The Secret Diaries of Donald Dewar
Lee-Potter, Adam, Daily Mail (London)
Byline: ADAM LEE-POTTER
THE turquoise, slightly laboured and smudged scrawl is pure Adrian Mole.
But from the very first entry, it is patently clear that this is no ordinary teenage diary. But then this is no ordinary teenager.
There is no talk here of spots, discos and pubescent angst. And certainly no Pandora. Indeed, girls are only mentioned, in passing, just the once, squeezed in between the reading of a weighty tome on European history and a bracing walk up an island glen. No, this is the secret diary of Donald Dewar, aged 15 and three-quarters.
It's a fascinating glimpse into the formative years of the adolescent who was to become known as 'the father of Scotland', the architect of devolution.
The much-loved inaugural First Minister, who died last October after a brain haemorrhage, was an avid reader with a well-documented hunger for literature.
He was also somewhat of a hoarder.
He left behind him, hidden away in his Glasgow flats, an astonishing array of 850 books, trivia and memorabilia, photographs, theatre programmes, restaurant menus, match tickets, speech transcripts, letters and even a rugby ball.
Gifted to the Scottish parliament by his children Iain and Marion, the collection - shown to the public for the first time yesterday - is to be housed in a specially designed reading room in the new Holyrood parliament building in Edinburgh.
Janet Seaton, head of research and information at the parliament, led the team which selected the items and which will catalogue and prepare the collection for its permanent home on the ground floor of Queensberry House.
Miss Seaton, who worked at the House of Commons library for 20 years until 1998, said of Mr Dewar: 'He was one of our favourite customers because he was demanding, but he was appreciative of what you did and he also had a sense of humour when he dealt with you and that goes a long way.
'So I was delighted to be involved in choosing the collection and making something that would be a good tribute to his memory in the new parliament.'
SIR David Steel told yesterday how he once found Mr Dewar sitting on the floor reading a book in a small library room during a party at the home of the late Labour leader John Smith.
He said: 'A reading room is the most appropriate way to remember Donald Dewar, his love of books was legendary.' Cooper Hay, an antiquarian bookseller and friend of Mr Dewar, described him as 'a true bibliophile', noting that one of the politician's last public duties, in September last year, was to host a reception for the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle.
He added: 'Donald Dewar was a remarkable man sorely missed by many. This selection from his library gifted to the Scottish people by Marion and Iain Dewar is a wonderful way of commemorating his life.' But, for many, the jewel in the collection's crown is the dozen-page diary that Mr Dewar kept in a faded black school exercise book during the August of 1953. Sir Winston Churchill was Prime Minister and England had won the Ashes for the first time in 20 years. But the teenage Dewar had more pressing issues on his mind.
The author and playwright John Mortimer once said that in the playground you can always see the future banker, the lawyer and the journalist.
And it is quickly apparent, when the boy Dewar talks of being impressed by a family friend's 'collection of Raeburns' and goes on to buy 'the biography of Prince Rupert, the Marquis of Montrose, Sir Francis Drake and Grant's Outline of European History,' that this is a very precise boy destined for a serious life.
A boy who meticulously underlines each day's entry not once but twice and always with a ruler. One who, when asked the time, would never say 'half-past-five' but always '5. …