Walking the border inspired MSP’s new book

A Western Isles SNP MSP has gone back to his Borders roots for his new book ‘Tweed Rins tae the Ocean’, which will be published in the autumn of 2021 by ThunderPoint Publishing.

By Kevin Janiak
Wednesday, 23rd December 2020, 12:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd December 2020, 3:13 pm
Alasdair Allan in the Scottish Parliament.
Alasdair Allan in the Scottish Parliament.

Alasdair Allan, who grew up in Ashkirk, now lives on the Isle of Lewis, where he represents the Na h-Eileanan an Iar consituency.

The book follows an east-to-west coast walk by Allan and some friends, and gently explores the history, literature and language of what Allan contends is the oldest national land border in the world.

The title of the book takes its inspiration from the Burns song, ‘Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation’.

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Alasdair Allan MSP, who was born in Ashkirk, has written a book on the borderline between Scotland and England.

The journey described was the product of a challenge Allan set himself, not just to walk the Border, but to read a way along it too.

It’s a book that will challenge the preconceptions of many about a region reputed to have the highest per capita number of titled residents in Scotland, and which is home to the Duke of Buccleuch, the largest private landowner in Europe.

Cameron McNeish, author, broadcaster and mountain walker, who has written the foreword for the book, said: “There is nowhere else in Scotland I sense an ‘uncanny watchfulness’ as intensely as I do in the Borders.

“It lurks on every hill-top, in every cleuch, and in every castle ruin, and Alasdair Allan has, almost magically, captured this essence of the border.”

Allan said he had always found the idea of the borderline between England and Scotland “fascinating”, and makes no apology for the views he expresses in the book.

He said: “It should be no surprise that a book by a politician about a political boundary offers occasionally opinionated views.

“However, I hope that the account of my journey from Berwick to the Solway Firth will be appreciated by anyone who likes dry humour and wet weather.

‘The border line has always been fascinating to me, not least as so many of my own family grew up a matter of yards from it.

“ The book tries to explain why writers (and reivers) down the centuries have been similarly fascinated.

“It is also, I admit, partly a retort to some others who have concluded that the Border – and by implication Scotland – are not really there at all. I hope the book will appeal to hillwalkers, and anyone else who is curious about how this line on the map came to be where it is today.”

Seonaid Francis, editorial director of ThunderPoint, added: “This absorbing book is a well-researched exploration of the border through history and literature; it is a warmly-written and entertaining book, bursting with humour and a deep-rooted love of the Border regions from which Alasdair hails.”

Any royalties due to Allan from the sale of the book will be divided equally between the Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative, and the Maimie Martin Fund, a children’s charity in Malawi.

The author, who graduated from the University of Glasgow in Scottish Language and Literature, and gained a PhD in Scots language from the University of Aberdeen in 1998, has been the Gaelic-speaking MSP for Na h-Eileanan since 2007, served from 2011 to 2018 as a minister in the Scottish Government, most recently as minister for international development and Europe.

He has courted some controversy in his political career, including in 2013, when he was one of the few SNP members to vote against same-sex marriages, when he said he favoured the “traditional” definition of marriage.