Thanks to the internet, everyone now believes they have a handle on book values, equating the top prices being sought to actual values. Sometimes they actually are. Often it’s just someone flying a kite. And as anyone who has bought a book online knows, one seller’s “good condition” is another’s “falling apart”. So I have to rein in my kneejerk scepticism when people tell me they have a valuable, rare “vintage” book. Very often these turn out to be tattered copies of the works of Robert Burns, but with family associations which might really interest young family member, so best not sold.
Scotland’s Bard always makes me think of John Cairney, whose one-man show was such a success that he’ll be forever known as “The Man Who Was Burns”. When he appeared in December as the guest of the Conservatoire in Glasgow, the swash-buckling shirt he wore in role as Burns was not in evidence. He cut a superbly elegant figure and soon had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand as he recounted scenes from his life. WInning two seats at the theatre was his first introduction to the stagr. All he could think about was, “How do I get there from here?”
The first student through the door of the RSAMD, he went on to a career on stage and in film. One of his funniest stories involved being fed whisky by Richard Burton on the set of Cleopatra. The event at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland was introduced by Stuart Harris-Logan (pictured above with John Cairney) who gave an outline of its archive which includes the Jimmy Logan Archive, the Nell Ballantyne Collection, musical instruments and manuscripts.
John Cairney’s The Importance of Being: Observations from my Anecdotage is published by Luath Press.