Friday, 12 December 2014


Photograph © Murdo MacLeod

New dramatisation set in North-East Scotland

Writing what sadly became his final novel, Iain Banks exercised literary and geographical licence, placing 'Stonemouth' on an estuary between Aberdeen and Peterhead. In reality the only estuary of any size or worth on this thirty mile stretch of Aberdeenshire coast is the Ythan at Newburgh. (That will upset folk living at the mouth of the River Don.) On a bay, not an estuary, Stonehaven is in Kincardineshire, fifteen miles south of Aberdeen. And don't confuse the Aberdeenshire Newburgh with Newburgh in Fife. Iain couldn't use a town's real name because the novel features corruption and criminals - he feared a writ from Stonehaven businesses or a visit from the notorious Newburgh crimelords. Glasgow-based Slate North Films and BBC2 (co-producers of a new TV adaption) have also circumvented this problem by using MacDuff on the Moray Firth as the setting for 'Stonemouth'. The two-part rite-of-passage tale stars Peterhead's own Peter Mullan.  

Scenes for the drama have also been shot in Helensburgh and across the Clyde at Greenock and Gourock, where Iain Banks spent most of his childhood before going to settle in Fife.

Iain Banks is second on my list of Scotland’s most accomplished novelists for the last 80 years. My favourite author is Lewis Grassic Gibbon, who wrote the seminal ‘Sunset Song’, a pioneering tale of tough times farming in Kincardineshire during the early years of the 20th century and the first part of his ‘Scots Quair’ trilogy. Grassic Gibbon relocated Aberdeen for ‘A Scots Quair’: 'Kinraddie' was the name he gave to his home village and estate of Arbuthnott in the Mearns countryside south of Stonehaven. Living in Welwyn Garden City, he didn't really bother to disguise the area and its inhabitants - upon publication Sunset Song upset a lot of Mearns folk.

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