I visted Edinburgh a second time almost two years ago and really had a great time. The day we were leaving Edinburgh for London we decided to explore the world of Robert Louis Stevenson, Burns, Scott and countless others. So after a hearty breakfast we set out on a very special mission. We had hours to kill before we had to walk down to the train station so this was a good opportunity to wrap up our short weekend spell in Edinburgh. We asked for directions to where we needed to go and it reminded me so much of asking for directions in PNG. When one asks for directions to a place one would be told: ‘it’s not too far’, ‘just around the corner’, ‘it’s within walking distance’ or ‘about 10 minutes from here’ and so on. This morning was exceptional, we needed very accurate directions since we had a few hours to kill but we still had to return to the hotel to collect our luggage before we headed for the train station. We had no choice but to take whatever direction we were given. But honestly, no-one warned us about these! Killer stairs!
High up on a ridge I s’ppose tucked away in a corner of the bustling city this bright sunny day was The Writer’s Museum. We realised we could have taken the main drag or the Royal Mile towards the Edinburgh Castle and slipped in through one of the many Close(s) to get there. For starters, I wouldn’t be wanting to bring up my bacon and eggs and secondly, it would have been much faster. Anyway, we soldiered on and were rewarded after the long climb up the cement stairs. The sign above told us we had reached our destination. The building was beautiful and has a lovely wooden door akin to doorways of log cabins and fine wooden buildings. We were hoping it was open after all that walking and climbing the steep stairs.
The place was open and that was the best news. We entered almost in awe and wonder. It was really quiet but quite a few things to see. As we walked quietly around I was quite surprised that for Scotland’s famous writers’ who gave to the world some of its literary wealth, the museum was quite small. However, looking on the positive side, I realised that this museum is a shrine of honour to these famous bards and storytellers – Scotland’s own. Aye!
I was impressed with the memorabilia and items of historical importance in the Robert Louis Stevenson collection. One of the most intriguing things was that there was very little on Stevenson’s life in Samoa except for a few photographs of people and events that took place during his time there. I was pleasantly surprised to meet a Samoan lady in the museum. She also came to see the Robert Louis Stevenson collection that morning. I couldn’t remember whether or not I asked her whether Stevenson lived alone in Samoa until his death and whether she responded or not. I wasn’t really familiar with the story of his life. I was glad I met her there and the fact that she is Samoan made the meeting special. We also found out during the brief encounter that we had mutual friends and acquaintances – small world. Samoa – one of the idyllic Pacific Island countries in Polynesia, was where Stevenson spent the last years of his life. The Samoans referred to him as ‘Tusitala’ – ‘A Teller of Tales’ or storyteller. He died in 1894 at the age of 44 from cerebral haemorrhage. At his death the Samoan Chief Tu’imaleali’ifano said these immortal words:
“Talofa e i lo matou Tusitala. Ua tagi le fatu ma le ‘ele’ele.” – “Our beloved Tusitala. The stones and the earth weep.”
Since that visit I wanted to find out more about the famous poet who spent the last days of his life in the Pacific Islands – in Samoa. Apparently, he was much loved by the Samoans. Stevenson empathised with them and was seen always to be on their side when in conflict with other foreigners in Samoa. The beloved Tusitala was buried on Mt Vaea, Samoa. At his death the epitaph which he penned himself was inscribed on his tomb.
“Under the wide and starry sky;
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longs to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.”
After looking around upstairs, we left for our hotel. As we walked back towards the entrance of the Lady Stair’s Close, off the Royal Mile, I wondered whether we could do the same thing in PNG – honoring our literary giants, and we do have a few. They too need a special place that will proudly showcase their work. I am thinking of PNG’s writers and literary icons such as Sir Vincent Eri, Sir Albert Maori Kiki, Kumalau Tawali, John Wills Kaniku, Sir Paulias Matane and lots of contemporary others. It can be a combination – a museum and a gallery where foreigners and nationals can remember and honor PNG’s own literary giants. Em nau, something to think about seriously.
For further information on the Writers’ Museum, visit http//www.edinburgh.gov.uk. Below is the address of the Museum:
Monday to Saturday: 10.00am – 5.00pm
Sunday: 12.00pm – 5.00pm (August Only)