GMB — What the Pier Head Is Saying (1968)

The following “What the Pier Head Is Saying” columns by George Mackay Brown were published in the Orcadian during 1968, signed with his initials only.


11 January 1968, p. 3. The gloom of early January; envy of “Shetland’s Up-Helly-Aa revels on the last Tuesday of the month.” ¶ 18 January 1968, p. 4. The recurrent claim that “Robert Burns was really an Orkneyman.” ¶ 25 January 1968, p. 4. Rising rents in council houses.

1 February 1968, p. 4. Local attitudes toward Scottish nationalism. ¶ 15 February 1968, p. 4. “The loss of three fine Hull trawlers within a short period has caused great talk at the Pier Head. . . .” ¶ 29 February 1968, p. 4. “The change to British Standard Time the other week-end was not something that moved the Pier Head members to enthusiasm.”

7 March 1968, p. 3. Praised for the Orkney Drama Festival. ¶ 14 March 1968, p. 4. Changes in historic place-names. ¶ 28 March 1968, p. 4. “This week the Pier Head chronicler has no idea what the Pier Head is saying, because he is two hundred miles away in the South [i.e. in Edinburgh].”

11 April 1968, p. 4. Inflation and rising bus fares in Edinburgh. ¶ 25 April 1968, p. 4. The invasion of city culture.

2 May 1968, p. 4. Optimists and pessimists at the Pier Head. ¶ 9 May 1968, p. 4. “There is no immigrants’ problem in Orkney, at least not yet. . . .” ¶ 16 May 1968, p. 4. Pulling down Gray’s Buildings in Dundas Street; “we spoke too soon the other week about the early summer, at the Pier Head.”

20 June 1968, p. 4. “. . . the finishing touches are being put to the new houses at the old Distillery site. The scheme will be known as Mayburn Court. . . .” ¶ 27 June 1968, p. 4. The loss of old traditions (such as the Johnsmas Fires) and stories.

4 July 1968, p. 2. Singing has returned to bars. ¶ 11 July 1968, p. 4. Recent losses by the Stromness football club. ¶ 18 July 1968, p. 4. Shopping Week.

1 August 1968, p. 4. Afternoon cruises across Scapa Flow. ¶ 8 August 1968, p. 4. Memories of sunshine in earlier summers. ¶ 15 August 1968, p. 6. The Dounby Show. ¶ 22 August 1968, p. 4. The football pools. ¶ 29 August 1968, p. 4. Recalling the Stromness Market between the wars.

12 September 1968, p. 4. Orkney’s traditional connections with Norway. ¶ 19 September 1968, p. 4. “It is pleasant . . . to see that at the new Mayburn scheme the courtyard is being laid with the old flagstones – a bit of old Stromness mingling with the new.” ¶ 26 September 1968, p. 4. This summer’s visitors have been pleased with the Orkney weather.

17 October 1968, p. 4. “. . . there has been quite a revolution in the Pier Head’s diet in the past decade or two.” ¶ 24 October 1968, p. 4. Jumble sales. ¶ 31 October 1968, p. 4. Halloween.

7 November 1968, p. 4. “Winter came with a rush in the middle of last week and scoured the Pier head bare as a bone.” ¶ 14 November 1968, p. 4. The reassuring comings and goings of the St. Ola ferry. ¶ 21 November 1968, p. 4. The disappearance of the old small shops in Stromness. ¶ 28 November 1968, p. 7. Complaints about the new Budget, which seems to be aimed mainly at smokers and drinkers.

5 December 1968, p. 4. British Standard Time is ruining the rhythm of Orcadians’ days and nights. “The more the Pier Head people think about it, the more they are convinced that in Westminster they legislate primarily for people in the south-east of England, where most of the industry is nowadays.” ¶ 12 December 1968, p. 4. The traditional rivalry between the North End and South End of Stromness. ¶ 19 December 1968, p. 4. The approach of Christmas. ¶ 26 December 1968, p. 4. More preparations for Christmas.

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.

Woman’s Hour (30 January 1970) [radio]

“Woman’s Hour.” BBC Radio 2, 30 January 1970, 2:00–3:00 p.m.

“From Scotland, introduced by Nancy Mitchell. . . . A dream of sweetness: George Mackay Brown recalls his time as a gourmand.”

GMB — Whar’s Thir Scorries? (24 October 1944)

[GMB.] “Whar’s Thir Scorries? Stromness Goes 1 (or 2) Up on Kirkwall.” Orkney Herald, 24 October 1944, p. 7.

Signed by “our Stromness correspondent.”

Two possible explanations of why discarded chips are not eaten by gulls in Stromness.

For a reply, see “Whar’s Thir Scorries? It’ll Be the Sixty Days We Doubt,” 31 October, p. 5.

Island Diary (1947)

The following “Island Diary” columns by George Mackay Brown, all signed “Islandman,”  were published in the Orkney Herald during 1947. GMB did not reprint any of them in a later book.


7 January 1947, p. 8. Food was better in Orkney than in Glasgow during 1946; celebration of the New Year. ¶ 14 January 1947, p. 8.  A survey of the best Orkney books. ¶ 21 January 1947, p. 8. General reflections on Burns. ¶ 28 January 1947, p. 2. “Orkney was a great place for women to live in 300 years ago. There was then none of that ridiculous pampering of women that is rotting the 20th century at its foundations.” Witch-mania.

4 February 1947, p. 5. Superstitions associated with dark winter nights. ¶ 11 February 1947, p. 5. Description of an exhibition of “modern Scottish paintings, drawings, and statues” at the Arts Club. ¶ 18 February 1947, p. 2. “I consider that every snowfall since my early childhood has had a distinct personality”; further comments on the Drama Festival.

4 March 1947, p. 5. Reflections prompted by reading the Orkney Almanac for 1877: “Orkney in 1877 – what a land flowing with milk and honey it was! It seems now like a remote legendary place, half lost in the mists of antiquity.” ¶ 11 March 1947, p. 5. “I never remember a gruelling winter like this before”; the BBC “panders too much in its programmes to the mentally undeveloped”; The Saga of Burnt Njal is to be on Third Programme tonight. ¶ 18 March 1947, p. 5. The Kirkwall Arts Club has won a prize at a drama festival in Inverary; a forthcoming Music Festival in Kirkwall (but Orcadians are not musically gifted at the moment). ¶ 25 March 1947, p. 7. “Another great change that has come over Orkney since the war is that now everyone locks the doors at night”; “I am often surprised by the fact that there exists no church dedicated to St Rognvald in Orkney”; local football. Reply (about football clubs) by “Cubbie Roo,” 8 April, p. 6.

1 April 1947, p. 3. His opposition to blood sports. Replies by readers, with a rejoinder by GMB, on 15 April, p. 6. ¶ 8 April 1947, p. 5. The banning of C. S. Forester’s The Ship from the Wick Public Library. ¶ 15 April 1947, p. 5. Review of the first issue of the New Shetlander. ¶ 22 April 1947, p. 5. “Last week was a week of listening to superlative entertainment supplied by the B.B.C.”: football, a speech by the Chancellor, and a boxing match. ¶ 29 April 1947, p. 5. How he gave up smoking.

6 May 1947, p. 5. The Dounby v. Kirkwall Thorfinn “A” football match. ¶ 13 May 1947, p. 7. The pleasures of putting. ¶ 20 May 1947, p. 5. The recent fire that destroyed Stromness’s cinema; the subjects that he enjoys writing about. ¶ 27 May 1947, p. 5. Beautiful spring days; the contemporary preoccupation with the young; an accused Orkney witch in the eighteenth century.

3 June 1947, p. 5. Further comments on Robert Rendall’s Country Sonnets; an illustrated article about Orkney in the Picture Post; the Wall of Death. ¶ 10 June 1947, p. 9. Orkney should build a great herring ship. ¶ 17 June 1947, p. 5. The best football players in Orkney; British Summer Time; the history of the name of Hellihole Road. ¶ 24 June 1947, p. 5. High bidding for books about Orkney at a recent auction.

1 July 1947, p. 7. After a “slight indisposition,” he hopes to start exploring Orkney again; the poetry of Earl Rognvald; has recently written some Horatian stanzas; plans for an arts page in the Orkney Herald. ¶ 8 July 1947, p. 4. Reviews of an art exhibition and the Orkney Music Festival. ¶ 15 July 1947, p. 2. A visit to the Stromness Museum. ¶ 22 July 1947, p. 5. A group of young pilgrims of the Faith Mission gathered at the pier-head. ¶ 29 July 1947, p. 5. Lovely summer weather; a Punch and Judy show.

5 August 1947, p. 5. An exhibition of paintings by Ian MacInnes and John Farmiloe. ¶ 12 August 1947, p. 4. A bus trip to the Bay of Skaill. ¶ 19 August 1947, p. 4. A visit to Waulkmill Bay, Orphir. ¶ 26 August 1947, p. 7. A BBC radio program, “Country Magazine,” about Orkney; the hot and overcrowded County Show.

2 September 1947, p. 5. The Orkney–Shetland football match. ¶ 9 September 1947, p. 9. The end of “the phenomenal Orkney August of 1947”; a visit to Graemsay. ¶ 16 September 1947, p. 5. Bleak, cold autumn weather. ¶ 23 September 1947, p. 9. “. . . Orkney and Shetland books are so much sought after that they have become a definite branch in the second-hand bookselling business”; a series of articles by H. V. Morton entitled “In Search of the Northern Isles” that appeared in the Daily Herald during the 1930s. ¶ 30 September 1947, p. 5. Legends associated with the mysterious vanishing island of Heather-Bleather.

7 October 1947, p. 2. Various Orkney and Shetland newspapers published in the nineteenth century. ¶ 14 October 1947, p. 5. “If culture is not indigenous and popular, it had better not exist at all. That goes for Orkney as well as other places.” This column provoked some letters to the editor: see 4 November, p. 4 (from Margaret C. Tait and Allison Leonard); and 18 November (from “Dairyman”). GMB in turn replied 18 November, p. 9. There was a further comment by Tait, 2 December, p. 5. ¶ 21 October 1947, p. 5. The plans for the Moncur Memorial Church, Stronsay; “I find myself actively depressed worshipping in any of the Orkney churches built during the past two centuries.” ¶ 28 October 1947, p. 7. Visiting a small island near Stromness and listening to a gramophone.

4 November 1947, p. 7. The legends of seals/humans (selkies). ¶ 11 November 1947, p. 7. The fierce dispute about whether Stromness should remain “dry.” ¶ 18 November 1947, p. 7. Review of a collection of stories by Erik Linklater. Reply (in the form of a poem entitled “Squelching in a Midden”) by Heather Jock, 2 December, p. 5. ¶ 25 November 1947, p. 4. “Even the children are disgusted with this winter’s snow”; “the Budget was another cruel blow this week”; the recent performance of Shaw’s Arms and the Man.

9 December 1947, p. 5. A Christmas card from Bernard Shaw to “The Art Critic” of the Orkney Herald (i.e. GMB); a review of Eric Linklater’s Sealskin Trousers in the Times Literary Supplement. Reply by D. R. Linklater, “‘Islandman’ under Fire Again,” 23 December, p. 3; rejoinder by GMB, “Islandman Regurgitates,”30 December, p. 5. ¶ 16 December 1947, p. 5. He imagines how the Norse runes came to be inscribed in Maeshowe. “I was inside Maeshowe only once, and doubt if I’ll ever go again.” ¶ 23 December 1947, p. 5. The story of how Earl Rognvald was killed on Christmas 901 years ago. ¶ 30 December 1947, p. 5. Critics of his column; summary of the events of the past year.

“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” (1984)

The following “Under Brinkie’s Brae” columns by George Mackay Brown were published in the Orcadian during 1984 and were signed with initials only. Most were reprinted in GMB’s Rockpools and Daffodils (1992), cited here as RD.


5 January 1984, p. 3. Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four. Repr. RD 103–04. ¶ 12 January 1984, p. 3. The pleasure of eating a pair of kippers. Repr. RD 104–05. ¶ 19 January 1984, p. 4. Remembering his early encounter with Burns’s poetry. ¶ 26 January 1984, p. 4. The great blizzard that didn’t fully materialize.

2 February 1984, p. 4. The pleasures of reading during a loss of electricity. ¶ 9 February 1984, p. 4. “How mixed-up we are when it comes to the four seasons! For everybody, it seems, has his own private quartering of the year and they nearly all differ markedly from the official dates.” ¶ 16 February 1984, p. 4. “The enigma of John Gow . . . will never be fully explained.” ¶ 23 February 1984, p. 4. “Over the period of years, a great local hero for boys from ten to twelve years old, in the thirties, was a footballer [Hugo Munro, buried yesterday].” Repr. RD 105–06.

1 March 1984, p. 4. Vanished figures from the streets of Stromness. Repr. RD 106. ¶ 8 March 1984, p. 4. A visit from Ros Rinkwater; what life would be like on Orkney after a future nuclear disaster. Repr. RD 106–07. ¶ 15 March 1984, p. 4. The problem of overflowing bookshelves. ¶ 22 March 1984, p. 4. “There’s something wonderful in the fact that light and darkness weigh the scales evenly at the March equinox, all over the world.” ¶ 29 March 1984, p. 4. Tells the story of Sweyn Asleifson on Gairsay.

5 April 1984, p. 4. Reading the short stories of Solzhenitsyn. Repr. RD 107–08. ¶ 12 April 1984, p. 4. New bookshelves in his living room mean that he must get rid of the contents of his sideboard. ¶ 19 April 1984, p. 6. “Old General Winter, who defeated Napoleon and Hitler, returns to fight a brave rearguard action just when you think he has shot his last bolt.” ¶ 26 April 1984, p. 4. His experiences in trying to care for flowers and plants.

3 May 1984, p. 4. The pleasures of public benches in Stromness. Repr. RD 108–09. ¶ 10 May 1984, p. 4. The disappearance of Latin in the schools. Repr. RD 109. ¶ 17 May 1984, p. 4. Remembering when Prince George (the future Duke of Kent) visited Stromness in the late 1920s to launch a new lifeboat. ¶ 24 May 1984, p. 4. What he had assumed to be fog turns out to be smoke from a moorland fire. ¶ 31 May 1984, p. 4. The death of Sir John Betjeman, whom GMB had met and with whom he corresponded. Discusses other Poet Laureates. Repr. RD 109–10.

7 June 1984, p. 4. Housman’s poem about the end of May. Repr. RD 110–11. ¶ 14 June 1984, p. 4. The masked fisherman in the Orkneyinga Saga. Repr. RD 111–12. ¶ 21 June 1984, p. 4. Recollections of the Marques, which has sunk near Bermuda. Repr. RD 112–13. ¶ 28 June 1984, p. 4. The St. Magnus Festival; heavy fog.

5 July 1984, p. 4. “One of the nicest coast walks in Orkney is along the Marwick shore in Birsay to the little geo that holds in its steep slopes the remnants of old boat-houses, built half into the solid rock.” Repr. RD 113. ¶ 12 July 1984, p. 6. A morning of literary work followed by a drive around the vicinity of Stromness with friends. ¶ 19 July 1984, p. 4. Arriving at Rackwick. ¶ 26 July 1984, p. 4. A week in Rackwick. Repr. RD 114.

2 August 1984, p. 6. Warbeth beach when he was a child. Repr. RD 114–15. ¶ 9 August 1984, p. 4. A story (possibly not true) about one of the north isles of Orkney during World War One. Repr. RD 115–16. ¶ 16 August 1984, p. 4. The Dounby Show. Repr. RD 116–17. ¶ 23 August 1984, p. 4. The menace of cars, trucks, and motor-bikes on the main street of Stromness. ¶ 30 August 1984, p. 4. Summer insects.

6 September 1984, p. 4. Stromness putting greens through the years. ¶ 13 September 1984, p. 4. Lammas Market Day. ¶ 20 September 1984, p. 4. How eating tastes on Orkney have changed. Repr. RD 117. ¶ 27 September 1984, p. 4. Comments on a recent radio program about Edwin and Willa Muir.

4 October 1984, p. 4. Why there is more flooding in Stromness now. ¶ 11 October 1984, p. 4. Various “items of domestic use that are no longer sold in the shops.” Repr. RD 118. ¶ 18 October 1984, p. 4. The south end of Stromness was once a livelier place. ¶ 25 October 1984, p. 4. A stormy day suggests the onset of winter. Repr. RD 118–19.

1 November 1984, p. 4. What meals were once like in Orkney. ¶ 8 November 1984, p. 4. Bessie Millie as a “‘white witch’, a conjuror of good and seemly things.” ¶ 15 November 1984, p. 4. The failure of his television set prompts some thoughts about the role of television in modern life. Repr. RD 110–20. ¶ 22 November 1984, p. 4. The coal strike; starting fires in his home. ¶ 29 November 1984, p. 6. The difficulties of sending out Christmas cards.

6 December 1984, p. 4. Drowsiness during the daytime as a sign of old age. Repr. RD 120. ¶ 13 December 1984, p. 6. His experiences in using the telephone. ¶ 20 December 1984, p. 6. Christmas and Santa Claus during his early years. Repr. RD 121–22. ¶ 27 December 1984, p. 4. Thoughts about Orwell during 1984.