Hazel McHaffie

Sir Walter Scott


This one was definitely not to be missed! A visit to Abbotsford, home of Sir Walter Scott, in the year the house and devotees are celebrating 250 years.

It’s about fifty years ago since I stood outside this elegant building chatting to his great-great-great-granddaughters, (Patricia and Jean Maxwell-Scott) the last of the family to live in the house, listening to their forebears’ illustrious history – long before I became a novelist myself.

Though a lawyer by profession, Scott has been described as the first international literary superstar! And the facts about his career certainly bear that out. The range and success of his writings – as historic novelist, poet, playwright, historian, is mind blowing, so it was a special delight to stand beside the very desk and chair where he wrote, penning famous works, fighting off debts, being paid a fortune for each new novel.

We chose a commentary voiced by an actor pretending to be Scott and telling us with vivid immediacy about his life and decisions as we moved from room to room. We snuck into the tiny anteroom where he had private conversations. We heard his protégé and later best friend, Thomas Purdie, calling him outside for a breath of fresh air.

We stood on the very spot, looking at his favourite view down to the River Tweed, where he chose to lie as he breathed his last in September 1832. Such a peaceful place.

The house is beautifully preserved, much as it was in his day, and the formal grounds and woodland walks are pure delight at this time of year. Highly recommended.



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Better still …!

Last week I shared the tribute to Sir Walter Scott in Edinburgh. I wonder how many of you instantly thought of Stratford upon Avon – a whole town devoted to the memory of William Shakespeare. I’ve recently had the delight of visiting it and wandering around in the March sunshine savouring the memorials to his life and work. Fascinating!

There are the buildings where he was born (sadly closed to visitors that day because of an imminent week-long event) …

the cottage where his-wife-to-be,  Anne Hathaway, lived (they married when he was 18, she 26) …

the family home …

the church where he’s buried …

the theatre where his plays are still put on all these years later.

His fictional characters are depicted in enduring form.

Indeed, he is remembered here, there, and everywhere …

even in games etched into the pathways!

It’s a special feeling just wandering in his footsteps.

And seeing his work still enduring. Imagine seeing one of his classics performed here! Perchance to dream …

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A tribute to writers everywhere

Much of what we writers do is unseen and unsung. However, some people do manage to eke out a living from their scribbling. Occasionally a particular book or name becomes a sensation. Very occasionally an author gets applause or awards. Very very occasionally one becomes a household name.

But if you‘re a writer and feeling overlooked and unappreciated, just think for a moment of Sir Walter Scott – 19th century Scottish historical novelist, poet, playwright and historian. How cool is it for an auithor to have a massive Victorian Gothic monument built to commemorate him? It’s a landmark in Edinburgh, slap bang in the capital’s most famous street, Princes Street; the second biggest monument to an author anywhere in the world.

I stood and stared at it this week, and thought of all those people whose words I’ve loved, whose productivity I’ve admired, who I would pop into that arched edifice alongside Scott. It already has sixteen Scottish poets and writers appearing at the top of the lower pilasters, alongside many many other famous figures. But today I want to pay tribute to countless others who have influenced and affected and charmed and impressed me, and even changed the world because of their skill with words.  I salute them all … and the gifted photographers who allowed me to share their superb images.

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