Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Port Glasgow Mermaid

artwork by Katie Stevenson
In September 2015, Mhairi spent the week working with Katie Stevenson, a pupil from Clydeview Academy who joined us on work experience. We gave Katie a couple of tasks to choose from, and she rose to the challenge of providing us with some specially created illustrations for the story of the Port Glasgow Mermaid...

There was a merchant from Dumbarton. It happened that the merchant and his crew left the rock, and had been at sea for a long long time when they sailed straight into a storm. The boat was wrecked, and the crew all drowned, except for the good merchant, who found himself washed ashore on an island. He wandered around for a time, looking for food and somewhere he could shelter, and he came across a little hollow by the shore. Being altogether shaken and tired from his ordeal, he lay down on the rock and fell instantly asleep. When he woke, there was a mermaid beside him, and thereafter she came to the cave everyday to sing to the merchant, and to bring him provisions. Not only food, but gold, silver and jewels."

A year passed and then one day, when the mermaid was away, a ship passed by the island. The Merchant hailed the ship, and the vessel spied him, and sent a boat ashore. And the merchant told them all about his shipwreck and the mermaid and his gold and silver and jewels. The crew of the boat explained that they were outward bound, but suggested that if the Merchant gathered together a sizeable booty, then they would come again in a year and a day to take him home.

So a year and a day passed, and everyday the lovesick mermaid brought more food and wine and treasure to the Merchant. And at the appointed time, the ship again dropped anchor by the island. Again the mermaid was away, and again a boat came ashore. The merchant and the crew made quick despatch to get all the stores on board before the mermaid returned.

The ship set sail, but the mermaid returned to her cave, found it herried, and angrily she swam after the ship, overtook it, and demanded that her husband and her stores be returned. Now the skipper, was a canny man, so he cast off a bundle of hoops and he agreed to hand over her man and her stores only if the mermaid could count the hoops. This she did and she then repeated her demands. But the skipper cast off another set of hoops again and again and again until they reached Gourock. The Captain had a lot of hoops.

The Dumbarton merchant, set foot again on dry land at Gourock, and refused to go with the mermaid. And she pleaded with him to return to their cave where they had spent so many happy days. But he refused again, so the Mermaid gave to him the baby she had borne him, demanding that he give it a good home with all the gold and silver he had stolen from her. She then gave the merchant a book which he was instructed not to let the child see til he was full grown.

The child grew and took up residence in the old castle of Ardrossan, taking the name Michael Scott, later more commonly known as The Devil of Ardrossan. It was by the means of his mother's book that he commanded the foul thief, that imp who carried out his every dark request. And the very first command given to this devil was to rid Michael of his own father, the merchant. You could hear his screaming all the way to Ireland.

The mermaid meantime, befriended the great serpent Clutha of the Clyde, and she lives in the waters to this day. She pops her head out of the water now and then for to sing a wee song. She might even tell your fortune, depending on your luck.

Artwork by Katie Stevenson
This is just one of the stories associated with the Port's own mermaid. Earlier in September, a version of this story was shared with pupils from Newark Primary School Port Glasgow, as they explored the new coastal trail as part of the Heritage Inverclyde - A Quest For Learning project.
Another mermaid story goes that over a hundred years ago, the funeral procession of a young girl, taken long before her time, passed along the riverside on its way past the Newark castle on route to the old church. The Mermaid appeared out of the water and sang

"If she drank nettles in March
And mugwort in May
Sae many braw maidens
Wadna gang to the clay."

The Mermaid also makes an appearance in our book Wee Nasties, which you can read for free online on scribd or ibooks. She will also be appearing in our forthcoming title Rowan Tree Legion.
We'd like to thank Katie again for spending some time with us, a reminder that there is lots of talent in the town. In fact, an excellent new facebook page, Inverclyde Young Artists, is showcasing just that.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Black Soul Gang

For Halloween, our resident archivist Neil Bristow, delves into the dark notebooks and diaries of Sir Glen Douglas Rhodes...

A night such as tonight - when the wind rattles the slates and whistles through the keyhole - brings to my mind tales best told among friends around a warm fireplace.

But this All Hallows Eve finds me alone; a pipe in one hand and a generous dram in the other, my eyes running over the shelves, looking for a particular well-thumbed tome.

And then I hear it - the chatter of voices, and the familiar clip clop of two legged hooves, charging down the lane. An almost frantic knock on my door wakes me from my library wanderings, and draws my eye to the clock. The hour is late. But still they have come. The gang is here.

I open the door, greeted by a sight of 6 young boys, not one of them over 12 years old. And in a tradition as ancient as the oaks blowing in the wind, they announce themselves with a song.

"Soul! Soul! for an apple or two;

If you’ve got no apple, pears will do,

Soul! Soul! for your soul’s sake,

Pray good mistress, a Soul Cake!

An apple, or pear, a plum or a cherry, 

Or any good thing to make us all merry. 

St. Peter was a good old man, 

And so for his sake, give us one.

None of your worst, but one of your best, 

So God may send your souls to rest. 

Up with your kettles, and down with your pans, 

Give us a Soul Cake and we’ll be gone!”

Their masks are crude, their guises tatty and ragged - just as it should be. I meet their ritual with my end of the bargain, distributing to them each an autumn apple from my barrel, and send them on their way into the gloomy night.

As they rattle down the lane, they give me pause for thought. They know the ritual. They know their part. But meaning has given way to indulgence, and we are perhaps all poorer for it.

They call it galoshans. But as I return to the fireside, my eyes fall on the tome I was searching for earlier and I recall the darker origins of the phrase.

They have not gone galoshans. They have gone a souling. And I read on with some hesitation; the tale of the Black Soul Gang….

Long ago, not too far from the cobbled streets of Greenock (or perhaps further than the tale recalls), there was a village high up on the moor. Here the old folk might still recall, if asked, the tale of Old Tam Cole, or the Bell That Rings Neath the Knowe. Good tales for telling, but neither as somber as the most well known fable in village - that of the Soul Gang.

In those days, on All Hallows Eve, Soul Gangs would go from farm to farm performing the souling plays of old, begging as they went for ale and the odd morsel of food. A favorite of this particular gang was the death and resurrection play, of which I recount a small excerpt for your amusement.

"We are one, two, three good hearty lads, and we are all in one mind,
we have come a-souling , good nature to find,

And if you will give us one jug of beer,
We will not come a-souling, till this time next year.

Step down in your cellar, and see what you'll find,

There is ale, rum, gin and brandy, and all kind of wine,

And if you will give us one jug of beer,”

We'll not come a-souling, till this time next year.”

Now on one particular occasion, they came to the door of Old Farmer Lindsay.

The gangs chief banged heavy on the door, ringing his bell and announcing himself;

'Open this door and let all our brave and gallant actors in,

I am Beelzebub,

On my shoulder I carry a club,

In my hand a dripping tin,

Ring ting ting.'

Lindsay, a superstitious man was known for his miserly ways, and when met with boys of the Soul Gang, he parted with tradition and parleyed their chorus with a heavy slam of his farmhouse door.

Not content with this response, the Soul Gang took their vengeance - sneaking into Old Lindsays barn, they helped themselves two a barrel of cider. A breach of the ancient rules of Soul Gang - they had taken what was not freely given, and had damned themselves in the process.

A broken bargain on both sides is ill for all parties; and as they made their way across the moor, the wind whipping their ragged guises, they may not have heard old Lindsay whispered a curse upon them; “if they take something of mine, I shall have something of theirs."

And cursed they were. For as the hour waned, one by one the boys of the Soul Gang found themselves lost in the mists of the moor. And with each step they took, they wandered further from the path. Calling out to one another, they tried in vain to find their way; but slowly, and with a somber inevitability, one by one they were lost to the mire.

In years to come, villagers would not venture out along on All Hallows Eve. And all among them would swear that when the mist descended upon the moor, and the air was silent and still, you could hear the ringing bells of the Black Soul Gang; seeking their way back from the hinterland; a warning to keep trust with tradition, lest you loose your soul and perhaps more.

I closed the tome, returning it to its rightful place on the shelf. And as the last em
bers of my fire dimmed, I was sure I could hear the faint sound of a bell, carried on the mist. 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Merry Galoshans!

Teeshirt artwork by Andy Lee - he really likes rabbits

We hope to see you out and about going your Galoshans this year - and enjoying the weird wonders of the new Galoshans Festival.

Magic Torch will have some short films and recorded stories playing in The Dutch Gable House, where you will also find exhibitions by Maria McCavana (in the Green Room) and Stephen Hurrell (in the Back House). Stephen's exhibition ‘Beneath and Beyond: Seismic Sounds’ is a live sound installation about the constant movements and tectonic shifts beneath the earth’s surface.

As a special Galoshans treat, all Magic Torch comics, books and graphic novels will be £3 each or 4 for a tenner! Available exclusively from The Dutch Gable House Shop.

And of course you can also get your hands on Andy's very limited edition 'Mary Lamont' artwork.

Framed lasercut print, artwork by Andy Lee

Monday, 26 October 2015

Rowan Tree Legion

Rowan Tree Legion - The Skeleton Key, is our new all ages comic, due out next year. Sort of "Dad's Army with witches". It does feature some characters and places from Inverclyde, but also from all across Scotland. We thought we'd share the first few pages as it's the Season of the Witch and all that. The full 48 page epic will be along next year featuring gargoyles, nazis, seamsters and gigantic scary crows...

UPDATE - You can now check out the cover online

Artwork is by the smashing Mhairi Robertson, who you should totally follow on Instagram - she's been doing some sterling work for the Inktober 2015 challenge. Mhairi has also produced some exclusive artwork for our new The Wonderful Worlds of Alice project...here's a wee sneaky peak of some of that artwork too....

Alice and the Time Pirate
by Mhairi M Robertson

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Fifteen Years of Folklore and Fear

Self indulgence klaxon!!

Magic Torch turned 15 last year, but this month, this week in fact, it's been 15 years since we published our first book, Tales of the Oak - which has pretty much been the foundation of everything we've worked on ever since.

Tales of the Oak collected a whole range of local folktales and half remembered legends, which had more or less fallen out of the telling, and presented them back to everyone to bring them back to life. We did actually have a plan when we did this, and it was to create a sort of "mythical" history and backdrop to what is often viewed as a fairly miserable and depressed community. Taking genuine local stories, national legends and a wee bit of creative license, we tried to make our hometown seem a little more magical. The stories could all be read and told independently, but read cover to cover, there is also an ongoing story.

The first 1000 copies of the book sold out within four weeks - quite literally outselling Anthea Turner's autobiography five copies to one in the Greenock WH Smith. Crazy times. Hilariously though, in our rush to get them into local bookshops, the glue bind hadn't properly set, and the first 50 copies fell to pieces. Bookpoint were very understanding about that. If you still have one of those faulty copies, it's really extra rare. Largely unreadable, but rare. Sort of like the dead sea scrolls.

We've reprinted the book a few times, thousands of copies have now been sold. And yknow, it's still available if for some bizarre reason you don't already have one...both in our online shop, via the Dutch Gable House and also for kindle. It is of course, ideal Halloween reading.

Here's the original founding members of Magic Torch below, promoting Tales of the Oak in the Tele in October 2000. We look like a terrible indie band. Or a sort of low rent Travis. Which is actually exactly what we were going for...

"Here are the young men the weight on their shoulders
Here are the young men, well where have they been..."

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Witch Craft

This rather awesome piece of artwork by Andy Lee, has been laser etched into wood. It features a reimagining of Mary Lamont, the young Inverkip girl who was executed as a witch during the areas infamous witch trials.

Copies of this limited edition print, created for Newark Products, will be available exclusively from The Dutch Gable House shop during the Galoshans Festival later this month.

From next week, the Dutch Gable House shop is open from 10 - 4 Thursday, Friday and Saturday until Christmas.

Here is the original lineart Andy produced for the piece

If this has inspired you to stage your own Witch Trial, perhaps giving it a happier ending, why not download our Everyman play The Orchard, based on the Renfrewshire Witch Trials...

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Galoshans Are Go

Haunted Air

It's your two week warning for essential folk play preparations!

This year, Inverclyde is actually having a whole Galoshans Festival, with all sorts of weird, wonderful and unusual stuff going on in and around the town. Check out the programme. We'll be along at The Dutch Gable House during the weekend.

And once you've had fun at the festival, be sure to be Going Galoshans and performing your own version of the traditional play which has inspired the festival....

Read and download The Galoshans Play for free via Scribd

And you must check out the Guising and Galoshans resource pack from the lovely folk at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, which has scripts, songs and games for you to use.

For other Halloween and Galoshans related fun...

See a version of the play recorded in The Dutch Gable House for Inverclyde TV...

Read about Greenock's other Halloween Traditions

Listen to our popular spooky tale Malkie and The Bogle....

Enjoy an illustrated reading of The Ballad of Auld Dunrod...

And finally, below is a wee sinister glimpse of Andy Lee's reimagining of the traditional play characters for a folk horror comic based on the play, which is in development at the moment...

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Galoshans Festival

At Magic Torch, we've always been big fans of the history and folklore surrounding Galoshans, so we're pleased to see that it will be celebrated this year with a new festival - and there's plenty of things for people to get involved in.

You can find out more about the festival on the Galoshans facebook page and website.

And there's a smashing resource pack on Galoshans and Guising which has been produced by the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Pirates Vs Witches

I Thought I was Undone artwork by Andy Lee

We've just about wrapped up all our funded programmes for this year, and are busy organising next year - hopefully some new comics in education projects on the go. Meantime, here's a few wee preview details from our current projects.

I Thought I Was Undone explores the facts and fantasy of the life of Scottish pirate Captain William Kidd - a favourite topic of Magic Torch. Artwork is by Andy Lee. Following the recent rediscovery of Kidd's "treasure", we were pleased to see many press reporting him as being originally from Greenock...not because we think that's 100% accurate, but just because it's cool to have a world famous pirate associated with your home town...

Our other book, The Skeleton Key is an all ages comic which follows the heroic efforts of a local coven during the Second World War. Sort of "Dad's Army with witches". Artwork for The Skeleton Key is by Mhairi Robertson, who has worked with us previously on Wee Nasties. Mhairi is also going to be working on the historical graphic novel The Stowaways, which will be out early in 2017.

You can find out more about Magic Torch's comic projects on our Magic Torch Comics website.

Balwearie Hall approach by Mhairi Robertson

Balwearie visit lineart by Mhairi Robertson

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Doors Open Day - Cool film and free book!

There's lot's to see at this years Doors Open Days - Fergusons, Tobacco Warehouse, an exhibition from Dark Side o' Inverclyde...it's all good.

We'll be at Dutch Gable House, where you have another chance to see our short film Restorations (in fact edited by Louie 'Dark Side' Pastore) which will be showing throughout the day.

There will also be some original artwork on display from Achi Baba, and your final chance to grab a free hardback copy of the graphic novel. We may do a 'not for profit' edition at some point in the future, but for now we have a limited number of copies left. Various other Magic Torch publications will also be available for sale on the day.

Dutch Gable House is open Saturday only this year. We hope to see you along on the day, or maybe even out and about over the weekend.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Magic Torch Comics

Over the last few years we have worked to create a range of comics, and we have now have a website Magic Torch Comics, to showcase them all, and also to explain how we can help you tell your story....

Or, if heritage isn't your thing, perhaps you'd just like us to work with your class or community group on comics related to your projects...

There's lots more info on the website, along with free comics to read and download. If you think you might be interested, get in touch...

Meanwhile, we have two cracking new comics in development right now, our Captain Kidd graphic novel I Thought I was Undone, our new all ages WWII adventure story Rowan Tree Legion, and another local heritage title The Stowaways, lined up as well. We'll share some of Mhairi and Andy's awesome new artwork soon.

Torch artists and volunteers at Glasgow Comicon in July

Monday, 13 July 2015

Achi Baba - Read Gallipoli Graphic Novel For Free

Achi Baba is now available to read and download for free from our new website Magic Torch Comics, which is where we will be promoting our new comics and learning projects over the next year. For the digital version, Andy added a more military green tone to the artwork, so even if you do have the original book, it's worth having a look at some of the small differences between the two.

There's been lots of positive feedback on the book and project, from the Imperial War Museum, the Argyll and Sutherland museum, the Gallipoli Association, the Applied Comics Network, the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland and many more. It can be downloaded via the Gallipoli Centenary Education Project, and there are now copies available from all Inverclyde libraries.

We were especially pleased with the response from Pat Mills, creator of 2000AD and of course the definitive World War One comic, Charley's War...'An excellent production, a fascinating and well researched account of the conflict.'

A limited number of free copies will be available for pickup from 7 1/2 John Wood Street in Port Glasgow from Monday 13 July. We hope to make more copies available for Doors Open Day 2015 at the Dutch Gable House on Saturday 12 September, but just in case, get one while you can.

The Achi Baba project was supported by Heritage Lottery Fund - First World War Then and Now programme.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Achi Baba - Gallipoli 1915 : Graphic Novel Launch

We're all prepared for Glasgow Comicon this weekend, when we will be distributing copies of Achi Baba - we'll be in the Renfield Centre, come say hello if you're in town. You can get the book locally on Saturday 11 July from 10 - 2 at Dutch Gable House. It will be released digitally later in the month.

There's a really passionate blog piece on the Inverclydes Great War site which expresses the frustration of trying to ensure recognition for the battalion involved in the hostilities of 12 July. However, Inverclyde Council and the McLean Museum are doing an excellent job of commemorating the centenary locally in a number of ways over the weekend of 11 / 12 July. Be sure not to miss the opportunity to be involved.

UPDATE : Please note, in the lovely Greenock Tele piece about the book launch, it says the book will be available from Dutch Gable this Saturday (4th July)...wee miscommunication, it is most certainly Saturday 11 July at Dutch Gable House. Hopefully see ye then.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Achi Baba - "Stand in the trench Achilles..."

Our projects tend to focus on myths, legends and storytelling, and in researching Achi Baba, we were really struck by how, even at the time, the whole effort was associated with The Iliad - turning it into this heroic epic. There's an immediate and obvious contrast with the much less romantic reality of life and war on the peninsula and comics are an especially effective medium for blending those contrasting views and voices together.

We have adapted verses from one poem in particular, Patrick Shaw Stewart's 'I Saw A Man This Morning', which perhaps explores this classical link more explicitly than any other. The poem was written by Shaw Stewart while in hospital in Imbros, preparing to return to the theatre of war in Gallipoli. He links the campaign with Helen of Troy both directly and through rhyme and repetition, and then imagines Achilles in battle.

There is a grim foreshadowing in Shaw Stewart's poem, in hoping that Achilles will 'shout' for him, he is referencing the moment in the Iliad, when Achilles learns of the death of his comrade Patroclus - and lets loose a terrifying battle cry, while the Gods crown him with fire. The narrator of the poem, in identifying himself with Patroclus, is imagining himself soon to be dead. Shaw Stewart did in fact survive the Gallipoli campaign, but not the war.

There is an excellent book about the many ways the Iliad was referenced in the poetry of the First World War, which takes its title from Shaw Stewart's poem - 'Stand in the Trench Achilles by Elizabeth Vandiver'. Of course, The Iliad continues to be referenced and reframed in war stories and was even used as a way of studying post traumatic stress disorder in Vietnam veterans. It has inspired many graphic novel adaptations, including the wonderful Age of Bronze by Eric Shanower.

If war poetry is of interest to you, then Above The Dreamless Dead, edited by Chris Duffy, provides an entirely different way of experiencing those works, it is a collection of comic adaptations of World War One poetry, and was certainly inspirational in our development of this project.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Gallipoli - 'Lest We Forget, The Facts'

In telling the story of the Gallipoli campaign, we have not avoided the grim reality of the war, and so our Achi Baba graphic novel is suggested for mature audiences due to scenes of warfare some may find upsetting or disturbing. Arguably of course, there is no other way to view warfare. However a recent piece in the Guardian explored some of the difficulty in producing artwork which tries to confront the horror of the First World War.

The short film below is from the website No Glory In War. The No Glory campaign aims to to use the first world war centenary to promote peace and international understanding, rather than simply nationalistic commemoration.

Our Achi Baba project was supported by Heritage Lottery Fund - First World War Then and Now programme. The graphic novel will be available from Glasgow Comicon on Saturday 4 July and from the Dutch Gable House in Greenock on Saturday 11 July.

Monday, 8 June 2015

And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda...

In our exploration of the Gallipoli campaign for our Achi Baba graphic novel, we have focussed largely on the British forces. However Gallipoli is most usually associated with the Anzacs and the sense of national identity which subsequently developed in Australia and New Zealand - though of course, soldiers from many nationalities fought as Anzac soldiers.

While specifically associated with the Anzacs, the song 'The Band Played Waltzing Matilda' recognises the universal horror faced by everyone who fought and died on the peninsula, and the broken world that remained for many who survived.

When I was a young man I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murrays green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over
Then in nineteen fifteen my country said Son
It's time to stop rambling 'cause there's work to be done
So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun
And they sent me away to the war
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we sailed away from the quay
And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers
We sailed off to Gallipoli

How well I remember that terrible day
How the blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter
Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well
He chased us with bullets, he rained us with shells
And in five minutes flat he'd blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia
But the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we stopped to bury our slain
We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs
Then we started all over again

Now those that were left, well we tried to survive
In a mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
But around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over tit
And when I woke up in my hospital bed
And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead
Never knew there were worse things than dying
For no more I'll go waltzing Matilda
All around the green bush far and near
For to hump tent and pegs, a man needs two legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me

So they collected the cripples, the wounded, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where my legs used to be
And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
Then turned all their faces away

And now every April I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving old dreams of past glory
And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore
The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, "What are they marching for?"
And I ask myself the same question
And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men answer to the call
But year after year their numbers get fewer
Some day no one will march there at all

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
And their ghosts may be heard as you pass the Billabong
Who'll come-a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Achi Baba - Old Gallipoli's A Wonderful Place

There are many famous songs from the First World War, and while they have a universal appeal around the experiences of the troops or the families left behind, most of them are associated with the Western front. Old Gallipoli's A Wonderful Place is one of a smaller number of songs and tunes which are related to the Gallipoli campaign.

It is sung to the tune of Mountains of Mourne, we've used a version of the tune in our promo trailer for our Achi Baba graphic novel, although we have used a reading of the poem 'The Vision' by Patrick MacGill in place of the lyrics below.

Oh, old Gallipoli's a wonderful place
Where the boys in the trenches the foe have to face,
But they never grumble, they smile through it all,
Very soon they expect Achi Baba to fall.
At least when I asked them, that's what they told me
In Constantinople quite soon we would be,
But if war lasts till Doomsday I think we'll still be
Where old Gallipoli sweeps down to the sea.

We don't grow potatoes or barley or wheat,
So we're on the lookout for something to eat,
We're fed up with biscuits and bully and ham
And we're sick of the sight of yon parapet jam.
Send out steak and onions and nice ham and eggs
And a fine big fat chicken with five or six legs,
And a drink of the stuff that begins with a "B"
Where the old Gallipoli sweeps down to the sea.

The Achi Baba project was supported by Heritage Lottery Fund - First World War Then and Now programme. Copies of the book will be available from The Dutch Gable House on Saturday 11 July from 10 - 2.

As we move closer to the centenary, Inverclyde's Great War project is tweeting the progress of the the 5th Argylls on their journey towards Gallipoli/Dardanelles using #5argylls

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Achi Baba - Cover Reveal

That's the cover all sorted, so our Gallipoli graphic novel Achi Baba is almost ready to head off to the printers - in terms of production, tone and content, the book is much different from anything we have tackled before, and we are looking forward to sharing it with everyone this summer.

For now, we thought we would share some more of Andy Lee's artwork with you...

The Achi Baba project was supported by Heritage Lottery Fund - First World War Then and Now programme..

Monday, 13 April 2015

Old Greenock Characters - Tara to the Pope

From John Donald's Old Greenock Characters, which we present as they were written...

William Cranmer was a respectable hard-working man, employed about the quays; but on Saturdays he broke out. On that day he would come up Charles Street, literally by leaps and bounds, shouting aimlessly, “Tara to the Pope!Tara to the Pope!" His original cry (it was supposed by some people) was intended to consign His Holiness to the regions below, but a strong hint from the police sufficed to tone the slogan, and Tara was so impressed as, even in drink, to remember it. That is not correct, however. I am informed by a lady who lived near him that she had often heard him, in his own house, bawling, "My name is William Cranmer, and I'm a terror to the Pope." On the street his "terror" sounded like "tara," and Tara he was called by us boys. So while he shouted "Tara to the Pope! Tara to the Pope!", the ubiquitous urchin would dart in, pull his coat tails, and dart off again. Tara in his cups heeded not the boys ; but the misguided lad who attempted the coat-pulling process on Tara sober, usually had his ears cuffed for his pains.

Tara once figured in an extraordinary incident which occurred at the junction of Charles Street with Hamilton Street, opposite the jeweller's shop then occupied by Mr Menzies. He was well-fuddled, and turned to chase, good-naturedly enough, a boy who had tugged his coat-tail and saluted him in the usual manner. The boy ran off, and, as a cab was slowly turning the corner, darted under the belly of the horse, while Tara bumped against a wheel of the cab and was thrown back on the street, slightly shaken, but otherwise uninjured. The truth of this incident is vouched for by an eye-witness.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Achi Baba

We are now in the final stages of our major project for this year, a graphic novel based on the attempts to take the hill of Achi Baba during the Gallipoli campaign in the First World War. We will be looking at the final effort of July 12th 1915, which is commemorated locally, but also the context of the broader campaign.

We are incorporating a range of sources and voices in telling the story, from war poetry, letters and field reports to contemporary articles from the sensationalist magazine The War Illustrated.  We will be sharing some artwork with you over the next few months, and also looking at the history of World War One comics.

The graphic novel, produced as a hardback, will be launched this summer and be available at Glasgow Comicon on Saturday 4 July. It will also be available for free at various community venues across Inverclyde during the centenary. Please contact us if you would be interested in receiving / distributing copies.

The Achi Baba project is supported by Heritage Lottery Fund through the First World War Then and Now programme, which is supporting many projects and programmes across the country. The fund is allowing people to learn about the Great War in a whole range of formal and informal ways, from new materials made available through museums and archives to new reflective / interpretive materials produced by schools and community groups for non-traditional audiences.

Inverclyde's Great War project, also supported by Heritage Lottery Fund, will be commemorating the Gallipoli campaign and Achi Baba with a number of publications, exhibition and a specially commissioned drama. You can now read the project exhibition book free online.

UPDATED : The book will be launched on Saturday 11 July 2015, in Dutch Gable House, Greenock from 10 - 2. Free copies of the book will be available.

Andy's very first pencil tests for the project earlier this year...

A more recent page, looking at the Gallipoli landings

Monday, 9 March 2015

Old Greenock Characters - Preachin' Mary

Another of John Donald's Old Greenock Characters, presented, as ever, as the text was written....

Mary O'Neill, otherwise "Preachin' Mary," felt impelled occasionally, when in her cups, to favour townspeople with unsolicited views and opinions of things in general, and of the liquor question in particular. In that respect she is said to have followed the example of her mother, the original Preachin' Mary, a very old woman, who kept a little huckster's shop in Dalrymple Street, which, in turn, kept her. The daughter was a fruit hawker, plying her vocation in Greenock and at various coast towns on the firth of Clyde and adjacent lochs; and, latterly, her "entr’acte" cry of "Apples or Oranges "was familiar to habitues of the Theatre Royal.

Mary was a somewhat slim woman of middle age, with jet black hair sparsely sprinkled with silver grey, and dark complexion. She was clad in a dress of sober hued material, a shoulder shawl and a straw bonnet.

Everybody knew when Mary was in eloquent mood. Mounted upon an upraised barrel, a barrow, or whatever could be readily and easily utilised as a platform, she held forth to the delight, and-who knows? -perhaps the edification, of a quickly gathered audience. Strange to say, whatever other topics she might touch upon she invariably veered round to the curse of drink, and, as a friend of the writer remarked, “preached a very good sermon, too." She sought not to excuse herself, but rather put herself forward as an "awful example" of the effects of indulgence. Those who had never tasted intoxicating drink she specially addressed, wisely advocating total abstinence as the only sure safeguard against the insidious enemy.
“If ye never drink a first glass, ye'll never drink a second," she declared, beating her right fist against the palm of her left hand. "The first glass is the damned yin!"
To a lady who besought her to take the pledge, Mary replied:-
"I could easily tak it, but I could na' keep it; for if I could get haud o' a pailful o' whusky I wad drink it if ma body wad haud it."

Mary's outbursts were periodical, and while they lasted she would part with all she could command – stock-in-trade, baskets, and all-to procure the beverage she denounced, yet could not reject. When the bout was over, an appeal to some kindly shopkeeper enabled her to redeem and replenish her baskets, and, to her credit be it said, she never failed in the punctual repayment of such loans. In her sober intervals, Mary O'Neill was a quiet, well-behaved, and industrious woman.

We were very excited recently by the suggestion from Black Cassidy that we should create a range of Old Greenock Characters Top Trumps for if you get stuck in during a rainy playtime or teabreak. Let us know what you think about this potentially awesome timewastery...

Monday, 2 March 2015

Uncommon Tales - Remnants

Mama Glow
It was about 5 minutes after we started researching our Uncommon Tales comic, that we realised that we should have given ourselves enough time to do a 128 page comic, rather than a 32 page one - there are just so many wonderful horrors to choose from. It's honestly no wonder Scooby Doo keeps so busy travelling around the world. In practice, what this meant is that some creatures only got a wee cameo appearance and some never appeared at all. So we thought we'd spotlight someone who didn't quite make the cut... Mama Glow...

"Mama Glow" or "Mama Dlo" or "Mama Dglo" whose name is derived from the French "maman de l' eau" which means "mother of the water" is one of the lesser known personalities of Trinidad and Tobago folklore. A half woman, half snake with long flowing hairwhich she combs constantly. Her upper torso is a naked, beautiful woman, the lower part coils into a large form of an anaconda snake that is hidden beneath the water. She is sometimes thought to be the lover of Papa Bois, and old hunters tell stories of coming upon them in the 'High Woods'. They also tell of hearing a loud, cracking sound which is said to be the sound made by her tail as she snaps it on the surface of a mountain pool or a still lagoon. Mortal men who commit crimes against the forest, like burning down trees or indiscriminately putting animals to death or fouling the rivers could find themselves married to her for life, both this one and the one to follow. Sometimes she takes the form of a beautiful woman 'singing silent songs on still afternoons, sitting at the water's edge in the sunlight, lingering for a golden moment, a flash of green - gone. Nothing but a big Morte Bleu, rising in the sun beams.

Old people talk: "Did you see a fish jump?" "Yes, but it did not go back in again!" If you were to meet Mama Dlo in the forest and wish to escape her, take off your left shoe, turn it upside down and immediately leave the scene, walking backwards until you reach home.

Trinidad and Tobago Folklore 

Don't forget, you can read or download Uncommon Tales free via scribd.

Anyway, here's the Happy Mondays take on John Kongos's song about another Carribbean horror who actually did end up featuring in Uncommon Tales, Tokoloshe..

Monday, 16 February 2015

Uncommon Tales - Free Download

Rounding off our 13 Commonwealth Tales project, our Uncommon Tales comic is now available to read for free online.

Physical copies will be available at various Magic Torch events throughout the rest of the year, and also at Glasgow Comicon.

If you are interested in receiving a copy of the physical edition, you can drop us an email.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Time and Place - Celebration Ode

Our Restorations film featured a version of the poem Celebration Ode, by Jock Scott and British Sea Power.

Here are some more versions of this 'Greenock anthem' by local musicians...

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Time and Place - Restorations Reflections

We had three fully booked shows for the final part of our Time and Place project, a showing of the Restorations film, edited by Louie Pastore with soundtrack by British Sea Power - all supported by National Lottery Awards For All.

After people had watched the film, we asked them to hang around in the Dutch Gable for a hot beverage and a blether and to fill in a postcard for us, answering a few simple questions. Here are a couple of the responses...

All in, a grand night, and there was certainly enough interest for us to consider running it again. We shall keep you posted.