Johnny Gibb of Gushetneuk, in the Parish of Pyketillim: With Glimpses of the Parish Politics about A.D. 1843
[These notes were made in 1987:]. Subtitle: in the parish of Pyketillim, with Glimpses of the Parish Politics about A.D. 1843. According to that bottomless source of Scottish literary trivia, my father, this William Alexander was something of a local notable, and certainly if his book was illustrated and went through seven editions, it must have had some popularity. Other books by Alexander are to be found in the DA section of the library, but this, being a work of fiction, sits in PR. Its most striking feature is the extensive use of phonetic representation of the Aberdeenshire dialect (which is in the mouths of all the characters). There is a less-than-adequate glossary at the back, and even with my Scots background, I was sometimes unable to puzzle out an idiomatic phrase here and there. On the whole, however, I was able to plough along at a fairly steady rate. (The narrative voice, by the way, is also noticeably Scots, but not so locally idiomatic, and not phonetically spelled out, thank goodness). Of story, there is little or none. Alexander is concerned (1) to draw a "gallery" of characters of all classes and trades in a small Aberdeenshire town and (2) to illustrate at the grass-roots level the founding of the Free Kirk of Scotland in the 1840s. His "gallery" is very successful, with the bossy wife, the gossipy henwife, the sturdy yeoman farmer, the negligent clergyman, the henpecked husband, the amorous farmhand, the successful shopkeeper, etc. all very nicely and vividly delineated. Johnny Gibb becomes perhaps just a tad too virtuous by the end, but not to the point where his character seems unreal. As to the church politics, I must admit that the endless discussions of non-intrusionism and the like made heavy going at times. But when they were holding weddings, or drinking sea-water for their health, I like these folk very much. Incidentally, the illustrations by George Reid are splendid - a stock of plain folk I recognized at once - broad-faced and a wee bit dour.