This superb book shows what can be achieved when local pride and enthusiasm is combined with publishing skill and experience. Duddingston: its story in 50 objects by Duddingston Conservation Society and Jacquetta Megarry is nothing short of a love letter to the village of Duddingston. The village forms part of Edinburgh and can be found close to the south-eastern corner of Holyrood Park. This is one of the things that makes it truly unique, for the summit of Arthur's Seat, a 823ft high volcanic outcrop, is only half a mile from the village kirk and dominates many views in and from Duddingston.
Arthur's Seat is one of the 50 Objects featured in this book, and Holyrood Park is another. But we are getting rather ahead of ourselves. The first thing you notice when you pick this book up is just how beautifully produced it is. The book is packed with outstanding photographs. Most are in colour and contemporary, while a few are monochrome historical images. There are nice little colour maps throughout, showing the locations of many of the objects features; and there is an excellent fold out map at the back that doubles the size of the rear cover and gives a very clear idea of the village, its setting and many of the objects in the book.
Having got beyond the very positive first impression created by the book's look and feel, you begin to enjoy the equally positive impressions gained from the content. It's not uncommon to find local guidebooks that set out to tell their stories in bite-sized chunks. It's less common to find it as well done as it has been here. After a few pages of introduction setting Duddingston in its historical and geographical contexts, there's a short chapter on Duddingston's best-known son, the Reverend John Thomson, church minister and artist. Then we are into the 50 objects. The first seven relate to the kirk, including the building itself, its stained glass, its Norman arches, its graveyard and its manse. Then we move on to individual buildings, gardens, the loch, and features in and around Holyrood Park.
Nearly half way through we come to the feature about The Sheep Heid, Scotland's oldest pub, which gains good coverage as its memorabilia and skittles alley are also covered. Then we move on to roads and buildings within the heart of the village before concluding with features about some slightly more dispersed objects. As with any book of this sort, someone had to decide what was worthy of inclusion and what was not, but the collaboration between the Duddingston Conservation Society and Jacquetta Megarry of Rucksack Readers, based in the village, appears to us to have produced something of real relevance and value. We'd heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in Duddingston or in Edinburgh more widely.