An important aspect of the developments we are pursuing is to build the connections between Head Quarters, Council, Branches and Members; the Saltire ‘family’ in all its manifestations. In that vein I am out and about at various branch events and continue to be impressed by the commitment and energy of all those involved. Attending the Aberdeen Branch St Andrew’s Day lunch this weekend is a case in point. More than 80 guests enjoyed a fine lunch, music and speakers in the generous and welcoming hands of convener Dr David Galloway. The attendance of Lord Provost of Aberdeen, George Adam, was most welcome and an opportunity for me to re-new an old acquaintance with George whom I know from my time as CEO at the Scottish Arts Council. It is, as they say, a wee world!
Next week I am looking forward to a visit to the Dumfries Branch where Professor Alan Riach will be offering a tutored reading of MacDiarmid’s ‘A Drunk Man Looks at a Thistle’, on the 6th December we will be paying tribute to Lord Cullen and Paul Henderson Scott for their work on behalf of the Society, then on the 11th December I will be joining our Glasgow Branch to hear from author and political commentator Gerry Hassan. In between representatives of the Executive Board and I will be in Fort William where we are supporting the first ‘Hall of Fame’ Dinner presented by ‘Hands Up For Trad’, and the same weekend our Convener David Ward will present the ‘Traditional Music and the Media Award’ at the MG Alba Traditional Music Awards.
MG Alba will be televising the Traditional Music Awards on the 8th December, providing us with another important opportunity to profile the work of the Society and through that we hope to gain support and attract new members. We are delighted to note that our very own Professor Ted Cowan who is a member of Council will feature in a programme to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the birth of James Graham, Fifth Earl and First Marquis of Montrose. Caledonia TV's documentary "Scotland's Greatest Warrior" will be shown on BBC 2 at 9 p.m. on St Andrews Night, Friday 30 November. We have also had some good press coverage, notable a piece in The Herald which profiled our wider plans and ambitions, and excellent coverage in The Scotsman for our Literary Awards Shortlist. The Herald piece highlighted our plans for the Saltire Series of debates and pamphlets. If you missed either and are interested to see the items let us know and we’ll pop a copy into the post for you.
The Literary Awards are the last of this year’s awards events with the ceremony taking place on St Andrew’s Day in the National Library of Scotland. The awards will be made by Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP, from a very strong shortlist in all categories which I have added at the end of the update.
Watch out for the winners announced in the press. It promises to be significant occasion. In addition to the literary awards I am delighted to let you know that we will formally announce our partnership with Publishing Scotland in a new Saltire ‘Scottish Publisher of the Year Award’. The timing is perfect as we conclude our role as book publishers with the launch of ‘Why Scottish History Still Matters’ edited by Professor Ted Cowan of this parish, while the new partnership with the National Library of Scotland sees them commit to producing digital version of our back catalogue, obviating the need for and cost of storage of paper copies.
My thanks again go to the Literature panel under the very expert guidance of Professor Ian Campbell, and the work of Ted Cowan and Tom Bryce in the history and research books respectively. The task of deciding from amongst over 150 entries is a very difficult one conducted with good grace and care.
The Saltire Civil Engineering Awards have been another success under the guidance of convener John Carmichael who is standing down after five years, and handing over to the equally well qualified Gordon Pomphrey. We have already had discussions as to how we can continue to improve the profile these prestigious awards. It is in that spirit that our Christmas card features one of the award winners. That theme, of gaining wider exposure for all of the awards, will no doubt be front and centre when we hold the second of our meeting of all panel conveners in December. It will be a chance to update everyone on our final version of our business plan. If any member would like a copy of the plan please let us know.
The one disappointment in our plans to date has been the delay to the building works at HQ. This is largely been a matter of finalising the detail of the work and its cost, and I am indebted to Council member Hector MacDonald for his expert architect’s input into this process! So the ‘house warming’ I mentioned previously will be in the New Year, but meanwhile you are also welcome at HQ for a visit if you are in Edinburgh.
On the membership front, thanks to those of you who have been encouraging others to join us in our work. We are still some way away from our target of a 1000 members so please continue to act in the ambassadorial role that I am sure is the most effective way to build our support. With the sad news that since the last update we have to report the passing of three long standing members, the future of the Society and its important work for the country will to an extent depend on all our efforts to involve new members.
I want to finish by adding my own personal festive greetings. Time has flown since joined as the Executive Director in February and I am enjoying every minute of the challenge, and learning more every day about the value of your work in the past, and the potential of our efforts in the future.
Have a peaceful Christmas and all the best for the New Year,
Jim Tough, Executive Director
SCOTTISH BOOK OF THE YEAR - The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy, Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie, Mo Said She was Quirky by James Kelman, Deanamh Gaire ris a’ Chloc by Aonghas MacNeacail, Tales From the Mall by Ewan Morrison, The Dead Man’s Pedal by Alan Warner, Skagboys by Irvine Welsh. SCOTTISH FIRST BOOK OF THE YEAR - Air Bilean an t-Sluaigh: Sealladh air Leantalachd Beul-Aithris Ghàidhlig Uibhist a Tuath by Maighread A. Challan, The Last Highlander: Scotland’s Most Notorious Clan-Chief, Rebel and Double Agent by Sarah Fraser, Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before he Stole my Ma by Kerry Hudson, The Incomers by Moira McPartlin, Furnace by Wayne Price, Ramshackle by Elizabeth Reeder. SCOTTISH RESEARCH BOOK OF THE YEAR in association with the National Library of Scotland. The Sexual State - Sexuality and Scottish Governance 1950-80 by R. Davidson & G. Davis, Scotland: Mapping the Nation by C. Fleet, C. Withers, M. Wilkies The Grand Designer by Rosemary Hannah, Dear Grieve: Letter to Hugh MacDiarmid by John Manson, Jamieson's Dictionary of Scots by Susan Rennie, SCOTTISH HISTORY BOOK OF THE YEAR - Women of Moray by S. Bennett, M. Byatt, J. Main, A. Oliver, J. Trythall, Scotland's Radical Export - The Scots Abroad- How they Shaped Politics and Trade Unions by Pat Kelly, Scotland's First Oil Boom - The Scottish Shale-Oil Industry, 1851–1914 by John McKay, The Two Unions: Ireland, Scotland, and the Survival of the United Kingdom, 1707-2007 by Alvin Jackson, A Military History of Scotland edited by E. Spiers, J. Crang & M. Strickland