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A Highlander and his Books
Boulders at Hirti Geo
By Jim Hewitson

A Book Review By Frank R. Shaw, FSA SCOT, Atlanta, GA, USA, email: 

Over the years, I have reviewed several of Jim Hewitson’s books, so that should tell you something about him! Suffice it to say he is a good writer who tells a tale and keeps you coming back for more. Boulders at Hirti Geo is one of his best books. It is a compilation of his selected poems, newspaper and magazine articles, plays, short stories, children’s stories, essays and observations from 1966 through 2007.

This is a book that Bill Bryson, another of my favorite writers, endorses by saying, “I just loved this book”. Here you have one best-selling author writing about another best-selling author, both among my favorites, so it doesn’t get much better than that for me. I wholeheartedly agree with Bill Bryson, who is an author I would pay to hear speak. Jim Hewitson, is another!

I must confess I did not know Jim Hewitson was a poet, a playwright, or a writer of children’s stories. For years I thought I was beyond children’s stories. But then, almost eight years ago, my first grandchild, Ian Bascombe Shaw (named after both my father and grandfather) was born, followed by his sister, Stirling Elizabeth, two years later. It is interesting to observe how one’s interests dramatically change when these little ones come into your life, usually in the middle of the night, steal your heart, and never give it back! I digress! Forgive me!

The author admits that he left the corridors of Clydebank High School “with a pretty unimpressive set of exam passes”…with ears stinging from his English teacher’s rebuke that “you’ll make nothing of this subject, Hewitson”!  That is bad to say to a young person who has now, a lifetime later, proven his teacher wrong and is currently a great wordsmith. A teacher of Sir Walter Scott once said to him, “You are a dunce!” and went on to predict that Scott would never amount to much. What is it about these English teachers who draw a line in the sand and dare you to cross it? Years after I had graduated, my high school principal sent for me to visit him on his dying bed and he apologized for some of the things he had said to me during my North Charleston (SC) High School years, including his advice to “not waste your money going to college”. As I look back, he may have been right, but the things he said challenged me to show him I could make it in college (dean’s list senior year) and even better grades in graduate school  (master’s degree)!

As Hewitson says in his book, “I was reminded of the lovely story about the Orkney worthy whose death was wrongly reported in the local paper. Asked for his reaction to this odd turn of events he said: ‘I read it, but I didna’ believe it’.” We don’t believe some of the things we are told as youngsters, but we can use them as the Orkney worthy and paraphrase by saying, “I heard you, but I didna’ believe it!”

One critic mentioned that Jim’s poetry was like playing tennis with the net down. I disagree and, if you are like me and love free verse, you will find his poetry refreshing and interesting. Question: What has the critic ever done but criticize?! Jim Hewitson may not be a Lord Byron or a Sir Walter Scott in the field of poetry, but he more than holds his own with many today.

Jim inscribed his book “To Frank, with kind thoughts, Jim Hewitson”. That is exactly what his books will make you do - have kind thoughts about your life now and way back when.

On a card sent along with the book, he wrote: “Frank, hope you enjoy the book. Some of the poems arise from my days as a news reporter. Sometimes I felt a need for closure on some of the sadder stories and free verse did the trick. Jim”

This “accidental wordsmith” has spent forty years writing for various publications, has twelve books to his credit with another on the way. He is the father of three children of whom he and lovely wife Morag are very proud, and for the last quarter century has lived on the beautiful Orkney island of Papa Westray. The Hewitsons operate a B&B called School Place  which was the island’s Free Presbyterian School in the mid-1880’s. This is definitely one place Susan and I look forward to visiting. This is the fifth season the Hewitson’s B & B has been in business and has had visitors from 35 countries. Jim also shows his love and concern for all creatures great and small by being a lover of “a giant menagerie of animals”. This book, a collection that has something for everyone, is dedicated to “those who wonder if they have a story in them - you have”, he says, “believe me, you have”. My simple advice: go for it!

Boulders at Hirti Geo is available directly from the author for £9.99 plus postage. The book is published by The Accidental Wordsmith, School Place, Papa Westray, Orkney, KW17 2BU, Scotland.  You can also email Jim Hewitson for a copy of his book at (FRS: 5.5.08)

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