Hometown Tales from the Boy in the Bubble

Soren Kristensen

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‘I have had a really creative spell,’ said Colin MacIntyre, a musician and novelist from Mull, as he releases his memoir and first children’s book this month.

Colin, the singer-songwriter behind Mull Historical Society, set his first novel on Mull, The Letters of Ivor Punch, which won the Edinburgh Book Festival’s First Book Award.

Now he has published a memoir about growing up on the island, in Hometown Tales: Highlands and Hebrides, the latest in a series of books focusing on talented and important writers in Britain’s regions, so far from Glasgow, the Midlands, Yorkshire, Wales, Birmingham, Lancashire, and the South Coast.

Colin’s ‘bright, funny and deeply felt’ story, The Boy in the Bubble, sits beside a tale by Ellen MacAskill, A9, described as ‘a captivating piece of short fiction about a girl torn between her love in Inverness and the chance to spread her wings’.

Then, the day after Colin’s memoir is published on June 28, he launches his first children’s picture book, called The Humdrum Drum and published by Argyll-based Little Door Books, with illustrations by Chilean artist Catherine Thomann, and accompanied by a CD of Colin’s original songs. It is described as ‘a heartwarming tale of friendship and why being different is a good thing’.

‘The orchestra drum is feeling very humdrum because he thinks he is being banged and boomed,’ Colin explains. ‘When Drum is feeling unhappy he stops playing and the entire orchestra comes to an embarrassing halt. But with the help of his friends – a cast of colourful instruments, as well as ironing mice, dish-washing ants and shaving pigeons – Drum realises that without him keeping the beat, they lose their way and that they need him to save the day.

Colin MacIntyre's first children's picture book, The Humdrum Drum, is accompanied by three specially written songs on CD.
Colin MacIntyre’s first children’s picture book, The Humdrum Drum, is accompanied by three specially written songs on CD.

‘I wanted to pen a musical tale about teamwork and togetherness with catchy accompanying songs for all ages. My own girls helped me with the tunes so it was a family affair!’

Little Door Books director Susan Windram said: ‘The Humdrum Drum is a wonderful book that reflects Colin’s literary and lyrical talent. It is fun and quirky, while at the same time offering a strong positive message. It is a book that families will love.’

Colin was born into a family of writers and storytellers. ‘My grandfather used to tell us we were descendants of the warrior-poet Duncan Ban Macintyre,’ Colin said, ‘but I’m still waiting on my shield.’

That grandfather, Angus MacIntyre, was a bank manager and bard on Mull, while the other, John Kilsop, was the island’s plumber. ‘One was keeping the island afloat while the other kept it from sinking,’ Colin said.

His works draw on island characters he knew, such as skippers in the Mishnish, Mull’s own Evel Knievel, Iain ‘Eeny’ Brown. ‘Evel Knievel used to jump cars,’ Colin said: ‘Eeny used to jump human beings on his BMX on Tobermory football pitch. One summer he jumped 17 bodies. I still remember Eeny going over me in his Bruce Lee t-shirt on his BMX.’

Colin, who now lives in London with his family, said: ‘I am always an islander, even trapped in the underground. I am always disappointed when ‘Mind the gap’ is not replayed in Gaelic.’

His mum had the hairdressers in Tobermory, while his father, the late Kenny MacIntyre, BBC Scotland’s political correspondent. In his memoir, he said, ‘I have laid myself bare and how I miss my dad dreadfully. One song [in his upcoming album] is about saying goodbye on a Monday morning.’

Colin and his dad, Kenny MacIntyre.
Colin and his dad, Kenny MacIntyre.

The Mull Historical Society’s eighth album Wakelines, produced by Bernard Butler, releases in September, as Colin embarks on a UK tour, finishing at the first Tobermory Book Festival at Mull Theatre on October 27.

He is also writing his second novel, and adapting his first, The Letters of Ivor Punch, for a stage play, The Origins of Ivor Punch, due to perform at Oran Mor in Glasgow later this year. ‘I can’t stop,’ Colin said.