top of page


This last week I visited the very civilised Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries (to see a most impressive 50-year retrospective by my artist cousin Alexander Robb.) The Scottish weather was in full working order - I'd had to break my journey overnight at Carlisle when the trains refused to play ball during a big storm - and the River Nith was pouring over the quayside in the town centre.

Stepping past the foaming waters, I came to this tastefully inscribed boulder, which records that Dumfries was home to the exiled Norwegian forces during WW2. My own link to the town is that in 1979 it was the location for the world premiere of my most performed composition ever, King Harald's Saga - quite randomly because of an arts council tour undertaken by Jane Manning and, at the piano, Richard Rodney Bennett.

For those people who know 'King Harald', its standout feature is a surprise appearance by the massed Norwegian Army, always perfomed by Jane with the greatest gusto. After reading the boulder's inscription, I couldn't get over this amazing coincidence, which must have passed all the original local listeners by during what must have been a firestorm of new music that evening. Alas, far too late now to point it out to Jane or to Richard.





bottom of page