Bust of Poet May Be Put up in Library (16 February 1991)

“Bust of Poet May Be Put up in Library.” Aberdeen Press and Journal, 16 February 1991, p. 3.

“A bronze bust of Stromness poet and writer George Mackay Brown [by Ian Scott] may be commissioned to take its place in Kirkwall’s library alongside those of Edwin Muir, Eric Linklater and Stanley Cursiter if the OIC approves a recommendation from its miscellaneous services committee.”

GMB — Letter from Hamnavoe (1975)

The following “Letter from Hamnavoe” columns by George Mackay Brown were published in the Orcadian during 1975 and were signed with initials only. Most were reprinted in GMB’s Letters from Hamnavoe (1979), cited here as LH.

9 January 1975, p. 4. The figures – such as tinkers and lamp-lighters – who used to be seen in the streets of Stromness. Repr. LH 126–27. ¶ 16 January 1975, p. 4. Popular weather-lore when he was a boy. Repr. LH 127–29. ¶ 23 January 1975, p. 4. Tribute to the poet Sydney Goodsir Smith, who visited Orkney twice. Repr. LH 129–30. ¶ 30 January 1975, p. 4. He imagines a day in the eighteenth century, when the sailors in an ale-house are confronted by Bessie Millie, an “ancient sybil.” Repr. LH 130.

6 February 1975, p. 4. Reflections on various honorary burgesses of Stromness, including Walter Scott and Gladstone. Repr. LH 132. ¶ 13 February 1975, p. 3. A visit to the three bronze heads – Stanley Cursiter, Edwin Muir, and Eric Linklater – in the Kirkwall Library, followed by a car ride around the West Mainland. Repr. LH 132–33. ¶ 20 February 1975, p. 4. Color television arrives in Orkney. ¶ 27 February 1975, p. 4. Replacing electric devices in his home.

6 March 1975, p. 4. A mild February is ending; spring is at hand. Repr. LH 133–35. ¶ 13 March 1975, p. 4. Thoughts prompted by watching historical plays on television. ¶ 20 March 1975, p. 4. The increase in postal rates; the artificiality of Summer Time. ¶ 27 March 1975, p. 4. He thought he was going deaf, but the doctor has cleaned his ears, and his hearing is normal again. Repr. LH 135.

GMB — Letter from Hamnavoe (1974)

The following “Letter from Hamnavoe” columns by George Mackay Brown were published in the Orcadian during 1974 and were signed with initials only (except for 30 May 1974, which was unsigned). Most were reprinted in GMB’s Letters from Hamnavoe (1979), cited here as LH.

10 January 1974, p. 3. New Year in Stromness when he was a child. ¶ 17 January 1974, p. 4. Reflections on a Daniell print of the Bishop’s Palace, Kirkwall. Repr. LH 97–99. ¶ 24 January 1974, p. 4. Burns never mentioned Orkney in his writings, but there are allusions to it in various other literary texts through the centuries. Repr. LH 99. ¶ 31 January 1974, p. 4. The history of the name of the St. Ola ferry.

14 February 1974, p. 4. Local political talk; a high tide. ¶ 21 February 1974, p. 4. Approves the decision to close down television (“old one-eye”) at 10:30 p.m.; the death of the poet Douglas Young. Repr. LH 100. ¶ 28 February 1974, p. 4. Memories of past election days in Stromness. Repr. LH 100–01.

7 March 1974, p. 4. Tribute to the career of Eric Linklater on his 75th birthday. Repr. LH 101. ¶ 14 March 1974, p. 4. The end of the miners’ strike leads to some thoughts about the history of mining in Stromness. Repr. LH 102. ¶ 21 March 1974, p. 4. “Today is the vernal equinox, one of the four magical times of the year. In the everlasting struggle between light and darkness both forces are locked together and motionless, on this day. From now on the darkness begins to give way.” Repr. LH 102–03. ¶ 28 March 1974, p. 4. Fine weather and the sighting of swans near Stromness. Repr. LH 104.

4 April 1974, p. 4. Even 300 years ago Orcadians were notorious for heavy drinking, but they are rarely interested in betting. Repr. LH 104–05. ¶ 11 April 1974, p. 4. He imagines what would happen if Shetland were to declare its independence. ¶ 18 April 1974, p. 4. The egg symbolism of Easter. Repr. LH 105–06. ¶ 25 April 1974, p. 4. The problem of getting rid of old books; the story of how Peter Maxwell Davies gave a copy of the Orkneying Saga to Jorge Luis Borges. Repr. LH 106.

2 May 1974, p. 4. Conversations at the Pier Head. ¶ 9 May 1974, p. 4. Short story about an old woman and her granddaughter on a May morning. ¶ 16 May 1974, p. 4. Memories of going to the cinema in Stromness when he was young. Repr. LH 106–07. ¶ 23 May 1974, p. 4. Review of G. S. Robertson, A History of the Stromness Golf Courses. Repr. LH 107–08. ¶ 30 May 1974, p. 4. Unsigned. In 1842 “there were over 40 places in Stromness where drink could be bought. But most of these premises would not have been ‘pubs’ as we understand them. They would have been ‘ale houses’, where you drank the ale that was brewed on the premises.” Repr. LH 108.

6 June 1974, p. 4. The death of James MacTaggart; recalls the time when MacTaggart filmed a television drama based on three stories by GMB, the first of which was set in Rackwick. Repr. LH 110. ¶ 13 June 1974, p. 4. Gloomy thoughts about Dounreay, the nuclear reactor visible across the Pentland Firth. Repr. LH 111. ¶ 20 June 1974, p. 4. The pleasures of riding in a friend’s car around the island. ¶ 27 June 1974, p. 4. Imaginary letter written 150 years ago about the Orkney hilltop bonfires on midsummer’s eve (Johnsmas). Repr. LH 111–12.

4 July 1974, p. 4. Visiting an exhibition at the Stromness Museum. ¶ 11 July 1974, p. 4. Reflections prompted by John Firth’s Reminiscences of an Orkney Parish (reissued by the Stromness Museum). Repr. LH 112–13. ¶ 18 July 1974, p. 4. An account of the life of Phin, who was (mistakenly) thought to be the founder of Finstown. Repr. LH 114. ¶ 25 July 1974, p. 4. Story about a Stromness man who retreats to another island in order to escape the crowds of Shopping Week.

1 August 1974, p. 4. A day on a boat with friends in Burra Sound. Repr. LH 114–15. ¶ 8 August 1974, p. 4. A visit to the Dounby Show (of farm animals). Repr. LH 115–16. ¶ 15 August 1974, p. 3. The problems of reading the Sunday newspapers. ¶ 22 August 1974, p. 4. Praise for the week-long Orkney Orchestral Summer School in Stromness. Repr. LH 116–17. ¶ 29 August 1974, p. 4. Summer visitors in Stromness.

5 September 1974, p. 4. The pleasures of looking at an old map he has just bought, “A Map of Orkney Shire, drawn from the best Authorities by T. Kitchin.” Repr. LH 117. ¶ 12 September 1974, p. 4. Unsightly military relics throughout Orkney. ¶ 19 September 1974, p. 4. An imaginary account of a school day forty years ago. Repr. LH 117–20. ¶ 26 September 1974, p. 4. The autumnal equinox. “If only we could read the great stone book of Brodgar! It was undoubtedly erected with some reference to, and reverence for, the waxing and waning of the fruitful year.” Repr. LH 119–20.

3 October 1974, p. 6. “Another election! – the second within a year – what a bore!” ¶ 10 October 1974, p. 4. “They were discussing the election at the Pier Head . . . one afternoon recently.” ¶ 17 October 1974, p. 4. Listening to a radio program about plants and farming. ¶ 24 October 1974, p. 4. The death of John Shearer, former Director of Education and once a science master at Stromness Academy. Repr. LH 120–21. ¶ 31 October 1974, p. 4. Listening to awful news on radio and television; reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

7 November 1974, p. 4. The telephone box in front of the Stromness Museum. Repr. LH 121–22. ¶ 14 November 1974, p. 4. His cooking and eating habits. Repr. LH 122–23. ¶ 21 November 1974, p. 4. A new St. Ola ferry has arrived. Repr. LH 123–24. ¶ 28 November 1974, p. 6. Possible origins of the name of the hill behind Stromness, Brinkie’s Brae. Repr. LH 124–25.

5 December 1974, p. 4. Fictional narrative about an Orkney boy’s misunderstanding of the Ice Age. Repr. LH 126. ¶ 12 December 1974, p. 6. Electrical problems in his kitchen; the acquisitiveness of modern society. ¶ 19 December 1974, p. 4. How a boy named Josie might have experienced Christmas at the beginning of the twentieth century. ¶ 26 December 1974, p. 3. Memories of the past year.

GMB — Orkney Common Reader (1953–54)

From August 1953 to April 1954 – while he was convalescing in the Eastbank Hospital and the Balfour Hospital, Kirkwall – GMB contributed a series of literary columns entitled “The Orkney Common Reader” to the Orcadian. They were signed with initials only.

“Solitude.” 6 August 1953, p. 3. “Solitude is a recurring theme in Orkney literature.” ¶ “Biography.” 13 August 1953, p. 2. “Our island literature is extremely poor in biography and autobiography.”

“Island Folk Culture.” 3 September 1953, p. 2. “It is . . . a strange thing that Shetland, in all the creative arts, lags far behind Orkney nowadays.” ¶ “Reading Robert Rendall’s Verse.” 24 September 1953, p. 2. “Mr Robert Rendall is a Jekyll-and-Hyde among poets. That is to say, he can write wonderful poetry, and shockingly bad poetry, with equal fluency, and the extraordinary thing is that the poet himself is apparently unaware of the yawning chasm between his good work and his bad.”

“The Sea in Orkney Poetry.” 15 October 1953, p. 4. “You would think that the sea would figure largely in Orkney literature. But a quick glance through the ‘Anthology of Orkney Verse’ shows that it really bulks surprisingly small.” ¶ “The Novel in Orkney.” 22 October 1953, p. 4. A survey of the Orkney novels of Walter Scott, Walter Traill Dennison, and Eric Linklater.

“The ‘Mighty Line’ in Orkney Poetry.” 5 November 1953, p. 3. A discussion of powerful lines in poetry: “Lately I have gone through a few volumes of island verse and have been astonished at their frequency.” ¶ “The ‘Immortal Tongue’ of Ann Scott-Moncrieff.” 12 November 1953, p. 3. An analysis of Scott-Moncrieff’s poem “The Brig o’ Waithe,” written in Orkney dialect.

“Orkney’s Own Saga.” 17 December 1953, p. 3. “The finest piece of literature we islefolks have is ‘The Orkneyinga Saga.'” ¶ “Two Sonnets.” 31 December 1953, p. 2. The sonnets are “Sons of the Isles” and “Kirkwall” by Duncan J. Robertson; but another of his poems, “Waith and Wrack” is better.

“Eric Linklater.” 11 February 1954, p. 2. “I would like to give a purely personal impression of the writings of our celebrated fellow Orkneyman, Eric Linklater.”

“An Edwin Muir Poem.” 8 April 1954, p. 6. An analysis of Muir’s “Merlin.”


In Search of Edwin Muir (6 May 1964) [radio]

“In Search of Edwin Muir.” BBC Third Programme, 6 May 1964, 8:45–9:45 p.m.

First of three programs. By Michael Blakstad and George Bruce. “. . . a conspectus of his life and work, with the voices of Mrs Willa Muir, and his fellow Orcadians, Stanley Cursiter the schoolfellow to whom he dedicated his autobiography, the poets George Bruce and George Mackay Brown, and the novelists Eric Linklater and Neil Gunn” (Listener, 14 May 1964, p. 812).

First broadcast in the Scottish Home Service, 28 April.