Aberlady Bay by Dronma

Helen and Cameron's art tutor


Thanks are again due to Toby for this photograph.

At the 'Gathering 2000' Joan invited us back to her house and had carefully set out for us an example of the complete Tranter manuscript for 'High Kings and Vikings

Description of the material

Going clockwise starting at 'nine o'clock' we see a sample of the notes that Nigel would write on his morning walk.( See below)

Next the typescript of the handwritten notes. Typed on his very ancient typewriter and always held together with a shoe lace. ( He would not have anything to do with modern wordprocessing or even an electric typewriter. )

Then comes the publisher's proof copy that would be sent to Nigel for final checking and correcting.

Lastly the finished book that is so familiar to us all.



I have adapted the following for anyone who is unfamiliar with Nigel's unique approach to writing from my original 'Celebration Pages'. I wrote this after being at one of Nigel's lectures.

A Typical Nigel Day

Nigel showed us part of the draft of his latest book. I found it hard to equate the finished volumes that I had read with the dozen or so crumpled sheets of paper, written that very day, that he pulled from his jacket pocket.

He went on to explain that during the second World War, as a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery, he could only find enough peace to write as he walked around the camp and its surrounding countryside. That became his 'modus operandi' and has been his practice ever since.

A typical day in his life was to leave Quarry House around ten o'clock in the morning and walk round Aberlady Bay Bird Sanctuary and Gullane beach. He wrote as he walked, using his waterproof pen and paper, so often needed in the exposed countryside of coastal East Lothian where the wind and rain frequently whip inland from the Firth of Forth.

Indeed one of his more recent books, 'Footbridge to Enchantment', (B and W Publishing, Edinburgh 1993, ISBN 1 873631 23 5, 7.99.) describes this area, its stories, its characters and its wildlife. At the top of this section Nigel is pictured on his beloved bridge and the map of Aberlady Bay is from the 'Footbridge' publication. Reproduced with permission of the publishers.

The title of the book, when linked to Nigel, is most appropriate. Not just because of the wild beauty and enchantment of the area itself but also because of the effect that it had on Nigel the author.

Visualise, if you will, his daily ranging over this small piece of East Lothian, year after year. Conceiving, imagining, visualising and re-creating in his own mind the 'enchantment' of Scottish history . It is as if, when he steps off that bridge, he enters a timewarp that transports him deep into Scotland's past, bringing it back to life. Virtually becoming the character of about whom he is writing. This he shares with us, his readers. This is enchantment.

Returning about one o'clock, he had lunch and typed up the pages written during his morning walk. Virtually no alterations were ever made. What came out as he walked was the finished article. No drafts and re-writes for him. His aim was to produce about 1200 words per day. The evening he spent researching the topic that was to be written about the next day.

Although most definitely an unorthodox style, compared to most authors sitting in isolation slaving over their word processors, it is clearly the one that worked best for Nigel. Witness his prodigious output.

Note --- It was so sad rewriting this in past tense.


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