Monday, September 07, 2009

Inspiration from the Highlands of Scotland!

September 18th sees the release of the UK edition of Kidnapped from M&B Single Titles. The book is a homage to the classic novel Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, but the background and setting are very different from the original story. One of the places that features in the book and which inspired it is the Scottish village of Sheildaig.

Sheildaig, on the west coast in the Highlands, was constructed in Napoleonic times specifically to provide and train sailors for the Royal Navy. This was the idea of the Duke of Argyle who was a member of the Board of the Admiralty. The site was considered to be a good position for a village and there were already some crofters living in the area and raising sheep and cattle. However, no one could initially be found to build the village and it was not until 1810 that construction began. A budget of £2,700 was allocated to build the three main streets. At the same time, the little island out in the bay, now known as Sheildaig Island, was planted with pine trees to provide timber for rigging for the warships.

In order to tempt people to populate the village, the government offered generous grants for boat-building, guaranteed prices for fish supplies, promised quantities of duty-free salt, allocated plenty of land for all new tenants, and built a new road to connect Shieldaig with Kishorn and Lochcarron. The people who came to live in Shieldaig prospered as a result. They were able to build large boats in order to fish in the outer waters, and the salt allowed them to cure their fish catches at low cost before sending them southwards to markets. The plan was that such experienced and talented sailors would be ideal to draft into the Navy during wartime and a training school for Naval mariners was also established. However, the construction of Sheildaig was not complete until 1815, by which time the threat that Napoleon had posed was gone, the sailors and boat-building specialists were not required, the short-lived Naval Academy was closed and the little port became a fishing village instead.

These days Sheildaig is one of the prettiest villages on the West Coast of Scotland and the island in the bay has become a nature reserve. It’s clear to see that the village was designed and built to a particular plan and the long main street that runs along the harbour is particularly picturesque. It’s one of the places that we return to time and again when we are in Wester Ross although the tranquil village of today is no doubt a far cry from the brief spell of construction and activity during the Napoleonic Wars!

Nicola Cornick


kate tremayne said...

Fascinating post Nicola. I love the cover of kidnapped and know it will be another great read. Looking forward to the 18th and getting my copy.

Nicola Cornick said...

Thank you, Kate! I hope you enjoy the book. The cover is very pretty, I think. I'm very lucky!

I knew that landlords had moved a number of people to the coast as part of the Highland Clearances but I hadn't come across a village specifically designed and built to provide a source of sailors for the British Navy. Interesting idea!

Louise Allen said...

Kate - you've got a treat instore - Kidnapped is a fabulous read! And a fascinating post, thank you, Nicola.