Taking Helen Home

Kirriemuir, Scotland, like Taos, New Mexico, in my experience, is not easy to get to. It’s out of the way, off the beaten tourist path, which, like a secret between close friends, adds to its charms.

From Edinburgh’s airport, you take a half-hour bus ride into the city and get off at Waverley Station. From there you catch a clean, modern train north to Dundee, which takes just under an hour and a half, passing seemingly never-ending softly undulating green fields and hills dotted with fat cattle, sheep and horses. In Dundee you drag your suitcase for a half mile along cold and wet streets to the bus station, where you board a new, electric-hybrid, double-decker bus bound for Kirriemuir, which is another hour north.

A view of Kirriemuir from the Hill Cemetery

You arrive in Kirriemuir, Angus, in the evening’s rain and chill, find your old (17th century) hotel near the center of town, are led to your little room on the top floor, and sink into your cloudlike down-comforter-covered bed. You’ve come home.

The view from my hotel room at the Airlie Arms in Kirriemuir

Well, it’s not really my home, but I’ve given Kirriemuir so much thought in recent years while writing my newly published novel, Jamie’s Muse, it might as well be.

I first visited Kirriemuir seven summers ago to do on-the-ground research for this book because it was the home town of the novel’s main characters, my great-grandparents, Helen and William Black, as well as the town’s most famous son and Helen and Will’s contemporary, Peter Pan playwright James (“Jamie”) Barrie.

Barrie affectionately referred to Kirriemuir as his “wee red toony” (little red town) because most of its cottages, sitting shoulder to shoulder along narrow, winding roads, were built of locally quarried red sandstone.

J. M. Barrie’s enduring fame is everywhere evident here – from the child-size bronze Peter Pan statue in the town’s central square, to road signs leading to the home where he was born (now a museum), to arrows pointing to his grave stone in the town’s hilltop cemetery, to the names of local shops:

The plaque reads “J. M. Barrie Playwright”

This is a town where Jamie Barrie will rightfully always be remembered. But his childhood friend Helen Black, the female protagonist of my novel, who with her young husband Will died under mysterious circumstances far away in Natal, South Africa, leaving an orphaned son (destined to become my grandfather) behind, remains unknown. My single-minded mission on this particular long and winding journey has been to take Helen back home.

~ ~ ~

[Jamie’s Muse is available from www.amazon.com  or direct from the publisher at www.nighthawkpress.com.]

20 thoughts on “Taking Helen Home”

  1. What beautiful countryside and solid looking buildings! Thanks for taking us along to Kirriemuir, Bonnie. My best, Marge

  2. Bonnie – It is so fabulous that you are finally there in your town! And what a special blessing to be able to visit the town of your grandparents and your ancestors before them. After reading your Jamie’s Muse I so appreciated seeing your photos of the place it all began. Take more photos for us! Helen and William must be smiling on you!

    1. Thank you, Pamela dear. Yes, I can feel Helen and William smiling down. I’m so very happy to be in their home town and walking the streets they walked. Who knows, maybe they even came to this hotel/pub on a date; it was here in their day (and centuries before that). — xx

  3. Dear Bonnie,
    Thank you for this update on your voyage, which appears to be a voyage into the past. How beautiful the landscape is. It is a pleasure to connect these pictures with your evocative descriptions in Jamie’s Muse. In a sense, you must feel this is as a kind of homecoming. Helen would be so proud.
    Love,
    Paul

  4. Love that you were actually there, and great description of the trip. I was with you every stop and start.

    1. Thank you, Ellen, for your kind words. I’m still in Scotland, about to do my first reading this evening
      and hoping that there’ll be people in the seats in front of me…

  5. I started reading your book and couldn’t leave it before the last page. Oh Bonnie, there’s so much of you in will and Helen ‘s characters. It made me think of that time when I visited you in Taos and we had that wonderful ride, thanks to Barb’s bike to that lovely place filled with bird houses where you took out your pad and colors and started watercolouring. I love your book and would haveenjoyed meeting you in kirrie for sure.
    Ml xx

    1. Thank you, dearest Marie-Laure — I’m so very pleased that you enjoyed the book. Yes, you would have enjoyed Kirriemuir too. It’s been a wonderful trip, a dream come true for me. — My love to you, BB xx

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