Saturday, 31 August 2013

Seamus Heaney (1939 - 2013)

We were very sad to learn yesterday of the death of the poet Seamus Heaney. He was festival poet at the St Magnus Festival in 1982 and 1994, and was photographed during his first visit by Gunnie Moberg.
photo by Gunnie Moberg
In the book St Magnus Festival: a celebration compiled and edited by Pamela Beasant, Maureen Gray who worked at the Pier Arts Centre - venue for the festival poet readings - recalls the relationship between Seamus Heaney and Stromness' resident poet, George Mackay Brown :

Seamus Heaney mentioned that it was such an honour to come and read here with George sitting in the audience. George appeared to be in awe of Seamus Heaney too. There was great mutual respect.
The book includes an extract from  Morag MacInnes' review in The Times Educational Supplement from July 2, 1982, where she describes this reading, and Seamus Heaney's effect on the festival audience:

He looked like a piece of bog-cotton among a lot of hot-house orchids: he won his audience with his modesty, his humour, and his brogue.

The mutual respect between Seamus Heaney and George Mackay Brown is evident in each poet's reflections on the other's work. Brown writes of Heaney in The Orcadian, June 23 1994:

The supreme art of making simple events not only memorable but immortal - Seamus Heaney is a master there, like all the great poets.

While Heaney wrote of Brown:

W.H. Auden once called poetry "a way of happening" and in the work of George Mackay Brown the way is a fabulous one; he transforms everything by passing it through the eye of the needle of Orkney. His sense of the world and his way with words are powerfully at one with each other. His vision has something of the skaldic poet's consciousness of inevitable order, something of the haiku master's susceptibility to the delicate and momentary, and since the beginning of his career he has added uniquely and steadfastly to the riches of poetry in English.
Seamus Heaney went on to write the following poem in memory of George Mackay Brown  which was included in the volume Dove-Marks on Stone: Poems for George Mackay Brown which was published to mark what would have been Brown's 75th Birthday in October 1996:

A Landfall
i.m. George Mackay Brown

Far north, in sunlight,
the stone ship ran aground. Larks
sing at the masthead.

A copy of Dove-Marks on Stone is available for reference in The Orkney Room of Orkney Library and Archive in Kirkwall. A copy of St Magnus Festival: a celebration and Seamus Heaney's Open Ground: Poems 1966-1996 are both available to borrow from Stromness Library.

Seamus Heaney was also one of the patrons of The George Mackay Brown Fellowship - along with Sir Andrew Motion and Stewart Conn -  which was established in memory of George Mackay Brown with the aim of both celebrating Brown's writing and encouraging and promoting new creative writing in Orkney. 

This ongoing link with Orkney was a testament to the connection between Seamus Heaney and George Mackay Brown, and today we mourn the loss of another great poet.

photo by Iain Stewart

Friday, 23 August 2013

Travel North

We thought our readers might be interested in an online event which will also include a physical venue in Orkney. On Wednesday 28th August the Northern Studies Virtual Conference 2013 will take place and this year's theme is Travel North. Speakers from across Britain and Europe, including three from Orkney, will give papers on a range of subjects from Archaeology to Literature and these will include several with a direct connection to Orkney.

You can download the full conference programme from the NSVC website to see the full range of subjects being covered but those of particular interest to our local readers might be a paper on Busta House in Shetland, one on North Ronaldsay, and one looking at Orkney as a fictional location in literature.

Guest speaker at the conference will be Dr Louise Sørensen from the University of Sheffield whose talk Virtually impossible? The challenges of connecting Norwegian-Americans to their heritage in a 3D environment, will give an insight into her work on the Ola Nordmann project,  which uses virtual reality to recreate the experiences of Norwegian emigrants to America during the nineteenth century.

There is the possibility for folk to view the conference by arranging to connect from your own computer, for details about this please contact the organisers via email:

However for those who can get to Orkney College on the day you will be very welcome to join the Orkney speakers in the college's conference room, where you can watch the conference proceedings and take part in the question and answer sessions at the end of each panel. There is no obligation to stay for the whole event - you can just drop in for individual panels.

Of course if any of the papers spark your interest, and you want to find out more about any of the  subjects, then your local library should be your first port of call.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Back to School

With the Shows past and the weather taking a turn for the worse the following Giddy Limit cartoon by Alex Leonard seems to sum up this time of year in Orkney.

No.207. The Orcadian 13th August 2009

As well as the anticipation of a new school term, there is also the joy of all those winter activities to look forward to - the  indoor projects and activities that have been neglected during the long summer days.

Part of the excitement is opening up the new guide to Community Learning Courses and deciding which new skill to tackle this year. From Archaeology to Yoga, Birdwatching to Welding, there are courses to suit every interest and ability.

The prospect of the increasingly dark winter days can only be brightened by the promise of getting together with other like-minded folk and taking part in a new activity. After all why should the bairns have all the fun - you're never to old, or young, to enjoy learning something new!

Pop in to the library and pick up your copy of the course guide and you'll be spoilt for choice. But don't delay too long in making your decision, as places can fill up quickly.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

It's Show Time!

With Orkney's agricultural show season under way our thoughts turn to next Thursday's Dounby Show.

While those entering livestock are busy washing, grooming, and going through their paces in preparation for the big day, there is still time to prepare your entries for the 115th West Mainland Flower, Produce & Industrial Show.

Pick up a schedule from one of the West Mainland country shops and you will find eight sections with classes for everything from pot plants to photographs -including  a junior section for children, divided into four age groups.

The schedule includes recipes for the items in the baking and confectionery classes - or you can use your own tried and tested ones. For those seeking last minute inspiration or tips then we have lots of baking and craft books in the library which could help you create the winning entry. We suspect that the knitting section may well feature work from some of our Yap and Yarn group.

The competition is open to all who permanently reside in the West Mainland, and exhibits can be entered at The Dounby Centre between 10am and 12.30pm on Wednesday 7th August or between 8pm-9pm on Tuesday 6th. Membership tickets, which include the entry fee and admission, cost £2 for adults and 50p for juniors.

The exhibits can be viewed by the public between 7pm -9pm on Wednesday 7th, and from 10am -5pm on Thursday 8th August. So if you're at the Dounby Show don't forget to take a trip along the road to The Dounby Centre as well. If you can't make it to Dounby you can get a taste of the even from the show's facebook page.

Good luck to all competitors next Thursday,  and remember both Kirkwall and Stromness libraries will be closed that day so the staff can enjoy the show too. We're already looking forward to catching up with friends and enjoying  our usual show-day treats of lunch in the pavilion and a 99 ice cream :-)

Photo of vegetable section from the Show's Facebook page at:

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Shopping Week Photos

For various reasons - mainly because we were busy issuing books - we failed in our mission to bring you live updates from Shopping Week, and for this we can only offer our sincerest apologies. To make up in some small way for this omission we shall instead share some photos from the Saturday night parade. Enjoy :-)