Winter Talks

Forth coming talks this winter include:


3rd December at 7-30 to Coldstream History Society , at the Eildon Centre

11th January 2016 at 7-30 to Norham History society , at the Village hall.

18th February 2016 10-30 to Eyemouth Probus.


This will cover the background of Wilsons life, the publishing of and history of the tales and focus in the correspondence between Wilson and Everrett , held by the National Library of Scotland which gives us an insight into Wilson’s personality.

Fab Funky

Wilsons Tales PrintsWilsons Tales Fab FunkyWilsons Tales Fantosh

We have come across various ways in which people are reusing the tales. Including Kelly Stevens of FabFunky, pictured here at a market in London. She uses the pages of old editions as the backdrop to some funky animal prints.

I see these are now for sale locally at the recently opened Tea Boutique and gift shop “Fantosh” , which has just opened in Marygate in Berwick. She sells these all around the world.

Tales on Film

We have been quietly capturing some of the Tales from our live events on film in a variety of different ways. This will provide a more permanent legacy, a chance for a wider audience to see these tales and will give us content for future plans for a “Pop up” Museum. This has been done using a range of local amateur and professionals establishing themselves and one of the projects functions has become to provide material and a platform for artists of all sorts to develop and practice their skills and artistry.

Some of this work was showcased at the first public premiere of “Tales on Film” which was held at the Henry Travers studio at the Maltings on Wednesday 18th November.

It featured 4 tales: The Monks of Dryburgh (with input from the Duns Players), The Faithful Wife (which won our young film makers awards at the Berwick 2013 Film and Media Festival), The Vacant Chair (Wilson’s first published tale) and finally The Monomaniac a drama shot on location at Paxton House.



Berwick Literary Festival

Our talk to the Berwick Literary Festival, focusing on the Everett/Wilson correspondence from the National Library of Scotland was enjoyed by the audience with positive feedback received.

In the meantime our joint venture with the Literary Festival and Rotary to provide a new “Tale of Borders” received over 150 entries. We intend to publish three of these as part of our 2016 revival issue. So this will keep the Tales fresh with more local input and widen the group and generations aware of them and the winners of this competition become published authors as part of their prize.


Revival Event – The Adventures of Launcelot Errington and his Nephew Mark: A Tale of Lindisferne.

Wilsons Tales Launcelot Errington

Our fifth live event, “The Adventures of Lancelot Errington and his Nephew Mark: A Tale of Lindisferne.“, presented with Berwick 900 by Northumberland Theatre Company with support from John Nicholls from the Northumbrian 15 Jacobite society was well received and attracted our largest audience yet of over 70.

The event features an introduction to Wilson’s Tales and the Wilson’s Tales Project by Andrew Ayre, Project Director, “The historic context of the rising and the tale” by John Nicholls MBE, Chairman, The Fifteen (The Northumbrian Jacobite Society) and the Northumberland Theatre Company’s performance of “Launcelot Errington and his Nephew Mark: A Tale of Lindisferne.

The Northumberland Theatre company are already receiving rave reviews for their latest production, “A Wife or the Gallows” from which from which “Launcelot Errington and his Nephew Mark: A Tale of Lindisferne.” is extracted.

“Six amazing actors – seven if you include the stage manager – and one brilliant show. This must mean the Northumberland Theatre Company’s latest production is under way … My favourite story was the Northumbrian tale of Launcelot Errington and his Nephew Mark … ” – Michael Pearson, Northumberland Gazette.

2nd Revival Edition Now Available!

Wilsons Tales 2nd Revival EditionWilsons Tales Books outside the shop front

It follows a similar format to one we developed last year, this time with 6 tales, edited and updated for modern readers with companion pieces about the historic background events and the extent to which the tale follows these.

Two tales are of love and devotion set against harsh backgrounds. Two are swashbuckling local adventures and the final two are based on a wider canvas of Scottish adventures abroad.

The first chapter in what will become a biography of Wilson and the tales is also included.

There has been growing community involvement in the project with 12 contributors this year providing a mixture of updated versions of the tales, research, photographs old and new and reproductions of some of the original illustrations.

The book can now be purchased at Grieves, Berwick Tourist Information office and The Barn at Beal. We can also post out to those of you further afield price £8.50, including postage. Please send a cheque payable to “The Wilsons Tales Project” and return address label.

We will now start on planning edition 3. This includes working this year with Berwick Rotary and The Berwick Literary Festival where we have provided the theme for this year’s schools writing competition; write a more contemporary “Tale of the Borders“, as the last ones dated from before 1840. The 3 winners of the age categories will have their stories published as part of next year’s edition and will become published authors as their prize.


September 2015 Shop Display

Wilsons Tales Shop Front

For the month of September we have a shop front display on Berwick high street in the former Country Casuals shop, promoting what we are up to. This includes the first public outing of some of our display and information panels.

We are also starting to successfully be awarded be awarded small amounts of funding for the project, in particular to build up towards our “pop up museum” concept for 2016, including various tales captured on audio visual formats for retelling to audiences in a listening room.

May 2015 and Forwards…

We also continue to discover further editions of the tales. The photograph is of a reprint in 1887 as part of the “Kenilworth library” series. A selection of what were considered to be literary classics from the back catalogue of the time.

Our March “revival” life event was a success and again attracted an audience of around 60.

We have been awarded some funding from the ‘Pen and Palette’ fund and the ‘AONB’ programme to let us make a start on producing some more professional display material for the project and make a start recording some of the retelling of the tales for future repeat use. More on all this latter. We still await a further funding decision on this.

The first of our revival editions of The Tales is close to selling out with only limited copies now available.

Exciting research from one of our readers has recently suggested that Wilson’s tales may have actually contained the first ‘who dun it’. This has traditionally been attributed to Allan Edgar Poe in literary circles for his short story ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’, first published in 1846. A tale which one suspects Conan Doyle largely lifted his ‘Sherlock and Watson’ characters from and it the unexpected twist in the tale was that it was an Ourang-Outang that did it!

However the tale of ‘The Forger’, written by Alexander Campbell and published in 1835 as part of The Tales, predates this and contains all the aspects we would recognise as a ‘who dun it’ or ‘detective story’.

Finally a date for the Diary. Northumberland Theatre Company are bringing their stage version of ‘Lancelot Errington: A Tale of Lindisfarne’ to the Berwick area in October. It will be told in the Town Hall on the 10th October with a background talk on the event it depicts, the Jacobite 1715 uprising.

It will also be presented as part of a suite of 6 tales as part of ‘A Wife of the Gallows & Other Tales’ at Paxton House on the 11th October and then tour to other venues.

Our profile continues to rise. Our revival edition was reviewed in ‘Scottish Field’ and we were recently invited to and attended the Wigton Spring Book festival.

Fourth revival event on 15th March 2015 at the Guildhall, Berwick-upon-Tweed

A second opportunity to enjoy ‘The Monomanic’ (the photograph is of the cast taken in the Picture Gallery at Paxton House at the time of the first performance in November 2014.)

Mary Kenny , a professional storyteller , will be retelling ‘Judith the Egyptian’. Mary had the following to say about the tale and her preparation:

“You may wipe images of pyramids and sand dunes from your mind’s eye, for this is a tale closer to home and of a different grandeur, of a proud race whose name is connected with the small town of Kirk Yetholm – Royal seat of the King of the Gypsies. Set amongst the towering Eilden Hills, and along the banks of the Tweed, this romantic story of love and pride winds, inevitably as the river runs to the sea, to a dramatic and fateful conclusion. My task as an oral storyteller working with this extraordinary, encyclopaedic collection of tales is to adapt what can be difficult and outmoded written language, and re-interpret the story sensitively for telling to a new audience.”

Re-written as short plays by retired Eyemouth GP Michael Fenty are “The Monomaniac” an early description of post-traumatic stress and the events giving rise to it during an eventful trip to India. And “The Monks of Drybrugh”, presented in radio style by the Duns players provides an amusing finale to the evening. Both of the latter tales have been

Future events in 2015.

1st May at the Wigton Spring Book festival, where Morag Eaton’s “Red Hall” prints will also be exhibited.

In October 2015 we have the launch of ‘Revival edition, Volume 2’ at the Berwick Literary Festival , which will be an expanded edition, containing 6 tales with companion pieces on the historic context and the first chapter of a biography on Wilson and the Tales.

The Fifth Revival event is a re-telling of the true tale of the seizure of Lindisfarne castle as part of the 1715 Jacobite uprising on the 300th anniversary of the event. Look forward to ‘Lancelot Errington and his nephew Mark; A tale of Lindisferne’. A joint collaboration between The Berwick 900 Project, Northumberland Theatre Company and the Northumbrian Jacobite society.

Newsletter 53

Wilson’s Tales Newsletter 53.  May 2018
This issue:

Admin – Please update your subscription!

News Items:

  1.  Marchmont House Visit – Last few places !
2.  Recent Recognition for Poetry and Prose:
3.  John Mackay Wilson study.
4.  Volume 1 back in stock!
Important! Subscription Update
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and – please share with your friends. JMW deserves more recognition, and we have some interesting projects in the works.

1.  Marchmont Visit

  • Only 9 places remain for our privileged visit to Marchmont House on 2nd August.

Reserve your place by emailing 
to confirm attendance. (Send a cheque for £20 a head payable to the project to secure your place.)

Something ‘bubbly’ will be available on arrival, followed by both the ‘Tale of Marchmont’ and a tour & talk about the recent restoration.

Starting at 6-30, it will last about 2 hours. places are limited to a maximum of 32. places are  allocated on a first come first served basis.  Email 
to book or for more details.

The Tale of “Sir Patrick Hume: A Tale of the House of Marchmont”  was written by Wilson.  It relates the story of Sir Patrick Hume in 1665, and the trials of those days. You must come along, or read the story, to find out how it ends!

Marchmont House details  are here The interior at Marchmont is arguably one of the finest in Scotland, and the house retains many of its original features, including the magnificent George II period plasterwork by Thomas Clayton, the pre-eminent plasterer of the time.

In 1914 the then owner Robert Finnie McEwen commissioned Sir Robert Lorimer to enlarge the house.

One hundred years on, and the house has just undergone a thorough and sensitive three-year restoration which was described by Country Life magazine as ‘outstanding’.

read more about Marchmont here>>
2.  Recent Recognition for JMW’s Poetry and Prose:
Last year Wilson’s poem The Tweed near Berwick was included in Land of Three Rivers, the Poetry of North-East England, edited by Neil Astley and published by Bloodaxe.

Previously his Tale The Doom of Soulis was included in Middle Unearthed: The Best Fantasy Short Stories 1800-1849 (Best Short Stories Book 6), edited by Andrew Barger and published by Bottletree Books LLC. The former put him in the company of Kipling, Auden and Bunting, while the latter put him with Mary Shelley, Dickens, and Washington Irving. Quite an achievement for the son of a Sawyer from Tweedmouth!

Amazon  is selling the ’10 best Fantasy Stories 1800 – 1849′
You can buy the print or digital edition here:-
(Quoting from their blurb)  These 10 excellent stories were uncovered from old magazines and forgotten journals. Andrew provides a list of the stories considered and includes background introductions to each story and author, where available. But his treatment of some of the earliest stories gets even better with annotations which allow readers to peek behind the stories.

3.  John Mackay Wilson Study 
Mike Fraser’s study, the first extensive critical examination of Wilson’s life and work, entitled “Health and Home are Powerful Magnets”. An Exile returns to Berwick will be available later this year.

In February 1832 John Mackay Wilson informed his friend John Everett that he intended to accept the post of Editor of the Berwick Advertiser because “health – and home are powerful magnets to draw me to the North and keep me there”. He became an outstanding Editor and a hugely successful writer of Historical, Traditionary and Imaginative Tales of the Borders, but, rather than enjoying a long, healthy life in his home town, he was dead at 31 years of age just over three years later.
Following a biography of Wilson, Mike discusses the wider political, business and literary contexts in the early nineteenth century, before focussing on Wilson’s extraordinarily productive period of literary and political writing between 1832 and 1835.

4.   Volume 1 back in stock
Volume 1 of the reprinted Tales is in stock again!
If you are missing one or all of volumes 1 to 4, then you can complete your set by just hitting ‘reply’ to this email for more details.
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