghie Sacred Landscape Trust will become an active member of the Lit Houses Group in future as this is a networking organisation which could be really useful to them going forward. On that score, you are all probably aware that the Chair of that group, Sir Malcolm Ross died recently. Our thoughts are with his family. Hopefully, coming into 2020 the group will push forward in his memory as Balmaghie Kirk has been a great success story of this year but there is much still to do and the Crockett connection will hopefully flourish into the future.
So it was a trip well worth the making, even in the dark days of what appears to be an early onset winter. If you get the chance to go to Brantwood I’d recommend it - and if you’re in the area, the Ruskin Museum which also houses Arthur Ransome and Donald Campbell artefacts is also well worth a visit.