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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fragile Heritage

Within the last 24 hours, I came across two stories involving the potential destruction of irreplaceable heritage that have particular and immediate resonance for me. As I've spent the day working on the proofs of Blood of Kings, my new book about the 'Gowrie Conspiracy', it was strange to see the news story about a van demolishing the historic gateway at Scone Palace, which was originally built in c.1580 for William Ruthven, first Earl of Gowrie, and is mentioned several times within the pages I've been checking today. Given the speed at which the van must have been going to cause such damage - and to end up so far beyond the gate - it would probably have been quite entertaining to be a fly on the wall when the driver attempted to explain what had happened to his employer. I'm tempted to try and work some sort of reference to the crash into the proofs, but I doubt if my publisher would thank me... This photo of the gate in happier times was taken during my most recent visit to Scone, in November 2009.

Meanwhile, hundreds of miles to the south, the statue of Admiral Sir Robert Holmes in Yarmouth church on the Isle of Wight is in grave danger from that perennial curse of old buildings, the leaking roof. In some respects, Holmes is almost an 'old friend' - I wrote his entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, a photo of the statue features on my website, and he appears as a central character in the second Quinton novel, The Mountain of Gold - so I've written to Yarmouth Town Council to offer my support for the cause. It's unfortunate that this potentially catastrophic situation won't receive as much publicity as the rather more obvious and 'media-friendly' disaster at Scone, and it's a racing certainty that the latter, unlike Yarmouth, will quickly obtain the funds for reconstruction. But I wonder which of the two pieces of our heritage is actually rarer, and intrinsically more worthy of long-term preservation?

Finally, today's post brought a copy of the audio book of Gentleman Captain. The workload means I haven't had time to listen to more than the beginning of Chapter One, but it's been distinctly eerie to hear one's own words being read aloud by someone else! A big thank you to Jonathan Keeble for doing such a wonderful job on bringing my characters and dialogue to life.

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