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Butt and Ben

Biography, Local History
Publication Date
19 April 2012
Available for Sale
Birlinn Limited

Butt and Ben

A Highland Boyhood

Introduction by Graeme Pagan
by Donald Sutherland - Find out more about the author

Donald Sutherland grew up in Oban at the beginning of the twentieth century. In this charming and perceptive memoir, he reminisces about his early life there, painting a detailed picture of those halcyon years just before the outbreak of the First World War.

His privileged upbringing gave him a unique perspective on the upper stratum of society and their concerns and pastimes, and his book abounds with amusing incident and eccentric personalities: the American visitor who mistook young Donald’s kilt for a skirt and thought he was a girl, the sharp-shooting Princess Radziwill who tried to bag a Highland goat (which later suffered at the hands of a none-too skilled taxidermist) and the clan Maclaine heir who ran off to the London stage are just some of the characters which feature. Donald also meets Edward VII on a grouse-shooting expedition, and is asked, who’s the better shot: the king or his father?

In addition to all this, there are also astute observations – about Lloyd George’s People’s Budget of 1909 and the coming of war, for example – and wonderful accounts of daily life, from food and schooling to washing, dentistry and religion. Witty, warm yet never sentimental, this is a classic of its kind.

Graeme Pagan worked as solicitor in Oban for many years, and knows Argyll well. His acclaimed autobiography, Once Bitten, Twice Fined, is a humorous account of life in an Oban legal practice.

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