Tuesday, August 16, 2011

By the North Sea

Jim Tribble, myself, and Glenn Jones
Picture courtesy of Kevin Dunion

I’ve just come back home to the suburbs of Washington DC after a three-week visit to the United Kingdom – hence the absence of posts on Midatlantic over the last month. I spent lots of quality time with my mother and other family and friends, but my trip was also notable for the launch of my booklet-length biography of Princess Titaua of Tahiti (From the South Seas to the North Sea) in my home town of Anstruther on Thursday July 28th.

Two events on that day celebrated the Princess. In the afternoon, there was a ceremony to mark the installation of a plaque on the outside of Titaua’s Anstruther house, Johnston Lodge. Placing blue information plaques on the exterior of buildings that have been lived in by notable people is a tradition in Britain, and this was the Princess’s turn. A group of people gathered in the rain to commemorate the event. A local historian, Dr. Stephanie Stevenson and I each said a few words, and a couple of photographers took our pictures for the local press. Although the weather was a bit uncomfortable, it felt appropriate because the same conditions prevailed at the Princess’s funeral in the same town 113 years ago. Afterwards, we hurried down the road for tea and biscuits at the marvelous Scottish Fisheries Museum, where I used to work in the school holidays.
The rain had stopped by the evening when the Kilrenny and Anstruther Burgh Collection held a reception at the town’s bookshop, East Neuk Books, to celebrate the Burgh Collection's publication of From the South Seas to the North Sea. I gave a short talk and slideshow about the Princess’s life in Tahiti and her strong connections with Scotland. The evening was particularly memorable for me for the chance to reacquaint myself with some old friends from my childhood, including my outstanding and inspiring high school English teacher, Alistair Leslie, still going strong in his mid-80s.
My thanks to Glenn Jones and Jim Tribble, the chairman and publications officer of the Kilrenny and Anstruther Burgh Collection, for their efforts in bringing the booklet to fruition and to John Barker of East Neuk Books for hosting the launch. And to everyone who came and bought copies! All proceeds will benefit the Burgh Collection’s work in preserving the written and oral history of Anstruther.
The evident interest that the Princess’s story evoked in Scotland has led me to decide to write a longer book about Titaua and her two Scottish husbands, focusing on her great love for her second husband which estranged her from her children and caused her to die 10,000 miles from home. Of course this will be in addition to Children of Eden, the book I am already writing on the Princess’s Anglo-Tahitian birth family, the Salmons. At this rate, I may spend the rest of my professional life working on this story but I can’t think of more interesting and enjoyable way to spend it.
From the South Seas to the North Sea: The Story of Princess Titaua of Tahiti can be ordered from: East Neuk Books, Rodger Street, Anstruther, KY10 3DU by phone (01144-1333 310474) or e-mail (eastneukbooks@tiscali.co.uk). The book costs £4.99 (£3.25 for bulk purchases) plus £1.50 postage for UK orders or £2.50 for overseas orders.

1 comment:

  1. We members of Kilrenny and Anstruther Burgh Collection thoroughly enjoyed our day with Fiona in Anstruther in July, and wish her well with sales of her books.

    She has raised a lot of interest locally in Princess Titaua. Older local residents still recall the Princess' family.