14th Grassic Gibbon Dinner

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Some 80 guests were welcomed by the chairman, Jim Brown, to the annual Grassic Gibbon Dinner to toast the local author who spent his formative years on the croft at Bloomfield. They were joined by his daughter Rhea Martin and her son and daughter in law, Alistair and Sue who had travelled up from Welwyn Garden City to join in the dual celebration of his birth and the 20th anniversary of the highly successful Grassic Gibbon Centre.

Two previous speakers, Jack Webster author, journalist and playwright and Dr David Northcroft academic, educationalist and author of the acclaimed “Grampian Lives” were also in the audience. They were all to be part of a memorable Arbuthnott night with the guest speaker Professor Ian Campbell delivering a mesmeric address with occasional readings but no notes.

Paul Anderson, the renowned Tarland fiddler and his wife Shona, player, singer and reciter, tugged all the heart strings with superb style. They certainly carry their huge talents lightly.

Professor Campbell, a son of the manse at Inverbervie and educated at the Mackie Academy, has spent most of his academic career at the University of Edinburgh and retired in 2009 as the Professor Emeritus of Scottish and Victorian Literature.

In what seemed a very short thirty minutes he went a long way to selling the works of Grassic Gibbon and appealed to the audience to read the whole of “A Scots Quair” not just “Sunset Song”. His sales pitch was built around Gibbon’s accurate observations and descriptions of the scenes he portrayed, his characters were pivotal to the strength of the community, Chris Guthrie really was Chris Caledonia and perhaps above all the language, although veiled at times, really was the language of the Mearns. The fact that the “Quair” was written in the far south is further proof of the retentive mind and genius of Gibbon who had stored up all this information and observations from his childhood in Arbuthnott. His university was the thousands of miles that he walked from Bloomfield for an education.

Professor Campbell was in no doubt that, had Gibbon been spared an early death, he would have continued to produce great works. Although “Sunset Song” ends with a funeral service and the prophecy of huge change, Gibbon still saw Scotland as being alive and dynamic and would have written so.