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A first Foray into Writing and publishing

 As one who has spent the better part of the last three years writing and publishing a book, I offer these thoughts to anyone thinking of doing the same.


Retirement in 1999 brought me the problem of not knowing what to do. "Redundancy", and "being put out to grass", are just two of the thoughts that entered my mind, but they were soon banished when I discovered the Centre for Lifelong Learning at Aberdeen University, and enrolled for a Degree Course in Archaeology. Mind you, nothing too intense. It lasted ten years at two modules a year, and included some stunning digs and summer courses, and plenty of time to relax.


There was a module on Local History with a Tutor who urged his students to Publish! Publish!  That did it.  A farm near my home turned out to have a history as long as Scotland. It was ideal. No creativity would be needed, just research, research and research. And hadn't I learned how to do that these last ten years?


It soon became completely absorbing. There were faint traces from the Neolithic and Pictish periods, firm evidence from the Gaelic period in the place names, firm evidence from the title deeds of ownership by the Church from 1170 for 400 years, and evidence on the collapse of the Church at the Reformation. It got even more exciting in the post reformation period when the farm was touched by the Civil War and the tight grip of the Calvinist Church, whose main preoccupation was to stamp out immoral sexual behaviour. And then there was the Jacobite rising, and Land Improvement, not to mention the discovery of some absorbing 18th Century characters and the rise of the large landowners in the 19th Century. How could it fail? I became obsessed with it. It seemed that here was a microcosm of the history of Scotland and that not only local historians but also real historians would flock to buy it. Many happy hours were spent researching this detail or that, and polishing the phrasing, and choosing the best illustrations.


Then came the first brush with reality, finding a publisher. Where is Kinminity? they would ask. They couldn't see a market for a book with such a limited and local appeal. Publish it yourself, kind friends advised. After a time there was no other alternative, so I went down that route. But publishing it yourself has one fatal drawback. It means you have to market it yourself. After the local libraries had taken very generous numbers, and all local shops had done likewise, and many loyal friends had come to the launch at the local library, sales remained in the low hundreds. Oh dear! The dream of fame and fortune (well, the hope of balancing the books anyway) had vanished. So what remains?


 I think what remains is the recollection of those heady days when I was making regular discoveries.. The trip to the Record Office in Edinburgh when I read the 18th century Kirk Session Minutes and discovered that all they discussed was "unclean fornication" and who had been doing it. The moment I found out that the (now) ruined cottage on the land had been built by an 18th Century confidence trickster called Cutty Sievewright, and when I realised that while one occupier of the farm had fought for the Hanoverians in the Jacobite rising of 1745, other local farmhands had gone off to fight for Prince Charlie, and there was no record of them coming back. These were my high points.

Nothing can dampen the thrill of discovering so much activity by individual human beings who lived on or near this one small property. And it's not just discovered, it's recorded, and copies of the book are lodged with The National Library of Scotland, and The British Library.


It would of course be gratifying to hear from any kind reader who is interested in human history in this one small place as portrayed over several hundred years and who might like to buy the book. It is called "Kinminity - through the ages" and now costs £10-00 which includes packaging and post. A cheque to Hugh Cochran at 60, Barclay Park, Aboyne, AB34 5JF will have a copy sent to you by return of post.

Hugh Cochran, 26/01/2010