Arthur’s Seat Hike!

SUISS students ascending Edinburgh's Arthur's Seat

SUISS trek up Arthur’s Seat


I have now the pleasure of presenting my readers with an original document of a most singular nature, and preserved for their perusal in a still more singular manner. This brutish little scrap, printed on neon paper, laminated, and with a whistle attached, was discovered in atop Arthur’s Seat by happy dogs. I offer no remarks on it, and make as few additions to it, leaving everyone to judge for themselves. And so:




The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified First-Aider:

Written by Himself.

Fideli certa merces.

My life has been a life of trouble and turmoil; of change and vicissitude; of anger and exultation; of health and of safety. My sorrows have all been for a slighted First Aid manual, and my vengeance has been wreaked on its adversaries. Therefore, in the might of Heaven, I will sit down and write: I will let the wicked of this world know what I have done in the faith of the promises, and justification by grace, that they may read and tremble, and bless their gods of horseplay and running with scissors, that the minister of the Triangular Bandage was removed from their sphere before their tears-before-bedtime were mingled with their sacrifices.

The morning of the hike presented us with weathers most disagreeable, indeed, it seemed that our proposed perambulation might suffer that most tragic of fates: cancellation! Yet, as the noon turned to us, we saw open upon her face the hints of a smile, which broadened presently into the sunniest of grins. We commenced our hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat at around four o’clock in the afternoon. And oh how that sweet sun did blaze! Thus, the only inclement precipitation oozed from within: a dreadful sweat clinging to even those hikers hailing from the most infernal of climes. And yet, reader: I hurried them. Since my swift and easy birth at precisely midday upon the due date, I have always prized timekeeping as the highest of virtues, for surely this is what separates man from beast, and at the midpoint we were a good three minutes behind schedule. And again, reader: I hurried them!

Here then, I reveal my life’s most diabolical shortcoming, that which desiccates my happiness and grinds it to a flour most loathsome. We sped up that rock, blasted by heat, and I discovered to my great dismay that I carried no water! No water, reader! What manner of First Aider neglects adequate hydration? A dreadful poor First Aider, to be precise! Me! Admittedly, most of the students had brought their own water, and nobody was particularly bothered as we were up and down the Seat in forty-eight minutes. Indeed, the students were perhaps most disturbed only by my, yes, slightly alarmist and overly animated reactions to discovering, at the peak, no full bottles within my knapsack. And yes, everyone involved got a great view of this fair City, got to know each other a little better, and generally had a really lovely time.

But the WATER! This torment shall weigh me down for the rest of my bedevilled existence!

Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat

View over Edinburgh from the summit


Here ends the wretched narrative. With regard to the work itself, I dare not venture a judgment, for I do not understand it. I believe no person, man or woman, will ever peruse it with the same attention that I have done, and yet I confess that I do not comprehend the writer’s drift. It’s probably some sort of a silly joke about a lovely SUISS day out…

Tom Farrington.

James Robertson speaks to SUISS!

James Robertson reading

James Robertson visits SUISS


In week one of our SUISS programme this year, we were absolutely delighted to welcome back one of Scotland’s finest contemporary writers, James Robertson.  James is the author of five novels, including The Fanatic (2000), Joseph Knight (2003), and The Testament of Gideon Mack (2006) – a firm favourite in the SUISS office, and the last text on our Scottish Literature reading list.

James is a well-kent face here at SUISS!  He has read for us a number of times, and is always brilliantly entertaining.  This year he kept us enthralled with a reading from his 2013 novel, The Professor of Truth, and he answered lots of our questions on topics ranging from creative writing, to Scots language, to Scotland’s independence referendum.  Thanks for being so generous with your time, James!

If you feel like reading some of his work, you’ll find a link here to a poem that James read to us at SUISS.  We loved it – we hope you do too!  James Robertson’s ‘The Heron’

Tal Griffit, Israel, Class of 2014


A big thanks to Tal, one of this year’s Text & Context students, for allowing us to post his wee poem about Scotland and the conflict occurring in his homeland.

Tal GriffitState of Conflict

We land,
On the cobbled stone
In a bright old day, a newly born;
With the numerous few, who had walked
Here before,
Wee land, we land;
we sore, Wee sore.



Happy 67th Birthday!

Photo on 2014-06-04 at 13.37 #2This month, SUISS celebrated its 67th birthday with good friends, good fun, and of course, LOTS of cake!!!

Many thanks to Linden for the goodies. Next year we may even remember the candles.

Here’s to a summer of laughs and learning…

2014 Lecture Programme

IMG_0618We are so delighted to have many of our former SUISS Directors on the Lecture Programme this year! They include Dr Peter Garratt who will be giving a lecture on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the Origins of Modernism, Dr Emma Lister will be speaking about Alasdair Gray’s Poor Things, Dr Linda Tym on Alice Thompson’s Burnt Island, Dr Karin Sellberg on AL Kennedy and Angela Carter and Dr Julia Boll on David Greig’s Europe.  We also have former SUISS Creative Writing tutors, Eoghan Walls, lecturing on Contemporary Poetry, and Zoe Strachan and Rodge Glass giving masterclasses. This summer is shaping up to be quite the reunion!

Farewell to Nan

DSC03140Many of you will remember Nan Mulder, who was our SUISS Administrator for the past 15 years. Nan was the first point of contact at the summer school and managed the daily running of the office. Nan retired at the beginning of 2013 to focus on her career as a print artist, and after so many years of hosting students from all around the world, she decided that it was time to see the world herself! We would like to take this opportunity to thank Nan for all her hard work and dedication to SUISS.

Diana Finch, Chile, Class of 2011

Diana Finch, Chile, SUISS Class of 2011

Diana Finch (Chile) Class of 2011

I had the privilege and pleasure of attending the SUISS 2011 Modernism and Creative Writing courses, after which an extract of my short story Fire was published in that year’s edition of Northern Lights. On my return to Chile, the British school in Santiago where I had taught for many years, commissioned me to write the school history.

The book, The Story of Craighouse School, was finally published by the school and launched in December 2012. As I needed somebody to edit the English version (the book is bilingual English-Spanish), I asked my SUISS tutor, Jane Alexander to recommend someone and was delighted when she agreed to edit the book herself. Although it is a work of non-fiction, it is told as a story, with the founding family as main protagonists against a background of 54 years of social and political upheaval in Chile.

I have worked as a teacher and translator all my life, and would never have undertaken this work if it hadn’t been for the skills learnt on the Creative Writing course and the self-confidence gained as a result. So this is to send a big thank you to my 2011 course mates, SUISS staff and specially to Jane herself and to wish you all every success for the future.

Dr Pilar Somacarrera Iñigo (Spain) Classes of 2012-13

Pilar Somacarrera Iñigo (Spain) Classes of 2012-13

Pilar Somacarrera Iñigo (Spain) Classes of 2012-13


(A wee poem in an undomesticated translation from Spanish dedicated to the SUISS team and friends)

I love meals at Pollock Halls
crowds are hungry there,
they want to eat it all!

I love the lectures
and the Directors
they are more than I could ask for!

The Administrator is such a blessing
she’s even there
when you need a tooth dressing!

The tutors and Dr Irvine dance with such skill,
and they are also dressed to kill:
there’s nothing like a man in kilt!

And what can I say about the student hosts?
No doubt about it,
they are the most!

SUISS is good learning,
SUISS is fun.
Do it next summer
It’s a must!

Dr Henry and Mrs Marilyn Williams (USA) – Class of 1970

Henry and Marilyn Williams, SUISS alumni from the class of 1970

Henry and Marilyn Williams – Class of 1970

Henry “Phil” Williams from Michigan came to SUISS to study the Industrial Revolution, while Miss Marilyn Davis from Alabama arrived at SUISS to study the philosophy of David Hume.

They took their meals at Darroch Halls, and played croquet in the quadrangle in the evenings. They were married one year later.

In May, they returned to Edinburgh for the first time since their courtship, and stopped by the SUISS office to tell us a bit about themselves…

Dr. Williams, “Phil” received degrees and diplomas from Culver Military Academy, the University of Virginia, the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, the University of Florence, Italy, and two Masters and a Doctorate in International Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, a joint Tufts and Harvard Program.

He has lived in four foreign countries and has studied and worked professionally in four foreign languages: French, Greek, Italian and Turkish.

Formerly a Wall St. and International Investment Banker, he is currently a licensed Realtor, operates a small consulting business, and lectures on a variety of topics, including American History, Turkey and the Middle East.  He has been on NPR a number of times related to a number of his interests, has written newspaper articles, and published scholarly articles on Ottoman and Turkish Law.

Phil is on the National Board of the English-Speaking Union. He is also a member of a number of lineage societies, the youngest being the Sons of the American Revolution, the Virginia State Society of which he is the current President, and the oldest, the Order of the Crown of Charlemagne.

He is an avid sportsman with keen interests in equestrian pursuits, racquet sports and swimming.  He also inherited a love of Antique and Classic cars and has been active in his local car club for many years.

Marilyn Williams is his wife and they have two grown children, Margaret (29) and Phillip (27).


Neesha Ghosh (India) – Class of 2013

Neesha Ghosh (India) - SUISS Class of 2013

Neesha Ghosh (India) – Class of 2013

As a recipient of the 2013 David Daiches Scholarship, I was most grateful for the opportunity to experience what the Scottish Universities’ International Summer School had to offer.

For a young woman with limited past experiences, this was an eye-opener and an immense opportunity to relate myself as a person and as an Indian with people from other and varied parts of the world. It is an experience worth cherishing for years to come, since I am terribly pleased that Edinburgh is the first major city I have visited other than Kolkata. The SUISS experience was wonderful and I wish I could be a part of it for one more time.

The SUISS team managed to deal with the text it selected for study with as much intensity as possible in the short time allotted. I study in a University (Jadavpur University), which provides equal opportunities for self-expression; however, the SUISS team was extremely special since it allowed me to interact with it not only in the tutorials but on other social occasions without any division between the lecturers, tutors, etc. It gave everybody the opportunity to speak their minds and accepted our perspectives with an open mindedness that was astonishing for me, since I come from a part of the world that is very different from Europe.

It has re-enforced the belief that there are people in the world who are more privileged than I, and yet are willing to understand and engage with me regarding problems that are not theirs. In short, I felt befriended, and I think that that friendship enhanced my academic as well as travel experience. I would like to thank SUISS with all my heart for this great experience.