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 Book Shops > Dalmellington Book Town

Dalmellington Book Town - on the road to nowhere

From far and wide the road signs boldly proclaim 'Dalmellington Book Town'. There's only one problem - it doesn't exist.

Started by Richard Booth in 1997 after he fell out with the supporters of Wigtown, the turning of Dalmellington into a Book Town has struggled since its inception. Booth was originally the only bookseller, but was later joined, and then bought out by 'A Wheen o' Blethers'. More recently two other booksellers joined the project, and the three then traded from an old school building. Not perhaps what most people would describe as a Booktown?

Worse still, the last remaining bookseller quit in January 2005, leaving the town with NO bookshops. The Dalmellington Booktown Company has collapsed, and all that remains are lots of misleading road signs. (08.08.05. PLEASE NOTE: These signs have now been removed, largely thanks to the efforts of our readers.)

I became aware of these signs when I received the following complaint. (These visitors to Dalmellington hadn’t read TheBookGuide, so didn’t realise there were no bookshops in this Book Town.)

"More like Dalmellington ghost town! Didn't know this project had collapsed before visiting the town yesterday (6/4/05). To cap it all it was half day closing so everything - including the pubs! - was shut. Shouldn't someone do something about all the misleading road signs? They start 14 miles away at the Ailsa hospital roundabout! Very disappointed by our fruitless afternoon." - Harry & Anna Lennon, Dundee

I could only agree that something ought to be done, so I complained to East-Ayrshire Council.

A prompt, but noncommittal response from the council stated that, "a new group" were "looking to continue with the Booktown concept" and that they would "monitor the situation". It goes on to say that they will only blank out reference to the Book Town if there is "no sign of progress from the new group within a reasonable time frame".

One council official’s "reasonable time frame" could be any number of pissed-off visitors’ wasted time, so I emailed Dalmellington’s councillor. She was apologetic and said that she would "deal with this matter urgently". But you know what, I’m not holding my breath.

I think it’s extraordinarily irresponsible of the council not to blank out these signs immediately. It would require little work and save considerable irritation. (I was told that the town museum alone can receive a dozen complaints a week.)

If you’ve read this far, you probably share my feeling of grievance on behalf of these frustrated visitors. You could help put pressure on the council, by using the links below to urge them to blank out the Book Town signs NOW. I will keep you informed of developments.

Mike Goodenough

East Ayrshire Council

Dalmellington ward Councillor, Elaine Stewart.

13.04.05. Faced with "a number of complaints", East Ayrshire Council told one of these complainants that they will, "take steps to blank out any reference to the booktown on the tourist signs and on any Council and linked websites". However, they don't specify a "time frame" for achieving this, so I would encourage readers to continue to complain until I can confirm that the signs have been blanked out.

14.04.05. And now for something completely bizarre - the whole book town sign business is becoming truly Pythonesque. Wigtown bookseller Moi McCarty, has written to say that their Booktown can't have brown tourist signs off the motorway because, "the rules state that the sign has to be at the start of a single road". Apparently, "although most of the journey from the motorway is by the A75 the last few miles are on the A714." So, If you don't have any bookshops, you can have lots of tourist signs, but if you have lots of bookshops, you can't!

15.04.05. A Google search reveals no mention of the book town on any Council or linked website. There are just two sites with historic links, which I will attempt to have removed. Searching on Dalmellington & books brings up TheBookGuide warning first, so no one should now be misled on the internet.

16.04.05. Lisa Tennant of Green Snail Books tells me that she intends to open a bookshop in Dalmellington towards the end of the summer. We wish her the best of luck and will include her in bookshop guide when she opens.

21.04.05. Ron Gabbott, who used to run ‘A Wheen o' Blethers’ has re-opened as 'Ye Quaynt' in Newton Stewart, a few miles down the road from...Wigtown.

26.04.05.Emailed Councillor Elaine Stewart asking if she had made any progress in getting the road signs blanked out. She responded, almost immediately, with "I had a word with the head of roads and they are looking at a way to blank them out as soon as possible". I asked again about timescale...

27.07.05 Recived the following comments from Myra McLanaghan:
"I have visited the Dalmellington Book town on several occasions over the years and only a few weeks ago I made a point of going again. What a surprise when I found it closed and nothing to say why and where it was. Needless to say I was extremely angry and annoyed to have wasted my time and energy on that day. Luckily I only come from Ayr but for Harry and Anna Lennon from Dundee they must have felt rather deflated. "

30.07.05 Emailed Councillor Elaine Stewart again, asking if she had made any progress in getting the road signs blanked out.

01.08.05 Councillor Elaine Stewart replies:
"I have been onto the roads again I don't know what's keeping them it could be that another group have appeared to be interested in resurrecting the book town as for the directors of the original they should be ashamed they just packed up and left they still have not dissolved the company yet I am finding it ever so difficult to track them down I will speak to roads today again."

02.08.05 TheBookGuide's response:
"Many thanks for your prompt reply. Whatever the reasons for the council's failure to take action about these misleading signs, they must surely be outweighed by the damage to your town's credibility caused by leaving them in place? Dalmellington is fast becoming a joke in the book world, as the Book Town with no bookshops, and the longer this continues, the harder it will be for the town to recover.
I have resisted talking to the press, because I have no wish to increase your town's discomfort, but perhaps it is the only way to get the decision-makers to take notice? "

08.08.05 Myra McLanaghan writes:
"Just to advise you that the Dalmellington Book Town road signs have now been erased. I noticed this yesterday when I was out on the road."

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