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Frankenstein Dundee                                 September 11.

Scotland's Memoir                              Film on Youtube

Award for Scots                                          Video Link


Frankenstein Dundee

 BBC Radio Scotland     Tuesday September 11,  2018  at 13.32 

Rpt  Sunday Sept 16th at 07.04 and world wide on the BBC iPlayer for 30 days after broadcast:


 In 2018 we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein which was inspired by her 15 month stay as a young girl "on the blank and dreary northern shores of the Tay near Dundee."  Here Billy Kay explores the Dundee connections, her relationship with her hosts the linen manufacturing  Baxter family, and the novels lasting effects on literature and film. These are the famous lines she wrote in her introduction to the 1831 edition of this seminal Gothic novel:


"I lived principally in the country as a girl, and passed a considerable time in Scotland. I made occasional visits to the more picturesque parts; but my habitual residence was on the blank and dreary northern shores of the Tay, near Dundee. Blank and dreary on retrospection I call them; they were not so to me then. They were the eyry of freedom, and the pleasant region where unheeded I could commune with the creatures of my fancy. I wrote then—but in a most common-place style. It was beneath the trees of the grounds belonging to our house, or on the bleak sides of the woodless mountains near, that my true compositions, the airy flights of my imagination, were born and fostered.


 Mary's intense relationship with Isabella Baxter, the influence of "The Devil" David Booth, the visits to the plague pits and witch burning sites, the carnal smells, sights and sounds of the arrival of the Dundee whaling fleet and the experiments with galvinism on corpses within the anatomy classses of Edinburgh and Glasgow – all of these will be examined for their influence on a young woman's fertile imagination and her monstrous creation of the iconic novel Frankenstein. 


Billy is joined by Angela Wright of the University of Sheffield, author of Mary Shelley, and by Daniel Cook, Eddie Small and Lauren Christie of the University of Dundee who place the novel within the Gothic tradition of English literature and examine its influence on popular culture. Gordon Bannerman from Guelph Humber University in Canada talks about the complex relationships within the Baxter family.  Andrew Murray Scott author of Dundee's Literary Lives meets Billy on the Frankenstein Steps in South Baffin Street, Dundee – which is both the site of The Cottage where Mary stayed with the Baxters and the site of the cinema which showed James Whale's famous film Frankenstein in 1931, exactly 100 years after Mary described the "airy flights" of her imagination taking off there in the preface of 1831!


 The author of Whalehunters Malcolm Archibald describes Dundee as a whaling port – a direct influence on the Arctic explorer Walton's framing narrative in the novel. Billy also interviews two Scottish novelists who have taken fictional characters from Frankenstein, and real life characters from Mary's time in Dundee to create their own vivid accounts of the period. George Rosie takes Victor Frankenstein through the real science of galvinism in Scotland in his novel Death's Enemy. Lesley McDowell explores Gothic themes and madness in her novel Unfashioned Creatures through the characters of Isabella Baxter and David Booth, both of whom figure prominently in the story of Mary Shelley and Dundee.


Finally, the words of Mary Shelley in the programme are read by a young Scottish actress Eleanor House, who also reads a poignant verse from Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem Rosalind & Helen from 1819, believed to be modeled on the relationship between Mary and Isabella Baxter.  Mary's biographer Miranda Seymour wrote "Shelley's poem, written to please Mary, looked back to Scotland through the eyes of two young women exiled to Italy"


                                Talk with me                                

      Of that our land, whose wilds and floods,

      Barren and dark although they be,

      Were dearer than these chestnut woods;

      Those heathy paths, that inland stream,

      And the blue mountains, shapes which seem

      Like wrecks of childhood's sunny dream;


Mike Alexander wrote an excellent preview of it in The Courier





Scotland's Memoir                                    Film on Youtube

 I was proud to contribute to this lovely film about Scotland – this is who we are.        







Meikle thenks for aw the kind words anent ma speech at #NaTrads.  Ablow is a link tae ma bittie.


My section of the brilliant MG Alba programme for those who want to see the wee film and hear my speech. Thanks to all those who have commented on it and who have supported me in the guid cause.

 Many thanks to bees knees media for supplying a link to the clip:


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