Whenever I feel myself getting close to writing some tired words about an extraordinary writer, I click for the Rebelle Society, a blog of wild souls, of uninhibited women writers. After carefully perusing the long list of titles written by Roger Hutchinson, I have decided he, too, must be dubbed a wild soul, and he has been put on the top of my anticipated reads.
The Reading Room is privileged to present Roger Hutchinson at the Skeabost Hotel on Tuesday, September 29. Lucky us.
Hutchinson has a penchant for compelling subjects; hence, for the bookshop browser, his books have a good chance of being selected from curiosity as well as hope for some interesting non-fiction. The author’s profile is visible to any visitor here on Skye, as a columnist for the West Highland Free Press. Look closer and you will see his prominent ‘Calum’s Road’ displayed in every shop where books are found. Calum was the last man in North Raasay in the late ’60s and Hutchinson has made sure the story of the road he built will live poignantly in our memories.
More of his books are easy finding: Angus MacPhee, of South Uist, spent fifty years in an asylum after WWII, as ‘The Silent Weaver’ of grass art objects. The famous shipwrecked ‘Polly’ of Whisky Galore fame is exposed by Hutchinson with humour and insight – a favorite book among his readers. Lord Leverhulme’s confrontation with Hebridean Islands seamen is fascinating reading, in ‘The Soap Man’.
His eclectic output has included books on Aleister Crowley, James Boswell and ‘Euro-Slang: The Practical Language Guide to Boozing and Bonking from Mykonos to Malaga.’ (Did I say ‘wild soul’ with sense of humour?) By Facebook remarks and his own books on games and sports, it is easy to deduce the author is also an avid sports follower. He was awarded ‘British Weekly’ Sportswriter 1996.
At the September 29th Reading Room meeting, Roger will be talking about the research and writing of his latest book, ‘St Kilda: A People’s History’. He says, ‘I’m really looking forward to meeting my friends from the Reading Room again, and talking about an island community even more distant than Skye!’
The author remarks that St Kilda is the most romantic and most romanticised group of islands in Europe: ‘Soaring out of the North Atlantic Ocean like Atlantis come back to life, the islands have captured our imagination for hundreds of years.’
Their inhabitants, Scottish Gaels who lived off the land, the sea and by birdcatching on St Kilda’s high and precipitous cliffs, were long considered to be the Noble Savages of the British Isles, living in a state of natural grace.
‘St Kilda: A People’s History’ explores and portrays the real life of the St Kildans from the Stone Age to the 20th century.
Roger Hutchinson has 40 years experience of Hebridean islands and he digs deep into the archives to paint a vivid picture of the life and death, work and play of a small, proud and self-sufficient family.
This book is a new and unprecedented history of the islands because it demolishes myths and shows how life really was lived in that beautiful archipelago.
From the earliest Neolithic settlement to the voluntary evacuation in 1930, ‘St Kilda: A People’s History’ is a fascinating, funny and original account. It is the story not only of a sensational place, but also of the extraordinary people who called it home.