Borders author bases Dandie Dinmont adventure at Abbotsford House
Visitors to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo might not know Alasdair Hutton’s face – but they’ll certainly know his voice.
For he is now in his 28th year of writing the script and narrating the show.
But it’s not the only feather in the 79-year-old’s cap – he is also an accomplished author.
And he has recently published a book which was first promised four years ago.
In his role as chairman of the Sir Walter Scott Club in Edinburgh, Alasdair was invited to an event at Abbotsford in summer 2015.
During his speech to the Dandie Dinmont owners, he pledged to write a children’s book featuring one of Scotland’s rarest dog breeds.
The former journalist and broadcast announcer set to work almost immediately.
It has taken him four long years to see the finished work in print.
However, Alasdair, who has lived in Kelso for 36 years, is pleased with the end result, Mustard and Pepper.
Published by Curly Tale Books in Wigtown, the book also features stunning artwork by artist William Gorman, who lives in a flat above the publishers.
Alasdair said: “I promised the Dandie Dinmont owners that I would write a book featuring the dogs as I finished my speech in 2015.
“It was at an event at Sir Walter Scott’s home, Abbotsford House, which celebrated 200 years since the publication of his second, and perhaps most famous, novel, Guy Mannering.
“In the book, the character Dandie Dinmont – whom the dog breed Sir Walter Scott loved is named after – had several terriers, all of whom were called Mustard or Pepper.
“So I started writing a children’s book featuring two Dandie Dinmont’s called Mustard and Pepper.
“I wrote it immediately after the event but it has taken the agent quite some time to find a publisher.
“William Gorman has a flat above the publishers and they asked him if he would do the illustrations.
“He’s a frightfully good artist and he went to a great deal of trouble to be absolutely accurate in the drawings, from the dogs to Abbostford House.
“I’m really pleased with the finished product and I’m glad that it seems to be selling well – it’s nice if people buy it!
“The publisher said she thought another book would be good so I’m now trying to think of another adventure for these little dogs.”
Success in print is nothing new for Alasdair though as The Tattoo Fox, written after the producer of the Tattoo spotted a fox in the stands one night, was published in 2013 and won the Heart of Hawick Book Award the following year.
The Tattoo Fox Makes New Friends was published in 2014 and in 2016 Alasdair compiled a Treasury of Scottish Nursery Rhymes.
He has already written another fox book, which he hopes to publish soon, in addition to hopefully continuing with the Mustard and Pepper series.
Alasdair has also penned a book about the Tattoo for adults. The Greatest Show on Earth was published in 2016 to mark his 25th year as narrator.
He said: “I got a call out of the blue from the Tattoo asking me to do it and this is now my 28th year.
“It’s terrific fun and I’ve met a lot of very interesting and entertaining people over the years.
“I’ve also been asked to narrate at Tattoo events all over the world – Australia, New Zealand, America, the Netherlands and Bermuda.”
It’s perhaps apt that Alasdair was selected for the job; his military background certainly qualifies him.
“I served with the Scottish TA Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, better known as 15 Para,” he said.
“We jumped out of planes here, there and everywhere. We even tried to jump into Libya once but they had to pull us back.
“In 1997, the Battalion celebrated its 50th anniversary and I wrote a book about that too.
“To my astonishment, this year it has been brought back to life again and I had to have it reprinted as there were something like 100 orders!”
Although now retired, it’s clear that Alasdair has no plans to sit at home with his pipe and slippers.
And the publisher is delighted to hear it.
Jayne Baldwin said: “We have been absolutely delighted with the reception the book has had so far. It’s been winging its way all over the world!”
Mustard and Pepper is available now, priced £7.99, from curlytalebooks.co.uk/product/mustard-and-pepper, as well as independent and online booksellers.
Colourful career worth a book in its own right
Alasdair Hutton may already be an accomplished author but an autobiography should surely also be on the cards.
For he has lived an interesting life, visiting countries all over the globe. When his father died in 1954, Alasdair and his mother emigrated to Australia. Leaving school, he landed his first job on a commercial radio station in Brisbane. He then became a reporter for the Age Newspaper in Melbourne. When he returned to Scotland, he worked with the Aberdeen Press and Journal, before becoming an announcer with the BBC, working in Scotland, Northern Ireland and London. Alasdair also served with the 15 Paras from 1964 to 1986.
A career in politics followed: he was elected to the European Parliament in which he served from 1979 to 1989.
Having worked freelance for a time, in 1992 came the call from the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
It is a job that he has relished every year since. Indeed, as we’re chatting, he’s preparing to head out to narrate yet another amazing night on the Castle Esplanade.
Many readers will recognise Alasdair from his time serving with Scottish Borders Council.
He was elected councillor for Kelso in the by-election of 2002 and the following year became the convener, a post he held for 10 years before deciding to retire in 2013.
But he has no plans yet to give up his Tattoo role and has also been busy writing, his latest book proving that age is no barrier to success.
Alasdair enjoys writing for children and liked working with them too, in his role as honorary colonel of the Lothian and Borders Battalion of the Army Cadet Force from 2006 to 2009.
An interesting journey, I’m sure you’ll agree, which is surely worth a book ... watch this space!