Our first event of 2017 saw Galloway come to Glasgow. After a few weeks of festive frivolities, our members, interns and writers peeled themselves off their sofas, lifted themselves out of the food induced stupor and made their way to the CCA Clubroom to bring in 2017 with the SWC. In true January sales style, we were treated to a BOGOF deal as two Galloway-based poets, Hugh McMillan and Stuart A. Paterson, shared their poetry, cheerful anecdotes and fascinating facts about their home.The night shaped up to be a mash up of literature, history and geography delivered to the eager audience with plenty of passion and many a laugh.
Hugh McMillan kicked off the evening, sharing with us his illustrated map of Galloway and drawing our attention to, amongst many other things, the UFOs and fairies that inhabit Scotland’s South. His map features in his 2016 published McMillan’s Galloway, his “creative guide by by an unreliable local.” He said his book came as a response to John Mactaggarts’ The Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia from the 1920s in which he describes Galloway as a “land made for dreams and nightmares.” Throughout the night, both McMillan and Stuart A. Paterson shared stories that live up to this claim. From tragic historical tales to their experience of this modern day literary hub, they painted Galloway vividly and fondly.
Both Paterson and McMillan explained the historical significance of their home to their work. The landscape of Galloway is very much shaped by its history: the large scale of emigration, Lowland Clearances and the Industrial Revolution all have had significant impacts. More than a couple of hundred years ago, it would have been a vastly different physical landscape with a far different population. This rich and diverse history leaves much in the way of inspiration for the writers that are born and based or simply find their way to this part of Scotland. In recent history, the effect of 2015’s Hurricane Abigail is a resounding topic of interest for our hosts, while further in Galloway’s past, the story of the Whigton Martyrs became ingrained in the local people. Paterson and McMillan’s skill lies in their ability to share these vast, often tragic historical events with a sense of empathy found in their personal connection to the land.
Without a doubt, the night lived up to its title. Hugh McMillan and Stuart A. Paterson did indeed bring Galloway to Glasgow. They told the history of the land and how significantly it has shaped what we see today. They painted the beauty and diversity of the landscape. They demonstrated the significance of literature in this part of the world, both to the duo personally and to their community. Most importantly though, the whole night was shared with a passion and great humour, enticing and engaging the audience at every turn.
Words and images by Kath Warren