Life in the Time of Coronavirus #18

Congratulations to Anne-Mary Paterson whose third non-fiction book, Lairds-in-Waiting, was published on 4th March 2021. Anne-Mary is a member of the Moniack Mhor Writers Group, led by author Cynthia Rogerson, who continue to meet remotely during 2021 while COVID-19 restrictions are ongoing. Anne-Mary sent us this article in late January as she anticipated a lockdown launch for her book – we hope many people get to read it.

The book’s cover shows the Matheson family waiting for a train at Duncraig Private Station near Plockton, Wester Ross.

This is the 21st Year in the 21st Century. It has not started very well. The Covid pandemic is raging but there is light at the end of the tunnel with the arrival of vaccines.

For me 2021 is the year of the publication on 4th March of my third book Lairds-in-Waiting which is about private stations and waiting rooms on the Highland Railway. It is unlikely that this can follow the normal path with book signings at Waterstones and other places around the Highlands. I had planned to visit bookshops near to the places where the stations are, such as Blair Atholl, Dunrobin Castle and Moy. So, I must just rely on what I can do on the Internet to put my work out into the big wild world. It may be that this attracts more people. Let us wait and see!

I doubt if I would have finished the book without the lockdown. The week before it started, I was on retreat at Moniack Mhor so I was in full flow to continue without the distractions of visitors and holidays.

My first book was a biography of my great-granduncles, William & Murdoch Paterson, engineers involved in the design and construction of most of the railways radiating from Inverness. When it was published, I had little idea of what to do to publicise it and yet it sold well and is still selling so maybe I worry too much.

I knew about book signings so I visited The Old School, the lovely shop in my village, Beauly, and William Crawford immediately said I must do a book signing so it was set for a Saturday at the end of November. There was heavy snow that day so a trickle of hardy folks kept coming in to speak to me including one man who braved the weather and came all the way from Tain where I learned later the snow was deeper.

By the time my second book Spanning the Gaps came along, my husband was ill and died a few weeks after the book signing at Waterstones in Inverness so maybe I did not give it as much attention as I should have. However, I still have the lists of people and bookshops I contacted which will be useful for my new book probably with new additions.

I have made a start with the research for my next book, a biography about Sir Alexander Matheson who was chairman of the Highland Railway for many years. Before he returned to Scotland around 1839 as a rich man, he worked in China as a partner in Jardine Matheson, the trading company. One of its activities was smuggling opium from India into China. At that time, it was still legal in Britain but illegal in China.

The restrictions of the lockdown mean there is some research I cannot undertake but I am sure I will find enough by other means to make a start and look forward to making visits for my research. And there are visits I want to make to places and bookshops for my third book. Brighter times are ahead when we will all have been vaccinated!

© Anne-Mary Paterson

Views/opinions expressed are the author’s own and do not represent those of any individual from Moniack Mhor or Moniack Mhor itself. Copyright of their own words/images remains with the author

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