Ailsapress News


Photo – Sheila Burr

Here is a photograph of Ruth MacLean (left) and Cathy Wilson (right) holding the two books with which they went on tour in the fall of 2022. They travelled a fair bit over southern Ontario, visiting three art galleries, The McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the Carnegie Gallery Dundas and the Grey Gallery in Owen Sound; the Blue Mountains Public Library on Georgian Bay; the Japanese Paper Place in Toronto where Ruth bought all the papers which she used to portray Emily Carr’s paintings; the Canadian Women’s Art Association also in Toronto; and most importantly two High Schools one in Owen Sound, the other in Kincardine, which is Ruth’s home town. The book about Emily Carr was written especially with young adults in mind, so it was a real pleasure to meet the young people for whom the book was meant and to have their responses. There was much appreciation of both books, though it was mostly the Emily Carr book that was presented. In some of the venues, after the reading from the books, a collage workshop was held. It was gratifying to see how quickly participants got involved in making their own pictures using the collage technique. The photograph shows two cards which were sent by two young admirers from New Zealand.

Below is a photograph taken by a visitor at the McMichael Gallery during a reading of the book Eulalie’s Journey to Algonquin with Tom Thomson. Ruth is showing her original artwork to the interested young people sitting at her feet as Cathy reads from the book. It is a happy coincidence that the sign over the fireplace says “CANOE LAKE” – since Canoe Lake was where Tom Thomson loved to visit when he went to Algonquin Park to live in the wild and sketch.



Ailsapress is a publishing member of Publishing Scotland based in Edinburgh. We were very proud to be included in their Year of Stories (2022) where they put the spotlight on to various publisher members. Ailsapress is probably the smallest of Publishing Scotland’s members, yet they are able to prove that to be a publisher member, it is not necessary to make it “big-time.” There is room for small independent members who can contribute to the health and wealth of their local communities. Here is the link which will take you to the Ailsapress story:


It has taken a while, all of two years to get our new book published. Sadly we lost our distributors in Canada (one of the COVID casualties) and we were uncertain at first whether to move ahead to publish AND distribute the book in Canada ourselves. We have had such enthusiastic responses from various readers that we have taken the plunge and the book is due out on July 1st this year. Back orders can be taken from May 1st.

A book for young adult readers and older; this is a magical story about Canadian artist Emily Carr, and is based both on fantasy and fact. It starts with her beloved trees. The trees call her “the little rebel” and predict that her desire to live in the human realm will make her life difficult. As an innate tree soul, she will not understand human society but neither will she remember her true origins. Her dearest wish is to become a painter.

Emily’s life is a fable of courage and tenacity. As an art teacher, one of her favourite sayings was “SCRAPE !” Whenever her pupils heard her say this, they knew that she meant them to begin all over again. Emily was not afraid to do this herself. The story explores the many different beginnings that she made on her life’s journey, eventually to find her own unique style of painting, and to re-discover her tree soul.

The text is richly informed by Emily’s own writings and further fleshed out with stories from the First Nations of Canada’s West Coast. The character of Raven is drawn from these stories. He is the one who reaches out to Emily when she is at her lowest ebb. He takes her to the place where only dreamers can go. Her spirit is revived and her paintings are filled with a new energy. Her last paintings of the forest in British Columbia are a luminous dance of brush strokes that weave together a panoply of trunk, foliage and Light.

We have been waiting a long time before announcing our new book. It is a follow-up to the Tom Thomson story written by his dog Eulalie. This time the artist is Emily Carr and we are reaching out to the Young Adult market ages 14 years upwards. Emily Carr is probably Canada’s most famous painter and an amazing female role model. Born in 1871, to an English middle-class family, there was little to indicate that she was to become either famous or a successful painter in her early years. Perhaps her most out-of-the-ordinary asset was a fierce independence. Even as an infant, she refused to comply with the conventions of her upbringing in the town of Victoria on Vancouver Island. Many people regard her as an eccentric and one of the most common stories about her is of how she would let down a chair on a pulley when visitors arrived, but it was very soon pulled up if she did not want them to stay. She had a strong spiritual conviction, though it was to take time for her to discover how best to express it.  There is no doubt that her first encounters with the totem carvings of the First Nations Pacific Coast did much to instruct and inspire her. Our story brings her into the world as a rebel tree soul. Her tree elders warn her that to walk in the human realm will be difficult for her, and she will forget her tree origins. Without the help of her fellow creatures, and in particular of Raven, she might have lost her way. In our story we weave fantasy with the real-life facts of Emily’s life. Readers have already praised the story and acclaim it as a gift to young readers.
The expected publication date is July 1st 2021. The book will retail in Canada at the price of $21.95. Watch this space. We will be posting the cover and sample pages soon.

Tuesday November 16th sees a new screening for schools in Argyll. Cathy Wilson, the author of the Bramble and Coultoon books, will be reading the first of the three books “Bramble and Coultoon Their Hebridean Adventure”. We are expecting eight or so schools to take part. Sarah McManus, the founder of Readtrip and the programme organiser, will also be interviewing Cathy after the reading has taken place. The pupils will prepare questions to ask Cathy and Sarah will pass them on. A similar question and answer session happened at Cardross School and it worked very well (see below). The programme will end with some photographs taken by Islay’s local photographer James Deane of scenes on Islay.


Class Primary 5 of Cardross School have been reading the Bramble and Coultoon books as a home education exercise with their teacher Lorna Macmillan. On Thursday March 4th, their teacher invited Cathy Wilson to a “Meet the Author” event on Google Meet. Cathy joined the class on screen. This was a special occasion to celebrate National Book Day. The children all had a question to ask Cathy. Cathy has been inspired by their interest and their questions and is definitely thinking of a story where the two ponies make a come-back!

You can see from the quotes below that the children found it a very enjoyable experience all round. “I did make a few suggestions for book ideas, but that isn’t too important. If you actually want to use them, I’ll be utterly shocked!” “We loved your book. I want to read more of your books.” “I loved Bramble and Coultoon. All the characters are so interesting.” “Why I liked the Bolsa Cave adventure is because it is funny and exciting.” “I’d love to do it again.” “I really enjoyed the story about the piper and why they couldn’t play because of the English.” “It was interesting to learn about what has inspired you.” “Did you go on a lot of adventures when you were little?” “I like how you started your career as an author by writing books for East African children because they did not have very relevant books.” “It was great to see you in person.” “We hope to see you again some time.” “The most interesting thing is that you are 80! WOW!” “I really like the felt Bramble and Coultoon. Our class will take good care of them.”

The photos shows the two felt ponies who have trotted all the way by Royal Mail to Cardross, and a few of the lovely comments and pictures that the pupils made. There is a plan to use the felt ponies for classroom story telling. The ponies will be passed, and whoever is holding the ponies becomes the story-teller. So this way, the whole class can be involved in making up a complete story. It doesn’t have to be about Bramble and Coultoon, it could be about a very frightened frog – it is an open book!

Special thanks must go to Lorna Macmillan whose enthusiasm and enterprise made the screening of Bramble and Coultoon possible. If other Primary School teachers are interested in using the pdf’s that Cathy was able to provide Lorna, please get in touch at


Here is part of an article that appeared in The Scottish Farmer recently. It is about one of our authors, Mary McGregor. She wrote the stories called BaBa the King of the Castle & Jacket Potato which were published in 2012. The book has sold well, especially at the Bruichladdich Distillery where Mary works. Luckily for us, Mary is preparing another book, with two more of her lovely stories. One of them is about her Highland pony Lucy. Lucy was a gift from her father when Mary was only five years old. Mary’s not telling us how long Lucy lived – that’s a surprise when you read the book – but we do know she led a full and happy life. We are really looking forward to her new book, to be published in September 2022. The title will be “The Seasons with Cindy and Lucy – Old Farming Ways on Islay”

Extract from an article by Kathryn Dick, The Scottish Farmer issue May 8th 2020
I was born on Islay and raised on Gartacharra – our family farm – situated behind the village of Bruichladdich on the island of Islay, in Argyll. My family has farmed the same farm for four generations and it has always been ‘the way of life’.
I have found written records that our family have been farming at Gartacharra as far back as 1830. The farm is still in the family and run by my brother, Donald. When I was a child, it was a dairy farm, then we moved on to cattle and sheep and now it is just beef cattle.

I have worked at Bruichladdich Distillery since 2003. It’s just a mile away from the farm. We make Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte, and Octomore single malt whiskies and also started making the wonderful Botanist gin in 2010. …. My role has developed within the distillery from working in the shop and visitor centre as shop manager and senior tour guide to my current role of private client manager. This entails meeting, greeting and looking after our guests from all over the world and taking some of them to visit their own casks in the warehouse.

I have a great love and interest in nature and all creatures great and small. Living, working and growing up on a farm, you get used to being the ‘gate’ whenever animal movement is the job of the day.
“Stand there! Don’t move! Don’t let them get past! Chase them back!” I’m sure everyone growing up on a farm is used to hearing these commands shouted at them at some point!
My favourite aspects are caring for all the young animals and looking after the smaller ones, the farm dogs and cats. . . . I also enjoy helping Donald work the land, getting it ready for silage. I love nothing more than driving the tractor round and round harrowing the fields or carting the bales up to the farm. I also like preparing a copan (Gaelic for a cup of tea) and a piece (what we call a sandwich) to have as a picnic out in the fields. The craic is always good.

I’ve always been interested in reading and writing. I’ve been writing poetry for many years and I’d always wanted to write a book as the old ways of farming are dying out and wanted to share the stories I have collected over the years. I wrote my fist book ‘Baba King of the Castle and Jacket Potato’ a few years ago now and I’ve started writing my next one now.

The best advice is being honest and work hard – traits I’ve carried with me in everything I do. A couple of stories to me that sums up integrity and honesty. I remember from many years ago came from my Dad. In those days, we sold our lambs to Willie Low (Willie’s son Duncan still comes to Islay to buy our beasts at the mart at Bridgend). We would gather them in and Dad would separate them in to their grades and let Willie know how many of each. Willie would then give us the appropriate price for each grade.
We did all this with Willie back home in Aberdeen without seeing the lambs, but knowing Dad would split them fairly. Another story, again with Willie – which happened many years ago – on this occasion, he called to see the bullocks and said to dad he would like to buy three of his best and offered £60 each. Dad said no, he wouldn’t sell them for that price.
Willie really wanted them, so he upped his offer to £65. “No,” replied dad. Willie, determined to get the bullocks, then offered dad £70, a final offer. Again he declined. Willie then told dad that he really wanted them and what price was he looking for. Dad said he would sell them to him for £50 each – and he did.
Worst advice – “Stand there, in front of that bull and stop him jumping over the fence to the cows!”


Reading tour in Northern Ontario
Author Cathy Wilson and illustrator Ruth MacLean were on a reading tour in Northern Ontario with their book Eulalie’s Journey to Algonquin with Tom Thomson. In the second half of August 2019 they visited independent book stores, public libraries, art centres and even made a return trip on the ferry Chi-Cheemaun between Tobermory and Manatoulin Island. As well as readings they did workshops at some of the venues, focusing on the medium of paper collage, which is what Ruth used for her illustrations. They were interviewed by CBC’s “Ontario Morning” and “Here and Now” during the tour! Here are the clips:



One of the stops on Cathy and Ruth’s tour of Northern Ontario was the Madawaska Valley Library in the town of Barry’s Bay. The following link gives a description of one of their reading workshops. Just a note about accuracy. The first book that Cathy and Ruth collaborated on was “The Tail of Ailsa” – the cat belonged to Ruth, not Cathy. And the article describes their book as self-published. Not quite so. Ailsapress was founded thanks to this first book – it now is a proud member of Publishing Scotland, and while it does publish other books by Ruth and Cathy, it also publishes the work of other authors and illustrators.


In March we submitted our new book to the American based publication Foreword Reviews for review. We are delighted that they are going to include a review of the book in their next May/June issue under the heading LASTING IMPRESSIONS. This is indeed an honour, a full page on the inside back cover! The magazine is designed to promote Independent Publishers and sold at newsstands in the USA. The subject of the book is Tom Thomson, the celebrated Canadian painter, so whether the book catches on in America is a moot point.

The new book from Ailsapress “Eulalie’s Journey to Algonquin with Tom Thomson” is to be released on April 14th 2018. There has already been considerable interest in the book, especially from Art Galleries across Canada. The Tom Thomson Gallery in Owen Sound in partnership with the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Library are giving the book a launch on the same day and major galleries across Canada including the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Vancouver Art Gallery, Calgary Art Gallery and McMichael Art Collection in Kleinburg (outside Toronto) are all making back-orders for the book. It is expected that Libraries and Schools will also be interested. The book is an excellent educational tool for the young reader. Link to Press Release [PDF]


Joan Porter
We are very saddened to hear that author Joan Porter has died on Sunday Sep 17th. She was a lovely warm-hearted lady and totally devoted to her family. Her verses about Little Terry Tiddlemouse and his various countryside friends will always give pleasure to youngsters.

Scottish Field – 1 Feb 217
Young children will be captivated by Little Terry’s adventures with his brothers Snitch and Snatch as they go on a camping trip and have a wild river ride, eat cake and dress up for Halloween. Jessica Excell’s colourful illustrations of the antics of these naughty mice will engage toddlers.

Joan Porter On Homecare
An article appeared on the website Home Care about Joan Porter. Read more on

Bbc Video With Joan Porter
Meet Joan Porter, a children’s author who published her first book at the age of 85. She is now appearing at book festivals and events as she deals with Alzheimer’s disease.

Scottish Field 4-Star Review (January 2017)
For those who love a dram, this book by Islay-based, French food and drink journalist, Martine Nouet, is not only a wonderful collection of whisky-based recipes, but a fascinating insight into the spirit’s history. She matches the perfect dram to all of her easy-to-follow recipes. Starters include Scottish Sushi with mains such as duck breast in marmalade and whisky sauce or monkfish laced in whisky. The chocolate and whisky crème bruleé with pan-fried Morello cherries is just one of many tempting sweets. As a world expert on whisky gastronomy, Martine generously shares her 25 years’ research in this lovely book which features [John Paul’s] excellent photographs. You will want to keep one for yourself and buy several to give to friends.

Young Mum’s Delight In Terry Tiddlemouse!
We’ve received an email from Lucy Jay. She says: “Just a quick email to say how much Ruby and Isla are enjoying the two Little Terry Tiddlemouse books that you kindly left for them at Kingsborough Gardens. They are beautiful books which I also enjoy reading to them. Being great fans of dressing up, the girls are particularly fond of the Halloween story. Mollie Mole dressed as a troll is hilarious!”

Huffington Post
The Huffington Post picked up the story about Joan Porter and her two children books. Here’s a wee quote of what they wrote: “Porter said she was stunned when a publisher, Ailsapress, came back to say they loved the stories and they brought onboard Jessica Excell to illustrate the tales. “The best way to describe how I felt is flabbergasted,” said Porter when asked her reaction to becoming a published author. “I wrote them so long ago, it’s hard for me to comprehend they have actually been made into books. I am just pleased that children everywhere can listen to them now at bedtime.” The entire article is available via

Esme Woolwich-Burt loved reading our book in hospital
Esme Woolwich-Burt was in hospital recently – she is now back home and recovering well. She was given a copy of The Tail of Ailsa in hospital. This is what she says: “I came out of hospital last week after an operation in my kidney and was still feeling a little bit sore. Memorising the Tail of Ailsa helped me forget about all the pain and discomfort as I was instantly transported into Ailsa’s world of adventure.“

Tarbert Book Festival
That seems to be the general response to Joan’s verse. Two books by Joan Porter and illustrated by Jessica Excell will feature in this year’s Tarbert Book Festival which runs from October 28-30. The titles are: Little Terry Tiddlemouse, and His Countryside Friends & Little Terry Tiddlemouse Time for Tea and Dressing Up. Publication date is October, RRP £6.99. Distribution: BookSource

Riding The Dragon’s Back

Last year Sophie Hamilton, a dance drama educational worker on Islay, asked Cathy Wilson, “What about doing a project with Primary Schools about the Sky Dragon Adventure. I love the story and I know it will work really well in a dance drama workshop, and you could link in and do an art workshop as well!”   Cathy (the author) agreed without hesitation. Enough funding was obtained from Islay and Jura Fourteen “Sparks” programme to enable the project to go ahead.  Everyone on the project was working as a volunteer but funding was needed for materials to make costumes and stage props, and for coloured paper and glue for the artwork.

The P1s and 2s from Bowmore Primary School were invited to work with Sophie and Cathy. First, they read the story with their Class Teacher. On March 3rd 2016, World Book Day, Sophie ran her dance drama workshop. The children enacted various scenes from the book and used drumming to create rhythm and atmosphere. They were accompanied by Stella Block improvising on her violin.  The children just loved it and you could hear a pin drop as they stood watching the shooting star fall across the black back-drop, for the last scene.

A week later, Cathy worked with them using the same paper cut-out collage technique as is used in the book illustrations. They knew the story well by now and could choose any part of the book they liked for their collage. Many of them chose the scene where the two ponies, Bramble and Coultoon, get a ride round the world on the Sky Dragon’s back. Now those pictures are up on the walls of the school, and they are going to write their own story of how the Sky Dragon came back to visit Bramble and Coultoon!