GMB — Stromness News (1948)

The following “Stromness News” columns by George Mackay Brown, unsigned, were published in the Orkney Herald during 1948.


13 January 1948, p. 4. Cold spell; books for the County Library; Burns on the social horizon; Stromness District Nursing Association; Whist Club party; golf; Current Affairs Discussion Group; German prisoners’ good work. ¶ 20 January 1948, p. 4. Drama Festival; property market; the snow; entertainment slump; other names for Stromness (Hamnavoe and Cairston); Arts Council concert (record attendance); Current Affairs Discussion Group. ¶ 27 January 1948, p. 4. Alexander Graham; new Council houses; film A Certain Nobleman; clearing up Stromness; Physical Culture class.

3 February 1948, p. 4. Victoria Street Woman’s Guild; Current Affairs Discussion Group; death of Thomas W. Eunson. ¶ 10 February 1948, p. 4. Rope slippers; a new Priestley play and J. M. Barrie’s Mary Rose by the the Perth Repertory Company; Current Affairs Discussion Group; famous signatures in the shop window of L. J. Smith; pinups selected; Whist Club; next season’s football; S.W.R.I Burns Night. ¶ 17 February 1948, p. 4. Bad weather; annual general meeting of the Stromness Golf Club; Stromness Youth Club; competition for Miss Stromness of 1948; outstanding actors in the Drama Festival; two Stromness plays in the Festival; Stromness singers in the rehearsals for the Easter performance of the Messiah; Stromness without lamp posts; two old whiskey stills still visible at the distillery; Current Affairs Discussion Group. ¶ 24 February 1948, p. 4. Hill fires; three more pinups; the Alexander Graham memorial; Perth Repertory Players; Current Affairs Discussion Group.

2 March 1948, p. 4. New manager of the Lounge Cafe in Lerwick; no housing exchanges; new library books; whist drive and dance; church news. ¶ 9 March 1948, p. 4. Whist drive; loss of Stromness football club’s books; Easter events; Current Affairs Discussion Group; visit by the Perth Repertory Theatre Company; three Festival plays; Tory meeting; death of James M. Linklater. ¶ 16 March 1948, p. 4. Football; gardens; Stanger’s Park paved; Alexander Graham memorial; Unionist meeting; Temperance Hall for Youth Club; death of Patrick Mee; Lloyds agent; Legion talk by Leslie J. Smith; historic photograph of Post Office officials; Miss Stromness 1948; church news; bulb show. ¶ 23 March 1948, p. 4. Stromness Town Council; trip to South Ronaldsay; North Church Woman’s Guild tea; Youth Club; jumble sale; performance of Messiah at the Victoria Street Church; meeting of the Stromness Athletic F.C.; temperance lecture; further competition for Miss Orkney. ¶ 30 March 1948, p. 4. Miss Stromness 1948; licensing for the sale of alcohol; the Messiah performance; golf; Easter weather; drama from Kirkwall; retirement of G. S. Robertson from the postmastership of Stromness Post Office; new Youth Club; football and hockey.

6 April 1948, p. 4. Stromness Academy holidays; the weather; the Town Clock custodian; church news; Provost G. S. Robertson’s retirement; Kirkwall Scout exhibition; Stromness airman congratulated. ¶ 13 April 1948, p. 4. Snow mantle; church news; Stromness holiday; Nursing Association the budget; golf; football; Whist Club social evening; Youth Club; Stromness Liberal Party. ¶ 20 April 1948, p. 4. A Stromness guidebook; shipping notes; Stanley Cursiter’s house; April holidays; Miss Stromness 1948; three Stromness licenses (to sell liquor); jumble sale; Kirkwall Scouts’ exhibition. ¶ 27 April 1948, p. 5. Miss Stromness 1948; comedy by the Kirkwall Scout Club Dramatic Society; local football league formed; Town Council; fundraising for trip to Shetland; jam jar collection; District Nursing Association.

4 May 1948, p. 6. Local League Football Competition; Stanley Cursiter; May dew custom; new library books; the overhead wiring of Stromness has reached “the furthest limits of the South End”; golf competitions; Miss Stromness 1948; church news; Young Farmers’ Club; listening to football matches on radio; Stromness Sailing Club. ¶ 11 May 1948, p. 4. Provost G. S. Robertson returns from holiday; open-air seats at Ness; church news; film The Outlaw at Stromness Cinema; football; golf and putting; Miss Stromness; Thursday a holiday; jumble sale by the Stromness Ladies’ Hockey Club. ¶ 18 May 1948, p. 4. Renovation of library lavatory; the May holiday; debris of war; church news; Stromness youth sports; Stromness Athletic Football Club; the local Youth Club; Stanley Cursiter’s new house to be called “Stennigar”; golf. ¶ 25 May 1948, p. 4. Stromness Tennis Club; site of the Garrison Theatre; church news; new telephone kiosk beside the Stromness Museum; youth sports; anniversary of the date when Stromness became “dry”; concrete paving stones near the hotel; irregularity in town gas supply; annual inspection of the S.S. Orcadia; summer guests arrive; the Orkney football team.

1 June 1948, p. 4. Concert by the Orkney Choral Union; golf; the late Mr. James M. Stevenson (Stromness bookseller); football; Stromness Museum acquisitions. ¶ 8 June 1948, p. 4. Holiday today; local cinema to close; church news; putting; possible gold and radium at Moosland; the artistic activities of Ian MacInnes and John Farmiloe; bowling; a Sromness fire; the football match in Shetland; golf. ¶ 15 June 1948, p. 4. Eric Linklater in town; changes in the colors of buoys in Stromness harbor; bird watchers; local holiday; remains of the Nissen huts; extended bus service between Stromness and Kirkwall; football; sailing boats points racing; message in a bottle found on the beach; golf; swings for children; an illustrated lecture about North Ronaldsay; Gala Day to Deerness. ¶ 22 June 1948, p. 4. Quiet Kirkwall holiday; more benches needed for “the older inhabitants of Stromness”; the end of J. R. Learmonth’s rectorship of Stromness Academy; golf; cinema; John Farmiloe and Ian MacInnes visiting town; new paintings at the Stromness Museum; visitors expected for the summer; unfavorable review of a new Stromness guide book. ¶ 29 June 1948, p. 4. The longest Stromness Town Council meeting; Grieveship Terrace; midsummer; Wishart’s Thursday bus tours; Councillor wins Edinburgh golf trophy; summer tours in the Scapa Rover (boat); local cinema will close down during July; swings; voting for ministers.

6 July 1948, p. 4. Excursion to Flotta and St. Margaret’s Hope; the latest issue of the Stromnessian, the magazine of Stromness Academy; John Farmiloe’s work as an artist; obituaries of James Ritch and William Spence. ¶ 13 July 1948, p. 4. Golf; July weather (a gloomy story); John Farmiloe and George Scott are in Stromness, and Ian MacInnes is expected soon; church news. ¶ 27 July 1948, p. 4. Ordination at the Victoria Street Church; golf; exhibition (by John Farmiloe, George Scott, and Ian MacInness) opening tomorrow.

10 August 1948, p. 4. Loud thunder last Sunday; cement streets in Stromness; reopening of the local cinema; a hole in one at the Stromness Golf Club. ¶ 17 August 1948, p. 4. A film version of Dickens’ Great Expectations; deserted streets in Stromness last Thursday; the Stromness Putting Championship Cup; Eric Linklater’s short story “Sealskin Trousers”; how the art exhibition (see above, 27 July) went. ¶ 24 August 1948, p. 4. Church news; Kirkwall Market holiday; oil paintings from the recent exhibition still on sale; Stromness Academy reassembles from a seven-weeks’ vacation; the new Stromness burgh surveyor; the boundary line between the North End and South End of Stromness; local interest in psychic phenomena; a cigarette shortage; cricket. ¶ 31 August 1948, p. 4. Stromness gardens; street lamps; cycling accident; more on the North–South boundary; a plague of earwigs; Lammas Market Day; the Orkney/Caithness annual football match.

7 September 1948, p. 4. Pipe Band parade; introducing a “Do You Know” series in this column; re-start of the Stromness Whist Club; recent filming in Dundas Street; end of the golf season; ordination at the North Church; Mark Day; breakup of the summer artist colony; retrospect on summer. ¶ 14 September 1948, p. 4. Welfare foods; “the Stromness Market this year was an utter flop”; acknowledgment of a found bottle at Sule Skerry (see above, 15 June); record crowd at the Stromness Museum; “Did You Know – I” (curse of the Black Craig).

19 October 1948, p. 4. Stanley Cursiter on holiday; no municipal election this winter; an Orkney woman is on a 7,000-mile journey; cycle accident; plays by the Perth Repertory Theatre Company; an Orkney boy appears on a popular radio program; the Victoria Street Church Woman’s Guild; John Farmiloe wins prize at Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen; new books at the Stromness Library; “Did You Know – 2” (a Stromness radio station); British Legion Club. ¶ 26 October 1948, p. 4. Talk on Communism; Harvest Thanksgiving Day; seats for Stromness pensioners at the Pier Head; no Peedie Summer this year; local entertainment; “Do You Know – 3” (the daughter of Bessie Millie); the Current Affairs class at Stromness Academy; a Fancy Dress Dance.

2 November 1948, p. 4. The harvest thanksgiving service at Victoria Street Church; Stromness Academy’s long weekend; the Pier Head light; the recent storm; Dundee Repertory Theatre; “Do You Know? – 4” (superstitions among Stromness fishermen and sailors). ¶ 9 November 1948, p. 4. A magnificent Aurora Borealis; local rates going down; Guy Fawkes rituals; exhibition sponsored by the Arts Club; sale in benefit of the Victoria Street Church. ¶ 16 November 1948, p. 3. Stromness Youth Club opened; Orkney paintings in the exhibition at the Arts Club, Kirkwall; Girl Guides jubilee party; “Do You Know? – 5” (Robert Leighton’s book The Pilots of Pomona); the Current Affairs class; British Legion Club concert. ¶ 23 November 1948, p. 4. National Insurance queries; North Church Woman’s Guild; Youth Drama Festival in Stromness; town buys Point of Ness; congratulations from Stromness to Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on the birth of their son; another whist club; “Do You Know – 6” (the baptismal font of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Stromness); a wall to be built in Stromness.

7 December 1948, p. 4. Belated “Peedie Summer”; retirement of the curator of the Stromness Museum; a new District Nurse; Miss Stromness 1949; Stromness Youth Club to discuss “What’s wrong with Stromness?”; Christmas in the shops; the Discussion Group meetings; new Stornoway postmaster; the Point of Ness may become a playing field. ¶ 14 December 1948, p. 4. The Suleskerry lighthouse; church news; winter functions at the Stromness Hotel; rumors of a revival of the Boys’ Brigade in Stromness; performances by “The Hill Billies”; Christmas carols “outside your door”; talks and discussions at the Youth Club; “Do You Know?” (the cave under the Black Craig). ¶ 21 December 1948 p. 3. Tory meeting tonight; new “Pin-up” competitions; possible revival of the Yule Log Tug-o’-War; the Orphir British Legion Club entertained at the Stromness Club; a collection for the Royal Blind Asylum and School, Edinburgh; plans for new lighthouse buildings; a Christmas Eve Variety Concert in the British Legion Club; “Do You Know – 8” (the history of Stromness during the last 300 years); a birthday tea sponsored by the North Church Woman’s Guild. ¶ 28 December 1948, p. 3. The Provost on “What’s wrong with Stromness?”; the 1st Stromness Company Boys’ Brigade will be re-formed; the Current Affairs discussion group; a dinner-dance at the Stromness Hotel.

GMB — What the Pier Head Is Saying (1969)

The following “What the Pier Head Is Saying” columns by George Mackay Brown were published in the Orcadian during 1969, signed with his initials only.


16 January 1969, p. 3. “They speak sometimes about colour television at the Pier Head, and they wonder if it will come to Orkney in their time.” ¶ 23 January 1969, p. 4. “Robbie Burns’ Day on Saturday . . . is one date in the calendar that the Pier Head never forgets.” ¶ 30 January 1969, p. 4. “Solemnly at the Pier Head they debate the pros and cons of one-way traffic in Stromness.”

6 February 1969, p. 3. “Snow has a queer effect on the Pier Head folk.” ¶ 13 February 1969, p. 3. A “magnificent blizzard” – followed by complaints from “the Pier Head folk.” ¶ 20 February 1969, p. 4. Daydreams about summer holidays. ¶ 27 February 1969, p. 2. “So we are, in all likelihood, to have a new Warehouse Pier in Stromness. The Pier Head folk are quietly pleased about that.”

6 March 1969, p. 4. The pleasures of the Eventide club room “on a cold wet winter afternoon.” ¶ 13 March 1969, p. 4. “A variety of topics at the Pier Head last week,” including a final blizzard of the winter. ¶ 20 March 1969, p. 4. “Sometimes, especially in such terrible weather as last week, they speak at the Pier Head about summer and the tourists, to keep their hearts up.” ¶ 27 March 1969, p. 4. The good and bad of television.

3 April 1969, p. 4. “The West Shore is still, at week-ends, the favourite walking-place for Stromnessians.” ¶ 10 April 1969, p. 4. Affectionate memories of the Stromness cinema. ¶ 17 April 1969, p. 4. The Stromness Museum. ¶ 24 April 1969, p. 4. A visit to Edinburgh, where he encounters many Orkney students.

1 May 1969, p. 4. Beards have returned in the Edinburgh taverns. ¶ 8 May 1969, p. 4. Thoughts of spring in Edinburgh and Orkney. ¶ 22 May 1969, p. 2. “. . . women have been known to join in a discussion [at the Pier Head], but in the end they are gently frozen out, as they inhibit complete freedom of expression – the whole spectrum of the language cannot be used.” ¶ 29 May 1969, p. 4. Alexander Graham’s fountain at the Pier Head.

5 June 1969, p. 4. Watching “Tomorrow’s World,” a television program about the technological marvels of the future. ¶ 12 June 1969, p. 4. “The gaming machines have come to Orkney, all except Stromness.” ¶ 19 June 1969, p. 4. “They sat all last week bewildered with heat at the Pier Head.” ¶ 26 June 1969, p. 4. “The imminent death of the half-penny is causing some concern at the Pier Head.”

3 July 1969, p. 4. The old women who were the first doctors of Stromness. ¶ 10 July 1969, p. 3. “It seems like only yesterday since the first Shopping Week was opened, on a fine Monday morning in July 1949, by Provost G. S. Robertson at the Pier Head.” ¶ 17 July 1969, p. 4. A quiet Sunday morning. ¶ 24 July 1969, p. 4. An afternoon squall and an amazing cloud.

7 August 1969, p. 4. “Was there ever such a Shopping Week as the one just past?” ¶ 14 August 1969, p. 4. The Dounby Show. ¶ 21 August 1969, p. 4. Walking to Warbeth. ¶ 28 August 1969, p. 4. Many children now actually enjoy school.

4 September 1969, p. 4. Many of the Pier Head regulars are at home watching television. ¶ 11 September 1969, p. 4. Various minor religious groups in Stromness. ¶ 18 September 1969, p. 4. “Probably the greatest single event in Stromness this year is the Swimming Pool.”

2 October 1979, p. 4. “After being in the doldrums for years, the Pier Head is glad to note a great resurgence of interest in football, on the part of young folk.” ¶ 9 October 1974, p. 4. The pleasures of making beer at home. ¶ 16 October 1969, p. 4. “A great silence has descended on the town: the hush before winter.” ¶ 23 October 1969, p. 4. “Naturally the Pier Head was delighted with the Highlands and Islands Development Board decision to keep Stromness as the Orkney terminal of the Pentland Firth ferry.” ¶ 30 October 1969, p. 7. “In that longish spell of mild weather through October – ‘the peedie summer’ – creation turned back a little from the cold of winter.”

20 November 1969, p. 4. “Last week in the Youth Centre the Heritage Society gave a show of local slides, with commentaries by Ernest W. Marwick, E. Balfour and Ian MacInnes. It was intended to show the precious things – nature, streets, houses – that history has bequeathed to us, and that are perhaps in danger of being sacrificed to notions of progress and planning.” ¶ 27 November 1969, p. 4. “With St Andrew’s Day looming up . . . the Scottish Nationalists at the Pier Head are working up a fine head of steam.”

4 December 1969, p. 4. “Twopence on a pint of beer – that was the shock news that hit the Pier Head last week-end.” ¶ 11 December 1969, p. 4. “. . . it is very important . . . that that there should be a central pool, such as the Heritage Society or the Museum, for gathering and preserving these [old] photographs.” ¶ 18 December 1969, p. 4. “They are standing at the Pier Head these nights . . . dyed with multicoloured lights. It is of course the Christmas tree in the Town House garden and the festive web strung athwart the Fountain, that is scattering such richness.” ¶ 25 December 1969, p. 4. Christmas, which was once seen primarily as an English festival, is now vigorously celebrated in Orkney.

GMB — What the Pier Head Is Saying (1967)

The following “What the Pier Head Is Saying” columns by George Mackay Brown were published in the Orcadian during 1967, signed with his initials only.

5 January 1967, p. 3. The television documentary about Scapa Flow. ¶ 12 January 1967, p. 3. Changing New Year customs. ¶ 19 January 1967, p. 4. “The Pier Head approves of Robbie Burns. They feel he is one of themselves.” ¶ 26 January 1967, p. 4. “The Pier Head was shaken one day last week when they got to know that Jo Grimond had resigned as leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons.”

2 February 1967, p. 4. The rainiest January in memory. ¶ 9 February 1967, p. 4. “Stromness is one hundred and fifty years old as a burgh this year.” ¶ 16 February 1967, p. 4. The local fascination with Kosygin. ¶ 23 February 1967, p. 4. The Pier Head is enthusiastic about the “Big Freeze” of wages and prices.

2 March 1967, p. 4. “As the members of the Pier Head get older, they become more and more amazed at the goings-on of young folk. . . .” ¶ 16 March 1967, p. 4. “This is a time of year dreaded by the Pier Head members, because of the spring cleaning.” ¶ 23 March 1967, p. 4. Persons to whom Stromness ought to give the Freedom of the Burgh on its “one hundred and fiftieth anniversary as a burgh.” ¶ 30 March 1967, p. 4. The westerly gales of the past winter.

6 April 1967, p. 4. “The Pier Head members have been having nightmares for a week and more about huge tankers half-a-mile long going ashore on the Brough of Birsay or the Pentland Skerries or the Mull Head and saturating Orkney with oil.” ¶ 13 April 1967, p. 4. The town is full of visitors from Kirkwall because of a holiday there. ¶ 20 April 1967, p. 4. “All smiles at the Pier Head last week, as spring came at last after the wettest, stormiest winter in living memory.” ¶ 27 April 1967, p. 4. Extreme wealth and poverty in Edinburgh (where GMB is visiting).

4 May 1967, p. 4. Watching the Students’ Charities Day procession along Princes Street in Edinburgh. ¶ 11 May 1967, p. 4. Traveling on the St. Ola ferry across the Pentland Firth. ¶ 18 May 1967, p. 4. “The Pier Head members are beginning to turn their attention to the 150th anniversary of our burgh, which is to be celebrated early next month.” ¶ 25 May 1967, p. 4. Comments on Stromness, a booklet by J. A. Troup and F. Eunson.

1 June 1967, p. 4. Thoughts about “the most famous football match of 1967, Celtic’s 2-1 victory over Inter-Milan in Lisbon. . . . The Pier Head members, usually (as far as nationality goes) in a kind of no-man’s-land between Scandinavia and Scotland, definitely decided they were Scotsmen. . . .” ¶ 15 June 1967, p. 4. The pleasures of the most recent Stromness monthly holiday. ¶ 22 June 1967, p. 4. “Houses falling, houses rising. Slowly and imperceptibly the appearance of the town changes.” (One of his examples is the group of new council houses on the site of the old distillery, where he was later to live.) ¶ 29 June 1967, p. 4. The new benches at the Pier Head.

6 July 1967, p. 4. “Now is the time of summer visitors to Stromness. There is more activity than usual round the Pier Head this year. . . .” ¶ 13 July 1967, p. 4. “Stromness is full of Edinburgh folk just now (it being the trades holiday) and for the next fortnight beginning on Monday the accents of Clydeside will be heard on our streets.” ¶ 20 July 1967, p. 4. “Cars sometimes get on the nerves of the Pier Head – even worse than transistors. Every year cars and vehicles of all kinds get denser in Stromness.” ¶ 27 July 1967, p. 4. Pondering the possibility of a home-brew drinking contest during Shopping Week.

3 August 1967, p. 4. “The Pier Head is amazed at the number of gulls this year. Where have they all come from so suddenly?” ¶ 10 August 1967, p. 4. The Dounby Show causes some reflections on modern holidays. ¶ 24 August 1967, p. 4. The BBC weather forecasters gave misleading advice about the day of the Dounby Show. ¶ 31 August 1967, p. 4. The disintegration of the British Empire and its implications for the future of Orkney.

7 September 1967, p. 4. Memories of the old Stromness Lammas Market Day. ¶ 14 September 1967, p. 4. “The Pier Head members were delighted one day last week when they heard that Stromness Academy had won the premier place in Scotland with its magazine, ‘The Stromnessian.'” ¶ 21 September 1967, p. 4. The regulars at the Pier Head don’t stray very far for their holidays.

5 October 1967, p. 4. With the approach of winter, the Pier Head group is inclined to stay home – usually watching television. ¶ 12 October 1974, p. 4. Pensions are going up soon, but that extra money will disappear with the arrival of higher prices. ¶ 19 October 1967, p. 4. The centenary of the Stromness lifeboat.

23 November 1967, p. 4. Talk about devaluation of the pound. ¶ 30 November 1967, p. 4. What Christmas was like in earlier years.

7 December 1967, p. 4. Changes in the Stromness skyline, especially the new flats going up at the site of the old distillery. ¶ 14 December 1967, p. 4. “On these days, with snow swirling out of the norther, those at the Pier Head wish they were bears who could sleep in a cave all winter.” ¶ 21 December 1967, p. 4. How we observe the winter solstice – and how it was understood in earlier centuries.

GMB — What the Pier Head Is Saying (1965)

The following “What the Pier Head Is Saying” columns by George Mackay Brown were published in the Orcadian during 1965, signed with his initials only.


21 January 1965, p. 4. “The Pier head gets very concerned sometimes about rising prices and inflation.” ¶ 28 January 1965, p. 4. “. . . Burns has a numerous following in Stromness.”

4 February 1965, p. 4. The death of Winston Churchill. ¶ 11 February 1965, p. 4. “They speak forever about the weather at the Pier Head; it ranks high in the conversation charts above politics and local genealogies.” ¶ 18 February 1965, p. 4. “The pipe smokers at the Pier Head (and no doubt they are in the majority) preened and perked up one day last week, and looked pityingly at their cigarette-smoking brethren. For they had just heard on their radios, or read in the papers, that the government had banned the TV advertising of cigarettes.” ¶ 25 February 1965, p. 4. “Wednesday is the busy day at the Pier Head, and if you want to hear a good debate that is the day you should take your seat.”

4 March 1965, p. 4. “Two or three afternoons towards the end of February the Pier Head observed the first ‘spoot ebbs’ for a long time, when very low tides uncovered the sandy bottom between Ness and the Outer Holm.” ¶ 11 March 1965, p. 4. “The Pier Head, when the historical mood is on it, sometimes wonders about Alexander Graham. They can hardly avoid thinking about him sometimes, for Graham’s memorial, the Fountain, has bee right there in front of their eyes since 1901.” ¶ 18 March 1965, p. 4. “One noticeable change at the Pier Head over the years is that the old Kirkwall–Stromness rivalry is dying out.” ¶ 25 March 1965, p. 4. “Is there a thinning of the ranks at the Pier Head? Many a morning one would swear there is.”

1 April 1965, p. 4. Stanley Cursiter once suggested that “the present Warehouse Buildings – built in the early 19th century for a rice store” – should be made into a new town hall. ¶ 8 April 1965, p. 4. “Often the Pier Head, in reminiscent mood, speaks of the great number of peedie shops that there used to be in Stromness, usually kept by old wives with shawls.” ¶ 15 April 1965, p. 4. “The Pier Head is a bit disillusioned with factories and talk of factories. . . . What does rouse their enthusiasm at the mere mention of it is the great herring fishing days in town at the turn of the century. . . .” ¶ 22 April 1965, p. 4. What title the locals would like to assume if they were made a lord. ¶ 29 April 1965, p. 4. “The news that ITV (Grampian) is shortly to be available to Orkney viewers got a mixed reception at the Pier Head the other day.”

6 May 1965, p. 4. “. . . the other day splendour came to the Pier Head, when Alexander Graham’s fountain got its annual coat of paint.” ¶ 13 May 1965, p. 4. The strong sense of connection between Stromness and the sea. ¶ 20 May 1965, p. 4. Changes along the West Shore. ¶ 27 May 1965, p. 4. Memories of “the years when Stromness Athletic dominated Orkney football, and were top of the league years after year.”

3 June 1965, p. 4. The arrival of tourists. ¶ 10 June 1965, p. 4. Plans for summer holidays. ¶ 17 June 1965, p. 4. “A favourite occupation at the Pier Head, now that summer is here, is to watch the ‘St Ola’ discharging her passengers and cars.” ¶ 24 June 1965, p. 4. The South End of Stromness was once the center of many activities, and it is now again showing signs of life.

1 July 1965, p. 4. The trows once associated with midsummer. ¶ 8 July 1965, p. 4. Gloomy talk about the weather and Shopping Week. ¶ 15 July 1966, p. 4. Tales about gold near the Black Craig. ¶ 29 July 1965, p. 4. Why the name of Shopping Week should be changed.

12 August 1965, p. 7. Population decline in Orkney. ¶ 26 August 1965, p. 4. The end of summer brings back recollections of school in earlier years.

2 September 1965, p. 2. The reopening of the local cinema; memories of films during the war. ¶ 9 September 1965, p. 4. Lammas Market Day during pre-war days. ¶ 16 September 1965, p. 4. Playing the football pools. ¶ 23 September 1965, p. 4. “Three or four times a year Stromness is invaded by small fleets of Norwegian fishing boats, and our cousins from over the North Sea step ashore to see what our town can offer them.” ¶ 30 September 1965, p. 2. “The reporter of the debates at the Pier Head regrets that he has been unable to attend recently, as he is on holiday in the south.”

7 October 1965, p. 4. A series of photograph albums, created by George Ellison, at the Stromness Museum. ¶ 14 October 1974, p. 4. “Winter has come to the Pier Head.” ¶ 21 October 1965, p. 4. “Most members of the Pier Head watched with great interest on T.V. one night last week the Magnus Magnusson programme on the Faroe Islands.” ¶ 28 October 1965, p. 4. “. . . the Pier Head is alive to the natural charm of their town, and they would not like to see it destroyed by the forces of progress.”

4 November 1965, p. 4. Preparations for Guy Fawkes Day. ¶ 11 November 1965, p. 4. The gradual appearance of women on the pier head benches. ¶ 18 November 1965, p. 4. “The Pier Head is certain that the day is coming, and that not far distant, when there will have to be some kind of one-way traffic system in Stromness.” ¶ 25 November 1965, p. 4. Christmas was once a less important festival.

2 December 1965, p. 4. “The Pier Head was delighted to read the other day of the success of the Stromness Academy magazine ‘Stromnessian,’ runner-up among 150 magazines from Scottish schools.” ¶ 9 December 1965, p. 4. “Never, never in all their long and checquered lives, does the Pier Head remember a winter so ferocious in its beginning as the present one.” ¶ 16 December 1965, p. 4. “The Pier Head was thrilled the other week to learn that Miss World 1965 was born in Stromness, at 5 Alfred Terrace, the home of one of the best-known Pier Head members, Arthur (‘Attie’) Campbell.” ¶ 23 December 1965, p. 4. The Yule Log competition on the streets of Stromness. ¶ 30 December 1965, p. Remembering the big events of the past year.

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.

“Under Brinkie’s Brae” (1976)

The following “Under Brinkie’s Brae” columns by George Mackay Brown were published in the Orcadian during 1976 and were signed with initials only. Most were reprinted in GMB’s Under Brinkie’s Brae (1979), cited here as UBB.


5 February 1976, p. 4. The tradition of the ba’ in Kirkwall. Repr. UBB 9. ¶ 12 February 1976, p. 4. “It seems that the most famous of Orkney foods is clapshot.” Repr. UBB 9–10. ¶ 19 February 1976, p. 4. Description of a trip on the ferry across the Pentland Firth. Repr. UBB 10–11. ¶ 26 February 1976, p. 4. Taking the train from Edinburgh to Thurso. Repr. UBB 11–12.

4 March 1976, p. 4. His visit to Edinburgh. Repr. UBB 12. ¶ 11 March 1976, p. 6. “I must have said somewhere before that two of the highlights of each day are when the postman delivers the mail, around about 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.” Repr. UBB 12–13. ¶ 18 March 1976, p. 4. “The poet who seems to me to be closest in spirit to Van Gogh is Gerard Manley Hopkins.” Repr. UBB 13–14. ¶ 25 March 1976, p. 4. “All month, with short interludes of peace, Orkney has been scourged by this south-east gale.” Repr. UBB 14–15.

1 April 1976, p. 4. Loss of the old vocabulary for pre-decimalized coins. Repr. UBB 15–16. ¶ 8 April 1976, p. 4. A visit to a Perthshire village evokes some thoughts about yew trees. Repr. UBB 16. ¶ 15 April 1976, p. 4. It’s now possible to watch three television channels. “It’s perhaps best not to ask if we might not have a penalty to pay for all the luxury, in terms of weakened speech and colder social relations.” Repr. UBB 16–17. ¶ 22 April 1976, p. 4. Ball-point pens are essential but unreliable. Repr. UBB 17–18. ¶ 29 April 1976, p. 4. A visit to the local public library, which is suffering from the consequences of austerity. Repr. UBB 18.

6 May 1976, p. 4. A couch in need of repairs. Repr. UBB 20. ¶ 13 May 1976, p. 4. The pleasures of the bench in Mayburn Court: “It has been a beautiful week, altogether.” Repr. UBB 20–21. ¶ 20 May 1976, p. 4. A hypothetical account of Stromness grown into a major seaport. Repr. UBB 21–22. ¶ 27 May 1976, p. 4. “There was a lot of football on the TV last week.” Repr. UBB 22.

3 June 1976, p. 6. An excursion with friends to Marwick Bay and Birsay on a beautiful day. Repr. UBB 22–23. ¶ 10 June 1976, p. 4. An afternoon on the bench near Stromness Museum, with an account of the people he spoke to there. Repr. UBB 24. ¶ 17 June 1976, p. 4. His brief visits to England (by crossing the bridge at Berwick) and Ireland. ¶ 24 June 1976, p. 4. Midsummer past and present in Orkney. Repr. UBB 24–25.

1 July 1976, p. 4. School holidays when he was a boy. Repr. UBB 26. ¶ 8 July 1976, p. 4. Hot weather and midges. Repr. UBB 26–27. ¶ 15 July 1976, p. 4. Visiting Rackwick. Repr. UBB 28. ¶ 22 July 1976, p. 6. Walking around Rackwick with a small boy. Repr. UBB 28–29. ¶ 29 July 1976, p. 4. The intense sounds of scraping the railings on Mayburn Court. Repr. UBB 29–30.

5 August 1976, p. 4. Various kinds of tourists in Stromness. Repr. UBB 30. ¶ 12 August 1976, p. 6. A Caithness friend has given him a large salmon. Repr. UBB 31. ¶ 19 August 1976, p. 4. A visit to St. Peter’s Church on South Ronaldsay, once presided over by the eccentric Rev. John Gerard. Repr. UBB 31–32.

2 September 1976, p. 4. “It has been a beautiful summer in the islands”; tents and caravans just south of Stromness. Repr. UBB 32–33. ¶ 9 September 1976, p. 4. The Muirs and other friends at Newbattle Abbey College. Repr. UBB 34. ¶ 16 September 1976, p. 4. He is again using his record player, which had been gathering dust for two years. Repr. UBB 34–35. ¶ 23 September 1976, p. 4. “. . . why, I wonder, do the fishermen of the north have an aversion to mackerel as an item of diet?” Repr. UBB 35–36. ¶ 30 September 1976, p. 4. The Scotsman has been sending him review copies of books of verse. Repr. UBB 36.

7 October 1976, p. 4. City dwellers are now coming back to Orkney. Repr. UBB 36–37. ¶ 14 October 1976, p. 4. We don’t respond appropriately to good news. Repr. UBB 37–38. ¶ 21 October 1976, p. 4. The futility of reading the Sunday newspapers. Repr. UBB 39. ¶ 28 October 1976, p. 4. A car breakdown in Sutherland on his way to Edinburgh. Repr. UBB 39–40.

4 November 1976, p. 4. Visiting exhibitions in Edinburgh. Repr. UBB 41. ¶ 11 November 1976, p. 4. The journey home. Repr. UBB 41–42. ¶ 18 November 1976, p. 4. His failure to climb Brinkie’s Brae in 1976 and his uneasiness about the Black Craig. Repr. UBB 42–43. ¶ 25 November 1976, p. 4. His apparently dead wristwatch has come back to life. Repr. UBB 43.

2 December 1976, p. 4. Driving around the island on a bleak winter day with a friend from Northumberland. Repr. UBB 45. ¶ 9 December 1976, p. 6. Writing is merely a trade that brings in income. Repr. UBB 45–46. ¶ 16 December 1976, p. 6. The arrival of snow in Stromness. Repr. UBB 46–47. ¶ 23 December 1976, p. 4. Christmas in the 1920s. Repr. UBB 47–48. ¶ 30 December 1976, p. 4. A look back at 1976, when he began to write poetry again. Repr. UBB 48.

GMB — Letter from Hamnavoe (1973)

The following “Letter from Hamnavoe” columns by George Mackay Brown were published in the Orcadian during 1973 and were signed with initials only. Most were reprinted in GMB’s Letters from Hamnavoe (1979), cited here as LH.


4 January 1973, p. 3. The South End of Stromness, where he lives, was once a much more lively part of town. Repr. LH 65–66. ¶ 11 January 1973, p. 3. Holiday advertisements in the Sunday newspapers. “There is magic in Orkney indeed in summer, but it is not the kind of magic that can be caught in holiday brochures, even with the help of coloured photographs. The essence of Orkney’s magic is silence, loneliness, and the deep marvellous rhythms of sea and land, darkness and light.” Repr. LH 66–67. ¶ 18 January 1973, p. 3. An imaginary account of how Robert Burns might have traced his ancestry to the island of Sanday. Repr. LH 67–68. ¶ 25 January 1973, p. 4. How he cooks for himself. Repr. LH 68.

1 February 1973, p. 4. He imagines what it was like when the first wheelbarrow arrived in Stromness. Repr. LH 38–69. ¶ 8 February 1973, p. 4. He thinks about a potential volcanic eruption near Stromness. ¶ 15 February 1973, p. 4. Trying to write while suffering from the flu. Repr. LH 69–70. ¶ 22 February 1973, p. 3. “The first snow for two winters has come to the islands, and is reluctant to go away. . . . But where are the sledges? . . . One grows old, and forgets. But I swear there seem to be far fewer snow vehicles than there used to be 40 years ago.” Repr. LH 70.

1 March 1973, p. 4. Memories of being a Celtic supporter when he was in school. Repr. LH 70–71. ¶ 8 March 1973, p. 4. Recounts the legend of Helen Waters and Henry Stewart (the latter of whom disappeared just before their wedding); concludes by wondering whether the story is true. Repr. LH 72–73. ¶ 15 March 1973, p. 4. A visit to the site of the battle of Summerdale (1529) on Orkney. Repr. LH 73–74. ¶ 22 March 1973, p. 4. His memories of the first air raid on Orkney in March 1940. Repr. LH 74–75. ¶ 29 March 1973, p. 4. Remembering the record players of his childhood.

5 April 1973, p. 4. A discussion of some of the most important books about Orkney and his recollections of purchasing them. Repr. LH 75. ¶ 12 April 1973, p. 4. Foul weather and a disturbing television drama. ¶ 19 April 1973, p. 4. Watching the Eurovision Song Contest on television; Picasso; various scholars who have visited him and asked questions about Edwin Muir. ¶ 26 April 1973, p. 4. A television adaptation of Forster’s A Room with a View; John Holden’s letters in the Orcadian; “. . . the meaning of precious old things [such as St. Magnus Day] is gradually seeping away, like honey from a comb.”

3 May 1973, p. 4. “There has never been an April like this for a long time, with cold northerly winds streaming over the islands day after day.” But now the weather has turned pleasant, and he remembers idyllic days of his childhood. Repr. LH 76–77. ¶ 10 May 1973, p. 4. “Nearly everyone who writes to me from the south mentions, somewhere in the letter, and in tones varying from apprehension to horror, the black wave about to break over Orkney – OIL.” But then he remembers a reassuring line by Gerard Manley Hopkins: “There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.” Repr. LH 77. ¶ 17 May 1973, p. 4. The performance of two of his stories, Witch and The Return of the Women, as plays in Glasgow; place names within Stromness. Repr. LH 77–78. ¶ 24 May 1973, p. 4. “Last summer, it seemed to this unbiased observer, Orkney had about as many tourists as it could take.” A book published in 1810 records an instance of hostility by an Orkney crofter toward strangers. Repr. LH 78–80. ¶ 31 May 1973, p. 4. Discusses the recent theatrical productions by the 7:84 players on Orkney; connects the Highland clearances and the drilling for oil. Repr. LH 80.

7 June 1973, p. 3. Instead of sponsored walks, perhaps there should be a sponsored “attack on littler.” ¶ 14 June 1973, p. 3. The publication of his An Orkney Tapestry leads to some reflections on the pleasures of buying paperbacks when he was younger. Repr. LH 80–81. ¶ 21 June 1973, p. 4. The old tradition of complaining about the weather. ¶ 28 June 1973, p. 4. The pleasures of a bus trip to Kirkwall on Midsummer Day. Repr. LH 81–82.

5 July 1973, p. 4. An imaginary account of how Finstown acquired its name. Repr. LH 82. ¶ 12 July 1973, p. 4. He conjectures what Shopping Week in Stromness will be like in 2049. ¶ 19 July 1973, p. 4. “As I write this on the eve of Shopping Week, the flood of tourists is reaching the high level.” Lists the most quiet places in Stromness. Repr. LH 83. ¶ 26 July 1973, p. 4. A fanciful history of the Standing Stones of Stenness. Repr. LH 84–85.

2 August 1973, p. 4. Various editions of the Orkneyinga Saga. Repr. LH 86. ¶ 9 August 1973, p. 4. Visitors arriving in Orkney to discover “a thin persistent saturating drizzle.” ¶ 16 August 1973, p. 4. A day-by-day account of the rainy weather in early August. ¶ 23 August 1973, p. 4. Nowadays a writer’s rough drafts are thought to be valuable. “Whatever the reason, the little scraps of paper with a few words on them, and the scarred and gory rough work, and neat immaculate fair copies – that I used to light the fire with in the mornings of yore – are now carefully labelled and put away in a drawer until the arrival of the manuscript dealer.” Repr. LH 86–87. ¶ 30 August 1973, p. 4. Has recently seen a group of drawings by Ian MacInnes intended for a new edition of the Orkneyinga Saga that was never published; hopes they will appear in print eventually. Repr. LH 87.

6 September 1973, p. 4. Accompanying a friend who was whelk-hunting on Marwick beach. ¶ 13 September 1973, p. 4. A local legend about King James V of Scotland, the embryo of GMB’s story “The King in Rags.” Repr. LH 87–88. ¶ 20 September 1973, p. 4. The Lammas Market as it was in Stromness during his childhood. Repr. LH 88. ¶ 27 September 1973, p. 4. His experiences in guiding visitors around Orkney. Repr. LH 90.

4 October 1973, p. 4. Cars in the street causing interference on his television; investigating the meaning of “grouting”; the wealth of nations does not correspond with wealth of individual citizens. ¶ 11 October 1973, p. 4. A story about the men who built the Suleskerry Lighthouse. ¶ 18 October 1973, p. 4. Reading about St. Brandon; approaching winter; Israelis in a state of seige; books about Orkney in the Stromness library. ¶ 25 October 1973, p. 4. “Looking through the sittingroom window, I can see a segment of harbour, and further off, between the Outer Holm and Clestrain shore, a thin gleam of sea. It suddenly struck me this afternoon that that piece of sea was where Gow the pirate cast anchor on a winter day in 1725.” Repr. LH 90–91.

1 November 1973, p. 4. How they celebrated Halloween in Stromness when he was a child. Repr. LH 91–92. ¶ 8 November 1973, p. 4. A typical week when he was a schoolboy. Repr. LH 92. ¶ 15 November 1973, p. 4. Old and new place-names in Stromness. Repr. LH 92–93. ¶ 22 November 1973, p. 4. Describes how John Renton, an Orcadian sailor, became the victim of a conspiracy in San Francisco in 1867. Repr. LH 93–94. ¶ 29 November 1973, p. 4. The sad depopulation of Rackwick. Repr. LH 94–95.

6 December 1973, p. 4. Some of the traditional holidays, such as St. Andrew’s Day and Burns Day, are no longer widely celebrated. Repr. LH 95. ¶ 13 December 1973, p. 4. Pedestrians in competition with cars on the narrow main street of Stromness. ¶ 20 December 1973, p. 4. A visit to Maeshowe on the winter solstice: meditations on the shaft of light that strikes the interior of the tomb on that one day of the year. Repr. LH 95–97. ¶ 27 December 1973, p. 4. Unhappy local news during the past year.