The stories began as bedtime tales, spun by a father keen to remind his young children of their Scottish roots and instil in them his deep love of and respect for the countryside.

Huddled up under the covers, his children would listen, spellbound, as Rennie McOwan filled their heads with adventure.

“I can still remember it very clearly,” says Lesley Andrews, smiling. “We grew up in Liverpool, but my father didn’t want us to lose touch with our rural Scottish background. He told those stories off the top off his head to entertain us – he never intended for them to be published.”

Those bedtime stories became Light on Dumyat, the first of four books McOwan wrote about The Clan, four children roaming the Scottish countryside having adventures. First published in the early 1980s, the books – thrilling page-turners, full of suspense and Scottish history, cleverly interwoven with straightforward advice about protecting the hills - have been quietly captivating young readers ever since.

Timeless tales with themes of children playing freely in the countryside, building dens, being self-reliant and confident, they have a new lease of life in lockdown.

“My dad’s books remain on Scottish schools’ reading lists and many asked us to consider digitising them,” says Andrews. “We took the decision this year to make Light on Dumyat available on Kindle. We thought it was important to do so, especially at this time when children are not able to be out and about and play as freely as they used to. The stories provide a wholesome escape, away from endless YouTube videos.”

I first discovered Light on Dumyat a few summers ago when my younger son, then aged around nine or 10, picked it up in a bookshop and started reading. “I can’t stop,” he pleaded when it was time to leave. Intrigued by this novel which had so captivated my son and later, his older brother, I did a bit of digging and discovered there were a further three books in the series - The White Stag Adventure, The Day the Mountain Moved and Jewels on the Move.

All were being reissued by Andrews’ company Rowan Tree Publishing, in response to a deluge of requests from readers and booksellers. Light on Dumyat was republished in November 2016, the White Stag Adventure followed in 2017 and The Day the Mountain Moved in September 2019. The fourth adventure, Jewels on the Move, will be published this autumn.

“The love for the books is universal,” says Andrews, who was a key part of Amazon’s launch into the books market when she worked in London, before setting up her own company. “That is what fuelled me into republishing them. For me, both as Rennie’s daughter and with a background in publishing, I have always believed, deep in my heart, that with a bit of a push they could be bestsellers.”

McOwan never intended to publish a children’s book, says Andrews. A chance conversation with a publisher friend started the process, and one thing led to another.

“For almost 40 years, with virtually no promotion – my father tended to go with friends rather than bigger companies - they have remained popular,” she adds. “They are on school reading lists. My dream is to see them on television – Scottish countryside is enjoying a renaissance on the screen with shows like Outlander, for example, and there is a huge focus on outdoor learning, the freedom of children to play and roam and take risks. The books tap into all of that. This is their time.”

The first book introduces Gavin, holidaying in Stirlingshire, and the Stewart children - Michael, Mot and resourceful ringleader Clare.

“Making a girl the leader would not have been a conscious ‘nod’ to equality, it would not even have occurred to my father,” says Andrews. “He was free of prejudice. He judged everyone as equals, regardless of colour, gender or background.”

McOwan was born in Menstrie, near Stirling, in 1933. Some of the characters in the Clan books are based on real people from his youth, including his cousin John, who was evacuated from London to stay with the family during the Second World War.

“My grandfather was a headmaster, so the children stayed together in the schoolhouse, a big red sandstone building, and they roamed the Ochils during their free time,” says Andrews.

When a local landowner blocked the young Rennie from walking across part of his land, protecting Scotland’s access rights became a mission, and an influence on his writing, for the rest of his life.

A keen mountaineer, he was increasingly incensed by the number of “do not trespass” and “private” signs springing up across the Scottish hills.

“He was passionate about Scotland, instilling in us since childhood that we are mere custodians of the countryside and it is our duty to protect it for the next generation,” says Andrews.

“He respected the rights of those working on the land, but simply didn’t agree that a single human being should own huge tranches of the countryside and shut it off to others.”

McOwan was one of the architects of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, successfully arguing that the traditional de facto access rights Scotland had enjoyed should be enshrined in law.

He was also a journalist, beginning with the Stirling Journal before moving to The Scotsman where he became Scottish Desk Editor at the age of 23. With the encouragement of his editor, fellow outdoors enthusiast Sir Alistair Dunnet, he founded the Scotsman Mountaineering Club, which later became the respected Ptarmigan Club of Edinburgh.

McOwan was the youngest editor of the Scottish Catholic Observer and the inaugural communications director for the Catholic Church in Scotland.

In 2019, a theatre company transformed Light on Dumyat into a play, performed to more than 400 schoolchildren as part of an interactive day of climbing and walking in the Ochil hills.

“It was a little surreal to be trotting up to the peak with Deputy First Minister John Swinney,” recalls Andrews. “I was nervous about adults playing children, but they did it beautifully. My father had been aware of the project before he died and had been well enough to read the script and suggest changes. He was a quiet, modest man, and I think he was always a little taken aback by the ongoing interest in the books.”

McOwan died, aged 85, in 2018, survived by his wife Agnes, Andrews and her brothers Michael, Tom and Niall, and five grandchildren.

“I miss him terribly. His legacy is huge - the Land Reform Act, of course - but also these books,” says Andrews. “I feel like it is my debt to him to raise awareness of them, to give them maximum exposure, because they can only bring good to the children who read them.”

Light on Dumyat is now available on Kindle. A new, specially illustrated edition of Jewels on the Move will be published by Rowan Tree Publishing on September 23.