First-time author Keith Ryan tells the early history of his hometown in a book which also pays homage to his love of football and music.
Bloody Berwick strands the border settlement from medieval times in 1286 to the union of the crowns of England and Scotland in 1603 and the completion of the ‘Old Bridge’ in 1624.
It is the story of three centuries of Anglo-Scottish warfare seen through the eyes of Edwards I to IV and Richard III on the English side and William Wallace and Robert the Bruce for the Scots. But it is also interspersed with childhood memories, his dreams of playing for Celtic and lyrical references to music of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, the author’s lifelong influences.
Keith, born in Castle Hills Maternity Home on the north bank of the River Tweed in 1958, fondly remembers having his first pint of McEwan’s Tartan as a 15-year-old and also the glorious day when Berwick Rangers beat the mighty Glasgow Rangers.
He writes “Is the town really in England, or might if after all be in Scotland? Mind you, on the 28th day of January 1967, Berwick was neither in Scotland nor England; it was lifted up to Heaven on clouds of black and gold. And I should know. Along with thirteen thousand three hundred and sixty four other souls I was witness to the miracle.”
Keith, 57, now living in Wellingborough, left Berwick as an 18-year-old. He is married to Hilary and they have two children, Frances, 24 and 20-year-old Michael.
His inspiration for Bloody Berwick came from reading Simon Schama’s A History of Britain on a train journey back to the town for a family funeral. He says: “It was fascinating and annoying. The first because of Schama’s clear enjoyment in telling the tale and annoying because there I was, born and bred in the town but ignorant of its history. I resolved to educate myself and in time the thought occurred that others too might like to know something about the history of the town.”
He says of Bloody Berwick: “I have enjoyed researching it, enjoyed writing it and most of all enjoyed the opportunity to put on paper the fact that I am and always will be a proud Berwicker.”