This is a painting I have really enjoyed doing because it somehow kept me in the company of James Hogg and Walter Scott, who both used to live in the Valley of Romance where I was fortunate to spend eight good years of my life, and Robert Burns, the poet who caused some of our workmen not to appear on certain days of the year.
Oil on canvas, 60cm x 40 cm, 2010.
The greyish-green cover of the main book contains the wonderful poetry of James Hogg, also known as the Ettrick Shepherd. For eight years I lived where he used to live, walked the hills where he was shepherd, and enjoyed my pub meals in the same Tibbie Shiels Inn where he is his time met up with the locals. There is now a statue of him opposite the inn, with the hauntingly beautiful inscription:
“he taught the wandering winds to sing.”
Walter Scott (the green book on the left) also lived in the area. St Mary’s Loch was one of his favourite places for a day out, and Hogg and Scott met more than once on the spot where John Scott of Rutherford would later build the Rodono House that was my home during my happy times in Scotland.
The Bard, Rabbie Burns, the Ploughman Poet, is, of course, the national poet for all Scots, wherever they are. The poems I like best is A Red, Red Rose, and the Selkirk Grace is the prayer we sometimes said at dinner. It’s the small book on the top.
The fourth book in the picture contains the poetical works of John Milton. Milton was not a Scot, but the book had the colour I wanted for in the picture and the name of the Minister of our local parish Church in Yarrow at the time was Milton, and that settled it for me.
The decanter and the crystal glass were purchased from Ben and Kitty, father and daughter who run an antiques shop in the Walstraat in Deventer (yes, Wall Street in Manhattan gets its name from the Dutch street-name ‘Walstraat’).
My own favourite whisky, incidentally, is Glenmorangie, a smooth and fruity Single Malt, crafted by the 16 men of Tain in the Highlands. The 10 year old is the one used for the painting. I do not recommend drinking whisky from a glass like this, although I did not hear the glass complain, and the whisky still ‘nosed’ like a meadow in Springtime. While I was working at this composition, all seemed well with the world.