Kirsty Wark’s new novel to be set amid Lowland Clearances

Kirsty Wark's The Striding Arch aims to shed light on a lesser-known chapter in Scottish history. PIcture Tristan Fewings/Getty
Kirsty Wark's The Striding Arch aims to shed light on a lesser-known chapter in Scottish history. PIcture Tristan Fewings/Getty
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Their imposing sandstone curves stand as monuments to the thousands of Scots who emigrated across the world over the past 200 years.

But now the history commemorated by sculptor Andy Goldsworthy’s Striding Arches is to be brought to life in a new novel by Kirsty Wark, the Newsnight presenter has revealed.

The book will cover the lesser-known Lowland Clearances, in which families were evicted from their homes in southern Scotland in the early 19th century to make way for livestock and crops.

Goldsworthy, who lives near the 12ft-high arches in Dumfries and Galloway, has given his blessing for Wark to use them for the working title of her book.

It is due to be published next June, five years after her Arran-set debut novel, The Legacy Of Elizabeth Pringle, which was shortlisted for the Saltire First Book of the Year award.

The arches were built using local stone from Locharbriggs, near Dumfries, which was transported as ballast in ships sailing to North America.

Goldsworthy has erected other arches there to make the connection. Wark told the Big Travel Podcast: “My novel is going to be called The Striding Arch.

“The beautiful red sandstone arches are all about leaving, emigrating.

“The first one strides out of an old barn near Moniaive in Dumfries-shire, where a family were cleared and they went to Canada, I think. Then what he [Goldsworthy] has done is placed these arches in upstate New York, in Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s all about the act of going, and that’s important in my book as well.”

A spokeswoman for Ms Wark said: “It is a working title.”

The Moniaive arches were installed ten years ago to help regenerate the area, which had been ravaged by a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

Goldsworthy has said: “The stone is a potent symbol of the Scots who went abroad, of the tremendous upheaval they made, or were forced to make, when they left Scotland. I would hope that collectively these arches are a celebration and monument to the Scottish people and the travels they have made, and that they will act as a connection between those who have left and those who have stayed here.’

Wark said: “I really urge you to go there – it’s beautiful. I asked Andy Goldsworthy if he’d mind if I called my novel that and he said ‘not at all’.”

Tina Fiske, Goldsworthy’s partner, said: “Kirsty indicated that a pivotal scene in the book takes places at the site of Andy’s Byre Arch at Cairnhead, near Moniaive. Andy was happy to tell her that he had no objections.”

Jan Hogarth, who was manager of the Striding Arches Project, launched to increase visits to the area, welcomed Wark’s book as both highlighting the area’s Clearances and adding to its literary heritage.

She said: “People do not realise the Clearances also happened in the Lowlands.

“There has always been a romanticism about those in the Highlands, but it’s been forgotten they happened here too. They were just as bad in the south of Scotland – people were cleared from the land and sent to America and Australia.

“There is a literary history in Dumfries and Galloway that’s amazing, such as Thomas Carlyle and Robert Burns, while Sir Walter Scott’s Old Mortality featured a gorge – Crichop Linn [near Thornhill, east of Moniaive].”