The County You Live, Work And Play
Grandmother Writes Historic Novel
A Lanarkshire grandmother has focused on a renowned episode of county and Scottish history in her first published novel.
Retired lecturer Ethyl Smith, who has been writing fiction for 22 years, has turned to 17th century Lanarkshire for a story about Covenanting times.
Its main character is John Steel of Lesmahagow, who had been caught up in the rebellion against the imposition of Episcopacy following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.
Seventy-four-year-old Ethyl, who lives in Auchenheath with husband Robert, said Changed Times – the first book in a projected trilogy – is in no small part due to the rich Covenanting history all around her.
She commented: “Hopefully, the trilogy will bring those times to life and persuade others to see how interesting and exciting it is.”
Research for the book, which took five years to write, was carried out at Glasgow’s Mitchell Library and by travelling to a variety of sites associated with the Covenanters across Scotland, including Bass Rock which had housed a Covenanters’ prison.
John Steel was a farmer at Logan Waterhead near Lesmahagow and Steel’s Cross at the head of Lanark Brae is named after him. He fought at the battles of Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge in 1679. He is buried in Lesmahagow Old Parish churchyard.
Ethyl said: “Living in a Covenanting area with several martyrs’ memorials, I started to investigate the area with a view to a factual leaflet, but as I dug further I discovered that John Steel was that bit different.
“After the Battle of Bothwell Bridge in 1672 he had 1000 merks on his head and was on the run for ten years, but was never caught.
“At the end of the conflict, when a free man, he harboured no revenge. I think that makes him a very interesting person.”
Ethyl, a graduate of Glasgow School of Art, was originally an illustrator and graphic designer, who later moved into education.
She has also written a number of short stories and was a finalist in the Wigtown Book Festival Short Story category last year with Alice and the White Dragon.
Changed Times was released last Thursday, May 5, by Thunderpoint Press in paperback and ebook, and a launch is set to take place at Waterstone’s in Argyle Street on May 19 at 6.30pm.