Angus MacDonald of Arisaig, Scotland – and author of ‘Ardnish Was Home’ and ‘We Fought for Ardnish’ – is touring Nova Scotia over the coming days, discussing the life and times of Highlanders, their way of life, and where and why they immigrated. Recently we spoke with him about the books.
Tell us about your recent book.
‘We Fought for Ardnish’ is the story of a young Donald Angus Gillies growing up in the west highlands of Scotland, joining the army and going off to train the French Resistance in the Alps. Here he meets a Cape Breton girl who is about to embark on a dangerous mission. Things don’t go well at this stage, but it does have a happy ending.
Is it a sequel?
Yes. My first book – ‘Ardnish Was Home’ – came out two years ago and is a best seller in Scotland. The third in the series, a prequel, will be out after New Year. It is called ‘Ardnish.’
Who would readers likely to compare your work to?
Alister Macleod is, of course, my role model – highlands and Nova Scotia. Perhaps mine is more romantic.
Is ‘We Fought for Ardnish’ based on a true story?
The stories of the Highlands and Nova Scotia are true, and the military piece is true to life – as is the time-scale – however the hero and heroine are fictional.
What role does Nova Scotia play in the books?
There are two distinct Nova Scotian lines; my cousins emigrated to the Mabou area almost two hundred years ago, and I follow that theme; secondly, the brave Cape Breton girl who took on an incredibly harrowing task in World War II. It has been a delight combining Cape Breton and the Scottish Highlands together – a natural pairing.
You dedicated the book to your father, why him in particular?
My father, Rory, brought me up with the stories of the highlands, ands these have been essential for the authenticity of the books. He also encouraged me to turn the collection of stories into novels which has broadened their interest hugely.
Did you enjoy writing the books?
I didn’t start writing until I was fifty. I am now fifty-six, so I am new to it. I adore it, I need to be incredibly focused; four months of 4am starts, then the editing takes over for another four months. As much fun are the book festivals, events etc.
What would you like readers to remember about your books?
A great read, true to life and a nice way to soak in history.
How might you describe the genre of your works?
Romantic, historical, highland; the film the English Patient, Rosamunde Pilcher books, Poldark – these are the genres I aspire to.
Where is Ardnish?
Ardnish is a finger of land, poking into the Atlantic Ocean just to the south of the Isle of Skye. Almost 200 people lived there in 1841, now its empty apart from derelict settlements. It is a gorgeous place that just needed to have books written about it.
You have a busy life – how did you find the time to write these books?
Yes, I am busy! I have had a good business career; I am the Vice President of The National Trust for Scotland, I have The Moidart Trust helping businesses on my beloved west coast, and I am building a cinema for your local town Fort William. However, I believe that if you have a real interest in something them you find the time for a beloved pastime. I adore the Highlands, the people and the culture what better way to be involved than via these books and also initiatives like the Highland Cinema.
Angus Macdonald on tour
July 23, 7pm – Judique Community Centre, Judique
July 24, 7pm – Antigonish Heritage Museum, Antigonish
July 25, 7pm – Common Good Solutions, Halifax