BEYOND THE SHORE AND NOW

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BEYOND THE SHORE AND NOW

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CREATIVE WRITING FROM THE AGE ORKNEY COMMUNITY

A ST M EDITED BY

GABRIELLE BARNBY

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During the spring of 2021 a series of creative writing sessions and conversations were run in partnership with Age Orkney and St Magnus International Festival. Participants were invited by facilitator Gabrielle Barnby to think creatively on a number of themes and respond in writing. The results were extraordinary in their breadth and form a tapestry of treasured memories and poignant experiences. The threads of the past weave together with the joys and frustrations of the present, all unfolding with the rhythm and flow of the Orcadian tide.


WRITING BY BETTY CLARK ELLEN FORKIN MANDY FORKIN SARAH POWERS RICHINGS GEORGE RENDALL CHRISTINE RICHINGS JOHAN ROBERTSON ANN TAIT

THEMES HAIKU RENGA MEMORIES OF ORKNEY THE SHORE SEASONS JOURNEYS FEASTS AND FESTIVALS TOUCHSTONES HEART SONGS


CONTENTS HAIKU Mandy Forkin....................................................................................... 10 70’s Buffet Johan Robertson..................................................................................11 Johan Robertson................................................................................. 12 Johan Robertson................................................................................. 13 Sarah Powers Richings......................................................................... 14 North Wind Sarah Powers Richings......................................................................... 15 Cloud Animals Ann Tait............................................................................................... 16 George Rendall.................................................................................... 17 Dementia George Rendall.................................................................................... 18 Skimming George Rendall.................................................................................... 19 Summer’s coming George Rendall....................................................................................20 The Duke George Rendall.................................................................................... 21 George Rendall....................................................................................22 George Rendall....................................................................................23 George Rendall....................................................................................24 George Rendall....................................................................................25 4


George Rendall....................................................................................26 George Rendall....................................................................................27 Gabrielle Barnby..................................................................................28 Gabrielle Barnby..................................................................................29

RENGA Christine Richings - Ann Tait - Johan Robertson - Gabrielle Barnby..... 31 Spring Renga George Rendall - Christine Richings - Ann Tait - Johan Robertson Gabrielle Barnby..................................................................................32 Spring Longings

MEMORIES OF ORKNEY Christine Richings................................................................................34 The Cathedral Ann Tait...............................................................................................35 Smiles George Rendall....................................................................................36 Where Sea Meets Shore Johan Robertson.................................................................................37 New Cheese

THE SHORE Christine Richings................................................................................39 The Shore it Beckons Sarah Powers Richings........................................................................ 40 Kin 5


Mandy Forkin....................................................................................... 41 I Can Still Feel the Sun Ellen Forkin..........................................................................................42 Photograph Johan Robertson.................................................................................44 Favourite chair by the window Ann Tait...............................................................................................45 The Shore Ann Tait...............................................................................................46 If Only Christine Richings................................................................................47 Back in Time Christine Richings................................................................................48 The Shore Has Many Secrets Betty Clark..........................................................................................49 Wonderland Betty Clark..........................................................................................50 I Picture the Sea

SEASONS Johan Robertson.................................................................................52 In Spring Betty Clark..........................................................................................53 The Humble Dandelion Betty Clark..........................................................................................54 Daffodils Ann Tait...............................................................................................55 Winter Shimmer Christine Richings................................................................................56 Storm Tales 6


JOURNEYS Johan Robertson.................................................................................59 Service Johan Robertson................................................................................. 61 Going to Papay for a Day Ellen Forkin..........................................................................................62 Muckle Skerry Ann Tait...............................................................................................63 A Bad Decision in March Christine Richings................................................................................65 Noise and Steam Betty Clark..........................................................................................67 A Man and His Dream

FEASTS AND FESTIVALS Johan Robertson.................................................................................70 Home Spun Concert Ann Tait............................................................................................... 71 Christmas Celebration Ann Tait............................................................................................... 72 Memories of Evie Harvest Home Christine Richings................................................................................ 74 Food We Loved Betty Clark..........................................................................................75 Burns Supper

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TOUCHSTONES Ann Tait...............................................................................................77 The Sixpence Betty Clark..........................................................................................78 John’s Working Cap Johan Robertson.................................................................................79 My Treasured Possession Christine Richings............................................................................... 80 Toasting Fork Betty Clark.......................................................................................... 81 St Christopher

HEART SONGS Ellen Forkin..........................................................................................83 A Desire to Create Ellen Forkin..........................................................................................84 Ellen’s Song of Life Ann Tait...............................................................................................85 Lifelong Christine Richings............................................................................... 86 Home Christina Richings...............................................................................87 Corona Virus Christine Richings............................................................................... 88 Oh, The Raging Sea Betty Clark......................................................................................... 89 I Am Gabrielle Barnby................................................................................. 90 Seafarers Gathering

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Biographies......................................................................................... 91


HAIKU


70’S BUFFET Sausages on sticks Cheese and pineapple hedgehog Black forest gateaux

- Mandy Forkin

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The day is stormy Gales, sleet, snow, and sunshine Daffodils broken

- Johan Robertson

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Our days fly quickly Peedie, school, grown up, old age Mischief still to do

- Johan Robertson

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This Covid nineteen’s A pain in the bum for sure But it will pass on

- Johan Robertson

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NORTH WIND Bitter from the North Waves crash and flood Eyes water and run

- Sarah Powers Richings

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CLOUD ANIMALS Grass tickles feet You see a shark I spot an elephant Ann Tait We are almost done One more zoom session for us Make the most of it

- Sarah Powers Richings

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We are almost done One more zoom session for us Make the most of it

- Ann Tait

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DEMENTIA Neither ‘streen nor morn, Yet now the Sun! wakens a Momentary smile.

- George Rendall

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SKIMMING Shards of ancient stone Anvilled in aeons of dark Now skip on water

- George Rendall

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SUMMER’S COMING Bull-head down, as if To charge, pawing the carpet: Bumbling intruder!

- George Rendall

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THE DUKE Returning from hospital: Eyes glassy, sunken, Skin bruised by years, yet spirit Indomitable.

The media after his death: Loud now the clamour As wise ones gather round the Orange-box manger

The funeral: Land Rover, Fell ponies, Cap - all pokes in the side to Those with long faces.George Rendall Flute-ocarina, Chiming bells - darling starling Floods the air with song

- George Rendall

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Flute-ocarina, Chiming bells - darling starling Floods the air with song

- George Rendall

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Scream at the sky: ‘kyaw Kyaw kyaw kyaw kyaw’ - gull-mobster, Don of high places

- George Rendall

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Goddess of the syringe: All hail, Nike - vanquisher Of dread pestilence!

- George Rendall

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Eaves winter-silent Chirruping with ev’ry new Home delivery

- George Rendall

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Invisible air Batters houses and topples Once proud wheelie bins

- George Rendall

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Heartlift of sunshine Snuffed by wet flake leaden sky Steel yourself, my soul

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- George Rendall


It’s age-defining: Taking no pleasure in snow, Seeing its end. Slush.

- George Rendall

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Lagoon blue water ripples darkly home to shore leaves death in tangles

- Gabrielle Barnby

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Moonless night promise, brings gift-laden feline home saviours return prize.

- Gabrielle Barnby

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RENGA

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SPRING RENGA Longing for spring green cat waits, behind silent glass birds are nest building Seaweed popping in the sun days lengthen, owls flying Birds foraging on the shore terns warning their nests are near Happy lambs racing round the fields like a sports day, all eager to win Blackbird males do their best yellow beaks standing on show Parents fetch food endlessly fledglings spread their little wings It’s good they have no bank card no suitcase – but they find their way.

- Christine Richings - Ann Tait - Johan Robertson - Gabrielle Barnby

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SPRING LONGINGS Longing for spring green cat waits, behind silent glass birds are nest building Neither ‘streen nor morn, yet now Sun! wakens a wistful smile Pale moon rises forlorn stage blackout months away Laughter carries on the breeze dirt beneath your nails Leaves are bursting from the bud days grow longer and brighter Chicks grow quick and very soon leave the nest, ready for more

- George Rendall - Christine Richings - Ann Tait - Johan Robertson - Gabrielle Barnby

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MEMORIES OF ORKNEY


THE CATHEDRAL It stands in all its glory. The first time I saw the red stone towering into the sky I stood in wonder. I walked here with my late mother looking for the grave of John Rae. I took pictures in the winter, when the snow was on the ground, up the ally way that leads past the community centre. I have sat on the stone steps and felt the cold beneath me, and wondered over the years how many people have walked these steps, happy and sad. I always look at the clock and up into the circular window. When the poppy display floated down it filled me with pride to think that my grandfather had been on a ship in Orkney during the 1st world war. I love the shape the arches, the coolness inside, the wonder of it all. The carvings in stone, the new stone crisp and redder, standing out showing repairs. I look for it from the air when the plane flies over Kirkwall. I remember how my mother cried on seeing the book with names of sailors lost.

- Christine Richings

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SMILES I went to Stromness for lunch today Nothing new in that my friends would say But it was a momentous occasion As my sister walked for the first time in months To meet up with me and have some lunch. Her hip is better, the pain is gone Now at last her life can move on. If anything is sure to make me smile It’s to meet up and keep company a while.

- Ann Tait

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WHERE SEA MEETS SHORE Sea-lapping dinghy Gliding gull-like over fields Of Dead Man’s Rope Gaze over gunwale Catgut towers dizzying From a clear sea bed Chorda Filum* Cum spiritu meo - weed Made at once golden

- George Rendall

Chorda Filum aka ‘catgut’ or ‘dead man’s rope’: long, string-like algae growing up toward the surface. 36


NEW CHEESE I was brought up on a croft in Westray. In summer there was always plenty of milk fresh from the cows to make cheese. New cheese was one of our food treats. It needed a bucketful of milk, you put it in a big pot and warmed it to blood heat then you stirred in some cheese rennet. Leave it to set maybe twenty minutes then cut the curds, warm it back up to blood heat. Pour off the whey, it was cut and drained a few times then salted. Line the wooden cheese cogue with a white clean cloth, pack in the cheese, cover with the ends of the cloth. There was two cylindrical pieces of wood to put on top of the cheese cogue weighted down with a big stone. There was holes in the cogue for drainage. Open it up at tea time and enjoy with bread and homemade butter or bunno’s* – eat to your hearts content. In summer there was so much milk my mother made more cheese than we could eat so a lot was dried for winter use. It was mature then and a very different taste, but equally good. So many things that was familiar to us then is just gone. Lost to the world meantime. That is me story of new cheese we sometimes called it skreeking cheese, it made a slight squeek when we cut it.

- Johan Robertson

*bunno’s lots would call them bannocks we had bere bunno’s and floury bunno’s 37


THE SHORE


THE SHORE IT BECKONS The shore it beckons come, come sit down, take off your shoes and socks, leave them high and dry. The shore it beckons come, come put on your coat, bring a rod, stand and fish a while. The shore it beckons come, come feel the sand between your toes, soft, warm, wet and cold The shore it beckons come, come bring a boat, hear the grinding it makes before it starts to float.

The shore it beckons come, come see the destruction I can make, hear me roar. The shore it beckons come, come choose a rock, close your eyes, sit in peace a while. The shore it beckons come, come pitch a tent amongst my dunes, watch the sun go down. The shore it beckons come, come walk along, weave your way around my bays, treading paths of old. - Christine Richings

The shore it beckons come, come put on a suit and mask, slap, slap down to see an underwater glee. The shore it beckons come, come bucket and spade in tiny hands, make a castle oh so grand.

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KIN Tiny foot prints in the sand Found shells, clutched in hand Gulls cry out from above My heart bursts with this love Sandy hand clutched in mine Wind blowing hair so fine Sun kisses this precious face Is there a more perfect place For children and their mum to see Just how sweet life can be?

- Sarah Powers Richings

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I CAN STILL FEEL THE SUN By the shore I feel sad, I didn’t before, this is new and shocking. Everything that is beautiful and wonderful is spoilt. The early autumn sun is so warm and bright, but I see shadows and feel a chill from the non-existent wind. The gentle lapping sea growls in my ears, the chatter of gulls is unbearable. It wasn’t this way before. The shore is still sand, pebbles, saltwater, seaweed, birds, sea glass, shells, turquoise, green, everything is the same, but nothing is the same. The first time to our beach knowing. I realise everything is the same, we are here, it is still special. I can still feel the sun and smell the ocean and hear the pebbles crunch underfoot. With him, I feel his hand in mine. This shore just has a cloud now, Dementia.

- Mandy Forkin

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PHOTOGRAPH The sand is spongy underfoot, the sink and drag of footsteps as we venture onto the beach. The tang of salt on our tongues, and the sulphurous hint of seaweeds which we avoid as we step closer to the shore. A boisterous wind whips up the sea, causing the sunlight on the waves to spark and flash. We stand close to these waves, Mum, Dad and I, and take in our favourite beach. A sense of calm. Deep breaths, fresh sea air in our lungs. Our eyes are pulled to a small island sitting snug on the horizon. An island we gaze at often. An arm swings up, fingers point. A seal! Or selkie? Who can tell? Years of island life have not dulled our excitement at those dark, soulful eyes looking back at us. We share smiles, a squeeze of fingers, an attempted photo. We move on to where the sand makes way to layered, jagged rocks. A miniature place of adventures, none of us are too old to explore. oystercatchers scatter; whirled away by the wind. Their screeches break the quiet shush of the sea. We are merely visitors – this is their home. Two hooded crows watch us from the cliff, curious and patient. The seal has gone. The camera is out again. We stand, Dad and I, the small island behind us, the jagged rocks at our feet. I take off my cumbersome coat and hat. I have too many photographs of myself hidden under woolly hats. The chill of the wind creeps into every stitch of my cardigan. My arms goosepimple, my ears redden. But the sun shines, the sea gleams, and Dad and I stand with our matching blue eyes. It is the first photograph since Dad’s diagnosis. We both smile, our eyes sparkle bright from a week of tears. We stand close, and giggle at our awkwardness at being in front of a lens. Mum calls out, focusing in on us. We are camera shy. We have been foolish. For we are lovely, smiling, laughing. We are laughing despite it all. We capture a good photo. The first of many.

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Clouds gather above, dulling the sunshine. A white gleam marks the sea from the sky, the beach, the view, becomes moody. I wrap up hastily in my coat and hat. The wind cools and dries tears that have sneaked into the moment. Fingers touch, hands squeeze. Dad glances for driftwood. Mum hunts for the glint of sea glass. My eyes snag on the little island in the distance once more. We head back, the sink and drag of footsteps in sand, turnstones darting away from us, the shush of sea matching our breaths. We head home and put up the photo for all to see.

- Ellen Forkin

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FAVOURITE CHAIR BY THE WINDOW I have a marvellous view form my favourite chair, The Red and Gray Heads of Eday are a wonderful pair. Stormy days blowing the sea into huge white horses, Calm days with hardly a ripple and lovely reflections. The tide at times goes roaring along. At other times its as quiet as a lullaby song. The Red Head is pink in the morning sun, It’s a beautiful sight when the days just begun! Spectacular fishing times when the mackerel come, Many kinds of gulls, gannets, scarfs all diving as one. All eager to catch some fish for their tea, A wonderful free feed straight from the sea. The biggest thrill is when the killer whales appear, Maybe one, or up to five it’s a sight my heart holds dear. Once we had a basking shark swimming along, He was busy feeding, handsome big and strong. Then there’s the terns arriving on the 12th of May, Common seals having their pups on an October day. The bonxies, artic skuas and geese all come to and fro, Herons flying by, it’s a mystery where does the neck go?

- Johan Robertson

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THE SHORE I love the shore in all its moods On a summer day or in winter floods, There is always something to catch the eye Like colourful shells or the birds flying by. The sea breezes softly caressing my face Bring so many memories of this place, From childhood I’ve had the chance to run free The shore is a friend that brings solace to me. The feel of the sand between my toes The towering cliffs of the hidden geos, The waves rippling gently on a calm day And the rock pools in which the children play. There’s an inevitability about the sea So blue and calm it can beckon to me, Then on stormy days I watch the waves tower And feel its strength – its awesome power. No matter the weather the beach works its charm Whether strolling along finding shells in the the calm, Or striding out in the wind and the rain I know I will come here again and again!

- Ann Tait

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IF ONLY By the shore I used to feel happy and busy, but now I see a reflection of man’s interference with nature. Only the birds are the same, flying around and wondering who is invading their territory. Not the crowds who used to come to enjoy a seaside outing, but a lone walker sadly traipsing along the littered landscape. Leaving the shore I feel we have a wonderful heritage we are destroying, but it can be restored if only we care enough.

- Ann Tait

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BACK IN TIME We travelled in our uncle’s car, there were three of us in the back. My aunt sat in the front with my cousin on her lap. We kept asking ‘How long?’ and my uncle would say, ‘Over the next hill, then you will see the sea.’ When he parked the car we all ran down the stony shore and picked a spot to sit. Socks and shoes came off, we ran down to the sea jumping the waves. The sea was cold, we ran back up the beach and put our costumes on. We enjoyed sandwiches, cake and drinks wrapped in towels. We could not make sandcastles as the shore was stony, but that did not matter. We always wanted to go to the penny arcades but never did. Once I remember lots of motorbikes parked outside the penny arcades, I think that’s why we did not go inside. There were frequent fights there. I think my aunt and uncle sat on deck chairs, we could see the pier in the distance – it always seemed sunny and never cold. I don’t remember the journey home, maybe we all went to sleep. Those days will always stay with me, and I think that’s why I love walking along the shore and always have a paddle in the summer. It transports me back in time by the shore, I feel free and happy, in good company, the wind in my hair as it’s always breezy by the shore.

- Christine Richings

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THE SHORE HAS MANY SECRETS The shore has many secrets some it holds, some it shares

Nousts dug out from days gone by Seals haul up where boats once lie

Groatie buckies to name but one finding them is so much fun

Limpets, barnacles, shells abound Swans glide by without a sound

Rockpools are a child’s delight crabs a scuttling out of sight

Finding driftwood on the shore carry it home for the winter store

Tangled in amongst the weed victims of a stormy sea

Sun set casts a golden glow across the rippling sand

A little fish high and dry overhead the gulls fly by

Incoming tide will wash away footprints left that day

Passing rocks where otters play stands a heron on display Pottery a plenty, broken and forlorn shaped by nature needing a new home

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- Christine Richings


WONDERLAND A lovely trip to the seashore was when a friend drove me to Birsay. I learned later it is called the Brough of Bursay and is an island connected by a causeway only accessible at low tide. The tide had not receded completely, so I had to take off my sandals and walked over the warm sand and gathered shells. I picked my way carefully through the shallow water on the causeway, as it is very rough. Then we had to dabble our hands in the crystal clear water on either side of the causeway. It’s amazing how beautiful it is, just sparkling. Then we had to negotiate our way over many smooth stones of various colours and sizes. I spoke to a woman who was helping her grandson to build inukshuks, and we had to try this ourselves. She told me life had turned full circle for her, she used to take her son there when he was a child, and now her son takes her. Life is good. Our first trip was exciting and we checked out the tombstones and Neolithic remains, and walked all the way to the lighthouse, treading on beautiful periwinkle blue flowers covering the path. There were many tiny pink flowers too, all the way to the top, and the grass was damp. I wanted to take photos all the time, of the waves crashing into the rocks and the views. I’d been deprived of sea views for many years as we lived inland. I will never forget our walk, as we negotiated our way over the huge pebble like stones, and the support of my husbands strong arm as I traced my steps over the causeway and sandy beach. We’ve been back to the Brough many times and while each visit is enjoyable, our first time was like a wonderland.

- Betty Clark

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I PICTURE THE SEA It’s many long years since I wrote rhyming prose, Something I enjoyed tho’ why I don’t know. I picture the sea with large waves crashing down And the rhythm just comes and the words seem to flow. I see group of three running down to the sea Such pleasure they bring to my husband and me. As they jump from the rocks and swim round to the shore Clamber back up to the rocks and are ready for more. They laugh as they swim and no time for cross words Vivid memories they bring for my husband and me. Tho’ years have rolled by in the modern days. It’s a pleasure to watch these three as they play. Thrashing and splashing and swimming around My heart just brimming with each magic sound. I picture our own three when down at north shore, They laughed and were happy, and we could not ask for more.

- Betty Clark

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SEASONS


IN SPRING In spring we look forward to the daffodils so cheerful after winter when there’s not much flowers. The daffodils burst into the world dancing in the verges, waltzing in the gardens in their beautiful yellow dresses. Telling the bees to come here! Come here! I have some lovely nectar for you. The lambs are dotted in the fields bringing joy to all who see them. Happy in the sunshine, not so much in the rain or snow. Cosily snuggled into mum. If you happen to see the cows and calves newly let out of the byre they are all so very excited, tails straight in the air, running with pleasure of the freedom of spring, freedom out of the byre, freedom of new grass. After all the excitement mums and calves have to find each other again. I very much enjoy seeing all the birds back again to raise a family or two. They come from far and wide. Probably to the same spot every year. Spring is also the time for sowing seeds to grow all summer, flourishing into vegetables marching towards the pot. Flowers to to lift the spirits and brighten our days. Both the sight and scent is marrow to our bones.

- Johan Robertson

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THE HUMBLE DANDELION This gorgeous flower is just a weed, But why it’s disliked is a puzzle indeed. This bloom grows without coaxing And gives us much colour, If rarer I’m sure we’d call it a flower. Its thousands of seeds like parachutes fly, Children blew on them gaily to tell the time by, An early sign of spring this golden dandelion Is removed from each garden and really maligned. The daisy is loved and is used to make chains, The buttercup too is picked to play games, But ‘Don’t give me dandelions, you may wet the bed’ Is something as children we often heard said. This poor little plant is removed from each garden, It’s dug out and choked out, the methods are many. As children we loved them, each girl and boy Why send us such beautify if we’re not meant to enjoy?

- Betty Clark

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DAFFODILS Colourful daffodils loved by all, Varieties are limitless. Daffodils announce it’s spring, What they bring is pleasure, pure and endless.

- Betty Clark

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WINTER SHIMMER I love winter, long dark evenings to sit beside the fire, close the curtains to hide the blackness and shut out the rest of the world. In winter, the skeletal trees stand stark against the sky. Birds, large and small, flutter round the feeder looking for food and robins with their vibrant red breasts and bright beady eyes appear in gardens. Fields hold only sheep with their wonderfully thick woolly coats which help them stand the cold. When snowy days come, children’s shrill voices carry on the wind with shrieks of laughter as they sledge down the hill or build a teetering snowman. Pavements sparkle with a dusting of frost and the landscape lends itself to a fairytale of dazzling white images. And then there’s Christmas, the darkness is lit by a myriad of colours white, blue, green and red all shimmering in the cold air. Yes, for me you can keep the hopefulness of spring, the heat of summer, the colours of autumn. I love winter!

- Ann Tait

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STORM TALES Dancing through the air never seeming to touch, crisp, star like floating down to the earth to settle. Wind howling, blowing you all together, blocking roads covering everything in a blanket of white. Curling crashing waves ,droplets of salty water filling the air, powering up the beach, brushing aside anything in their way, forcing their way upwards over rocks, showing who is in charge. Gulls wearily walk along, slow to fly when danger approaches. Far out gannets dive like darts into slate grey depths, struggling to get up airborne again, only to dive yet again and again in search of the bounty to be found in angry churning seas. Boats tied up in the harbour, large and small redundantly rocking two and fro, twisting and creaking ropes stretched to their limits. Shipping forecast warns of dangers. Plastic tumbles through the air coming to rest upon the barbs of livestock fencing, all colours and sizes like washing blowing on a line. Hydro poles struggle, wires touch and sparks fly, darkness descends, candles are lit, camping stoves retrieved from the back of cupboards. Phone calls to neighbours to determine the cause, rooms start to chill, fires are lit. Favourite programs are missed batteries run down torches and mobiles start to fail.

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Candles flicker and glow, shadows are cast, conversations flow as time passes, turn to tales of storms past. Not a night to be out, but someone must go to face the icy storm. To check their cattle, calves may be born. To trace the fault on the Hydro line, switch off the power until help comes at dawn. To check on the old, get them safely to bed. To hunt for the cat who’s surely not far. While snow hits your face and driving is poor, it will be one to remember much worse than before.

- Christine Richings

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JOURNEYS


SERVICE I left the school at fifteen with no thoughts of further education. I happily worked nearer home. I always liked to read, it probably stretched my mind a bit. I married and moved to Eday. At one stage we went weeks without a church service. We were most unhappy about this. I did think to myself at that time, ‘I wonder if I could do it?’ I don’t think anybody else thought I could. I knew about the readership course, I had a vague feeling if I did that I might be accepted. About that time I was at the general assembly in Edinburgh. I did go to 121, George Street in Edinburgh and enquired about it. I got the information, it looked beyond me and very complicated. I decided I did not have time. Soon after this the doctor in Eday at the time, who was helping out in the pulpit, said he was going to do the readership course. I told him I had thought about it, but decided I did not have time. The minister asked me if I would reconsider. I then said I would do the course. I had to write to the Orkney Presbytery asking to be accepted for the course. I got an appointment to go in for an interview. They told me to go home and think about it for a year. I don’t think they really took me seriously. But they called me back after a year and accepted me. Eventually, a minister taught me to write essays; the ministers helped me such a lot with the essays. Much needed and appreciated. I had quite a few subjects to cover with three essays on each subject. I did not pass every time. The books were difficult and used a lot of old words. 59


It took me a long time to get through the required number of essays. I was running out of time and I had two still to be marked. Wonder of wonders they both came back with a mark just high enough to pass. The presbytery and friends all came out to Eday for a special service when I was set apart as a reader. I asked a young lady to make dinner for the congregation. It was a really nice day for me and the Eday Kirk. Since then and before I have regularly led worship in lots of places in Orkney. I have led a good few funeral services in Eday too.

- Johan Robertson

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GOING TO PAPAY FOR A DAY We went most years to Papa Westray or Papay as we called it, there in the morning and back at night. Some times we went by steamer. This involved going up the gangway at the Westray pier when we got to Papay. We had to cross from the passenger accommodation through the second class place where the tinkers were, onto the cargo deck to get down the side of the steamer with a short ladder into a small boat to take us ashore. Sometimes we went with my dad’s boat. He called it the Fly because it was an easy name to paint. Very little safety precautions in those days, he always took oars in case the engine broke down. His boat is still in use, my nephew George uses it at the Westray and Holm regattas. My mother was brought up in Papay she had lots of aunties, uncles, cousins and friends. This was long before fridges or freezers, and they never had any warning we were coming. They always had plenty food to share with us. We did such a lot of walking there – not many cars then. Sometimes we got a lift with a horse and cart. I was in Papay last summer and I still have that lovely warm feeling towards it. Papay still has a special place in my heart. I liked their dialect too, Papay and Westray side by side but there was quite a difference in how they spoke.

- Johan Robertson

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MUCKLE SKERRY The sun was glaringly bright. It bounced off the waves, tiny chips of light sparked into our faces. The repurposed lifeboat glided through open sea, we breathed deep the scent of salt and water. Strange pools eddied on the ocean’s surface, smooth as marbles, the boat gently nudged its way around them. A shipwreck loomed, rusty red. We glided on, eyes lingering, until they snagged on a scrap of land. The boat hung back as seals and their pups were spotted. Little, white, furry smudges glimpsed through binoculars. Their mothers’ darker, sleeker shapes beside them. Cormorants. Guillemots. Razorbills. Gannets. Tiny specks on an expanse of blue, some dared to soar closer to our little boat. A bonxie eyed us, evaluating our worth, then wheeled off. We pointed and blethered on - our scrunched-up eyes scanned the horizon. We approached a tiny island: Muckle Skerry invited us with a dark, rock ledge. A steady hand, a jump and we were on. Puffins flew, a flurry of wings, beaks bright in the sun. Legs dangling, bumbling through the air, our excited chatter matched their squawks and squeals to one another. The grass was warm under our hands, the picnic forgotten, the day surprisingly hot. We were on a small skerry in the middle of the sea: a land of puffins. We sat cross-legged and open-mouthed, transfixed as the little birds circled our wind-swept heads.

- Ellen Forkin

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A BAD DECISION IN MARCH In 1984 I began my journey as a mature student. I missed my family dreadfully and came home as often as I could. Unfortunately, flying from Edinburgh to Orkney at that time cost as much as a fortnights holiday in Majorca. So when my 15 year old son came down for a few days I thought we’d travel home by train and boat. Bad decision in March!!!! On the day we were due to leave I stood at the window with a heavy heart. I could usually see across the city, but today there was only blinding snow. Quickly, we switched on the TV to get the latest forecast. Surprise, surprise it said the further north you got the better it would be, so we decided to chance it. We struggled into Waverley Station and the train left promptly. I was pretty worried, but my son said, ‘Cheer up Mum I saw shovels in the guards-van.’ Little did he know how prophetic his words were. With constant snow falling we struggled on till we reached Forsinard. The drifts were higher than the train. The guard, who was as cheery as ever, asked for volunteers to dig!! My son leapt to his feet, patted me on the head and said he’d dig for both of us. How they did it I don’t know, but eventually that train began to move and miraculously took us to Thurso. Once we arrived we still had to face the worst part of the journey – the infamous crossing of the Pentland Firth, and worse than that the ‘Roly Poly Ola’. The whole way to Scrabster I hoped for a reprieve, but to no avail. A cheery lady at the desk said, ‘Oh yes madam, we’ll be sailing on time.’

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I did suggest to my son that it might be better tomorrow, but he was having none of it. I can tell you, as I struggled down the pier in a howling gale and driving snow, I questioned my sanity. Going up the gangway I looked over towards Holborn Head and saw huge waves crashing against the cliffs and visibility was so bad there was no sign of Hoy in the distance. I fitted myself on a seat, sick bags in hand, closed my eyes and braced my feet against the arm rest. We set off and ‘roly poly’ did not describe it. She certainly rolled till I thought she wasn’t going to right herself again. She pitched and tossed and no matter how I tried I thought I couldn’t stay on that seat. One minute she was rolling me onto the back of the seat and then she tried to throw me on the floor. Now where was my son to help me in my distress? He was chatting away to the steward while propping himself happily in a corner. I did survive and reach Stromness, but no-one will ever persuade me to board a boat again in weather like that.

- Ann Tait

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NOISE AND STEAM Packed my little grey suitcase, a material one with flowers inside. It was flat but the sides folded out to make the case. I was told we would soon be going on holiday so I immediately wanted to pack. My shorts went in, swimming costume and just about everything until it was full. Of course my mother had to take most things out and re-arrange it. We walked up the road, caught the number 9 bus into the station. We were exited to be on the platform and we had time to go to the kiosk and chose a comic. I always chose Bunty, my brother being older wanted Look and Learn. We also got a carton of orange with straw attached, cup-shaped ribbed plastic you pushed the straw through the top of it. The train would arrive and we must all stand back, noise and steam filled the station. Dad went ahead opened the carriage door – never first class. We walked along the corridors found a place that had enough seats left for us all, slid the door open and went inside. Our suitcases went up above our heads on a rack. Sometimes we could sit either side of the window and had a little table. There was a mirror and two pictures either side with places you could visit. It was nice when other people in the carriage would get off the train, new ones would get on. We watched out of the window and trees, fields, rivers passed by. We went past houses whose gardens were right next to the railway, we could see washing out on lines and children playing. Cows, sheep, fields of barley, steam passing by the window. We were so exited when we went through tunnels.The ticket collector would come and would put a hole in the ticket with his machine. We went everywhere by train as my dad was an engine driver. 65


I still love to go on trains and feel at home on a platform. Although so much has changed, I still feel the excitement of going through a tunnel, or being at the back of the train and being able to see the front of the train as we go around a curve in the line.

- Christine Richings

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A MAN AND HIS DREAM Who would have thought a casual meeting standing in a queue in a local fish and chip shop could lead to more that 65 years of being together? I remember one night my feet were so cold in my wellingtons that my thoughtful-future husband removed his socks to warm my feet. John yearned to be a farmer, he was born to be a herdsman. Unfortunately, his father was a farm worker, not a farm owner. The wish to rent a small field and to breed and raise his own pigs was almost impossible in the post war years. No plans were made for future years, we took life as it came. We were blessed with three children, two boys and one girl who happily filled our days. John worked in a factory building balers, but yearned for a plot of land to keep some pigs. A huge change came when we emigrated to Alberta Canada, where eventually his dream came true. John purchased two weaner pigs for the princely sum for sixteen dollars fifty each. These pigs were raised with tender loving care, but ultimately had to go to market. It was three years later when he rented an old farmhouse with a barn. Wonderful! Two Duroc gilts were purchased with a boar and they settled very nicely. Nearly four months later the piglets were due to farrow and John made his own bed with straw in the barn close to the bed of the pregnant sow. Many jokes were made of this in later years as John had not been at the birth of any of his own children. A litter of seven was born before Easter and the second litter of nine a few days later. This was just the beginning of John’s desire coming true, as the numbers grew and the love remained. The fruition of a life’s dream was achieved.

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These sows provided many hours of pleasure and were treated with lots of tender loving care. Early mornings were no problem and each evening the hogs were attended to before anything else. It was the love of his life, the love of the land. All too soon we pass on, and only by communicating with the following generations will our history be remembered.

- Betty Clark

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FEASTS AND FESTIVALS


HOME SPUN CONCERT First when I came to Eday, and when I was in Westray, there was always a concert at Christmas. Some would get together to practise a play or two. There was always a good few with musical abilities who could do music or singing. It was so much fun, I was often involved in the plays, We had so much fun practising. Sometimes with English influence we did a pantomime, I played the part of Cinderella once, it was quite a challenge, but very rewarding. The concert in Eday was always held on Christmas Eve. Santa Clause visited too. It was great excitement for the children to see what Santa would bring them. The grown ups were nearly as excited to know who was playing the part of Santa. The concert was followed by supper then a dance to local musicians and dancing to the wee sma hours…

- Johan Robertson

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CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION I’ve always loved Christmas It’s part of winter’s joys Santa and his reindeer Bringing children toys. Christmas pudding boiling Turkey ready to roast Cake all decorated Parcels in the post. Twinkling lights everywhere Brighten up the night Trees with presents underneath Fill us with delight. The sound of Christmas carols Carries through the air As we remember Jesus birth A celebration we all share.

- Ann Tait

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MEMORIES OF EVIE HARVEST HOME Every year about November the Evie harvest home was held in the old drill hall. The ladies on the committee prepared the food at home and somehow managed to keep it warm on the old black stove. Everyone had to take a cup, plate and cutlery as there were none of those in the hall. Anyway there were no facilities for washing up. Once the food was dished out and grace was said everyone tucked in.The menu was always mince and clapshot followed by trifle. The hall was decorated with sheaves and turnips, and in the excitement of the night you forgot the peeling paint, and the floor that literally bounced up and down. Once the meal was past everyone tidied away. Tables were folded and put in the storage alcove and chairs were arranged around the side of the room. The band arrived with fiddle and accordion, and the MC, a local worthy, got up on the stage to announce the first dance. Meantime ‘slipperine’ was being liberally sprinkled on the floor. It was a powder that made the old boards like an ice rink! Joy of joy for the bairns as they set off sliding across the floor and getting in everybody’s way. It was such a family affair, with fathers teaching their daughters to dance and grannies occupying the chairs and commenting on all the goings-on of the parish. The dancing went on till the early hours - waltzes, Eva three steps and best of all Strip the Willow. If you’ve never danced an Orkney Strip the Willow you’ve missed a great experience!!

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There was of course the customary break for supper when sandwiches and home bakes were served on trays and handed round while other ladies poured the tea. After a great night tired families wended their way home.The harvest home was over for another year.

- Ann Tait

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FOOD WE LOVED Oh to be a child again to taste the food we loved. For breakfast Weetabix no sugar or hot milk spread instead with butter and honey it’s really surprisingly yummy. A packet of plain crisps, Smiths I think a blue salt bag inside a glass on ginger beer the two go side by side.

TOUCHSTONES Beans on toast a favourite asked for every day, on thick buttery toast then out again to play.

Homemade damson crumble, custard poured on top, dish emptied in a moment feeling fit to pop. Boiled egg with cheese sauce just right for supper what a treat, the best a child can have to get a good nights sleep. If I were a child again warm crispy rind from dad’s bacon would be just the best, would be my number one.

- Christine Richings 74


BURNS SUPPER Burns suppers were often held. Our son held the position of Poet. We’d have Cock-a-leekie soup, roast beef, neeps and nips and potatoes and the haggis carried in to music on a fancy platter. Our daughter liked to say Burns grace, and after the meal all family members took their turn at reciting a Burns poem. Friends were invited and must have been confused with accents we used, but accessories were worn to emphasise the characters we were representing. The evening was looked forward to eagerly.

- Betty Clark

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TOUCHSTONES


THE SIXPENCE When I was very young I found a sixpence on the road. It was just lying there at my feet and as I picked it up and popped it in my pocket I gleefully thought of what I could buy with it. When I got home I left it where it was ,and instead of spending it I moved it from pocket to pocket. When I needed reassurance I rubbed it gently between my fingers. The sixpence lived with me through thick and thin – exams, college, work, marriage and children. It is no longer in my pocket, but in a case with other coins. It sparked off a lifelong interest in coins, which will never leave me. I love the shapes of the faces and the edges, the inscriptions and the different coloured metals – and all because I found a ‘Tanner’ on the road.

- Ann Tait

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JOHN’S WORKING CAP John started working on the farm And needed shade and cap to keep warm. We purchased a cap in khaki green, The cleanest cap you’ve ever seen. When the cap was bought who could have known The decades of years the cap would be worn. This cap travelled here, there and everywhere, Carried eggs, chickens, grain and things to wear. If only this cap could tell its varied tales Of places it’s been and their many weird smells. Not many caps have as long a useful life; Handled and cared for by his dutiful wife. The cap was faded and worn, All tattered and torn, Blown away by high winds, Left behind in motels. This cap was much loved And not to be left on the shelf.

- Betty Clark

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MY TREASURED POSSESSION I have my great granny’s spinning wheel. She lived in Westray and the spinning wheel was made at ‘Moa’ in Westray. It would have been very important to her to clothe her large family. Next, my granny had it, and it would have been very important to her. Her family was very young when her husband died. They were in a tied cottage at Brough when he took ill and died. My granny would have been very glad of her spinning wheel as she could earn a little money selling spun wool. My own earliest memories of the spinning wheel is of my mother using it. She spun and knitted gansies and long drawers to my dad. She eventually stopped using it – there was more wool available to buy then after the war. I went to a class on spinning and liked it. I got the same handed down spinning wheel then. I have spun and knitted a good few cardigans and jerseys and latterly lots of slippers. The spinning wheel will be well over a hundred years old and still works perfectly. You could say its been a cornerstone in the family for well over a hundred years.

- Johan Robertson

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TOASTING FORK Long handle made of brass with long curled forked ends. It reminds me of the smell of warm bread on a cold winters evening. It was a simple thing, but I can almost taste the lump of real butter that was melting on it. It was quite a while before we were allowed to toast our own bread, and we had to learn not to put it to close to the open fire whose ambers just glowed. The handle did not get too hot as it was long and had a twist pattern to it. It was hung I think on the companion set or maybe just lay on the hearth. The bread was white, a chunky slice cut nice and even. We only had one slice each, but that was enough.

- Christine Richings

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ST CHRISTOPHER My St Christopher charm is worn under my sweater, worn close to my skin where it gives me much pleasure. It is circular, a figure standing in the centre of the gold ring. He is facing sidewards and holding a staff in his right hand and a child in his left. His back is smooth to my touch and his cloak flows down to the ground like biblical times. Just the feel of it brings fond memories. My fondness for this is because during the war I was put in a home, but I could not have asked for more. I was happy and cared for at this Railway Home and sad and delighted when at the end of the war we were settled in a new residence in Derby. We were allowed to vote for a new name and instead of the Railway Servants Orphanage the popular choice was St Christopher’s. I never forgot my happy childhood years and many years later I brought myself a St Christopher charm to wear for protection. I finally invested in a larger charm and received a gift of a gold chain to wear around my neck. I wear it under my sweater, but finger it often and remember my almost 10 years in an institution.

- Betty Clark

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HEART SONGS


A DESIRE TO CREATE I lift the sketchbook, weighty but comfortable, and place it carefully on my lap. On it is a faint sketch, a witch in the palest graphite. An electric anticipation, small and sharp, fizzes within me as I hold my new pen. It’s loaded with special black ink, the kind that doesn’t bleed when wet, but keeps its lines neat as I paint colours upon it. The fountain pen is cheap and cheerful in orange. Full of promise. I scribble in the margins, to get the ink flowing to the nib. A big, shuddering breath; I begin. The pen glides, black lines against white. It is mostly faithful to the pencil marks, chasing them across the page, but not without its own quirks. I’m getting to know the pen with each passing second; where the line thins a little, or bloats when the nib catches the grain of the paper. I turn the pad for the trickier bits, my tremor that dogs my work making the pen flutter a little in the air as I squint at my sketchbook. But on the page, the weight and shape of the pen doesn’t allow the tremor to take hold. My lines are smooth, without the kinks and squiggles I am used to. My nerves and frustrations slowly ease, my shoulder relax, my breathing steadies. A small but persistent satisfaction begins to glow within me. I can do this. I can draw what I want without worry. The pen is companionable, growing warm in my hand. Nearly finished. A small mistake here and there. A slip of the pen. An error of the eye made permanent in black. But mostly it is as I intend it to be. I sit back suddenly. It is done. The small glow is now shining bright within me. I feel tingly with a new anticipation; I imagine all the things this pen and I can create. I smile. The inky witch smiles back.

- Ellen Forkin 83


ELLEN’S SONG OF LIFE I am the tug and push of the waves. My emotions lapping with the tide. Never settling. I am the tumble of stones on the shore. Over and over. Unsettled thoughts. I am the turning of the seasons. New phases of life. Learning different ways to be. I am the bouncing boat, far out to sea. Sailing to places unknown, unchartered. Keep a look out for land. I am the lighthouse, a beam of hope in the darkness. There are sharp rocks unseen. But all is not lost.

- Ellen Forkin

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LIFELONG I am the rock standing strong on the shore. I am a rounded pebble curled cozily in the shingle. I am love to my children. I am winter in age. I am maturity in life’s journey . I am half of my golden wedding. I am open arms for those I love.

- Ann Tait

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HOME Folding hills of velvet green lifts my heart and draws me in Gentle breeze on moonlit seas take me home to loving kin.

- Christine Richings

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CORONA VIRUS There’s a pain in my heart for those who have gone without a goodbye. There’s a pain in my heart as I lay awake with an overwhelming sadness it’s hard to shake. There’s a pain in my heart for the gripes and the snipes the moans and the groans of the selfish. There’s a pain in my heart from being apart from the ones that I love. There’s a pain in my heart for I cannot come and open the door to welcome you in. There’s a pain in my heart when I think of the day and the part we will play for we will be together again.

- Christine Richings

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OH, THE RAGING SEA Oh, the raging sea a bubbling foaming cauldron, skies of slate grey flashes of silver fluttering wings. No sound is heard over the howling wind and crashing waves, livestock exposed motionless backs to the prevailing storm. Croft of stone, walls oh so thick what comfort I find in thee.

- Christine Richings

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I AM I am the moon, reflecting on the water. I am the stars twinkling in the sky. I am the burn bubbling over the pebbles. I am the stone travelling through the shallows. I am the seaweed tossed up on the shore. I am the charm, fondled by my owner, loved and beloved by the memories I bring. I am the Fall, catching leaves at they change from green to red and tumble and cover me. I am the grey-haired woman who still believes she’s young and fit and is disappointed when she tries to weed. I am the corn-dolly, standing in the church for Harvest Thanksgiving, lovingly made and representing the seed for to make our Daily Bread. I am finally able to walk beside the seaside, I’ve travelled many miles and lived in many beautiful places where the sea was only a memory. I am content to have wandered and to finalise my days close to the water.

- Betty Clark

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SEAFARERS GATHERING The boat was untied and shifted away from the shore, All I had was a list of names. I thought at first I was only a guide, But I was on a journey too. I worried we wouldn’t understand each other, Caught in a tide of doubt. Yet, I learned to trust in the map of silence, That truth dwelt in the way ahead. Side by side we wrote our homecoming songs, And quietly arrived at the heart.

- Gabrielle Barnby

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BIOGRAPHIES GABRIELLE BARNBY Gabrielle is a writer and creative practitioner who lives and works in Orkney. She is the author of three books and her poetry has been included in anthologies and magazines. Gabrielle has run workshops for many years and has a particular interest in writing for well-being. BETTY CLARK Betty was born in Kilmarnock, Ayreshire. She emigrated with her husband to Alberta, Canada, living and working on a ranch. For a time she also lived in Niagra near her grandsons. In 2011 she returned to Scotland to live in Troon, Ayreshire. Two years later she moved to Kirkwall. With all the wonderful opportunities to view the sea she has absolutely no regrets about this final move. ELLEN FORKIN Ellen lives in Orkney and can often be seen chatting to her many animals. She is inspired by the islands and their folklore and spends her days doodling goblins and trows, witches and mermaids. MANDY FORKIN Mandy lives in Deerness surrounded by a menagerie of lovable animals. She makes wee teddy bears and annoys the household by listening to 80’s pop. SARAH POWERS RICHINGS Sarah is a recent transplant from Virginia, USA. She loves exploring Orkney with her husband and daughter. She’s just discovering poetry again, after abandoning it with her school books, and looks forward to writing more about Orkney.

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GEORGE RENDALL George was born in Orkney, the eldest in a family of seven, and has lived in Kirkwall most of his life. He enjoys making and listening to music, particularly ensemble singing. He is a lifelong lover of the arts, in which area he worked on a voluntary basis until his retirement. His time is now mostly taken up caring for his wife. CHRISTINE RICHINGS Christine grew up in a small village in Berkshire surrounded by green fields and nature. Coming to live in Orkney with it’s natural wild beauty has inspired her to continue her favourite pastimes from childhood, writing and poetry. JOHAN ROBERTSON Johan was born in Westray in 1942 but now lives in Eday. She likes to think she is an active pensioner and still does a turn at gardening and cleaning at Carrick House. She also enjoys tending her own garden and painting. Johan studied long and hard for the readership with the Church and likes to lead worship for Sunday services. ANN TAIT Ann is Orkney born and bred. She attended Costa Primary School where she discovered a love of music and poetry. For many years she has written poetry and her sister has composed songs. Together they have performed these to groups all over the mainland of Orkney.

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