Scotland has always been compelling to me. The other day I found 'Oasis of the North,' by Dawn MacLeod ( Hutchinson, London, 1958 ), which made me stop and go back to a pace slower than I have to go at now.
The author left a career as a successful Civil Servant in London to follow her heart, take a plunge and accept an offer by her adopted aunt, Mairi Sawyer, to help at Inverewe, the famous 50-acre garden established by her father, Osgood MacKenzie.
The writing is self-effacing, observant. Dawn MacLeod was a newcomer, and obviously prepared to pull up her sleeves. From page 66, I quote: "I opened the gate and locked it again behind the car, and as we rounded a bend a little low house came into view - perched on a green bank with wooded braes at the back of it, and a stream rushing past a few feet from the front porch. Glimpses of rugged hill appeared at the top of the glen, and down to our left Loch Kernsary reflected the sky. Some blackface sheep nibbled peacefully along the grassy banks of the burn, and a field of oats stood up, tall but yet unripe, inside a high deer-fence."
I am enthralled, not only to enter a slower and more orderly age, with an authenticity and naturalness that have been vanishing, but to read a book whose pace is unstrained, from an open mind.
No-one writes like this any more.
Inverewe, begun in 1862, now belongs to the National Trust for Scotland, having been gifted to it by Mairi Sawyer in the 1950s. I'm pleased to read that it contains many plants from the southern hemisphere, including eucalypts.
I can well understand how someone would chuck in their day job to be there, without knowing, exactly how things would turn out. Dawn MacLeod showed particular courage and faith in her inner feeling.
With grateful thanks to Hutchinson, to the author, and to the artist, William McLaren.