Alasdair Douglas-Hamilton - Duffus 1958: Lord of the Skies
Review of Lord of the Skies - The life of Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton by Alasdair Douglas-Hamilton (Duffus 1958)
When I was invited to review Lord of the Skies I accepted with some trepidation. I had little idea of the background of the biographer, little knowledge of with whom or what the book was concerned, but as an English Literature graduate with a keen sense of 'Plus est en vous' I was happy to take on the challenge, My initial fears proved to be groundless and I found (to use an old cliché) that once I began to read it, I couldn't put it down.
Several things stand out as you read through; firstly, that more people should be making a concerted effort to write down the lives of the 20th century 'World War II' generation, because they are disappearing and they have probably lived through the most dramatically changeable century in human existence, Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton among them, despite his life being tragically cut short. Secondly, this book reads as a 'Boy's Own' adventure, made even more exciting by the knowledge that it is real and not some work of fiction. Thirdly, this is a book of great affection and far more uplifting than you might expect from a book that opens with the death of its subject, in fact it is that narrative structure that is the book's strongest asset - you know where it is leading, but you are increasingly encouraged throughout it by the sheer amount of things Lord Douglas-Hamilton accomplished in his short time. There is also significant tribute paid to the author's brother Niall, who died along with his father.
Alasdair Douglas-Hamilton has a distinctive writing style, managing to intertwine information on dates and the technicalities of flying, with a strong and affectionate narrative voice, quickly painting vivid pictures of the various exotic places his father visited. The major themes of the book are familiar to anyone with a connection to Gordonstoun, adventure and service, mountains and planes, and it shows the influence Lord Douglas-Hamilton had on the early years of the school and in its magnificent grounds, becoming a governor of the school and maintaining connection with Kurt Hahn long after he retired.
This book is a little gem, a tribute to an amazing man from an affectionate son.
Review by Georgina Black, Head of Media Studies and Teacher of English.