Wednesday, 31 October 2012


The Stromness Library Reading Group meets tonight to discuss Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman, a suitably dark text for our Hallowe'en meeting!

In the days before pumpkins and 'trick or treat' came to Stromness, children could look forward to some equally tasty, though slightly healthier treats, as George Mackay Brown recalls in Letters From Hamnavoe: 

The old wooden tub was taken out of the shed and set squarely on the flagstone floor. It was threequarters filled with water; maybe a kettleful of hot water was added to take the chill off. Then a poke bursting with apples was emptied into the tub, where they tossed and eddied and collided with each other - ruddy fragrant spheres .
 There were other seasonal treats too:

I have only a vague memory of what we did with the nuts - whether they were 'dooked' for too, or simply shared out - walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts thinly scattered among a huge profusion of monkey nuts.
There were one  or two variations; as when an apple coated with syrup was suspended from a rafter and the object of the exercise was to take a bite out of it. It was not so easy either, and meantime, cheeks and foreheads got stickier and stickier...

We can remember doing something similar as children, with pancakes spread with syrup or treacle, hanging from a string, which had to be eaten without the use of your hands. Yummy but messy!

The origins of such traditions are lost to time, but as GMB points out:
There must certainly be some reason rooted in old magic for these rituals. Of course the apples and the nuts marked the consummation of the fruitful year. Ahead stretched the gauntness and snows of winter.

It would be good to hear your memories of Hallowe'en traditions from previous generations - please feel free to add them as a comment below this post.

 image from

Friday, 19 October 2012

Creative Vision

Tonight sees the launch of a new anthology of Orkney writing as part of Creative Vision - a series of events in Orkney celebrating mental wellbeing and challenging stigma, which are part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival.

The new anthology To The World, edited by Rosie Alexander,  includes work by a wide range of local writers and artists, from the experienced to first-time writers and artists, and offers an honest exploration of the mind and self in all moods and states of health. The anthology has been funded by See Me and is published by The George Mackay Brown Fellowship and Orkney Minds

Tonight's launch event takes place in the Upper Library, Stromness Academy, at 7.30pm and will include readings from the anthology by some of the writers, along with music and refreshments. 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A Birthday Celebration

George Mackay Brown by Fred Schley  - portrait  on display in Stromness Library

We have been reminded by our friends at Orkney Archive that on this day in 1921 George Mackay Brown was born.

Looking for a suitable quote to celebrate the life of a writer, whose life and work was so defined by the place of his birth, we have turned to An Orkney Tapestry - which seems to us to capture both George Mackay Brown's sense of the importance of Orkney's literary heritage:

It is the word, blossoming as legend, poem, story, secret, that holds a community together and gives a meaning to its life.

and his own role within that tradition:

With the help of the old stories, the old scrolls, the gathered legends, and the individual earth-rooted imagination, I will try to discover a line or two of the ancient life-giving heraldry.

That so often we find ourselves turning to his poems or prose to illuminate some aspect of life in Stromness seems proof enough of a writer whose work is firmly woven into the fabric of his community, and will continue to be celebrated as part of its rich, and ongoing, life and legend.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Orcrime 2012

Time to get out your magnifying glass, and put on your deerstalker hat, scruffy mac, woolly jumper, sensible shoes, handlebar moustache - or whatever fictional detectives might be wearing these days - and get along to the library for the start of Orkney's first crime writing festival which starts tomorrow. 

Orcrime 2012 will run from 11th to 13th October, and is organised by Orkney Library and Archive and sponsored by the Orcadian Bookshop, and will feature a range of events and promotions -  from appearances by leading crime novelists Lin Anderson, Ann Cleeves and Denise Mina, to free DVD and CD loans. 

A full programme of events can be found on the Orcrime 2012 page of the Orkney Library website, but we can tell you that tomorrows events start with Broth and Breid - a chance to have lunch at the Kirkwall library     between 12-2pm with a suitably themed menu including Lawless Lentil soup served with a selection of bread, oatcakes and cheese. 

Then at 2pm the winners of the Orkney Library and Archive and George Mackay Brown Fellowship crime short story competition will be announced and at 7pm there will be a talk from Ann Cleeves. 

While the majority of events will take place in Kirkwall, here in Stromness you can borrow from a selection of new crime titles, enjoy free CD loans and even take part in our name the crime show quiz. 

Keep an eye on the Orkney Library Facebook Page and Twitter account for all the latest news on the events. 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

National Poetry Day

Happy National Poetry Day to all our blog readers and library visitors!

This year's theme is Stars, and as usual there is a set of lovely postcards, featuring poems on that theme, to collect from the library.

Have a look at the Scottish Poetry Library's website for lots of wonderful poetry resources, available all year round, and you can even order free poetry postcards from previous National Poetry Days.

Here is one of this year's postcards, featuring the poem 'Sea Poppy 2' by Ian Hamilton Finlay.

 Wishing you a day full of poetic pleasures.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Rody Gorman

We will be celebrating National Poetry Day in the library on Thursday 4th October,  but in anticipation of this celebration of poetry we wanted to draw your attention to a live poetry reading, happening here in Stromness. 

For tomorrow, Wednesday 3rd October, the poet Rody Gorman will give a reading at the Pier Arts Centre Stromness at 7.30pm. Born in Dublin, but now living in Skye, Rody Gorman has published a number of collections of poetry in English, Irish and Scottish Gaelic. He has translated Cavafy, Yeats, Prévert, Neruda, Kavanagh, Holan, Milosz, Różewicz, Larkin, Popa, Holub, Aspenstrom, Snyder, Njardvik, Longley, Platelis and Armitage into Gaelic, while his own work has been translated into many languages.

Rody Gorman © Anna Pettigrew

As well as being a poet, Rody Gorman  has worked as Convenor of the Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee of Scottish PEN; Chair of HI-Arts Writing Development Group, as Specialist Adviser for the Scottish Arts Council, and as songwriter, lecturer, creative writing tutor and adjudicator of literary competitions.

The reading is organised by Orkney Arts Society and admission is £4, or £3 concessions and £1 for school students.