We all have a function in the world

My grandfather came from the Island of Arran on the west coast of Scotland and I spent quite a lot of time there as a boy. As it is close to the central belt it attracted a lot of holiday makers who headed for the hills, but not all were experienced or equipped for the conditions there.

There was one occasion when a group of young climbers got lost on one of the western hill groups – Beinn Bharrain and Bheinn Bhreac [Ben Varn and Ben Vrack for the non Gaelic speakers among us] and the mountain rescue team was called in from the mainland. I remember standing with my Dad and the local farmer, Donald MacMillan as these experts got ready to do their stuff. They came in all the fancy gear and piled high with equipment as they discussed the routes and techniques they would adopt.

Old Donald MacMillan gave his advice, which was politely listened to and then ignored, and the heroes tramped off, brightly coloured and confident, into the dusk.

‘Well Tam,’ Donald said to my Dad, ‘they’re off the wrong way then. Shall we go and rescue the missing lads.’

My Dad nodded. I don’t think he said anything; he never did say much anyway. He and Donald put on their boots. Donald knew the hills; he was a shepherd and could read the weather and the granite and the heather after a lifetime of experience. He knew that in the prevailing weather conditions the missing men would have followed a certain ridge to a certain spot and then would have been unable to get back.

He took my Dad right to them and was back within a few hours. He had the missing men safe and warm long before the experts returned.

Is there a moral to this story?

Yes: we al have a role to play in life. Some have all the paper qualifications in the world and others have none, but that does not mean they have no skills. Everybody has some skill;  often they do not know what it is, or have not been asked to display it. I work with some lads who have no formal qualifications. They are not stupid, it is just that the world has not yet recognise their potential.

The ‘expert’ rescue team discarded Donald’s skills because they thought they knew better; they were highly trained and he was only a rural shepherd. I learned never to discount anybody. There are always hidden talents and skills. People are multi layered and often hide their potential.

We all have a function.

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Feelings of publication

Today my Liverpool: Gangs, Vice and Packet rats is published. It is a strange feeling to know that people will soon be reading words that I have written, and not only reading them, but actually paying to read them.

It is humbling and very scary. All these months of research, these months of head scratching horror hunting for the right word, the telling phrase, the correct anecdote to illustrate a particular point; all on public view.

The reader will only see the result and not the labour. She or he will never know the effort required to get that final effect; she or he will not be aware of the copy editing, the searching of libraries and archives, the re-writes and re-re-writes, the despair when a chapter just does not work out or the utter jubilation when information is finally located that ties a chapter together.

I remember the characters as if they were old friends rather than long dead people from the past; I remember Bob Pembleton who said ‘damn thee; you little knew Bob Pembleton if thee thought to rob him and get off without a tussle.’ I remember middle aged Ann Crelin who was abducted and dragged to Gretna Green for a forced marriage; I remember the ferocious High-rip gang and the Packet Rats who sailed to New York, the sisters who poisoned an unknown number of victims and the police who bravely battled a sea of crime. For a while that was my world, but now it is open to all the world to view.

I hope the readers enjoy my work. I hope they smile as I smile, frown when I frowned, shake their heads in horror at the depths of evilness some people had and nod with satisfaction when the Liverpool police get their man – or woman.

So here we go; now my Liverpool Crime book is out there.




Posted in Abduction, crime, England, Gretna Green, Historical Crime, Liverpool, murder, New York, Shipping | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Attack in France

Shocking news from France. I am sure that every decent person in the world will condemn this attack on an office of unarmed journalists and writers.

There is little doubt that the attackers claim to be Islamists but equally little doubt that they do not represent the vast majority of decent followers of Islam. These were brutal, savage murderers. To judge by their movements and calm appearance, they were trained and professional – assassins rather than people motivated by sudden anger.

Unfortunately there are too many such creatures in the world today; we live in a society where violence seems to be the answer to many disputes. It is time we grew out of this school playground mentality and matured.

All thoughts are with the relatives of those people who were murdered or injured by these sub-humans.

Today it is a case of Vive la France


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Heritage of class

The first day of the year, so my wife hung up a new calendar. You know the type: big glossy picture on top and the dates beneath. I happen to like calendars but I have never really thought about the pictures before.

This month’s illustration was of a huge country house down in Herefordshire in England. There is no doubt it is a lovely building surrounded by beautiful grounds, but the reason for its existence and the power by which it was maintained tend to remove the gloss. This magnificent building was created as the home – 0ne home – for a single family who were looked after by a small army of servants drawn from the so called ‘lower orders.’

The class system, whereby one group of society literally lorded it over all others purely by virtue of birth. What a foul system of established inequality, and yet it still exists to some extent or another in many if not most countries in the world. Money, privilege, rank – among people or nations – what a sick concept when so many millions of people throughout the world are living on the cusp of desperate poverty.

This is 2015; have we not advanced beyond greed as a motivation for living? This world has enough resources to give everybody a decent quality of life, yet it is so unfairly divided that a very few have far more than many millions. I am not advocating any ‘ism’ as a quick fix, but I do think that we should all look at ourselves in this new year and try to advocate some more equality among our fellow humans.

Our shared heritage of care, concern and mutual aid in times of crisis should be lauded and celebrated. Anything divisive should most definitely not.


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The waiting part

Writing is lonely, exciting, frustrating, interesting, exhausting and soul destroying. It is neither a job nor a pleasure, but a necessity. If is a writer, then one has to write: anything else in completely unthinkable; any other occupation is a waste of time.

Am I a writer? I am beginning to think so. I have twenty seven hard-copy books published over the past twenty four years, plus some e-books and I don’t-know-how-many articles, chapters, bits and pieces and other things. Yet until a few  weeks ago I did not think of myself as a writer. I was a postman who wrote, a lecturer who wrote, a researcher who wrote, a husband who wrote, a Dad who wrote, but never a writer.

Why the difference in attitude? I do not know. It just is, and that is all there is to it.

At the beginning of this week I finished a First World War novel I have entitled Our Land of Palestine. It may be successful or it may not. I do not know. My last First World War book, Last Train to Waverley, published in September was fairly well received so I can only hope for the same. I am very fortunate that my publisher for Waverley was Fledgling Press,  a tolerant, dynamic and friendly bunch of people in Edinburg with whom I have been working for some years. All the same, now I have submitted the manuscript, the waiting period will be as nerve wracking as ever.

Will they like it? Will they accept it? Is the standard high enough? Have I taken too many liberties with history? Are the characters well drawn? I do not know. I know what I wanted to say, what points I hoped to make and what impact I tried to have, but will Fledgling agree?

I do not know.

The waiting comes now.

But while I wait, the New Year will start and will roll on. Happy New Year everybody. I hope that whatever you wait for comes to pass in the best possible way and that 2015 is the year for which you have waited all your life.

Good health, peace and happiness to you all.



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Thoughts about Palestine

Hi Folks

I hope all of you are enjoying the Christmas period, when Christians celebrate the birth of Our Lord and many non-Christians take the opportunity to have family gatherings or just relax for a few days.

It happened that I was finishing the draft of my next First World War novel – Our Land of Palestine -and I wondered again at the utter futility of war. Why after all these centuries, do supposedly intelligent governments of supposedly civilised nations still persist in sending their young men and women out to kill and maim young men and women of other nations? You would think that after so many thousands of years of experience we would come up with a better way of settling disputes, but no, we resort to killing.

Our Land of Palestine is set in the Middle East – hence the name and behind the obvious story of derring-do, bravery and foolishness, there are some serious questions of nationalism, ownership and the sheer cynicism of powerful men and powerful nations who use others as pawns in their own machinations. The Palestine campaign of the First World War has been all but forgotten in the current feast of centenary remembrance, but it was a theatre whose repercussions are still with us. It was because of that campaign that Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine and Saudi Arabia were created; in other words, much of the Middle East.

Born in the bloodshed of war, they have seldom been at peace since. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the individual states, surely it is time that the ordinary people of that area were given a fair chance of a peaceful life? It does not matter what race, religion or creed they belong to, but in this most Holy time of the year, let us hope for a brighter 2015 for them all and an end to bloodshed, whoever is to blame.

May God, by whatever name he is called, bless us all.



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Scottish Referendum

I am Scottish, born and bred, with countless generations of Scottish ancestors going back to Eve and MacAdam. My wife is Scottish, my children are Scottish, I work in Scotland and I write books about Scotland for Scottish publishers. All these are facts.

At present this small country of ours is locked in an increasingly bitter dabate about independence. Should Scotland break free from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and be an independent country again – as she was from 843 AD until 1707, or should Scotland continue to be part of the Union that has lasted for 307 years. There are arguments on both sides, both emotive and economic, with facts and fictions thrown about like tartan confetti by various politicians.

I am not going to advise anybody which way to vote: I am certainly no politician. What I will say is this: we live in a democracy, with the power to make this decision via the ballot box. Nobody is forcing us to choose at the point of a gun. Yes there are economic threats put out by one camp, and economic promises by the other, but there are no armed soldiers or even armed police on the streets here and please God there never will be.

The people of this nation – Scotland – and of the nation to the south of us – England – fought and struggled for centuries to achieve the right to vote. Democracy did not come easy; it came at a high price of bloodshed, imprisonment, state sponsored violence against the people and many hard decisions. It is freedom; it is something more important than where politicians live or what lies they tell.
Democracy is a very precious gift. A fundamental right.

So whoever wins the referendum, let us all remember that the next day the people have decided. Let us accept the outcome and move on in peace, having shown we are a mature people who deserve democracy and can accept the outcome, whether or not our side has won.
Malcolm Archibald

Posted in accessibility, history, life experience, People, publication, books, author, publishers, Scotland | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment