And Dumfriesshire’s newest literary character, Jamesie Burns, owes both his name and his creation to the Bard.
Author Ian Barr, who lives in Dumfries, hopes just like Burns senior before him, he can introduce a new generation to the Scots language through his tales, which feature other prominent local people from history.
Jamesie’s first adventure, titled Jamesie Burns and the Bicycle Thieves, will be launched in a magazine format at the end of the month and is expected to be widely distributed across the region, as well as attracting a global following among the Scottish diaspora. As well as chronicling the life of wee Jamesie, it pays homage to the inventor of the bicycle, Kirkpatrick Macmillan, of Thornhill. And its launch is aimed to link with the cycling celebrations around this year’s Tour of Britain, which is coming to Kirkcudbright in September.
Explaining how the character came about, Ian, who is an events officer with Dumfries and Galloway Council, said: “I had the strange ambition of wanting to be a part-time writer, never a full time writer. It comes from a lifetime of reading. “Jamesie came from when I was the first book town officer for Wigtown Book Town and he first came about in 2004. Since then he has been concentrating on his education and I have had other work to do!”
As the project manager for the Tour of Britain’s visit to the area, Ian felt it was time to bring back the boy and said: “I wrote Bicycle Thieves as a positive opportunity to promote tourism and cycling in Dumfries and Galloway. I wanted it to come out in a year when we have the Tour of Britain, so this is ideal, and there is also a biography of Kirkpatrick Macmillan to sit alongside it.”
The dad-of-three has blended fact and fiction to create “a compelling historical tale”. His hero is thus described: “Jamesie is a decent young boy of about 11, but sometimes he gets caught up in minor trouble and doesn’t quite know how to get out of it.”
Ian said: “I studied Burns at school, I think Burns is wonderful. The key theme of the stories is to use elements of his work and life in the narrative and I used some of his songs in the Bicycle Thieves story.” He has teamed up with Simon Woolley, of Annan based Hoggett Creative, and illustrator Pete Bell to produce the magazine, which is the first in a series.
Read the full story in this week’s Dumfries Courier and the Annandale papers.