MarySmith’sPlace – How I’ve been spending my summer

The title sounds a bit like those essays we were set in school on ‘How I spent my summer holidays’ except this isn’t about holidays. I had to take a blogging break this summer to focus on writing a local history book for Amberley Publishing: A-Z of Dumfries- Places-People-History, in collaboration again with photographer Keith Kirk. Also, because I am once again working as a seasonal museum attendant, this time at the Old Bridge House museum.

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Old Bridge House Museum – the oldest house in Dumfries, built in 1660

The deadline for the book was August 01 and I’d really hoped to finish it before then as I started my museum job on July 01 and I didn’t want to be coming home from working one job to spend the evening working on another job. Of course, I didn’t succeed in finishing it early – but did make the publisher’s deadline.

Each letter of the alphabet has its own chapter and some letters have more than one entry. While most A–Z guides are designed as route finders, this one invites readers on an alphabetical tour of discovery of some of the places and people, past and present, which have contributed to creating the Queen of the South, the town of which Doonhamers are, rightly, so proud.

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The Caul (weir) on the River Nith

Many of the town’s streets were named after the topography; others were named in tribute to worthy citizens whose names probably mean little to younger people nowadays. Work on the book has been enlightening, on occasions frustrating – street names change for no apparent reason; Doonhamers have an endearing way of giving directions that take in landmarks long since knocked down such as the swimming pool (‘you know where the swimming pool was?’), or have been under a different name for many years – such as Young’s Corner (‘We always met at Young’s Corner’). It will be interesting to see if future generations continue with this practice or if one day the site of the old swimming pool will no longer be a referral point.

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The Globe Inn, favourite pub of Scotland’s bard, Robert Burns. Under new ownership it’s currently being refurbished but should be open soon.

Some letters provided an abundance of place names and names of famous people or landmarks (we could have filled the entire book with Bs and Cs) while others, X and Z were a bit thin on the ground. We think we’ve come up with really good entries for both of those!

As always, the research has been fascinating and we made some exciting finds – a medieval sandstone carving of a bagpipe playing pig above a fish and chip shop being the most exciting.

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The Piping Pig

Publishing date is November 15 – perfect for Christmas sales. It’s already on Amazon for pre-order even though the publisher hasn’t yet put up the cover. Keith and I think we know how it will look as he sent in some cracking images for it. I’ll provide more info nearer the time with some more sneak peeks into the book.

Credit for all photos in this post to Keith Kirk.

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35 thoughts on “MarySmith’sPlace – How I’ve been spending my summer

  1. That sounds like a very worthwhile contribution to our social history. And yes, I’ve been directed to turn right ‘when you get to the old Brown Bear – the pub knocked down for the flyover….’ Then again, closer to my old home, when I moved in, the dilapidated pub (why is it mainly pubs) was the Wake Arms, hence the Wake Arms roundabout. As far as I know, it’s still called the Wake Arms roundabout even though the pub was knocked down 25 years ago.
    I was also interested in your plethora of Bs and Cs. As I do two reading challenges, one with book titles A to Z, and one with author surnames A to Z, I can attest there is always ample choice for Bs and Cs there, too! Still struggling with X…

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  2. Thanks, Jemima. I hope the book will be popular with people from Dumfries, many of whom are very interested in local history. It seems to be quite a widespread phenomenon this referring to knocked-down buildings when giving directions. I suppose it keeps places alive in some way. I can’t help with author names but Sue Grafton wrote a novel called X. She writes crime novels.

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  3. I’m so excited about this one, I’m going pre-order already, so I don’t forget. (Always a worry these days!) I think it will be an entertaining read for those who LONG to see such places themselves, one day. (ME!) And I’m going to love showing off “my friend, Mary’s, newest book,” along with the gorgeous photos by Keith Kirk!

    And just so you know, I’m impressed and jealous–mostly jealous, I’m afraid, being the shallow soul that I am–that you get to work in the Old Bridge House Museum! Oh, how I’d love to see that, and have you tell me all about it. It’s charming!

    Well done all the way around, Mary! And worth taking off from blogging for a bit, even though we’ve missed you. 🙂 ❤

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    • Thank you for your enthusiastic comments, Marcia. And for pre-ordering the book 🙂 I will do a post or two about the Old Bridge House soon. I showed Robbie and her family round it today! I’m glad to re-join the blogging world, though finding it hard to get up to speed with all the blogs I follow.

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      • I’ve already put in my order and can’t wait to browse through all the pictures and info. And in fact, I ordered the other two Dumfries books, as well. If I ever get there, I will be AN EXPERT!! You’ll be trying to show me something, and I’ll be going, “Oh, I already know about that. I read it in this book, Secret Dumfries.” Hahahahaha. I saw some pics of Robbie in your area. They scrolled by on my FB feed and I was SO envious!! 🙂 ❤

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        • Oh, thank you so much, Marcia. I hope you enjoy them. Robbie’s pics are from before she reached me today so perhaps she’ll put some of Dumfries up tomorrow. They had a long drive ahead of them when they left me and they are packing a lot into their holiday.

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          • I was half asleep and watching pics scroll by fairly quickly on my phone, so I missed the exact location, except for one that said “Diagon Alley” which I recognized.:D I’ll try to check out the rest she puts up, and look more closely. And I’m sure I’m going to enjoy your books! Looking forward to receiving them. 🙂

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