Orkney Stories

George Mackay Brown


This morning I finished reading a book worthy of one of Pauline’s bookmarks. This is George Mackay Brown’s ‘The Golden Bird’. That title is one of two Orkney stories combined in a John Murray publication from 1987.

As beautifully crafted as our NZ friend’s work, these stories tell of his Island home during the last quarter of the 19th century, when he traditions of centuries were beginning to be threatened. The eponymous title tells of the slow decline of the island community and the tensions of isolation within it. The next ‘The Life and Death of John Voe’ takes as its theme the story of a typical Orkneyman who sails the seas and returns to his roots to end his days. A voe, incidentally, is a small bay or creek in the Orkneys and Shetlands.

The writer, who spent all his life in the Orkneys lives, breathes, and conveys the essences of the hardy, taciturn, folk; the savage seas; the rugged landscape; and the essential isolation of the time. With spare, simple, poetic, language, Mackay Brown enthrals and informs the reader. Perhaps the most beautiful passages are left to the final stages of the second story. He is justifiably considered one of the great Scottish poets of the 20th century.

George Mackay Brown

The portrait of the writer inside the dust jacket is by Jessie Ann Matthew.

Somewhat later I toured the garden in order to check on irrigation needs.

Pansies in refreshed urn

I was encouraged by the sight of yesterday’s droopy pansies revived by the water I had given them.

Day lily

A variety of day lilies

Knifophia miniatures

and miniature knifophia thrived in the beds.

Bottle Brush plant red

The red Bottle Brush plants are now blooming.

Rose Super Elfin

The red Super Elfin rose is ascending the Gothic arch,

and most of the plants in the various pots and hanging baskets are still benefiting from the soaking administered by the Head Gardener. It looked as if I was due for an easy time.

Water drops on petunias

In the heat of mid-afternoon I undertook another check. This suggested it would be beneficial to water the patio and its surrounding containers. I therefore did that, mostly with a hose. Eventually I ran out of steam and could do. no more.

Soon afterwards Becky looked further afield and noticed droopiness in a chimney pot. She photographed the ailing plants and administered liquid refreshment.

Later, Elizabeth came for a visit and Becky cooked for the three of us. She produced an excellent meal of Cumberland sausages;  mashed potato; tasty onion, mushroom and red wine gravy; cabbage fried with black pepper and nutmeg; and a tin of sweetcorn because she couldn’t find any carrots to julienne and glaze.

Published by derrickjknight

I am an octogenarian enjoying rambling physically and photographing what I see, and rambling in my head as memories are triggered. I also ramble through a lifetime's photographs. In these later years much rambling is done in a car.

48 thoughts on “Orkney Stories

  1. George Mackay Brown had the most wonderful face! Never having heard of him before, your review makes me want to read this book – I shall ask Mr Google if it is still in print.. The chimney pots are perhaps my favourite of your many planters and Becky made an excellent save spotting that particular one. (I still love the photo you sent me featuring the pot set in the raised lawn). Don’t forget I can supply more bookmarks πŸ™‚

    1. Many thanks. You would love GMB, Pauline. If you have any difficulty securing a copy, please let me know and I will send you mine, complete with bookmark. Now wouldn’t that be fun?

      1. That made me smile Derrick There are a number of his works still available, but this particular one is marked as ‘not available’ on Book Depository. I’ve ticked the box to let me know when it is. But I don’t know if that means it’s out of print altogether or BD are just waiting a restock.

  2. Ah, a book worthy of one of Pauline’s bookmarks is a book I will look into. Also – from the eyes up, he looks like John Irving, so that’s a double plus.

    Your pansies are planted (on the bottom) with a plant I have and love. I call it “creeping lamium.” Do you?

    I love that you’re strolling about the garden on your own, and I also love that you have caring family to finish up in the garden and still make a wonderful meal.

  3. Sounds like a good meal despite the absence of julienne carrots. You’re lucky I’m not cooking for you – in this house we don’t often cut carrots into more than two or three pieces these days.

  4. Great enjoyable post Derrick and thanks for the link to what promises to be, enjoyable reading, garden looks great , we actually have a lot of our streets here lined with Bottle Brush trees, quite flamboyant when flowering.

  5. Pansies and bottle brush are two of my favorite flowers! They have been since I was a little girl! I love the pansy faces and feel like they are carrying on a conversation with me…AND…the bottle brush always fascinated me and made me glad I was outside and not indoors washing dishes! Ha! πŸ™‚

    OHMYGOODNESS! Becky made you a wonderful meal! πŸ™‚

    HUGS!!! πŸ™‚
    PS…I don’t think I will ever read one of your blogposts again without thinking of Russell Crow and wondering where he is and how he is doing! πŸ˜€

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