“Under Brinkie’s Brae” (1983)

The following “Under Brinkie’s Brae” columns by George Mackay Brown were published in the Orcadian during 1983 and were signed with initials only. Most were reprinted in GMB’s Rockpools and Daffodils (1992), cited here as RD.


6 January 1983, p. 3. “What should we wish for most, in a new year?” Repr. RD 83–84. ¶ 13 January 1983, p. 4. The experience of writing an article about Stromness. ¶ 20 January 1983, p. 4. “January . . . is probably the most ferocious month of the year, a growling polar bear”; recollections of a distant summer day. Repr. RD 84. ¶ 27 January 1983, p. 4. Breakfast television; breakfast and going to school a half century ago. Repr. RD 85.

3 February 1983, p. 4. Why he didn’t go out to see The Spy in Black at the Academy Hall. ¶ 10 February 1983, p. 4. Staying at home on a stormy winter afternoon. ¶ 17 February 1983, p. 4. “A strangely-patterned winter, this, for weather.” Repr. RD 85–86. ¶ 24 February 1983, p. 4. Some thoughts on flowers – about which he claims he knows nothing.

3 March 1983, p. 4. What he does on Thursdays: writing letters and his “Under Brinkie’s Brae” column. ¶ 10 March 1983, p. 4. The seasons don’t really correspond with arbitrary dates on the calendar. ¶ 17 March 1983, p. 4. Grumbling; “gratitude is not in fashion these days.” Repr. RD 86–87. ¶ 24 March 1983, p. 6. He acquired his first refrigerator two years ago, but now it is no longer functioning. ¶ 31 March 1983, p. 4. A cold, stormy spring; thoughts about the death of St. Magnus.

14 April 1983, p. 4. Some eminent ministers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Orkney, including Rev. William Clouston and Rev. James Wallace. Repr. RD 87–88. ¶ 21 April 1983, p. 4. Celebrated American writers whose ancestors came from Orkney, including Robert Frost, Robert Lowell, and Washington Irving. ¶ 28 April 1983, p. 6. “I get ever more enjoyment out of occasional perusings of Gregor Lamb’s ‘Orkney Surnames.’”

5 May 1983, p. 4. Claims made on television and in magazines that certain foods are bad for you. Repr. RD 88. ¶ 12 May 1983, p. 4. “. . . recently, it seems for the first time, I’ve become conscious of the stink and the blue-gray fumes that motor cars give off.” ¶ 19 May 1983, p. 4. Watching football on television. Repr. RD 89. ¶ 26 May 1983, p. 6. Remembering how exciting local political campaigns once were.

2 June 1983, p. 6. What it was like a century ago when whales were spotted near Stromness. Repr. RD 89–90. ¶ 9 June 1983, p. 6. A fictional account of how peat fires were discovered in prehistoric times. Repr. RD 90–91. ¶ 16 June 1983, p. 4. A dead gull. Repr. RD 91–92. ¶ 23 June 1983, p. 6. The unpredictability of Orkney weather. ¶ 30 June 1983, p. 4. The occasional loss of a column in the clutter of his house.

7 July 1983, p. 4. A persistent fog. ¶ 14 July 1983, p. 4. A description of how Gypsy the cat arrived at Mayburn Court. ¶ 21 July 1983, p. 4. “A lovely late afternoon in July, at the Birsay shore”; speculations about a dead gull. Repr. RD 92–93. ¶ 28 July 1983, p. 6. Putting out the trash on Monday morning. Repr. RD 93.

4 August 1983, p. 4. “Will they write this summer down as one of the best on record?” ¶ 18 August 1983, p. 4. Watching a performance at the Arts Theatre in Kirkwall by a group of singers and dancers from the Philippines. Repr. RD 93–94. ¶ 25 August 1983, p. 6. A drive to Merkister and Warbeth beach.

1 September 1983, p. 4. Taking the ferry to Hoy. ¶ 8 September 1983, p. 4. J. J. Furer, a visitor from Switzerland, who worries about the death of languages. ¶ 15 September 1983, p. 4. Visits from Michael Krauskopf, a lecturer in German at St. Andrews University. ¶ 22 September 1983, p. 4. A strange coincidence: he and a friend have just read the same short story by Robert Louis Stevenson. Repr. RD 94–95. ¶ 29 September 1983, p. 4. Braal, in Strathy, where his mother came from. Repr. RD 95–96.

6 October 1983, p. 4. A performance by Paul Greenwood and Claire Neilson at the Pier Arts Centre, followed by their visit to Rackwick. ¶ 13 October 1983, p. 4. Comments on a memoir of Kirsty Watt, “a fisher-lass from the village of Broadsea near Fraserburgh.” Repr. RD 96–97. ¶ 20 October 1983, p. 4. The major literary prizes are meaningless. Repr. RD 97. ¶ 27 October 1983, p. 4. Changes in eating and sleeping habits.

3 November 1983, p. 4. Changeable weather does not really constitute “an awful day.” ¶ 10 November 1983, p. 4. A visit from Gypsy the cat. Repr. RD 98. ¶ 17 November 1983, p. 4. Memories of the daily newspapers of the past. Repr. RD 98–99. ¶ 24 November 1983, p. 4. The legend that Annie Caird, thought to be an Orkney witch, caused the tidal wave of 1755. Repr. RD 99–100.

1 December 1983, p. 4. Reading a book about the Crusades. Repr. RD 100–01. ¶ 8 December 1983, p. 4. Various activities before Christmas. Repr. RD 101–02. ¶ 15 December 1983, p. 4. The problems of writing a short story. Repr. RD 102. ¶ 22 December 1983, p. 4. Sending out Christmas cards. Repr. RD 102–03.

“Under Brinkie’s Brae” (1985)

The following “Under Brinkie’s Brae” columns by George Mackay Brown were published in the Orcadian during 1985 and were signed with initials only. Most were reprinted in GMB’s Rockpools and Daffodils (1992), cited here as RD.


3 January 1985, p. 3. Reflections on the traditional twelve days of Christmas. Repr. RD 122. ¶ 10 January 1985, p. 4. Forecast of a hard winter; a recent severe cold. ¶ 17 January 1985, p. 4. Reading Arnold Bennett’s Anna of the Five Towns when he was young. ¶ 24 January 1985, p. 4. “. . . Burns was indeed the greatest of all Scottish poets.” ¶ 31 January 1985, p. 4. Temporary power loss on a cold winter day. Repr. RD 123.

7 February 1985, p. 4. The variable weather of January. Repr. RD 123–24. ¶ 14 February 1985, p. 4. Memories of catching sillocks (newly hatched fish) when he was a boy. Repr. RD 124–25. ¶ 21 February 1985, p. 4. He is mystified by the appeal of breakfast television. ¶ 28 February 1985, p. 4. Recalling Edwin Muir as the centenary of his birth approaches.

7 March 1985, p. 6. Walking on the beach at Warbeth. ¶ 14 March 1985, p. 6. Rent increases (and decreases) in Stromness during the twentieth century. Repr. RD 125. ¶ 21 March 1985, p. 4. The artistic career of Ian MacInnes. Repr. RD 126. ¶ 28 March 1985, p. 4. The silliness of prices like £9.99; the “aversion to the number 13.” Repr. RD 126–27.

4 April 1985, p. 4. Some Orkney books recently sold – with particular praise for Robert Rendall. ¶ 11 April 1985, p. 4. All Fools’ Day (1 April). Repr. RD 127–28. ¶ 18 April 1985, p. 6. “It is not far to seek, the joy that daffodils bring. They have risen from their winter graves; they are the harbingers of the Spring.” ¶ 25 April 1985, p. 4. The extinction of the dinosaurs and the bleak prospects of the human race. Repr. RD 128.

2 May 1985, p. 6. In praise of public benches in Stromness. ¶ 9 May 1985, p. 4. Memories of the end of World War Two in Orkney. Repr. RD 129. ¶ 16 May 1985, p. 4. Forcing himself to write on a beautiful spring day. ¶ 23 May 1985, p. 4. De-icing the refrigerator. Repr. RD 129–30. ¶ 30 May 1985, p. 6. Remembering some of his favorite books from a lifetime of reading.

6 June 1985, p. 4. His youthful passion for football. ¶ 13 June 1985, p. 4. “. . . there’s a midsummer magic in the air”; a visit from Hugo Brunner. ¶ 20 June 1985, p. 4. Reading the Penguin books in the 1930s. Repr. RD 130–31. ¶ 27 June 1985, p. 4. Traveling through the mountains of the west and north of Scotland. Repr. RD 131–32.

4 July 1985, p. 6. “We passed pleasant days at a most beautiful house on the south shore of Loch Tummel”; a train journey to Glasgow. ¶ 11 July 1985, p. 6. Taking the ferry from Scrabster. ¶ 18 July 1985, p. 4. A visitor from London. ¶ 25 July 1985, p. 4. Summer insects. Repr. RD 132.

1 August 1985, p. 4. Brian Murray’s family; writing a poem on a bench. ¶ 8 August 1985, p. 4. Riding around Orkney with his friends Peter and Betty Grant. ¶ 15 August 1985, p. 4. “No news on BBC television or radio today, or on ITV. . . . In many ways, what a relief!” Repr. RD 133. ¶ 22 August 1985, p. 4. The St. Magnus Fair in Kirkwall. ¶ 29 August 1985, p. 4. A description of various overseas visitors, including Osamu Yamada from Japan. Repr. RD 133–34.

5 September 1985, p. 4. Watching the drama in the sky of a gale. Repr. RD 134–35. ¶ 12 September 1985, p. 4. A visit from Finn Strönsted, a Norwegian poet; Earl Rognvald. ¶ 19 September 1985, p. 4. The experience of suffering from a cold. ¶ 26 September 1985, p. 4. The naming of Alfred Street in Stromness. Repr. RD 135.

3 October 1985, p. 4. “Up to the 1939–45 war, the vast majority of Orcadians recognised four mealtimes in every day: breakfast, dinner, tea, supper.” Repr. RD 135–36. ¶ 10 October 1985, p. 6. Watching films at the old Albert Kinema during his childhood. ¶ 17 October 1985, p. 6. Remembering the beginning of a new term at the University of Edinburgh. ¶ 24 October 1985, p. 4. ¶ Cats in Venice and Stromness. ¶ 31 October 1985, p. 4. Windows that will not open during the cold part of the year; the “peedie summer.” Repr. RD 136–37.

7 November 1985, p. 4. 1987 will be the 850th anniversary of St. Magnus Cathedral and the centenary of Edwin Muir. ¶ 14 November 1985, p. 6. The discomforts of the past; but “the same science that has given us the electric toaster could conceivably make of the globe a smoking cinder.” Repr. RD 137–38. ¶ 21 November 1985, p. 4. “It is really a play, our northern winter, thronged with extraordinary characters, and touched here and there with such magic transmutations.” ¶ 28 November 1985, p. 4. ¶ The story of Captain William Bligh and the Bounty.

5 December 1985, p. 6. Patrick White’s A Fringe of Leaves, a novel based on the experiences of Eliza Fraser, a Stromness woman who lived among the Aborigines in Australia during the nineteenth century. ¶ 12 December 1985, p. 6. The problems of writing Christmas cards. ¶ 19 December 1985, p. 6. An imaginary reconstruction of Christmas in Hamnavoe (Stromness) in 1085. Repr. RD 138–39. ¶ 26 December 1985, p. 4. How the New Year was celebrated during his childhood. ¶ Repr. RD 139.

“Under Brinkie’s Brae” (1986)

The following “Under Brinkie’s Brae” columns by George Mackay Brown were published in the Orcadian during 1986 and were signed with initials only. Most were reprinted in GMB’s Rockpools and Daffodils (1992), cited here as RD.


2 January 1986, p. 3. A television program about a traveling puppeteer evokes memories of “the Punch and Judy shows which regularly visited Orkney more than half a century ago.” ¶ 9 January 1986, p. 4. Suggested place names for Stromness. ¶ 16 January 1986, p. 4. Winter visitors to Orkney. Repr. RD 139–40. ¶ 23 January 1986, p. 4. Burns probably had no ancestors in Orkney. ¶ 30 January 1986, p. 4. Snow now and as remembered from childhood. Repr. RD 140–41.

6 February 1986, p. 4. The pleasures of writing about the weather in his weekly column. ¶ 13 February 1986, p. 4. “That otherwise delightful cat Gypsy, who has been staying with me for a week, has been driving me crazy with demands for food.” Repr. RD 141–42. ¶ 20 February 1986, p. 4. Defrosting his refrigerator. ¶ 27 February 1986, p. 4. “How lovely, after the storms and darkness, to be able to walk on a fine winter afternoon round Ness and back along the road that bisects the golf course.”

6 March 1986, p. 4. The recent temporary loss of electricity in Orkney. ¶ 13 March 1986, p. 4. The history of tea-drinking in Orkney. ¶ 20 March 1986, p. 6. The spring equinox, which was once associated with house-cleaning. ¶ 27 March 1986, p. 4. Watching a television program by Jonathan Miller about the origins of the universe.

3 April 1986, p. 6. “It was General Winter, they say, that defeated Napoleon in 1812”; winter’s assaults on Orkney. ¶ 10 April 1986, p. 4. Connecting the Orkney myth of the Stoor-worm with modern nuclear dangers. Repr. RD 143. ¶ 17 April 1986, p. 4. A medieval Highland poem about St. Magnus. ¶ 24 April 1986, p. 6. Daffodils and snowflakes.

1 May 1986, p. 6. How the first of May was celebrated on Orkney in earlier centuries. ¶ 8 May 1986, p. 6. Remembering the old Orkney story of an infant rescued by his mother from an eagle. Repr. RD 143–44. ¶ 15 May 1986, p. 4. Our abuse of nature; dangerous nuclear plants. Repr. RD 144–45. ¶ 22 May 1986, p. 4. About Edwin Muir, who wandered endlessly but “all through his life he kept his Orkney accent.”

5 June 1986, p. 4. The dramatic changes of May. Repr. RD 145–46. ¶ 12 June 1986, p. 6. Watching World Cup football on television. Repr. RD 146–47. ¶ 19 June 1986, p. 6. A television program about Stonehenge leads to some reflections on Skara Brae. ¶ 26 June 1986, p. 6. Reading in bed.

3 July 1986, p. 6. The pleasures of Johnsmas Day; the St. Magnus Festival. Repr. RD 147–48. ¶ 10 July 1986, p. 4. Bird-watching. ¶ 17 July 1986, p. 6. Fickle summer weather. ¶ 24 July 1986, p. 4. The “end of a week-long holiday in Rackwick, Hoy.” Repr. RD 148. ¶ 31 July 1986, p. 6. Memories of an earlier visit to Rackwick. Repr. RD 149.

7 August 1986, p. 6. A day of enforced idleness when he accidentally locks himself out of his home. ¶ 14 August 1986, p. 6. His friend Brian Murray has cleared out a patch of weeds near Mayburn Court. Repr. RD 149–50. ¶ 21 August 1986, p. 4. A rainy day at the Dounby Show. ¶ 28 August 1986, p. 4. A drive toward Yesnaby with his friend Michael Krauskopf. Repr. RD 150–51.

4 September 1986, p. 6. Memories of the beginning of the war in 1939. ¶ 11 September 1986, p. 4. Short story about Sweyn Asleifson, the Viking on the island of Gairsay. Repr. RD 151–52. ¶ 18 September 1986, p. 4. Remembering what it was like to go back to school at the age of twelve. Repr. RD 152–53. ¶ 25 September 1986, p. 4. The variety of weather in Orkney.

2 October 1986, p. 6. A visit from Gypsy the cat; the problems of feeding her. ¶ 9 October 1986, p. 4. The loss of older place-names on Orkney. Repr. RD 153. ¶ 16 October 1986, p. 4. “On the very verge of being an old-age pensioner, I took shelter from a driving smirr of rain on Monday forenoon in the Eventide Club at the Pier-head.” Repr. RD 154. ¶ 23 October 1986, p. 6. Apples and nuts at Hallowe’en during his childhood. ¶ 30 October 1986, p. 4. Making soup; the first signs of winter.

6 November 1986, p. 4. A fierce thunderstorm; writing letters. ¶ 13 November 1986, p. 6. Flying south. Repr. RD 154–55. ¶ 20 November 1986, p. 6. Revisiting Edinburgh. Repr. RD 155–56. ¶ 27 November 1986, p. 6. “I sometimes wonder, what did they drink in Orkney for breakfast before tea came from China, two centuries ago and more?”

4 December 1986, p. 6. Early preparations for Christmas at school and home in earlier generations. ¶ 11 December 1986, p. 6. A fierce storm. ¶ 18 December 1986, p. 6. A story about the revival of Hogmanay during the Cromwellian period. Repr. RD 156. ¶ 25 December 1986, p. 4. Christmas as it was celebrated in the past.

“Under Brinkie’s Brae” (1987)

The following “Under Brinkie’s Brae” columns by George Mackay Brown were published in the Orcadian during 1987 and were signed with initials only. Most were reprinted in GMB’s Rockpools and Daffodils (1992), cited here as RD.


1 January 1987, p. 3. Memories of the Stromness men stashing away whiskey before the town went dry. Repr. RD 157. ¶ 8 January 1987, p. 4. Various thoughts on Hogmanay, including Peter Maxwell Davies’ knighthood, the piles of Christmas cards, and an idea for a poem. ¶ 15 January 1987, p. 4. “To the children of Stromness the first snow ushered in a week or so of pure enchantment.” Repr. RD 157–58. ¶ 22 January 1987, p. 4. What various poets have said about winter. Repr. RD 158–59. ¶ 29 January 1987, p. 4. The arrival of Captain John Gow in Orkney in 1726.

5 February 1987, p. 4. ¶ The recent visit of Gypsy the black cat. ¶ 12 February 1987, p. 4. Has recently bought a copy of “the new Oxford Complete Shakespeare.” ¶ 19 February 1987, p. 4. “The lighting of the fire in the hearth can be a very chancy thing.” Repr. RD 159. ¶ 26 February 1987, p. 4. Description of a friend’s spring walk in New Zealand. “Here, in Orkney, the latest snow is slowly shrinking from the gardens.” Repr. RD 159–60.

5 March 1987, p. 4. A tribute to his friend Bob Johnston, who often read proofs at the Orkney Herald with GMB. ¶ Repr. RD 160–61. ¶ 12 March 1987, p. 4. Stromness’s deep connections with the sea; imagines it as a ruin in the 23rd century. Repr. RD 161–62. ¶ 19 March 1987, p. 4. Reflections prompted by two half-pounds of butter. ¶ 26 March 1987, p. 6. The history of Stromness’s water supply. Repr. RD 162.

2 April 1987, p. 4. “The flood of books rises and rises, in this house.” ¶ 9 April 1987, p. 5. Nine students from St. Andrews University visit him. Repr. RD 163. ¶ 16 April 1987, p. 4. A more favorable view of Earl Hakon, who was responsible for the death of St. Magnus. ¶ 23 April 1987, p. 4. Various essential repairs in his home at Mayburn Court. Repr. RD 163–64. ¶ 30 April 1987, p. 4. Memories of using the public library when he was a child.

7 May 1987, p. 4. Memories of studying for exams at the University of Edinburgh. Repr. RD 164–65. ¶ 14 May 1987, p. 6. Memories of Edwin Muir on what would have been his 100th birthday. Repr. RD 165–66. ¶ 21 May 1987, p. 6. Writing to a friend who is spending a year in New Zealand. ¶ 28 May 1987, p. 6. The death of his toaster. Repr. RD 166.

4 June 1987, p. 6. The closing of the old Stromness Academy building. Repr. RD 166–67. ¶ 11 June 1987, p. 6. A visit (his first) to Wyre. Repr. RD 167–68. ¶ 18 June 1987, p. 6. A visit to the Abbey of Pluscarden, “in the middle of Macbeth country.” Repr. RD 168–69. ¶ 25 June 1987, p. 4. Recollections of General Elections during his childhood.

2 July 1987, p. 6. Local stories about the trows of Brodgar; their connection with Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle. Repr. RD 169. ¶ 9 July 1987, p. 6. Showing a Swedish couple around Stromness and vicinity. ¶ 16 July 1987, p. 6. Getting ready for a week at Rackwick. ¶ 23 July 1987, p. 6. Climbing up to Bunertoon, Peter Maxwell Davies’ home on Hoy. Repr. RD 169–70. ¶ 30 July 1987, p. 4. Returning home to a pile of mail: one of his correspondents is Gypsy the cat.

6 August 1987, p. 6. Memories of picnics on the West Shore of Orkney. ¶ 13 August 1987, p. 6. Suffering from a cold in the summer. ¶ 20 August 1987, p. 6. Recollections of being the Stromness Correspondent for the Orkney Herald. Repr. RD 170–71. ¶ 27 August 1987, p. 4. Convalescing in Kirbister. Repr. RD 171–72.

3 September 1987, p. 4. Finally getting rid of an old radio, an electric fire, and a washing machine. Repr. RD 172–73. ¶ 10 September 1987, p. 6. Remembering 1 September 1939: the start of the war and the first day of Lammas Market. ¶ 17 September 1987, p. 4. The beginning of autumn when he was a child. ¶ 24 September 1987, p. 4. The burden of letter-writing.

1 October 1987, p. 6. The autumn equinox; a visit to Yesnaby. ¶ 8 October 1987, p. 4. Recollections of the old North Church (“the Free Kirk,” now the Academy Hall) in Stromness and Peter Esson. Repr. RD 173. ¶ 15 October 1987, p. 4. Watching a television program about the Franklin polar expedition and John Rae. Repr. RD 173–74. ¶ 22 October 1987, p. 4. An afternoon at the home of Bessie Grieve. ¶ 29 October 1987, p. 4. “If the foul weather lasts longer than a week, I have heard strong men wishing that there was a fleet of powerful tugs to drag the [Orkney] islands south and leave them anchored somewhere in the vicinity of Jamaica or Dominica.”

5 November 1987, p. 4. ¶ Watching the crisis in the stock market: “the fishermen and farmers and working people I knew in my youth lived according to other sounder values.” ¶ 12 November 1987, p. 4. Being defeated by modern technology, especially his digital watch, which he has to adjust twice a year for Summer Time. ¶ 19 November 1987, p. 4. Reflections on the modern use of wind power. Repr. RD 174–75. ¶ 26 November 1987, p. 6. Recalling the postal strike of 1971, when he traveled to Edinburgh for a poetry competition won by Liz Lochhead.

3 December 1987, p. 4. “How lovely, after a hard time at the writing-desk – hard but enjoyable – to light the fire in mid-afternoon, and listen to some well-loved music.” ¶ 10 December 1987, p. 6. He’s been told he needs cataract surgery. Repr. RD 175–76. ¶ 17 December 1987, p. 6. General reflections on life in Stromness and elsewhere. ¶ 24 December 1987, p. 4. “We geriatrics can only faintly recapture the marvellous magic of an Orkney Christmas in the 1920s.” Repr. RD 176. ¶ 31 December 1987, p. 4. Weather and disasters during 1987.

“Under Brinkie’s Brae” (1988)

The following “Under Brinkie’s Brae” columns by George Mackay Brown were published in the Orcadian during 1988 and were signed with initials only. Most were reprinted in GMB’s Rockpools and Daffodils (1992), cited here as RD.


7 January 1988, p. 4. “So many letters to write before the end of the year!” ¶ 14 January 1988, p. 4. “One of the delights of winter is soup. . . .” Repr. RD 177. ¶ 21 January 1988, p. 4. A pleasant musical visit from two students at St. Andrews University. ¶ 28 January 1988, p. 4. Burns’s birthday is only one of several winter festivals in Scotland.

4 February 1988, p. 4. On being taken by ambulance and airplane to the hospital in Aberdeen. ¶ 11 February 1988, p. 4. Life in the Aberdeen hospital; his new Walkman cassette player and radio. ¶ 18 February 1988, p. 10. Riding in the countryside near Aberdeen. ¶ 25 February 1988, p. 10. “. . . I think of it [February] was a shy young month, poor it may be and in rags, but carrying first snowdrops and crocuses in her cold hands.” Repr. RD 177–78.

3 March 1988, p. 12. Spring-cleaning in his childhood home. Repr. RD 178–79. ¶ 10 March 1988, p. 10. Visiting Kirkwall during a blizzard. ¶ 17 March 1988, p. 12. “Kind friends gave me, a year or two ago, a present of a Seiko digital watch. So there it is, bound on my wrist, chaining me to Time.” ¶ 24 March 1988, p. 10. What the days of the week were like a half century ago in Stromness. ¶ 31 March 1988, p. 10. “The equinoctial blues.” Repr. RD 179.

7 April 1988, p. 12. British Summer Time is unnatural. Repr. RD 180. ¶ 14 April 1988, p. 10. A disappointing film version of Forster’s A Passage to India. Repr. RD 180–81. ¶ 21 April 1988, p. 12. “Suddenly the daffodils are everywhere, the indomitable ones, the flowers spun from light.” Repr. RD 181–82. ¶ 28 April 1988, p. 12. “I got my second pair of glasses the other afternoon, brought back from Kirkwall by a friend.” Repr. RD 182–83.

5 May 1988, p. 10. He imagines the first morning of May a hundred years ago. Repr. RD 183–84. ¶ 12 May 1988, p. 10. Trying to write a poem about Brodgar; feeding a stray cat. Repr. RD 184–85. ¶ 19 May 1988, p. 12. The churches of Orkney. Repr. RD 184. ¶ 26 May 1988, p. 10. Nostalgic memories of gramophones through the decades.

2 June 1988, p. 10. The struggles of writing. ¶ 9 June 1988, p. 12. A holiday in Shetland (part 1). Repr. RD 185–86. ¶ 16 June 1988, p. 12. A holiday in Shetland (part 2). Repr. RD 186–87. ¶ 23 June 1988, p. 10. A holiday in Shetland (part 3). Repr. RD 187–88. ¶ 30 June 1988, p. 10. A holiday in Shetland (part 4). Repr. RD 188–89.

7 July 1988, p. 14. A holiday in Shetland (part 5). Repr. RD 189–90. ¶ 14 July 1988, p. 10. The struggle between fog and sun on a summer day. ¶ 21 July 1988, p. 12. The arrival of a television film crew at Rackwick. ¶ 28 July 1988, p. 10. Remembering the first Stromness Shopping week in 1949.

4 August 1988, p. 10. A visit to the Highland Park Distillery. Repr. RD 190–91. ¶ 18 August 1988, p. 10. Reading an unfamiliar Icelandic saga, Gisli’s Saga. Repr. RD 191–92. ¶ 25 August 1988, p. 5. “There might have been fifty tourists each summer in Stromness when I was young, before the war, in the early ’30s.” Repr. RD 192–93.

1 September 1988, p. 11. Discussion of Stewart Scobie’s poem The Ballad of Isabel Gunn. Repr. RD 193–94. ¶ 8 September 1988, p. 4. The arrival of autumn; memories of the beginning of World War Two, forty-nine years ago. ¶ 15 September 1988, p. 13. How he met the poet Elizabeth Lochhead in the early 1970s. Repr. RD 194–95. ¶ 22 September 1988, p. 11. His broken sleep. ¶ 29 September 1988, p. 11. The autumn equinox and baffling weather patterns.

6 October 1988, p. 11. Writing letters and searching for books in his chaotic home. Repr. RD 195–96. ¶ 13 October 1988, p. 11. The howling wind above Brinkie’s Brae; an imagined encounter with Bessie Millie. ¶ 20 October 1988, p. 13. The fascination of the stars. ¶ 27 October 1988, p. 13. The arrival of his friend Brian Murray from Ayrshire; GMB’s birthday.

10 November 1988, p. 11. ¶ Repaving the main street in Stromness. Repr. RD 196–97. ¶ 17 November 1988, p. 13. The changing meaning of “Liberal” in politics; the 70th anniversary of the World War One armistice. ¶ 24 November 1988, p. 13. He is fond of cats but not dogs. Repr. RD 197–98.

1 December 1988, p. 13. He devotes Thursdays to letter-writing. ¶ 8 December 1988, p. 13. Dieting fads. ¶ 15 December 1988, p. 13. Family trees. ¶ 22 December 1988, p. 13. Famous literary descriptions of Christmas. Repr. RD 198–99. ¶ 29 December 1988, p. 9. “Seeing that it’s midwinter, it might be fun for once to have a game before the year’s end – imagining every month to be a stage in Orkney’s history (especially Stromness).” Repr. RD 199–200.

“Under Brinkie’s Brae” (1989)

The following “Under Brinkie’s Brae” columns by George Mackay Brown were published in the Orcadian during 1991 and were signed with initials only. Most were reprinted in GMB’s Rockpools and Daffodils (1992), cited here as RD.


5 January 1989, p. 7. Recollections of 1988, especially his visit to Shetland. ¶ 12 January 1989, p. 9. The recent mild winters prompt some thoughts about the greenhouse effect. Repr. RD 200–01. ¶ 19 January 1989, p. 11. Fictional description of John Gow’s visit to Stromness in January 1726. Repr. RD 201–02. ¶ 26 January 1989, p. 13. “The more you think about Robert Burns, now that his season is here once again, the more astonishing he becomes.”

2 February 1989, p. 11. Superstitions and proverbs of his childhood. Repr. RD 202–03. ¶ 9 February 1989, p. 11. The South End of Stromness was once a much busier place. Repr. RD 203–04. ¶ 16 February 1989, p. 11. Former superstitions associated with Candlemas. Repr. RD 204–05. ¶ 23 February 1989, p. 11. A February storm.

2 March 1989, p. 13. Description of the process of writing, which is mostly hard work rather than inspiration. Repr. RD 205–07. ¶ 9 March 1989, p. 15. “A company of us drove last Sunday afternoon to view a house in Birsay that our Edinburgh friend Sigrid has recently bought.” Repr. RD 206–07. ¶ 16 March 1989, p. 15. The history of his adolescent smoking. Repr. RD 207–08. ¶ 23 March 1989, p. 13. “I remember, from my years in Edinburgh, what a happy time it was, coming home [for Easter] after a winter of study and cold winds.” ¶ 30 March 1989, p. 15. Reflections on the spring equinox.

6 April 1989, p. 13. An account (partly fictional) of William Bligh’s visit to Stromness in 1780. Repr. RD 208–10. ¶ 13 April 1989, p. 15. The books he read when he was a student at Stromness Academy in the 1930s. Repr. RD 210–11. ¶ 27 April 1989, p. 17. Walking around in Stromness on a springlike day. ¶ 4 May 1989, p. 13. Snow during the last week of April. ¶ 11 May 1989, p. 13. Short story based on the experiences of Bessie Millie. Repr. RD 211–12. ¶ 18 May 1989, p. 13. His insomnia. ¶ 25 May 1989, p. 13. A visit from Gypsy the cat.

1 June 1989, p. 13. He is in Edinburgh, preparing for his first visit to England (except for a quick walk across the border at Berwick many years ago). ¶ 8 June 1989, p. 15. The golden summers of his youth. Repr. RD 212–13. ¶ 15 June 1989, p. 15. His impressions of London and Oxford. ¶ 22 June 1989, p. 21. Seeing a Hopkins exhibition in the Bodleian Library and attending a Requiem Mass in honor of Hopkins at St. Aloysius, Oxford. Repr. RD 21314. ¶ 29 June 1989, p. 15. An account of his return to Scotland from London by train.

6 July 1989, p. 13. A film team from BBC Glasgow interviews him. ¶ 13 July 1989, p. 12. Disagreement with John B. Broom about the interpretation of a passage in the book of Ecclesiastes. Repr. RD 214–15. ¶ 20 July 1989, p. 13. Praise of Orkney tatties (potatoes). Repr. RD 215–16. ¶ 27 July 1989, p. 13. Memories of the first Shopping Week in 1949. Repr. RD 216–17.

3 August 1989, p. 13. Reflections on the history of the May Burn. Repr. RD 218. 10 August 1989, p. 11. Fictional version of how the Dounby Show was established. Repr. RD 219–20. 17 August 1989, p. 17. A typical day in the hospital. ¶ 24 August 1989, p. 13. A visit to Dunotten Castle. ¶ 31 August 1989, p. 13. Lammas Market in Stromness when he was a child. Repr. RD 220–21.

14 September 1989, p. 13. Praise for the poetry of Robert Rendall. Repr. RD 221–22. ¶ 21 September 1989, p. 13. Description of a typical day in the hospital, where he has been for five and a half weeks; now “it’s time to go north again.” ¶ 28 September 1989, p. 13. The pleasures found in fierce storms during the autumn and winter.

5 October 1989, p. 15. Re-reading Hardy. ¶ 12 October 1989, p. 13. Reflections on haikus – and how Norse poetry is equally distant from us. Repr. RD 222–23. ¶ 19 October 1989, p. 11. Memories of Guy Fawkes Day during his childhood. Repr. RD 223–24. ¶ 26 October 1989, p. 13. Making soup.

2 November 1989, p. 13. Books he has taken with him to the Aberdeen hospital. ¶ 9 November 1989, p. 15. All Saints’ Day. Repr. RD 224–25. ¶ 16 November 1989, p. 15. “Smoking was, in the 1930s and 1940s, an important part of life.” ¶ 23 November 1989, p. 13. The arrival of winter; anxiety about the threat of rats in his home. Repr. RD 225–26. ¶ 30 November 1989, p. 13. A Sunday afternoon drive around Orkney.

7 December 1989, p. 15. The problems of sending out Christmas cards. ¶ 14 December 1989, p. 13. Reflections on the importance and significance of the telephone. Repr. RD 226–27. ¶ 21 December 1989, p. 13. What the preparations for Christmas were like in the 1920s. Repr. RD 227–28.

 

 

“Under Brinkie’s Brae” (1990)

The following “Under Brinkie’s Brae” columns by George Mackay Brown were published in the Orcadian during 1990 and were signed with initials only. Most were reprinted in GMB’s Rockpools and Daffodils (1992), cited here as RD.

4 January 1990, p. 10. A recital of the chief events in his life during the past year. Repr. RD 228–29. ¶ 11 January 1990, p. 11. Has again begun eating porridge – the breakfast of his childhood. Repr. RD 229–30. ¶ 18 January 1990, p. 11. The recent storm that passed through. ¶ 25 January 1990, p. 11. Reflections on the meaning of Burns to the people of Scotland. Repr. RD 230–31.

1 February 1990, p. 11. The traditional rivalry between Kirkwall and Stromness. Repr. RD 231–32. ¶ 8 February 1990, p. 11. “Extraordinary, how the price of paper has soared this past decade.” ¶ 15 February 1990, p. 13. Reflections on the history of Iceland; has now returned to writing a story, abandoned many years ago, of an Orkney boy in Iceland. ¶ 22 February 1990, p. 13. Recent winter weather; Gypsy the cat.

1 March 1990, p. 13. The history of tea-drinking in Orkney. Repr. RD 232–33. ¶ 8 March 1990, p. 11. The Rev. William Clouston, parish minister of Stromness and Sandwick two centuries ago. Repr. RD 233–34. ¶ 15 March 1990, p. 13. Recent visitors, Hugo Brunner and John Murray. ¶ 22 March 1990, p. 15. Early signs of spring. ¶ 29 March 1990, p. 13. Reflections on the exploration of Iceland, Greenland, and North America by the Norsemen.

5 April 1990, p. 11. The pleasures of a coal fire. ¶ 12 April 1990, p. 13. Women in the Orkneyinga Saga. Repr. RD 235. ¶ 19 April 1990, p. 11. Pace eggs at Easter. ¶ 26 April 1990, p. 17. Visiting friends in Aberdeen for Easter, followed by a return to the hospital.

3 May 1990, p. 15. Memories of World War Two. Repr. RD 235–36. ¶ 24 May 1990, p. 13. Edwin Muir’s birthday; GMB tries to imagine a day in Muir’s childhood. Repr. RD 236–37. ¶ 31 May 1990, p. 19. His life in the hospital; the pleasures of May. Repr. RD 237–38.

7 June 1990, p. 13. Reflections on spring in Foresterhill hospital; rides in the countryside. ¶ 14 June 1990, p. 15. The Sunday School picnics of his childhood. Repr. RD 238–39. ¶ 21 June 1990, p. 13. Summer tourists in Stromness past and present. ¶ 28 June 1990, p. 13. Summer holidays when he was a child.

5 July 1990, p. 12. The poetry recitals at this year’s St. Magnus Festival. Repr. RD 239–40. ¶ 12 July 1990, p. 15. Stromness beer-drinking in the past. Repr. RD 240–41. ¶ 19 July 1990, p. 14. Yearning for sunshine. ¶ 26 July 1990, p. 14. Memories of the “golden weather” of the summer of 1947.

2 August 1990, p. 11. Putting greens in Stromness past and present. Repr. RD 241–42. ¶ 9 August 1990, p. 14. Changes in the size and appearance of the new coins. ¶ 16 August 1990, p. 14. Orkney’s good but admittedly imperfect weather. ¶ 23 August 1990, p. 14. The redecoration of his bedroom at Mayburn Court. ¶ 30 August 1990, p. 12. The problem of the numerous manuscripts and other papers that accumulate in his home. Repr. RD 242–43.

6 September 1990, p. 12. Poets mentioned in the Orkeyinga Saga. Repr. RD 243–44. ¶ 13 September 1990, p. 12. Memories of the Stromness Lammas Fair. ¶ 20 September 1990, p. 12. History of some Orkney place names. ¶ 27 September 1990, p. 12. “That was some storm yesterday (Wednesday, September 19).”

4 October 1990, p. 12. Postage stamps now and in the past. ¶ 11 October 1990, p. 11. The autumns of his childhood. Repr. RD 244–45. ¶ 18 October 1990, p. 10. Gypsy the cat; the publication of GMB’s Letters to Gypsy. ¶ 25 October 1990, p. 12. Celebration of his birthday; thunderstorms.

1 November 1990, p. 12. Starting the fire in the morning. ¶ 8 November 1990, p. 12. Some memorable personalities who once lived in Stromness. Repr. RD 246–47. ¶ 15 November 1990, p. 12. Tales of the Black Craig. Repr. RD 247–48. ¶ 22 November 1990, p. 14. Watching Sir Geoffrey Howe’s resignation speech on television. ¶ 29 November 1990, p. 14. On the writing of his novel Vinland. Repr. RD 248–49.

6 December 1990, p. 14. Defrosting the fridge. ¶ 13 December 1990, p. 12. Popular brands of cigarettes during his youth. ¶ 20 December 1990, p. 8. The winter solstice and the return of the light. Repr. RD 249–50.