Scots historian, author and Royal Mile tour guide, Graeme Milne, is behind the novel development of a hard copy and digitised children's book of short story and poems. It's inspired by the numerous statues, paintings and carvings around Edinburgh. He achieved this through a group called the Southside Scribblers.
What started out as a creative writing course has mushroomed into an initiative that firms on the lookout to fulfil their corporate social responsibility (CSR) requirements should check out. When the course folded, Graeme kept in touch with three of the writers and he realised that, to sustain the group, more focus was required. This has developed into the children's project and more recently a complementary 'family trail' with map, adding a further dimension to the book.
The Aberdonian who has adopted the capital as his home and colleagues began with four or five small pieces and they have now covered most of Edinburgh, including the likes of Merkat Cross, National Museum, Greyfriars, Lauriston Place, Canonmills and Princes Street Gardens. They now need a wee bit of CSR and/or funding/grant to follow through with their work. Graeme's background is in fine art but he decided it was essential to augment his experience and so looked around for someone with a degree or skill in illustration/graphics.
This resulted in two recently qualified graduates agreeing to help and the group are initially paying for the finished drawings themselves: 'One for each of us to accompany a story,' he says. 'Currently we have more or less all the written work ready.' Initially, the plan was to provide a free copy to each P3-P4 child in the city to tie in with the curriculum, should they study local history/art/geography but on reflection and given the sheer volume of kids, the intention is in the first instance to pilot it to certain schools.
Ideally, the group would like to provide the book to all schools that want it. To date there are around 20 pieces of writing, poetry and short stories, all on the theme of animals to be found in the city plus associated illustrations. It's all about encouraging families to enjoy their city and promote its history.
The following poem gives us a flavour of the book to come suggests Graeme, author of Tales From an Edinburgh Tour Guide
and Aberdeen's Haunted Heritage
The Ross Fountain
Below, in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle
Mermaid tails, spray flowers of water
Splashing gilded artists' daughters
Walrus smile with gushing faces, watching blankly
While gathering visitors smile, click and stare
The song of laughter drifts by
Buds erupting, now point upwards
Above them a palette of blues and grey tussles for control
Whilst on the ground colours shyly peep
Can you see the king of beasts?
His watery roar an aural feast
Heat, the enemy of artic creatures now vibrates
The drone of bees soothes and sizzles
Whilst cooling mists speckle passing lovers
A paper boat sails on a stormy sea
Before plunging down into the crystal clear
While a nearby sailor cries in despair
Later, the land now smeared in red
Glows golden in its defiance
Leaves clinging and unwilling to let go
As a number of the Southside Scribblers are from an educational background, they will be offering their services to run some one-off sessions to coincide with the book. Also, to explain more in context how, for example, various short stories are devised.
One called The Two Bobby's
involves a wee bit of mystery as to why the globally-famous Greyfriars statuette mounted on its very own plinth has a shiny and golden nose but a black coat? Many years ago, someone claimed that if you rubbed the nose this would bring great luck. This remains the case to this day, so it has to be touched up every now and again. The well-known Disney film version of his life involves a second dog and became a very pampered one at that for the rest of its life. Another short story involves a certain building in the city's Lauriston Place near The Meadows where stands a strange metal statue of two large snakes. All is revealed!
When Graeme and his wife Carol were married at Edinburgh Castle they stayed at The Witchery (with it's very own unique history). On the second night he had a weird experience with a strange, heavy atmosphere in the Armoury Suite where they were staying. Laden with two big mugs of tea, he attempted to open a door and heard a dog scraping its claws on the stone floor. Then, a big hound – a great big skinny Irish wolfhound – appeared in front of him, from nowhere. 'It bolted towards me and was upon me in about three seconds, the tea went up in the air, and as the dog reached me it just vanished.' Sounds very much like the nucleus of one of the Southside Scribblers' children's stories.
Former Reuters, Sunday Times, The Scotsman and Glasgow Herald business and finance correspondent, Bill Magee is a columnist writing tech-based articles for Daily Business, Institute of Directors, Edinburgh Chamber and occasionally The Times' 'Thunderer'