The Days of Auld Lang Syne (Ian MacLaren, 1895)

A collection of short stories and a couple novellas or at least novelettes about Drumtochty, a small village in Scotland, and the people who inhabit it. All the ads in the back of the book are for religious literature, so I figured with would have a Christian bend, but no, not really. The stories don’t have much of point at all.

The second story is the longest and most fleshed-out. Burnbrae’s family has rented their farm in Drumtochty from Lord Kilspindie for centuries. Kilspindie is away and the new “factor” (something like a property manager), a city man from England, has a notion to forestall any factional trouble by renting only to those belonging to the Auld Kirk — the established religion. Burnbrae is a Free Kirk man — a dissenter. His lease is not renewed. When the estate is auctioned off, all the village comes together to bid generously and give Burnbrae a tidy parting gift. Meanwhile, Kilspindie returns after being told of what’s happened by the preachers of both the Auld and Free Kirks, neither of whom want to see Burnbrae expelled. The factor is overridden and Burnbrae’s lease is renewed. The villagers return the items without asking for their money back.

That’s about as churchy as it gets. The other stories mostly involve the elderly townsfolk dying and the other, equally elderly townsfolk remembering them. The stories are not in chronological order, so people die and resurrect frequently as you read.

Inscriptions: on the front flyleaf, “Melvin Sheaburne Hotchins, Eastport, 1935”. I have to say, I adore the handwriting. It’s not quite cursive and not quite print, but it’s marvelously distinctive. Later owned by Dorothea Flagg, who lived in a dumpy house on Parkview Avenue in Bangor. Perhaps it looked better in the past, but I can hardly imagine so.

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