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    ‘Carve the runes and then be content with silence’…

     

     

    George Mackay Brown Letters from Hamnavoe Gordon Wright 1975.

    A Work for Poets

    To have carved on the days of our vanity
    A sun
    A ship
    A star
    A cornstalk

    Also a few marks
    From an ancient forgotten time
    A child may read

    That not far from the stone
    A well might open for wayfarers

    Here is a work for poets-
    Carve the runes
    Then be content with silence

    (George Mackay Brown – ‘A Work for Poets’ 1996)

    .
    GMB's grave Warbeth Cemetery Orkney © 2003 Scotiana

    GMB’s grave Warbeth Cemetery Orkney © 2003 Scotiana

    George Mackay Brown was born on 17 October 1921 in Stromness and he died there, at the age of 74,  on 13 April 1996, so today is the twentieth anniversary of the poet’s death. This page, I’ve written it in homage to the great Orcadian poet.

    Carve the runes

    then be content with silence

    These words, the final verses of ‘A Work for Poets’ are engraved in golden letters on GMB’s pink sandstone grave together with its four symbols: a sun, a ship, a star, a cornstalk…

    Poetry is the golden key that opens GMB’s world… it illuminates every page of his work, whether it be a poem, a short  story,  a novel, a play, a children’s book or even the little chronicle he used to write every week in The Orcadian

    The Collected Poems of George Mackay Brown Archie Bevan & Brian Murray 2005

     

    Two shelves in my library are devoted tp GMB’s books and books about GMB and among them several books of poetry: Fishermen with Ploughs, A Poem Cycle (The Hogarth Press 1974), Selected Poems ( The Hogarth Press 1977), The Collected Poems of George Mackay Brown published by John Murray in 2005)

    Orkney Pictures & Poems George Mackay Brown Gunnie Moberg Colin Baxter 1996

    Orkney Pictures & Poems George Mackay Brown Gunnie Moberg Colin Baxter 1996

    Not forgetting Orkney Pictures & Poems, the very beautiful book written by GMB and  illustrated by his friend Gunnie Moberg and published in 1996 with these very moving words :

    “In Memory of George Mackay Brown –

    You have inspired and touch us all.

    Thank you.

    St Magnus Day 1996.”

     

    George Mackay Brown Travellers John Murray 2001

     

     Travellers, another wonderful book of poestry is on my desk and it is one of my favourite books of poetry. In his poems GMB goes to the essence of things…

    ‘The Green Gate’, ‘Edwin Muir’, ‘Modigliani: The Little Peasant’, ‘Tolstoy’,  ‘Norman MacCaig’, ‘Elegy for a Child’, ‘In Memoriam John L. Broom’, ‘Mhari’, ‘Stt Magnus Day 1992′, ‘Emigrants’, ‘ Haiku: for the Holy Places’, ‘A New House’, ‘Neighbours’, ‘The Finished House’,  ‘The Mother’, ‘The Poet’s Year’, ‘Four Kinds of Poet’, ‘December Day, Hoy Sound’, ‘The Friend’, ‘The Solstice Stone’, ‘A Dream of Christmas’, ‘Summer and Winter’,’To the Tibetan Refugees’… all these titles and all the other ones ring a bell in my imaginary… it’s pure magic… it’s a gift of crystal-clear music and luminous images… a vision giving sense to life and hope to people in a world that can be desperately sad and cruel but so cheerful at the same time.

    This book is one which travels with me everywhere since I’ve dowloaded it on my kindle, together with other titles by GMB 😉

    Stromness road to Warbeth cemetery with Hoy in the background © 2003 Scotiana

    Stromness road to Warbeth cemetery with Hoy in the background © 2003 Scotiana

     

    Obituary: George Mackay Brown

    Tomorrow is the feast day of St Magnus, the 12th-century martyr, patron saint of Orkney, and subject of the novel, Magnus, that the Orcadian poet and story-teller George Mackay Brown considered his best work. It would have given Brown quiet satisfaction that this was the day on which he would finally be laid to rest. Tomorrow afternoon, after a funeral mass in St Magnus’s Cathedral, Kirkwall, he will be buried in a kirkyard he loved from boyhood, looking out across the Atlantic, a mile from the seaport of Stromness where he was born 74 years ago and which he rarely left.

    (Independent – Maggie Parham – Monday 15 April 1996)

     

     

    Warbeth Cemetery road © 2012 Scotiana

    Warbeth Cemetery road © 2012 Scotiana

    When we went for the first time to Warbeth Cemetery, in 2003, not far from Stromness, it was not easy to find the place but it proved still more difficult to find GMB’s grave in this remote and solitary city of the dead. We had not much time that day, our last day in Orkney then, and I was in a particularly bad mood for being obliged to hurry up at the very moment when I wanted to take time…

    Warbeth cemetery is divided into two different sections which are separated by a stone wall. There is the old graveyard and the new one which is much smaller presently but with plenty of space for new arrivals. Two “croque-morts” (undertakers) who were digging a grave when we arrived said to us that they did not know who was George Mackay Brown nor even if he was buried there and they soon left the cemetery. We were quite alone now, or so we thought, and it was getting colder and wintry.

    There were so many graves to look at that my husband and I decided to search separately. I began to investigate the new part of the cemetery. After all, GMB had died only seven years before and he could be buried there. From time to time, I looked to the other side of the wall to see if my husband was luckier than me but each time I was disappointed.  We would probably have given up our quest without the sudden appearance and unexpected help of a mysterious woman dressed all in black: “George Mackay Brown, the poet … oh I see” she said to my husband leading him directly to the grave while I was looking over the wall…  then she vanished without warning! I would have run to thank her… we’re still grateful. Where did she come from and where did she go, we still wonder…just let me add something: knowing how sad I would be if we had to leave the place without finding GMB’s grave my husband had implored GMB repeating several times “Please George, help us !”…

    Warbeth Cemetery in Orkney Johanna Wilhelmina's grave © 2003 Scotiana

    Warbeth Cemetery in Orkney Johanna Wilhelmina’s grave © 2003 Scotiana

    Now the lovely statue dropping roses on Johanna Wilhelmina’s grave has become our landmark to find GMB’s grave. It is not far from it… such a lovely landmark…

    GMB’s grave, so beautiful in its simplicity perfectly reflects the poet’s art and spirit and it stands amidst the magnificent landscape GMB loved so much with the Sound of Hoy and the island’s cliffs  in the background. Here the poet rests amidst his people the names of which he liked to evoke each time he entered Warbeth Cemetery and very close to his beloved parents, John Brown, his father, the tailor and postman, and Mhairi Macky, his mother, a Gaelic speaker, born in Braal, a hamlet situated near Strathy, in Sutherland.

     

    The First Wash of Spring George Mackay Brown Steve Savage 2006

    The First Wash of Spring George Mackay Brown Steve Savage 2006

     

    “This morning – as I write – is April 3, and the first wash of Spring has gone over the earth.

    It is such a beautiful word – April – that even to utter it lightens the heart. It is a little poem in itself. It is full of delightful images. It has its own music – little trembling lamb-cries at the end of a field. The first daring lark lost in light.

    You feel, in April, that you have come through another winter, a little bruised maybe, but unbowed.

    Those chalices of light, the daffodils, having been sorely battered by the March storms, are shedding, one by one, their green covers and opening their vernal tapers.

    Soon all of Orkney will be stitched by golden threads of daffodils, a lovely spread garment for Primavera …

    The word ‘June’ is beautiful, too, of course, but like May it has a curtness that lacks the lyricism of ‘April’. In midsummer there is perhaps too much – what month-name devised by man could hope to contain the light and multitudinous beauties of the season? Best to be simple and brief, to hold the word to the nostrils like a plucked wild clover … Such enchantment, under the light that never leaves the sky – not at midnight even.”

    To think GMB wrote these wonderful page just ten days before his death… it leaves me speechless ! What a man ! What a man !

    Stromness Museum GMB's corner  © 2012 Scotiana

    Stromness Museum GMB’s corner © 2012 Scotiana

    Outside my window daffodils
    Dance in the north wind…

    (From St Magnus Day – 16 April 1992 – Travellers)

     

    The daffodils have become emblematic of the poet. The above photo was taken by Janice in Stromness Museum in the poet’s corner. The museum is situated in front of the place where GMB lived up to the end of his life, on the first flat of a house situated at Mayburn Court where you can see a blue plaque.

    Below is the view GMB could see every day, just across the street and close to the Museum. There is a bench where he used to sit to admire the view…

    Stromness seaview near Stromness Museum at 52 Alfred Street © 2012 Scotiana

    Stromness seaview near Stromness Museum at 52 Alfred Street © 2012 Scotiana

    And below is the picturesque long paved street GMB used to walk along so often, on his way to the library or other favourite places in Stromness…

    Alfred Street in Stromness © 2012 Scotiana

    Alfred Street in Stromness © 2012 Scotiana

     

    The first story through which I entered GMB’s world is a Christmas story entitled “The Last Island Boy”. It was first published in The Scotsman on 24 December 1985.

    The Best of Best Short Stories 1986-1995 Giles Gordon & David Hughes Minerva 1995

    I immediately fell in love with this wonderful Christmas story. GMB wrote many of them and I had discovered ‘The Last Island Boy’ in The Best of Best Short Stories 1986-1995, an anthology of short stories published by Minerva and edited by Giles Gordon & David Hughes, a great book for the amateur of short stories.  I will never forget the magic of the moment and  I’m presently re-reading it, together with the short stories included in A Calendar of Love.

    Celtic Cross Warbeth Cemetery Stromness © 2012 Scotiana

    Celtic Cross Warbeth Cemetery Stromness © 2012 Scotiana

     

    Here is a work for poets-

    Carve the runes

    Then be content with silence

     

    Many thanks GMB…

    We’ll go back to Stromness…

    Mairiuna

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    Quebec Thistle’s Scotsman of the Year 2016 : Ian Aitken

    THE QUEBEC THISTLE COMMITTEE AULD ALLIANCE AWARDS CEREMONY

    quebec-thistle-awardsIn just a few days will take place in Montréal, at the Officer’s Mess of the Black Watch (RHR) of Canada, the annual event presented by the Quebec Thistle Committee to winners in several categories including Scottish music, cuisine, culture, athlete of the year, country and highland dancing, piping and “Scotsman / Scotswoman of-the-Year”.

    quebec-thistle.

    The Quebec Thistle Committee is dedicated to bringing together the Scottish community of Quebec through its programs to keep Scots and Scottish Culture an essential part of Quebec society, as it has been for centuries.

    As we are in continous quest for French-Scottish-Quebec links, we are delighted to outline this event inside Scotiana’s blog.

    Congratulations and cheers to all winners!

    Janice, on behalf of Scotiana.com team.

     

    Ian Aitken – Scotsman of the Year at the Auld Alliance Awards Ceremony

    st-andrews-society-logoIan Aitken has been a solid supporter of the Scottish Community in Montreal for decades. Serving on Council of the St. Andrew’s Society and then as its President, Ian quietly yet in a businesslike manner introduced new methods to running the Society while at the same time passionately promoting everything the Society did.

    He was instrumental in reviving the Montreal Highland Games in 2014 and remains a generous supporter both personally and through his company – Pembroke Management, where he is the President and Chief Executive Officer.

    He is an organizer of the Alex Hutchison Award for piping, an Honorary Member of the Black Watch Pipes and Drums, a member of the committee establishing the McGill Chair in Canadian-Scottish Studies and a Patron of the National Trust for Scotland. He also has the unique designation of “Keeper of the Quaichs” for the Society.

    ian-aitken-scotsman-of-the-year-2016-quebec-thistleIan was recognized for his contribution in 2012 when he received the when he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Queen-Elizabeth-II-Diamond-Jubilee-Medal-LargeIn addition to his commitment to the Scottish community, Ian is devoted to building a more entrepreneurial country and is the Founder and Chairman of Enactus Canada and a Director of the John Dobson Foundation.

    Ian spent many summers in the Highlands of Scotland as a child and has been one of Montreal’s links to the old country.

    He has danced at the Royal Caledonian Ball, been invited to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and facilitated the invitation of many of the Guests of Honour to the St. Andrew’s Ball.

    Ian is dedicated to his family. He was married in a kilt and his three children have each been the Page or Flower Girl at the Ball.

    Ian’s passionate commitment to promoting the Scottish community and preserving its legacy over many years, in many ways, makes him a model “Scotsman of the Year”.

    Black-Watch-Montreal

     

    Auld Alliance Awards Ceremony
    The Quebec Thistle Committee
    Saturday, April 16, 2016
    Officers’ Mess of the Black Watch (RHR) of Canada,
    2067 Bleury, Montreal

    Source: www.facebook.com/standrewsmontreal

     Meet 2015 Winners

    quebec-thistle-2015-winners


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    Miss Toward’s Tenement House .. .. ..

     

    Tenement House, Buccleuch Street, Glasgow © National Trust for Scotland

    Bonjour Marie-Agnes, Janice et Jean-Claude –

    Ca va bien? – How are you all today? Margaret and I love to read all the letters you send us, so full of kindness and bonhomie! Our readers here at Scotiana may not know that your […]

    The Best of Scotland: Orkney Islands…

     

    Ferry crossing to Orkney © 2003 Scotiana

    Dear readers,

    Today, in our quest of the best of Scotland, I invite you to discover the Orkney Islands, one of our favourite Scottish places. There is something magical in these islands of the North, something different than in mainland Scotland. In sharing our pictures with […]

    Enjoy Scotland Featured Films

    Hi Mairiuna,

    Having written down as part of my New Year’s resolutions to dedicate time each month for viewing Scotland related films, I’d like to share with you some of the titles on my list.

    Top and foremost, I’ll watch again BRAVE by Disney – Pixar as it’s visual magic and stunning storytelling simply carries […]