Highland playwright, John Burns, and storyteller, Bob Pegg, come together to create a new play set in a mountain bothy.
The Highlands are world famous for some of the best mountain scenery in the world; but perhaps less well known are the bothies that populate the hills and glens. Bothies are simple dwellings, left open so that those who wander Scotland’s hills can find shelter in remote places. If you visit a bothy you won’t find any electricity. Water must be collected from nearby streams, and there won’t be an internet connection; or, most likely, a phone signal.
Yet, despite their very basic facilities – or perhaps because of them – these remote shelters draw walkers and climbers from across Britain and even from as far away as Europe and America. Some bothies are well known – with names like Sheneval, Rhyvoan, and Corrour – whilst others are kept secret and known only to a small circle of folk who fiercely guard the whereabouts of these romantic places.
Mountaineer John Burns has spent years exploring the remoter parts of the Highlands and their bothies. “I can understand why a lot of people would see no appeal in visiting a bothy. Most of these places take hours of walking to get to. They are often cold and damp when you get there, and you may have to sleep on the floor.”
“Despite these hardships, I am fascinated by bothies. Once you sit down by candle light beside the bothy fire, it’s as though you have travelled back in time. I’ve often spent hours in bothies swapping stories with the folk I meet, and it was this that inspired me to start work on the play.”
Beside the Bothy Fire has been produced in collaboration with musician and storyteller Bob Pegg. Bob has been fascinated by the folklore of the Highlands for many years, and has poured his knowledge of the stories and traditions of these remoter places into his book Highland Folk Tales, published by The History Press in 2012.
Says John, “In the play, which is perhaps closer to a cabaret than a traditional drama, I want to invite the audience to join Bob and myself as we tell tales in the fire light of a remote bothy. It has been great to work with Bob. Not only is he a fantastic storyteller but he is also an incredible musician and that adds a great deal to the performance.”
Bob Pegg is just as enthusiastic. “When we created the show, we approached it from two different directions – John as an actor, used to working with a script, and me as a storyteller, often adapting to circumstance on the hoof. The temperamental and physical space where we meet to perform I find very refreshing, and quite different from what I’m used to. It’s also fun to try and recreate an atmosphere – beside the bothy fire – in which stories have been told since storytelling began.”
Back to John again. “As well as exchanging stories, poems, and music we also tell the story of Benny Rothman and the Kinder Mass Trespass in 1932. That was a landmark event when landowners were trying to keep walkers off their hills. Some ramblers went to prison and the outcry that caused led to some of the right to roam legislation we have today. Our ability to wander where we like was born at that time and Bob and I have created a play within a play to tell that important story.”
“We want to share the atmosphere of a Highland bothy with as many people as possible. You won’t have to walk for miles with wet feet to join Bob and I beside the bothy fire but you will get a taste of another world.”
Contact John Burns firstname.lastname@example.org for more information