How did Leamington Books end up with this name? It was something like an accident. Like Withnail, who 'came on holiday by accident' - - I fell into this profession without the entire intention of doing so.
When I published as a hobby, I simply used the name of my street, which was and remains Leamington Terrace, in Edinburgh.
The name sounds English! People expect the company 'Leamington Books' to have some connection to the town of Leamington Spa, in England. Leamington Books should by rights be the name of a bookshop in that town. Although in this world, here on our beautiful home planet, it is not the name of a bookshop in Leamington Spa. It is the name of my company.
In the meantime, I was always aware of the literary pedigree of the area in which I lived, and especially that of Leamington Terrace. First and foremost, and above all others, you will find Norman MacCaig associated with Leamington Terrace, and many people I know now visited him here, at his home, which was at Number 7.
MacCaig was a force to be reckoned with, and although he is feted and enjoyed as a poet, it is always the man and his personal behaviour I hear about. There are many MacCaig stories, not all of them pleasant - - - many in fact seem to end with a cutting comment from the man himself.
Many writers today in Scotland would be happy with even a tenth of MacCaig's output and a crumb of his standing. He's not enjoyed much today though - - too male, in a time (as exemplified in the portrait Poets' Pub) dominated by males, doing male things, in their male-based environments. Stuart MacGregor I am told once punched MacCaig for being rude about the working class. That's the story.
In this exact age, this makes people like MacCaig and MacGregor quite out of date - - from a time when men hung about with men, flyted with them and drank with them. Even though MacCaig gave regular and highly well attended readings throughout his literary life - - all of that is forgotten. History now tells of the rather oppressive behaviour his ilk brought to bear. It is now the turn of 'everybody else'.
Aye - - speak to a Scottish poet in private and they'll wax lyrical on the work of Norman MacCaig and their own memories of him. Otherwise, MacCaig is still a part of that grievous, superincumbent legacy of exigent blokes who once ruled every corner of the literary scene. The feeling is: "who cares?"
At the top of Leamington Terrace is Westhall Gardens. I read in Alan Bold's biography of Hugh MacDiarmid that when MacDiarmid and Valda Trevlyn left for Shetland in 1933, they left their furniture at a property in that street.
Of more interest is the area's connection with Muriel Spark.
Spark was educated nearby at James Gillespie’s High School, which was then James Gillespie’s High School for Girls, where she was known as the school’s Poet and Dreamer. She writes in Curriculum Vitae:
"I spent twelve years at Gillespie’s, the most formative years of my life, and in many ways the most fortunate for a future writer."