Fortunately, I didn’t have to take the pictures as the book has been done in collaboration with a fabulous photographer friend, Allan Devlin who does amazing landscape images. You can see some of his work on his website here.
Allan and I both freelance for award-winning magazine Dumfries & Galloway Life. In fact, we have both worked on the magazine since the very first issue in September 2006 and Allan always did the photos to accompany my features. Strangely, we did not actually meet until we’d been working ‘together’ for almost two years.
Our first task was to source the 90 old images we needed. We spent hours – days – pouring over old postcards and photographs in the library, the museum and private collections. It was going to be fairly straightforward, we thought.
|Statue of Robert Burns|
Dumfries is strongly associated with Scotland’s bard, Robert Burns who lived for a time in the town, writing a huge number of poems and songs in the few years before he died there. There’s a fine statue of him, there’s his burial place, the church he attended, two homes he inhabited and, of course, hundreds of images of all those places. We would choose a postcard of the statue then a few minutes later we’d find another, perhaps a better one? Or what about this one, from a different angle, or that one which was taken after the statue was moved?
The River Nith winds through the town and along the Whitesands with its bridges, one of which, Devorgilla Bridge is one of the oldest standing bridges in Scotland. Again, many old images exist and we were faced with the daunting task of choosing the ones which we felt were best. We also had to be careful not to choose places which were no longer photogenic: there was no point in having a wonderful 19th century photo of a historic building only to realise there was actually no longer anything there.
The weather was not kind to Allan who had the job of taking 90 photos on the days the sun came out – and this spring/early summer there were very few such days.
|Statue of Robert Burns Today|
My biggest problem was writing the captions, which initially I thought would be fairly easy to do. I’m a journalist, writing captions is part of my job. However, Amberley Publishing has an eighty-word limit on the captions. How could I reduce the history of the Whitesands – site of witch burnings, horse fairs and cattle market for centuries to 80 words? Allan must have been very fed up with my moaning about it.
I’ve collaborated with artists on projects which included writing poems but this was the first time I’ve done it on a book. I think (Allan might say different) we worked very well together. We have a slightly different attitude to deadlines. We both feel honour bound to meet them but each of us has our own approach and whenever Allan said: “Well, we’ll do what we can to get it done on time.” I wanted to scream. He probably felt the same way when I insisted we HAD to get it completed on time.
The only time we came close to an argument was over a last minute (and I mean last minute – one day from deadline) image of an amazing looking building, which Allan said was a bottling plant. I did some research and found the bottling plant – but it was not the picture he sent me. Emails flew back and forth in disagreement. I wanted to tell say: “Put your (fill in the blank) glasses on and look at it again.” Instead I emailed, in true architectural jargon telling him to note that the ‘squiggly, turrety things are different.’ Silence. He’d gone to bed. Next morning he emailed to say he thought I could be right.
The manuscript and images reached the publishers on time – thank goodness for email and dropbox – and Dumfries Through Time will be available from about the 15th of August. It can be pre-ordered through Amazon.
Allan and I will be celebrating with a launch event on Tuesday, September 01 in the Rutherford/McCowan Building at Crichton Campus, Dumfries. If you live anywhere nearby, do drop in - all welcome.