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Issue 18 - The Oxford Bar Edinburgh

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 18
January 2005


This article is 13 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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The Oxford Bar Edinburgh

Top crime writer Ian Rankin is happiest in one of Edinburgh's best bars. Main text and pictures by Andy Hall

During the making of A Sense of Belonging to Scotland, I travelled 15,000 miles to take only 50 pictures, often returning four or five times to capture light with the quality and direction that I wanted. My companion on many of these trips was Inspector Rebus, Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh detective. Ian is a master of his crime writing-genre and listening to his stories while driving was the most absorbing ways to appreciate his mastery.

The picture of the sign above the Oxford Bar in Young Street in Edinburgh is the most unusual photograph in the book in that it doesn’t represent a view, but is equally valid and important in fulfilling the central theme of A Sense of Belonging to Scotland. Its validity lies in the friendship and sociability which is inherent in many Scots and also among visitors to Scotland.

I love this picture myself. The condition of the sign reflects the time that it has hung there. The proprietor of the Oxford Bar, John Gates, once showed me a photograph from the early 1900s which contained the same sign. When taking the shot, I found myself thinking of the characters who have passed under in the intervening century, including of course Ian Rankin and, in his imagination, Detective John Rebus.

Listening to the story of Knots and Crosses, still my favourite, began in my hometown of Stonehaven and the final sentence was uttered by the wonderful voice of narrator Bill Paterson as I drove into Achiltibuie, West of Ullapool!

A Sense of Belonging to Scotland: The Favourite Places of Scottish Personalities by Andy Hall (pictured) is published by Mercat Press.

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