Ian Drury - Sheil Land Associates Ltd. - 52 Doughty Street - London WC1N 2LS

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


Well, I'm back. And yes, I found what I was looking for (even though it took a walk of some 10 or 12 miles over some pretty unforgiving terrain - but the views were magnificent!!).

Cille Mhic Eoghainn is actually a graveyard for the MacQuarrie clan ('Sons of Guaire') whose township was the ruined village of Ormaig. The graveyard is about as isolated and remote as you could hope for. But the village ... well now!

Ormaig, apparently, comes from the Norse for 'Bay of Serpents'. Now, 'serpents' was a common enough term for Druids (they were referred to in Welsh, for example, as Naddred - 'Adders'). And I suggested in my previous post that the name of the island - Ulva - might derive from ullamh dha (literally, 'Wiseman to him'). Of course, I'd forgotten that a Hebridean folktale, seemingly collected from Tiree (very close to Ulva), casts Sir Gawain of Arthurian legend as 'Sir Uallabh O'Corn' (Sir Wiseman of the Horn). This Sir Uallabh is the nephew of Arthur, just as the son of the original Guaire was Arthur's nephew. In the early legends, the son of Guaire is named Gwalchmai, a name which passed through the prism of medieval literature to reappear as Gawain.

Gawain, then, was originally the son of Guaire and the nephew of Arthur. The sons of Guaire formed the clan MacQuarrie, who lived at Ormaig and were buried at Cille Mhic Eoghainn on Ulva. In the Hebrides, Gwalchmai or Gawain was known as Sir Uallabh, or 'Sir Wiseman'.

In Gaelic, Ulva is Ulbha, so that the name of the island might indeed derive from ullamh (a sage or learned man) or, for that matter, from Uallabh (ditto). It could, then, be uallabh dha - The Isle of the Ullamh, or the Druid Isle.

And guess what? The now ruined village of Ormaig (population in 1841 - 52) once hosted a famous school for pipers run by the MacArthurs.

Seems that the family ties weren't lost after all!

Anyway, that was all fun, and I had the best oysters I can ever remember on Ulva. Fascinating place. Oh, and I stood on the grave of Arthur, too. So, all in all, a productive vacation.

But now I'm home. And, well, I'm pretty dissatisfied with the way all the work on the books (Shakespeare and Arthur) has been going. I'm still beavering away on a TV drama idea or two with my exec producer at the BBC - that's all going fine - but the publishing side of things is a right stinking mess.

It feels about as bad as TV did a decade or so ago.

And one of the problems, from my point of view at least, is that I've been concentrating on the first three chapters and a synopsis because that's what publishers use to base their decisions on, in the case of non-fiction. Except that they're not. Because they're not making any decisions at the moment. So I've been concentrating on the wrong shape of project to suit an industry that isn't actually doing anything right now.

So here's my resolution: I am going to commit to writing a minimum of 2,500 words a day on my Arthur project, until I have a complete manuscript which I am happy with. Then, I am going to see if there are any publishers out there who are interested. I am not going to fart about with three chapters when I can, and should, be writing them all.

If there's one thing I've learnt over the years as a writer, it's this: sooner or later, you have to start doing things your own way, because too many people will try to get you to do things their way, and that, my friends, hardly ever works.

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