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Sun shines at John O'Groats for book launch event


By David G Scott

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The four writers assemble at the John O'Groats fingerpost for the official launch of Finn and Friends on Sunday. From left, Gail Anthea Brown, Charlotte Platt, Andrea Wotherspoon, and Ian Leith. Picture: DGS
The four writers assemble at the John O'Groats fingerpost for the official launch of Finn and Friends on Sunday. From left, Gail Anthea Brown, Charlotte Platt, Andrea Wotherspoon, and Ian Leith. Picture: DGS

Fine conditions prevailed over John O'Groats on Sunday afternoon for the launch of a new children’s book by four Caithness writers.

The sunny weather prompted a photo shoot at the famous Groats' fingerpost and a couple of other locations before the assembled authors made their may to the Seaview Hotel close by.

Finn and Friends has stories and poems featuring the adventures of Finn the Orca, Peter Puffin, Black Cat, and Meg the Witch. Models of these characters were created by Robbie Anderson and all now live in and around the harbour at John O’Groats. The writers of the new book are Gail Anthea Brown, Andrea Wotherspoon, Charlotte Platt and Ian Leith, while the illustrations are the work of pupils at Canisbay School. The design and production of the book was by local graphic designer, Kerrie Moncur.

New children's book Finn and Friends. Picture: DGS
New children's book Finn and Friends. Picture: DGS
Another photo opportunity at the Groats archway which has a puffin embedded within it. Peter the puffin is one of the characters in the book. Picture: DGS
Another photo opportunity at the Groats archway which has a puffin embedded within it. Peter the puffin is one of the characters in the book. Picture: DGS

"It's a collaboration by local authors and the John O'Groats Development Trust (JOGDT) as well as the John O'Groats Book Festival," said contributor Charlotte Platt.

"We as authors were involved in the book festival last year and did readings during the digital phase of it and Ian [Leith] approached us to see if we wanted to do something involving the Canisbay school – they provided drawings of the three main characters and we originally thought of doing one larger story. We eventually decided that we would each provide a story and then see how the book matched up. It made for a much nicer book because it meant we all had different ideas and different ways of doing it."

The writers stand beside one of the book's characters, Finn the Orca. Picture: DGS
The writers stand beside one of the book's characters, Finn the Orca. Picture: DGS

As part of the 2022 John O’Groats Book Festival, the JOGDT held the official launch event at the Seaview Hotel, where each of the writers were present and copies of the book were available to purchase at £10. All proceed from the book go to the Trust.

Andrea Wotherspoon from Thurso said: "I'm a short story writer and been writing stories most of my life – mostly for women's magazines like People's Friend, different anthologies and publications.

"Ian approached me and asked if I'd put a story together and I jumped at the chance. I'm a great believer in development trusts and community work. It's really good to be involved with something that helps John O'Groats locally."

From left, Gail Anthea Brown, Andrea Wotherspoon and Charlotte Platt at the Seaview Hotel. Picture: DGS
From left, Gail Anthea Brown, Andrea Wotherspoon and Charlotte Platt at the Seaview Hotel. Picture: DGS
The event was held at the Seaview Hotel, John O'Groats. Picture: DGS
The event was held at the Seaview Hotel, John O'Groats. Picture: DGS

Andrea said she put a "nice local twist" to her story by including Meg Watt the Duncansby Witch in it. "It's been really exciting and it was great to do a collaborative project. There are so many good writers in Caithness and it's great to see a group of us get together and do something like this."

Gail Anthea Brown is also from Thurso and has penned two novels as well as writing the blog Wellies on the School Run. Gail said her story for Finn and Friends is called The Race to John O'Groats and concerns a race by animals to the Groats sign to become the mascot for the village. "The animals find out it's not that easy to win the race and there are a few challenges along the way," said Gail.

"It's been really exciting to be part of a collaborative and local project and it's nice to see it all coming to fruition after a lot of hard work over the past year."

Walter Mowat introduced the event in the Seaview Hotel. Picture: DGS
Walter Mowat introduced the event in the Seaview Hotel. Picture: DGS
Audience members at the book launch event in the Seaview Hotel. Picture: DGS
Audience members at the book launch event in the Seaview Hotel. Picture: DGS

Ian Leith was another of the book's contributors, writing a poem for it, but also acted as coordinator on behalf of JOGDT to make the project happen. "We all worked together, talked about it and changed bits. It was a great collaborative project. Then we got Sharon Pottinger to do the proof reading. Kerrie Moncur from Thurso did the digital part and put the book together."

Walter Mowat introduced the various writers at the Seaview Hotel and said that the book will be eventually for sale online and can be bought at the First and Last Gift Shop in John O'Groats.


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