Brush Up on Your Brogue: 1895 Style!

Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush by Ian Maclaren

Happy happy St. Patrick’s Day dear readers! In celebration of the holiday Ms. Jeannie is highlighting the biggest deal of the day in publishing back in 1895.  The book is Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush by Scottish author Ian Maclaren.

Ian Maclaren (1860-1907)
Ian Maclaren (1860-1907)

This book is a beauty in the presentation department with decorated board covers in deep green and pale olive accentuated with gold embossed lettering and a four leaf clover design…


An immediate international sensation Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush sold over 700,000 copies upon release and set Maclaren on the literary road to becoming the most prominent Scottish writer of his generation.



The pen name of John Watson, Maclaren, in addition to being a writer, was also a student of religion. The Bonnie Brier, his first book tells the stories of a cast of colorful characters from rural Scotland using  their true dialect which makes it fun to read aloud. The settings and characters were inspired by Maclaren’s own experiences as a traveling minister in and around Perthshire, Scotland, which is still wonderfully pastoral today…

Perthshire, Scotland. Photo courtesy of the Perthshire Visitor Center.

As Ms. Jeannie mentioned in her previous post, over the next several months she’ll be discussing book collections and how and why they are formed. This book in particular is a part of Ms. Jeannie’s character-ridden collection because it contains loose pages, lots of pencil markings and frayed edging.  Ms. Jeannie loves these books most of all because of their appearance. Like the antique leather bound law books she she sold out of in her shop, this book contains so much personality in its shabby demeanor.



The pencil and pen marks are a real source of wonder. Who made them? When, why and how long ago? How many people over the course of the last one hundred years have read this book, flipped through it’s pages, touched its cover? Has it traveled by satchel, by boat, by carriage? Was it carried in-hand via motor car, trolley, subway or bicycle? Has it seen the inside of a dozen bookshops, or one public library or lived on bookshelves in countless private homes? Just what exactly could this story behind the story be?  Its a definite source of endless day dreaming?!


A popular pastime on St. Patrick’s Day is reciting limericks at the pub. But this year Ms. Jeannie challenges you to reading a page in authentic Scottish brogue, Maclaren style, as pints travel ’round the table tonight.


He may not be there in person to witness your brogue-ish attempts, but Maclaren will definietly be there in spirit as you lift your glass and toast to Scotch-Irish heritage! Cheers to a merry night dear readers direct from the Bonnie Brier Bush.



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