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Tintin’s Scottish Adventure

IT’S WITH a crash, bang and a very-definite- wallop that Tintin, Hergé’s adventurous reporter, arrives in Scotland. No quiet entrance for our intrepid hero. Tailing dastardly villains in a light aircraft, Tintin, accompanied by a suitably moustachioed pilot, flies into dense fog and is forced to make an emergency landing. At first they seem to have landed safely, but suddenly plough into a dry-stone dyke causing the aircraft to somersault over the wall. Fortunately both Tintin and the pilot emerge from the wreckage unscathed, only for poor Tintin to fall into a tangle of brambles, which do far more damage than the plane crash did! Rescued by an elderly crofter, a change of clothes is offered, et viola, dressed in a kilt Tintin makes his dramatic entry into Scotland.

But it wasn’t just chasing villains that brought the redoubtable Tintin to Scotland. Hergé, the Belgian creator of the eternally youthful, bequiffed reporter, was keen to set his stories in little-known and exotic locations and back in the 1930s the Highlands of Scotland were just that. With few major roads, the Highlands were seen as a network of small, remote, isolated communities, where superstition still held sway. A land of ruined castles perched defiantly on rocky windswept cliff tops. A country cursed with ferocious weather, where Atlantic breakers crashed ashore onto the deserted beaches of endless island archipelagos. To most people the Highlands were still unknown at first-hand and shrouded as much by myth as by mist. And this was just what Hergé wanted for what was to become one of the most famous and best-loved of Tintin’s adventures – The Black Island.

The story was originally published in weekly instalments in 1937-38 in Le Petit Vingtième, the children’s supplement of the Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle (The Twentieth Century) where Hergé worked as an editor and illustrator. Many of Hergé’s stories were set in real-life situations, dealing with contemporary events and headline news, as befits a reporter hero! In the 1930s forgery and counterfeiting were growing concerns. While the striking increase in numbers of light aircraft at that time made it easier, and quicker, for wrong-doers to flee to distant parts and escape the law. But not when Tintin was around!

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iScot Magazine February 2017 100 jam packed pages of the best craic in Scotland from the only truly independent pro Scottish magazine.