Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Serendipitous conversations with Alan.

In the course of a serendipitous conversation with Alan Casline, I was recently set upon a path of discovery that I am still in the midst of. Alan mentioned that he recalled a glossary that he believed was attributed to "Davey Crockett". Remembering that Davey Crockett had written his autobiography from my study of Scot-Irish history, I queried the Internet Archive for just such a book. I found it, but it was not what Alan or I had been searching for.

So, undaunted I queried the name "Crockett" and found much to my surprise, my Literary Godfather: Samuel Rutherford Crockett.

Who, wrote text in "The Kings English" and dialog in Good Galloway Scots...!!!!

Samuel Rutherford Crockett was a contemporary and friend of Robert Louis Stevenson. In his introduction to "The Stickit Minister", he relates that he wrote to Stevenson during the time that he was confined at the Saranac Lake Sanatorium in Saranac Lake N.Y.

The next thing I did, was to Google Stevenson at Saranac Lake. It seems that the Stevenson Society of America has in its possession, at the Stevenson Cottage Museum in Saranac, copies of his "Moral Emblems". In short: Woodcut illustrations, made by him and published in Switzerland by his then "thirteen year old" stepson while they were there for "the cure" to TB. The same search which eventually brought him to Saranac lake as well.

Blockcuts are Alan's thingee! Text written in Lowland Scots is my thingee! Neat the way things happen like that. I don't know that Alan would say that the hand of God was at work here, but I believe it was and thats enough for me.

To quote Crockett quoting Stevenson: ("Write," you said, "my Timothy, no longer verse, but use Good Galloway Scots for your stomach's sake- and mine. There be overly many at the old tooth-comb!" [sic] "If you do, I'll read every word!" )

And so he did. And so shall I!

Every book I can get my hands on for the last three days!

First, "Tales of Our Coast." Now "The Sticket Minister." and next, who knows!

"Will you, nil you,
you must read-
and every word."

With pleasure!

obeedude 22/Aug/07

Friday, August 17, 2007

The continuing Saga of "the Wan'rer" and the writing of "O' Wasterly Gale."

A diagram of the Monomyth

Gif A o wan'rer aboon wud be.

Cud the Deil bot haud

o mair cautious covenanter frae grace

wi' hiz rowtin mooth?

O' crabbit wan'rer, whan hae ye brung

o mair fasher oure o haverl soul?

B'gaun ye glaikit gowk!

Mae ruckle hairt weel be heard!

Ye'll mak nae wun'in fire here!


It has become obvious to me through the work-shopping of "O' Wasterly Gale" that I have not been transparent enough with the overall intent of what the finished piece will look like. So let me now take a moment to try to clarify, in hope that by doing so, some of you will come to see the method to my madness. I am after all: a Methodist in practice and by nature.

The story of "O' Wasterly Gale" is a microcosm of the Ulster-Scot Culture. The main characters: "The Gilmour Boys" were raised in a section of County Londonderry that was what I will term Tri-lingual. In essence what is meant by this, is that at home until they had attained school age, they spoke "Ullans" or "Ulster-Scottish". When they went to school, they attended the Kilcaltan School a few miles to the southeast of Killaloo. At school they would have learned "The Kings English". Gaelic was not mandatory at this time as a part of their curriculum but would have been spoken in the area at the time. In school the English trained Schoolmasters were very insistent that they not speak "The Ugly Tongue" that was their native and natural speech. Hence, they developed a tri-lingual way of interaction with the world at large. When they were in school, or in the presence of authority they spoke and wrote "The Kings English". If however they were among familiars, they spoke the mixture of Ullans and Gaelic that they had been reared to. At times in their writing even, their native speech seeps through. This was the first clue that made me dig deeper into their linguistic speech patterns and finally led me to discover the dichotomy of their language skills.

Now, It was never my intent to write a "Popular Novel" such as Steven King or J. K. Rowling would write, and I have from the beginning intended to create a document that accurately portrays the life that they lived, it was therefore a conscious intent on my part to tell the story through their words in their way. To this end I endeavored to teach myself enough Ullans to write the dialogue in their native tongue. As they wrote mostly the way in which they were taught in school, I chose to write text in English. You who are reading this right now, read and write in English. You the reader are therefore not a familiar. Hence, dialogue in Ullans among familiars, text in English not among familiars. At a later point in the novel when faced with others in Manhattan, and therefore America, they will also speak in their best English at appropriate times when confronted with non-familiars and/or authority.

It is also quite apparent to me that the readership for this work will consist of Academics, people of Ulster-Scots heritage with a vested interest, the Ullans speaking population of Northern Ireland and perhaps some of the Scottish population.

Again, I do not consider myself to be a "Popular Novelist". It is the intent of this work to convey some "answers and keys to the self" as Stephen King would say. A compelling and truthful account of what life for these people was like. It is based on the letters of my ancestors which have been handed down to me through four generations of familiars. Familiars who read, spoke of, and found some sense of self reflected in the struggle and sacrifice of their forbearer's.

The Arc of the complete work, will follow, and does actually parallel, what Joseph Campbell in his seminal work "The Hero With A Thousand Faces" and James Joyce in "Finnegans Wake" termed the "Monomyth". James Gilmour, the main character and primary writer of "The Gilmour Family Letters", ventured forth with his siblings from his world of common day Killaloo, Northern Ireland, into a region of supernatural wonder: America of the 1850's and 1860's. Along the way he encountered the forces of that day and time-period. He struggled to make a new start in Manhattan and eventually enlisted in the N.Y.S.M. as a private, in what was supposed to be a short term decisive rout of the "Sesch" at the start of the American Civil War. In part he did this for the money and guaranteed three square meals. But in truth he did this because he was an idealistic youth, in search of "The Glory" of war and boon to be obtained there-from.

During his journey and quest he experienced many things, the awe of the adventure, the splendor of sleeping in the "Congress Hall", the flurry of the (first) Battle of Bulls Run, and visiting "John Browns Prison-Cell" at Harpers Ferry. Along his journey from encounter and to experience with many of what has become the stuff of history and legend, he collected and sent back to his brother Robert "Relics" of "the sacred soil of Virginie". Without giving away too much of the novel, he did and said things that just can't be made up. The experiences that he had leading up to his possible death at the Battle of Fair Oaks were authentic, real, and the stuff of family myth. I say possible death because all accounts of his death are at best second and third hand. Everyone who could have verified his actual death has long ago gone to their grave.

As it happens, towards the end of the war, a certain James Gilmour dug himself out of Libby Prison at Richmond and returned to New York, to eventually become by the time he died in 1915, a Plumbing Supply Salesman.

Listed in the 1869 NYC directory right next store to Robert Gilmour's Cooperage is one James Gilmour doing business selling Collars.

In the novel I intend to treat these persons as one semi-familiar, who may or may not be the actual James of the letters. A kind of spectral personage of James in the form of a cousin that Robert feels bound to by his desire for James to be alive. In other words: the Hero returned to the World of the Living, back from his mysterious adventure in the Land of the Dead, to bestow boons upon his fellow man. This then would complete the Arc of the Hero: separation-initiation-return as outlined in the magnification of the Monomyth formula.

Pretty dry stuff? Many think so, still others think not. Time, and the persistence of my own quest, will determine if the fire of the forge, produces metal tempered to match the forces aligned against its completion, in a form the voices of my ancestors will receive gladly.

obeedude 17/Aug./07

Again, as I posted before:

*Ullans: "Ulster-Scots" is basically the same as "West Central Scots" (the language of Rabbie Burns), a Germanic tongue of common origin with English. Scots is the most defining characteristic of the Ulster accent, most Ulster-Scots who have visited other parts of the English speaking world will testify that more often than not, they are mistaken as being from Scotland rather than Northern Ireland. While broad Ulster-Scots is only spoken in the more rural communities, everyone in Northern Ireland uses Ulster-Scots words and phrases in their everyday speech.