News 74 – Dinner and Judging

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Newsletter 74

Wilson’s News 74.  September 2023
Memorial Literary Dinner.
Newsletter 74 contents:
1. Wilson Memorial Dinner. October 2nd
2. 100 word Tale competition. Judging in progress.

** 1.  The Wilson Memorial Dinner.

The J.M. Wilson Memorial Literary Dinner will take place at The Maltings, Berwick, at 7:00 p.m on October 2nd, the anniversary of his death.

The 2023 J.M. Wilson “Beans & Bacon” Memorial Dinner.  is open for bookings, though space is limited, and many places have been booked already.  A vegetarian option will be available.
Payment preferred via Bank Transfer or by cash/cheque on the evening.
Please note that in view of the limited places, ‘no-shows’ will be charged.
You may reserve a place by email to (
Fuller details are on the website – click here for information (
tickets are available in the shop by clicking here (
The Menu and programme is here, ( and are also linked from the website pages.

The programme features Chris Adriaanse reading one of Wilson’s own Tales entitled The Festival, about Tweedmouth Feast. It was originally published as the lead Tale in edition 38 on 25th July 1835.

The shortlist and winner of the 100 Word Tale competition, which was originated at these dinners will also be announced and read.

Why Beans & Bacon?
For those who don’t know, Wilson was a poet, and wrote, amongst other material, a humorous poem called ‘Beans & Bacon. The Tale of Toby Toothpick’ which describes the tribulations of an impoverished young man, reduced to a tramp, who picks up a scrap of folded paper that turns out to be a £20 note. Making the most of his good luck, he books into the first Inn he finds and orders himself a large plate of beans and bacon, accompanied by a generous quantity of ale.
All does not go well…   Though there is a happy ending.
You may care to read it, and our commentary, in volume 5.
At the dinner, the poem is read as a precursor to our own ‘Beans & Bacon’ dinner.  Chefs to date have risen to the challenge and produced delicious versions which Toby wouldn’t recognise..

The full poem and companion item are on the website here (

Monday 2nd October -Maltings Cafe, Berwick on Tweed.
Doors open at 7:00 pm.
The cost is £32 per head.   A Vegetarian option will be available.
2.  100 Words Competition.
This now annual competition was made into a prize competition open to all last year, and attracted entries from across the globe. This year’s competition closed on September 2nd, again with entries from round the world.
2023 entrants have been included in this newsletter, but you may unsubscribe from further mail using the optional at the bottom of the mail (there will be no effect on the judging!)
The addition of a stricture calling for a Tale which ‘could have been used by Wilson’ seems to have reduced the quantity slightly, but improved the quality, and it is especially pleasing to see many local entrants from the Borders beside the dozens from other continents.

Judging is now taking place, long listed authors will be advised by email, and the eventual shortlist and winner will be read and announced at the dinner.

Watch this space!

– Here is a 2022 shortlisted entry, by Jackie Latham

Tom and Dick

Dick was the best window cleaner in Northumberland, so thorough, took his time with every window.  The only thing that puzzled me was that he always came after dark.

Then last month he said he couldn’t use the ladder any more so was switching to a Reach and Wash system, so did I know that he could attach a camera to the pole to make sure he got into every nook and cranny?

I said I did. I kinda regretted that though when he was had up for being a peeping tom.  But my windows were so very, very clean.


We’re delighted to help the cause of local and independent bookshops.  Even more so when they stock Wilson’s Tales.
Now available from these high street locations;

Slightly Foxed, Bridge Street, Berwick.  :
Berwick Heritage Centre, Walkergate, Berwick  : (
Greives, Church St , Berwick  :
Main Street Trading, Main Street, St Boswells  :
The Reading Room, The Square, Melrose  :
The Village Shop, Cornhill-0n Tweed.   :

and if you missed last year and Volume 7, you may purchase them both together at a reduced price, but only on our website.
goto to purchase, or any of the booksellers above

Copyright © 2023 Wilsons Tales of the Borders, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you asked to receive information when you attended an event or opted in via the website,

Our mailing address is:
Wilsons Tales of the Borders
Mill Farm
Berwick Upon Tweed., Northumberland TD15 2HP
United Kingdom


the 100 Word Challenge 2023 goes live

Following the success of the 2023 competition, which attracted entries from across the world, we are again running a competition to write an entire Tale in exactly 100 words.

Grand Prize of £50.00.

Closing date September 2nd 2023

Full details on the website.
A printable poster is at 

Wilson Memorial Dinner 2022

After the necessary absence, the annual Dinner hosted by the Wilson’s Tales project in Berwick has returned, and thrown open its doors to the public, inviting everyone to buy a ticket and attend. 

This year the event is at the Maltings, Berwick’s premier theatre venue, on October 3rd, close to the anniversary of Wilson’s death.  Andrew Ayre, the Project Director, and MC for the evening said “We are delighted to be back in the public view, our prize winning production of the “Freebooter of Coldstream”was a huge success in Duns, and our annual dinner has been gathering momentum since 2019, so we thought it time to invite any and all of our supporters and the public to come along and enjoy some of Wilson’s work together with a meal fit for a pauper.” 

The pauper reference is to the poem by Wilson entitles “Beans and Bacon: The Tale of Toby Toothpick,” a comic tale which is assumed to be commentary on Wilson’s time in London when he was extremely impoverished.  The poem will be performed in the course of the evening, together with a dramatisation of the Tale of Kate Kennedy.  New this year will be the announcement of the winner and shortlisted entries from the 100 words prize challenge, a competition now open to worldwide entrants to write a Tale in exactly 100 words.  

Full details of the dinner, tickets, competition, and a sample of 100 word tales can be found at  

Wilson’s Tales revival Volume 8 is here.

At last the wait is over.

Volume 8 has arrived.  Another 6 Tales, rewritten illustrated and researched, and again containing a mixed collection that is humorous, incredible, and informative.
Get your copy now from the Wilson’s Tales shop at
and there’s a special offer.  Because last year’s suffered from shops being closed, you can buy both for a special price here  and get 12 Tales plus the additional editorial.

Thirlestane Castle – Exclusive – August 5th at 7:00 pm

Thirlestane castle, and Midside Maggie

One of the finer ‘Tales of the Borders’ relates how Midside Maggie saved the Earl of Lauderdale wi’ a fine bannock.  

You can read it, renewed, in Volume 7.
And on August 5th, beginning at 7:00 pm, you can join an exclusive Wilson’s Tales visit to Thirlestane castle, where the Tale began its dramatic centrepiece.

The Project has arranged a guided tour with the castle, with, of course, some dramatisation of a Tale or two along the way.  The evening will consist of:
7pm  arrive with own picnic in grounds.
7-50 for 8pm assemble at front door for welcome and glass of bubbly.
8pm. Welcome and introductions
tour of castle stopping at  suitable spaces for;
a retelling of Midside Maggie
Background on the Duke of Lauderdale, a highly important figure in Scottish history

Limited Tickets
Sadly, there is a strict limit on the number of tickets and all places must be pre-allocated, for to be sure of a place, please visit our web shop here and purchase, or reserve a ticket.  We can accept payment in person on the night, if you prefer not to use PayPal but we MUST have a pre-allocated ticket.

Midside Maggie is one of Wilson’s own tales, and it demonstrates what a good writer he was.  A Tale to really get your teeth in to!

Go HERE to purchase your tickets

 Local retired Doctor wins playwriting prize.

 Local retired Doctor wins playwriting prize.

Berwickshire writer, Dr Michael Fenty’s reinterpretation of the “Leein’ Jamie Murdeiston” Border Tale has won the competition co-run by the Wilson’s Tales Project and Duns Playfest. This week he was presented with a commemorative artwork based on an 19th C. edition of the orginal Wilsons’s   to celebrate his win.  

Wilson’s Tales are a series of border stories written by Berwick Advertiser editor John McKay Wilson in the 1830s. The tales, many written while Wilson was living in Tweedmouth, were published by Wilson as a free standing weekly publication, which proved a run away success and they were then seldom out of print for the next 150 years. 

The Wilson’s Tales Project partnered with Duns Playfest, the annual drama festival, to present a competition for playwrights to reinterpret one of Wilson’s Tales. Part of the prize was intended to be a public performance of the winning submission, but inevitably, Covid meant those plans had to change. 

Michael’s wining work had to be premiered online. Instead of performing on stage in the Duns Players’ usual venue, The Volunteer Hall, it was filmed on a freezing day in Polwarth Church. “Not quite the premier I had envisaged ” said Michael,  adding, “While I’m amazed at what we managed to do in such difficult conditions, I’d still love to  put the play on live, as I wrote it with audience participation in mind, which, obviously we couldn’t do in a filmed version.” 

John McEwen, of Duns Playfest, commented “ Many of us have worked before with the Wilsons tales project on these border tales and it great to have a more formal arrangement of partnership for the festival, particularly given Wilson’s connection to Duns” (His father was from Duns) Andrew Ayre, from The Wilson’s Tales is also keen to repeat the cross-border creative collaboration, saying .  “There are some great tale’s in this body of work and it is wonderful that new  eyes are looking at these and presenting the tales in new and exciting ways for todays audiences”  

The play can still be watched online via the Duns Playfest website. Duns Playfest intends to return to in person performances in 2022, and you can find out more at  

Wilson’s Tales run several events across the year: you can find out more at  or buy books featuring selected stories illustrated by local artists from the website of Grieves’ bookshop in Berwick. 

Andrew Ayre and John McEwen present Michael Fenty with his prize outside John McKay Wilson’s former office , Berwick. 

Radio Rooms to host Wilson’s Event July 2nd

Wilson’s Tales return home to Tweedmouth after 200 years. 


Local writer, John MacKay Wilson would be proud to know that almost 200 years after he originally wrote his Tales of the Borders, his stories will come to life on stage at The Radio Rooms in his native Tweedmouth this week.

Forming part of The Radio Rooms’ “Journey Through Genres” programme, on Friday 2nd July The Wilson’s Tales Project will present an evening of music and drama inspired by some of the hundreds of stories that were published in the 1830s.

Joe Lang and Jackie Kaines Lang will give a light-hearted retelling of “Grizel Cochrane: a Tale of Tweedmouth Muir”, complete with a touch of Covid-secure audience participation. Musicians Eilidh Campbell, Iain Petrie and Carol Whinnom will perform traditional and new songs and ballads inspired by the tales and their setting in the Borders.

The evening is the first in The Radio Rooms’ programme “A Journey Through Genres,” a series of twelve events showcasing different musical genres and featuring local performers. Supported by the Arts Council Grassroots Live Music, free tickets are available for people aged between 16 and 21 on application to The Radio Rooms.

“It is wonderful to bring MacKay’s tales back to his home in Tweedmouth,” said Andrew Ayre of The Wilson’s Tales Project. “He is buried in Tweedmouth Parish Churchyard, which is very near to The Radio Rooms, so he’d almost be able to hear what we’ll be doing on Friday evening. I wonder what he’d make of the venue’s name, though, as the radio wasn’t invented for almost a century after he wrote the stories!”

Tickets are available in advance at . The event is on Friday 2nd July at 6pm, at The Radio Rooms, 95, Main Street, Tweedmouth, TD15 2AW




Beans & Bacon night! Tonight at 6:00 p.m.

Sunday 8th November – 6.00 p.m. in conjunction with the Berwick Literary Festival, and in celebration of the anniversary of the first edition of “Wilsons tales of the Borders”, Berwick’s own 19th century  international best seller, we will be hosting…  

’Intoxicating Tales of The Borders’

Register at 

Visit the registration page, collect your ticket, and at the appointed hour:
Pour a glass of something for the Toast, settle back in the comfortable chair, and direct your browser to the link:-

Proceedings start at 6:00 p.m.

Introduction    Andrew Ayre

6-05 A Toast to Wilson  – have your glass charged and to hand!

6-06 “Beans & Bacon” edited recital of the poem on which our literary dinner is based.    Joe & Jacqui Lang.

 6-10 Wilson’s intoxicating tales – a whistle stop tour of tales involving booze.    A. Ayre

6-14 “The Heir of Elphinstone”    Stuart MacHardy

6-22 “The Pentland Smuggler”    Stuart MacHardy

6-30 Wilson’s Tales Revival Edition launch of Volume 7    A Ayre/J Lang/R Wilson.  The WTP Committee pick their favourite and give some comment on it

6-40 100 word tales    Richard Wilson

6-45 Q & A

6-55 Farewell;  The temperate mans song    Joe Lang.


Andrew Ayre is Project Director of The Wilson’s Tale Project

Stuart MacHardy, aka “Bloke in a Bunnet,” is a professional storyteller and author.  Contributor to the Edinburgh Storytelling Centre and others.

Joe Lang and Richard Wilson are Directors of The Project


Proceedings will start at 6:00 p.m.

The website shop at

Will remain open to sell Volume 7 at a launch special price for 48 hours after the event.
Volume 7 is also available from:-