Angus MacDonald’s first book in his Ardnish trilogy was two decades in the making.
The businessman-turned author – a UK Entrepreneur of the Year with an OBE under his belt for services to the Highlands – struggled to find the time to put down on paper his father’s stories from the past.
But so successful was the first, Ardnish Was Home, that the second We Fought For Ardnish, soon followed. Now the third in the series Ardnish: A Novel takes us back to where it all began.
The romantic trilogy is set on the breathtaking Ardnish peninsula, west of Fort William and spans three generations and three wars in the lives of the fictional Gillies family. It is inspired by the author’s 86-year-old father Rory, and is firmly rooted in finely researched historical detail, with a dose of MacDonald family lore thrown in for good measure.
Author Angus – owner of The Highland Bookshop in Fort William, who in September will launch an exciting new cultural, cinema and café hub in the town – tells P.S: “My father has been the inspiration for the Ardnish trilogy. But I also owe thanks to my ancestors Colonel William MacDonald and his son Andrew, who fought in the Boer War, and in the First and Second World Wars.”
He explains: “My family served with Lovatt Scouts in the Boer War and they wrote very detailed letters home. I have those letters, my father gave them to me. They are a treasure trove. I have been able to come up with extraordinary information and I have been out to follow the route of the Lovatt Scouts in Gallipoli and South Africa.”
Angus, who with his wife of 33 years Michie, has four sons, explains the timing for the prequel: “The big untold story of the first two books was the founding of the Lovatt Scouts in order to fight the Boer War in 1899. The Lovatt Scouts were real heroes.
“The new book is largely set in 1944. Donald John Gillies is an old man and as he lays dying, he is reliving his life in his thoughts – he is herding Boer families to concentration camps, but he falls in love with one of the women. In typical Angus fashion there is absolutely zero sex in the book. When I grow up I’m going to learn about these things,” he laughs.
Angus, who has to juggle authorship with his business life, oozes energy and enthusiasm. “I get up at 4.30am and write until 8am at the dining room table. I am very disciplined,” he tells P.S.
It’s no surprise, he is one of a long line of soldiers having left school at 16 to join The Queen’s Own Highlanders. Academia, he says, wasn’t for him. He later ventured into the world of finance and business. He is a self-taught writer, but it doesn’t show. His novels are a rich tapestry depicting Highland life and the horrors of war.
With the exuberance of youth he beams: “I have already written a fourth book. The Canadian grandson of the last Gillies of Ardnish returns and it is expected out next year.”
Angus MacDonald, Ardnish: A Novel, Birlinn Ltd, £8.99
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