Hoolie returns with bang

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Book lovers were in their element earlier this month with the return of A Write Highland Hoolie, Mallaig’s much loved book festival.

And it really was a fabulous Hoolie.

The weekend kicked off on Friday November 12 with a free dram and an evening with Paul Murton and musicians Duncan Chisholm and Hamish Napier. Interspersing chat about Paul’s latest book, the Highland duo played tunes associated with some of the places featured. The trio had the audience enthralled, with Duncan and Hamish’s music adding an extra layer of depth and beauty to the conversation.

Donald S Murray chatted to Breege Smyth at A Write Highland Hoolie

Over the course of the weekend audiences were treated to talks by award-winning crime writers Chris Brookmyre and E S Thomson, with her wonderful Jem Flockhart series, Lewis author Donald S Murray, food writer Ghillie Basan and nature writer, journalist and wildlife guide Tom Bowser.

Leonie Charlton chatted about her book, Marram

Taynuilt author Leonie Charlton spoke beautifully about her book Marram – a very emotional journey about grief and acceptance. The talk was illustrated with some stunning photographs from her trek through the Outer Hebrides with a friend and two Highland ponies.

One of the organiser of the festival, Polly Pullar gave a very informative and amusing talk about her book A Scurry of Squirrels, delighting the audience with anecdotes of her experience hand-rearing kits for return to the wild.

The amazing Myrtle Simpson.

One of the highlights of the weekend was a talk by Myrtle Simpson, the ‘mother of Scottish skiing’ and the 10th woman to receive the Polar Medal. At 92 this incredible woman offered her audience a glimpse into her amazing life and adventures, one of which was being the first woman to cross Greenland’s polar ice cap.

Kilchrenan-based author Alan Windram judged this year’s creative writing competition. He is pictured with the winners at the prize giving.

The festival also took a few of the authors into the schools for events, with authors Vivian French and Alan Windram visiting Mallaig Primary School, and Chris Brookmyre and Donald Murray (Donald’s in Gaelic) spending time at the High School. There was also a special workshop for senior English pupils with Vivian French, Lee Randall and literary agent Jenny Brown.

Following the weekend, Polly Pullar said: ‘After a depressing year off, we all felt that we came back with the kind of joie de vivre and camaraderie for which the Hoolie is recognised.

‘This is all down to teamwork, and to those authors and musicians who contribute every year. A Write Highland Hoolie is not for shrinking violets and we were so thrilled that everyone who was there added to the atmosphere and helped to make the weekend a great success.

‘We were also so thrilled to have expanded more into the local schools with author visits and to have had the inauguration of a wonderful music workshop – The Hoolie School of Music Sessions – with Duncan Chisholm and Hamish Napier.

‘Music is such an integral part of our book festival too. Everyone was thrilled that not only did this brilliant duo play as they chatted to broadcaster Paul Murton for our celebration opening event, but also after dinner. And on Saturday, we were treated to the equally brilliant husband and wife team, Ingrid Henderson and Iain McFarlane. It really was A Write Highland Hoolie.’