Thursday, 1 September 2011

"The Song Of The Rolling Earth" - John Lister-Kaye

I've only recently come upon the writing of John Lister-Kaye, an omission in my reading which I can neither excuse or indeed account for, so I still have several other volumes to look forward to in the coming winter months.

"The Song Of The Rolling Earth", subtitled "A Highland Odyssey", is the story of the Aigas Field Centre which he founded in 1977 in a remote house in the Scottish Highlands. If you click on the link above you'll find that you can take a wildlife holiday there and experience the area for yourself. (Another long-time resident on my to-do list!).

But it's a lot more than a dry factual account of the centre's history. And it's not just an advertisement for Aigas Wildlife Holidays either, though it would serve admirably for that purpose. The book covers many stories.

It's the saga of the development of the Highland landscape from prehistory to the present. It's the biography of the house from Victorian respectability, to near ruin, to eventual resurrection. It traces the development of Lister-Kaye himself as a landscape scholar and human being. But it is also the tale of the local inhabitants, the weather and seasons, the animals of the hills, the fish in the streams, the birds of the air, the guests and staff who come to Aigas...... 

All these various threads and many more are artfully intertwined by the storyteller so that the whole book hangs together as a glorious tapestry. The writing is considered and skillful. The overall mood of the book is of the mature John Lister-Kaye sitting alone at the fireside of his oak-panelled study, glass of Scotch in hand, gazing contemplatively upon the landscape outside his window as it springs to life with the memories and dreams released from the depths of his heart.

The story should be savoured in similar unhurried fashion, though if you haven't any whisky a good cup of tea will do nicely. 

Take care.


  1. This is one of my favourite books John and if you like it then I am sure you will also like his 'Nature's Child' which tells the story of his daughter Hermione growing up through her experiences with nature. Delightful.

  2. It looks a very special place John.
    Watched something about it on Countryfile once.

  3. Thank you for your comments. I intend to get around to his other books quite soon.


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