A recent trip to Perthshire allowed me to visit Crieff, an old market town in the heart of Scotland. Once upon a time that was a beating heart, with Crieff the site of the largest cattle market or ‘tryst’ in the whole country. All of this is pertinent to the novel I wish to write this year, and in essence I have begun writing it. Pages of notes are emerging, but I need to do a lot of research into the historical period I’m setting it in (18th century Scotland mainly) and the background to the character’s professions (drovers – intrepid, hard men who walked hundreds of miles for a pittance and kept the main industry of the time alive).
Unfortunately, all that remains as a standing monument to the legacy of the drovers in Crieff, and to the yearly trysts, was a building out the back of the horrific 1970’s visitor centre (an entire wall of porcelain dogs anyone? Just what you want to buy on a visit to Crieff) with a 15 minute DVD about the history and a few placards on the wall telling the story. At least there was something, but it wasn’t exactly much to inspire the casual visitor about a time in Scotland’s (and the UK’s) history that shaped the land and the politics. That, and the drovers themselves were truly amazing men surviving on little more than cold oatmeal, onions and whisky to drive hundreds of cattle across the hills and glens. The only ordinary men at the time legally sanctioned to carry weapons.
Not that my novel is to be purely about the history. I want to weave in the folklore and fantasy, Celtic and otherwise, and tell a story – a mystery – that I’m gradually getting quite excited about.
Mulling over titles – ‘The Drover’ seems obvious, succinct, a little dull. “The Drover and the Well of Sciehallion” seems a mouthful, intriguing, a little Harry Potter. They are all I have at the moment. It’s coming together. Watch this space.