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Today's quote:

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The otter man

"Ring of Bright Water - The Story of the Film"
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The 'when' and the 'where' of how I first came across the book "Ring of Bright Water" are now lost in time, but I've been a Gavin Maxwell fan ever since. The story simple: it's about an otter he brought back from Iraq and raised in Scotland.

During World War II, Maxwell served as an instructor with the Special Operations Executive. He was invalided out with the rank of Major in 1944, after which he purchased the Isle of Soay off Skye in the Inner Hebrides in Scotland where he tried to establish a basking shark fishery. He failed. His book "Harpoon Venture" tells this story.

In 1956, Maxwell toured the reed marshes of Southern Iraq with explorer Wilfred Thesiger. Maxwell's account of their trip appears in "A Reed Shaken By The Wind", later published under the title "People of the Reeds".



Maxwell next moved to Sandaig (which he called Camusfeàrna in his books), a small community opposite Isleornsay on a remote part of the Scottish mainland. This is where his "otter books" are set. After "Ring of Bright Water" (1960), he wrote the sequel "The Rocks Remain" (1963). ("The Otters' Tale" is a children's version of "Ring of Bright Water")

In 1966, he travelled to Morocco, tracing the dramatic lives of the last rulers of Morrakesh under the French. His account of the trip was published as Lords of the Atlas : The Rise and Fall of the House of Glaoua 1893-1956.

In "The House of Elrig" (1965), Maxwell describes his family history and the place where he was born.

In 1968, Maxwell's Sandaig home was destroyed by fire and he moved to the lighthouse keepers' cottages on Eilean Bàn (White Island), an island between the Isle of Skye and the Scottish mainland by Kyleakin. He invited John Lister-Kaye to join him on Eilean Bàn and help him build a zoo on the island and work on a book about British wild mammals.

Lister-Kaye's book "The White Island" is a result of this invitation even though both projects were abandoned when Maxwell died from lung cancer the following year, aged 55. "Raven Seek Thy Brother" was published in the year of his death.



Reader's Digest's Condensed Books are as difficult to dispose of as bins of radioactive waste, so it comes perhaps at no surprise that there's still a condensed version of "Ring of Bright Water" lurking on page 318 of this 1962 edition. Skip through it at your own peril.

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