Hazel McHaffie

Christian Aid Book Sale

50th anniversary

The Christian Aid Book Sale in Edinburgh’s George Street has just celebrated its 50th anniversary. Fifty years! And it has shown all the enthusiasm and vigour of former years pre-pandemic; no hint of jaded spirits that I could see.

Both altruism and the printed book are still very much alive and well. Wahey!



The setting in St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church’s magnificent building is stunning,

… with the space inside on two levels filled with books, all carefully categorised,

… spilling out in abundance into the surrounding courtyard.

The message and cause are abundantly evident within and without …







From the volunteers efficiently and cheerfully emptying boxes of books from our cars beforehand (and we had the contents of two people’s libraries as well as several cartons of our own books to contribute this year), to those manning the stalls on the very last day, we met only smiles and helpfulness.

And the sheer volume of books shows no sign of diminishing. Table after table of boxes of novels and non-fiction,

… and an impressive display of more expensive rarer tomes, not to mention all the cards and ephemera and music and toys and jigsaws.

There were pearls to be had everywhere, too. I loved this little volume of The Book of Nonsense with hand-painted pictures!

And this delightful 1990 edition of the much loved Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, written by TS Eliot for his godchildren and friends in the 1930s.

As if this whole enterprise were not enough to oversee, the convenor, Lady Mary Davidson, somehow manages to hand-write personal letters to us authors who donate copies of our books. Not after the event, or at some comfortable time in the future; oh no! but immediately, during all the hullabaloo of preparation. Impressive, or what?

I salute every volunteer giving of themselves to this brilliantly worthwhile charitable event, a cause very dear to my heart. You have pulled off another major triumph.

(Apologies for the amateurish  photos taken in my phone as I browsed.)

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Let’s celebrate! Books, books and more books

Yep, it’s Christian Aid Book Sale time again in Edinburgh. I was there at St George’s and St Andrew’s in George Street at opening time on Day 2 this year surrounded by over 100,000 secondhand books of every genre, fact and fiction, filling the sanctuary and both courtyards. Imagine! The sun was beating down on us, the mood everywhere was upbeat and busy … I was like a pig in muck! And I picked up no less than fifteen paperbacks! … what? … yes, of course I paid for them! It’s a cause very dear to my heart.

I missed getting the whole set of Peter May‘s The Lewis Trilogy by a whisker – and I even refrained from challenging or cheating the lady who found them two seconds ahead of me but put them down while she continued searching. My honesty and magnanimity was rewarded however, by my finding two other copies in boxes under the tables, and I immediately ordered the third one when I got home – a treat in store.

And another first … there was one of my own used novels nestling amidst all the Maggie O’Farrells and Alexander McCall Smiths and Ian Rankins and JK Rowlings. It felt very grown up!

But as every year, the biggest thrill is seeing so many people browsing and buying and discussing books. So confirming. The written word, the hold-in-your-hand real copy, is very much alive and well.

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