r2vyln3rdioj14u-rld0ska where mountains meet the sea: October 2016

Jenny Does Burn

Mairi Orr
The Last Witch

Janet Horne

In Dornoch there was a burning
With no sign of mourning
That January morning

This was the final solution
The last execution
Of an ancient persecution

For they called it witchcraft
An old woman's stitchcraft
Or a bit of leechcraft

Century of enlightenment
Still thirled to torment
Thumbscrews and judgement

Janet made a pony
Of her daughter, says the story
Rode her for Satan's glory

They tarred her and feathered her
Bound her and gathered her
Screaming and barrelled her

Burning in the peat-smoke
While the good Dornoch folk
Paused briefly for a look

Dear God were you sleeping
You were certainly not weeping
She was not in your keeping

Today there is a garden
Where a stone stands guard on
The spot she was charred on

O heart never harden!

Edwin Morgan

Freedom Come All Ye

In August 2013 members of Cape Farewell's "Sea Change" project explored the landscapes, history and future of the Orkneys whilst sailing on board The Swan, a beautifully restored Shetland Fifie. The group consisting of artists, musicians, writers, scientists and filmmakers visited sites across the islands.
On Friday 23rd August they arrived at the Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm. The story behind the chapel is a testament to the power of faith, creativity, and peaceful reconciliation
In 1942, more than 1300 Italian prisoners of war were captured in North Africa and taken to Orkney, where they remained until early 1945. 550 were taken to Camp 60, where they were put to work building the Churchill Barriers, four causeways created to block access to Scapa Flow.
In 1943, Major T P Buckland, the Camp 60's new commandant, and Father Giacobazzi, the Camp's priest agreed that a place of worship was required. Two Nissen huts were joined together to form a makeshift chapel. The prisoners, under the leadership of prisoner Domenico Chiocchetti, did all of the work to transform a simple corrugated iron structure into a work of beauty. The chapel was lined with plasterwork and an altar was made out of concrete. Chiocchetti painted the sanctuary end of the chapel. The beauty that he created led to the prisoners decorating the entire interior and creating a front facade out of concrete that concealed the shape of the hut and made the building look like a church.
Since the prisoners' departure, several residents of Camp 60, including Chiocchetti, have made return visits to the chapel they created. In 1996 a declaration was jointly signed by officials in Orkney and Chiocchetti's hometown of Moena, reinforcing the ties between the two places. The building has been lovingly preserved and is still used as a chapel.
During the group's visit, Karine Polwart gave this powerful solo performance of the anthemic "Freedom Come All Ye". The song was written in 1960 by Hamish Henderson, a passionate proponent of peace and international cooperation. Henderson was a leader of the post war Folk revival, and founder of The People's Festival [...] he was also a fluent Italian speaker. - Andy Crabb

writing her way home

Amy Liptrot's blog
a reading from The Outrun
a review from Will Self
just one of the writers featured in this year's Faclan Hebridean Book Festival

Take Me Back to the Islands

Yeah the moon brings us back, I'm going back over to the islands
In between your smiles there's a clue whether to scream or be silent
And the wind blows sad and joyful on our arrival onto the islands
With your sense of dislocation you make the perfect travelling companion

And the world will always seem so much younger than me
when I take the boat out
A crowded world will always seem emptier to me
when I take the boat out

Suspicion fills a stranger who looks beyond the horizon
And all the days that I've found love and left with only my feelings to survive on
And I walk the solemn line in with the rhythm of the seas around the islands
There are times to act and times to stand back and time to show what's needed to rely on

And the world will always seem so much younger than me
when I take the boat out
A crowded world will always seem emptier to me
when I take the boat out

How come you always seem so real defined
You put your hand in my hand make it my design
And we give what we have and we do what we can
So, put your hand in my hand

When the sea answers the island
oh oh oh
When the sea answers the island
oh oh oh

Idlewild, from Post Electric Blues


I da dizzied hoose, a strum of flechs baet
endless drums fornenst a frenzied window.
Belligerent, dey want nedder in nor oot.

Apö da broo, ahint a wheeshtit chapel,
twa windmills spin new soondscapes owre
da laand, kert-wheelin alleluias.

Cloistert granite hadds a orchestration
o birds, a oorie whirr, a vimmerin
o whaaps an peewits. Da wind

troo da grind is a spaekin in tongues
wi da bruckit feed-hoop tunin in:
idder-wirdly, intimately insistent.

Aa dis music ta lö tae, ta slip inta:
a aald organ nönin, a hushie hubbelskyu.
Up owre da hill, airms turn, da haert lifts.


In the dizzied house, a strum o flies beat
endless drums against a frenzied window.
Belligerent, they want neither in nor out.

On the brow of the hill, behind a silent chapel,
two windmills spin new soundscapes over
the land, cart-wheeling alleluias.

Cloistered granite holds an orchestration
of birds, an eerie whirr, tremulous sounds
of curlew and lapwing. The wind

through the metal gate is a speaking in tongues
with the broken feed-hoop tuning in:
other-worldly, intimately insistent.

All this music to attend to, to slip into:
an old organ droning, an uproarious lullaby.
Up over da hill, arms turn, the heart lifts.

Christine de Luca, from Gutter, Issue 13

Ida and Meg

Miss Woodham and Miss Peckham
known inevitably by the gossiping classes
– aka the inquisitive and mostly kind
citizens of Stromness, Houton, Orphir –
as The Woodpeckers
in Muckle House (not so big)
were the sole inhabitants of Cava
without company or electricity for near-on thirty years.

They were not a couple
(all who knew them insist
as, scandalised, did they).
That is not the issue.
That does not seal the deal,
whatever they signed up to
1st April 1959 in Clevedon
when they packed everything that mattered
(it was very little)
(it was essential)
in a tea chest on an axle with two pram wheels,
(Ida’s work, the maker and fixer)
topped by Fanny the cat in a box with a window,
Meg’s peddler’s licence in her purse,
attached the rope harness,
looked at each other –
and if you want to get a handle
on a door into your life,
you could start by reaching for
whatever passed between them
– a promise, a joke, a shared
sense of how things shall be –
that morning in 1959
when Meg fitted the harness across Ida’s shoulders
and they took a deep breath, stepped North.


There must have been
the island they carried in their heads,
and the island they themselves invented
every unswerving step away from Clevedon.
In the Borders the pram wheel broke.
They left the bogie with a farmer’s boy,
put the tea chest on a train,
picked up the cat and walked on.

* * *

How they chose to live
and what they inhabited,
their daily living by each other
with nowhere to hide,
each other’s staff,
makes marriage seem faint-hearted.
The sheer bloody work of it!
After the first 400 bags of sheep-shit, bottles,
floats and bruck carried from the House,
Meg stopped counting.

Without electricity,
peat for heat, a harmonium, books and radio,
a flower garden in one ruin, veg in another,
their lives together so long in such proximity:
a conundrum
a bare island
only vision and work make habitable.

Peat dug from the Calf, Meg rowed,
Ida bagged and worked the pulleys.
There was a well of sorts,
for water always seeps in Orkney
between sandstone layers; buckets lowered, yoked,
staggered to the house, till Ida rigged
a hosepipe, pump and storage tank.

Standing in the debris of their lives
among buckets, a rusted Singer, curtain rags,
whatever kept them bound together
(Meg slept in the Muckle House,
Ida in the Wendy by the shore)
is more intriguing than desire
to one in his life’s October.
It could be each had sunk
a shaft down through their days
of necessary work, bird-silence, sea,
and reached the water table, life itself,
and there lived as they wished
in concurrence

Andrew Greig, from Found At Sea

October arrived,

spreading a damp chill over the grounds and into the castle. Madam Pomfrey, the nurse, was kept busy by a sudden spate of colds among the staff and students. Raindrops the size of bullets thundered on the castle windows for days on end; the lake rose, the flower beds turned into muddy streams, and Hagrid’s pumpkins swelled to the size of garden sheds.
J.K. Rowling, from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets