James Duthie - fifty-five-year-old self-published account by a deaf Scottish cyclist who had set out for Morocco, but ended in Norway
James Duthie, I Cycled into the Arctic Circle: A Peregrination, Northern Publishers, 1951.
A remarkable Fraserburgh cyclist’s 3,000 mile Arctic adventure has been celebrated in a new limited edition book – the revived and revised edition of ‘I Cycled Into The Arctic Circle’.First published in 1951, the book is a first-hand account of profoundly deaf Scot James Duthie’s 3,000 mile journey from northern Scotland to the far north of Scandinavia.
The new limited edition book brings Duthie’s original text into play with artist filmmaker Matt Hulse’s own frank reflections on the complicated 13-year journey that culminated in his own film adaptation of Duthie’s journal. Called Dummy Jim after Duthie’s nickname in his home village of Cairnbulg near Fraserburgh, the film was released in 2013 and was nominated for the Edinburgh International Film Festival’s Michael Powell Award.
A fully illustrated and richly annotated collector’s editionThe new book is a fully illustrated and richly annotated collector’s edition which includes extracts from Hulse’s original screenplay, recipes, new critical writing from Amanda Game, Sarah McIntosh, Chris Fujiwara and Gareth Evans, location stills photography from the film plus a specially commissioned poem by Aberdeenshire poet John Mackie. - Wendy Glass
I Cycled into the Arctic Circle: A Peregrination by James Duthie and Matt Hulse (Saltire Society) is a “newly revived and revised edition of deaf Scotsman James Duthie’s rare journal.” It’s one end-result of a thirteen-year labour of love by the artist-filmmaker Matt Hulse (the other, a film adaptation of Duthie’s journal titled Dummy Jim, hit the film festival circuit in 2013). Both projects had funding from the Saltire Society, an arts organization devoted to “celebrating the Scottish imagination.” In the book’s introduction, the Society’s executive director explains their willingness to help Hulse “revive and revise” an awkwardly written, fifty-five-year-old self-published account by a deaf Scottish cyclist who had set out for Morocco, but ended in Norway: “Both James and Matt might be seen as ‘Saltire people’: people who have a hopeful curiosity about the world and its possibilities beyond national boundaries or the limits of orthodoxy, who nurture a generosity of spirit and a willingness to take others as they find them.” You’d never use Duthie’s account as a practical guide for a similar trip: there are few “how to” tips, and no maps. There are, however, copious illustrations—this is more of an artist’s book than a travel book—that document Hulse’s thirteen-year obsession with Duthie’s expedition: reproductions of vintage postcards and period photographs, sketches and doodles by the filmmaker, and a scattering of illustrations by children in crayon and pencil, showing their impressions of “Dummy Jim” and the places and people he encountered along the way. Best to think of I Cycled into the Arctic Circle as the literary equivalent of an oil painting by a “naïve” visual artist (Henri Rousseau, or Grandma Moses): an artifact that documents an earlier, more innocent time.
- Michael Hayward
While recently recovering from surgery, I found myself needing something to read that was different from my usual diet. I looked at my stack of unread books with new eyes and lit upon a volume that had I had been passing over for weeks as simply too quirky. But now I was desperately in the mood for something off-beat.
A few months earlier, a long-time Vertigo reader had sent me a book he thought I might enjoy called I Cycled into the Arctic Circle: A Peregrination by James Duthie and Matt Hulse, published by the Saltire Society, Scotland in 2015. As it turns out, it’s a wondrous and utterly uncategorizable book that I read in a single sitting. In 1951, a deaf Scotsman named James Duthie decided to bicycle to Morocco. He headed south and crossed the Channel into France, where he suddenly veered east into Belgium, Holland, and Germany, before turning north into Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, ultimately reaching the Arctic Circle. A few years later, Duthie wrote a short book about his three-month trip, which he apparently sold door to door to fund future bicycle trips. Since then, Duthie’s I Cycled into the Arctic Circle has become a fairly rare book and a bit of a cult item that strikes me as the literary equivalent of outsider art. (While it’s a book of travel writing, it’s definitely not Patrick Leigh Fermor.) Duthie comes off as affable, intensely curious, and eternally optimistic – the kid of guy who will talk with anyone, anywhere.
May 30. I woke up in the morning at sunrise and counted and examined all my belongings after having a good breakfast. I pumped the tyres of my bicycle, went back to the main road which is very good and flat for cycling, and contemplated going to Flensburg.In 2001, artist, writer, filmmaker, and Duthie enthusiast Matt Hulse began contemplating a film about Duthie’s book, which was finally produced in 2013. The trailer for the film, which is called Dummy Jim after Duthie’s nickname, seems to confirm that the film is, as one reviewer put it, “utterly bonkers.” The book, to quote from the official website,
I saw the well-built aerodrome during my run to Flensburg. It is the Royal Air Force’s property…
I went straight to the German-Danish frontier after a short visit to Flensburg.
A German police official stamped my passport. Another German police official permitted me to enter the Danish border. In Denmark I bought ice cream at a small shop which is attached to the Danish bank at the border.
brings the cyclist’s original text into play with the filmmaker’s own frank reflections on the complicated 13-year journey that led to his film adaptation Dummy Jim (2013).I often scan and reproduce pages from the books I write about, but in this case, I don’t have to. Here’s a link to the Dummy Jim website, where there is a brief video that flips through every page of the book in less than twenty seconds. Finally, when you have a few minutes to kill, there’s a wonderfully interactive website for the film over at dummyjim.com. - Terry Pitts
Extracts from Hulse’s original and largely unseen screenplay, recipes, new critical writing from Amanda Game, Sarah McIntosh, Chris Fujiwara and Gareth Evans, location stills photography from Ailsa McWhinnie, Samuel Dore and Ian Dodds, plus a newly commissioned poem from Aberdeenshire’s John Mackie.
Communications between Hulse and his many creative collaborators – without whom the kaleidoscopic project would never have seen the light of day – complete this rich volume.
Edinburgh Film Festival: The story of ‘Dummy Jim’
The life of deaf cyclist James Duthie