Lesley’s Great Adventure by George Beardmore (Merlin Books, 1967)
I grew up accepting the fact that I have a slightly unusual name, and that very few characters in fiction have the same name as me.
That’s why it was so exciting when my mum brought home Lesley’s Great Adventure. I must have been about ten years old.
This Lesley is a girl from the Scottish islands – she goes to school in Stornoway – who becomes involved in saving local deer from poachers.
Right at the start, the names were as good as any fantasy novel – Stula More, Greiach Island, Crionaval – and that’s just in the first eight pages. I was instantly immersed in Scottish island life, with no compromising over unfamiliar vocabulary – it all becomes clear in context.
Mixed in with the plot of saving the deer from the poachers is Scottish history, and odd words of Gaelic, and naturalists studying the wildlife, and a pony for Lesley to ride. There are boats, too, and I learned that you can round up deer using a rope dipped in creosote (they hate the smell!).
And the descriptions are vivid. Here’s one from late in the book:
“Standing precariously beside Alasdair, Lesley stared and stared. The mist at their feet was like another sea with its own fjords, bays and estuaries, but with none of the sea’s obedience to the laws of gravity. It seemed to be drifting inland from the long sea-arm of Loch Ballasay across the peninsula, over towards Loch Ruray and Harris. Out of it rose the rocky islet of Greiach, the cliffs of Crionaval, an island or two of higher ground.”
I was there, in my wellies and anorak and kilt.