Showing posts with label orkney. Show all posts
Showing posts with label orkney. Show all posts

Friday 6 March 2020

Year of Scottish Coasts and Islands

waves off the coast of north Uist

This is the year we celebrate Scotland's magnificent coastlines. I’ve been fortunate to visit Scotland’s islands and its North coast. If the weather is kind (as it is in May or the autumn) there is nothing to surpass the wildness, the subtle, shifting light, blinding wind, thunderous waves or Scotland's perfect white sands.

Harris Luskintyre beach

Orkney near Skarra Brae


Varasay beach, Hebrides

Friday 25 January 2019

Opening Concert Celtic Connections 2019 - Syne of the Times

The Celtic Connections opening night was a rousing concert with over a hundred young musicians on stage, to celebrate the passing traditions between the generations. They enjoyed a memorable experience of Gaelic music alongside some of Scotland’s most celebrated folk musicians.   
This opening concert began with a moving film by a young musician and composer from the isle of Grimsby - of his grandfather and father and his hope that the traditions and Gaelic can be passed on through the generations by preserving and celebrating our heritage and culture through music. 

After which we were treated to rousing tunes by the Celtic Galician folk orchestra Son De Seu. There are seven Celtic nations. This year Celtic Connections festival is paired with the small Celtic country of Galicia. 

Also performing were the Orkney youth musicians, HadHirgaan and the young musicians from the 5 Feisean, which is held annually around Scotland.

The evening was led by music director and fiddler Duncan Chisholm. Also appearing were Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, fiddler Lauren MacColl,folk band Daimh, fiddler Aiden O”Rourke, piper Brighde Chaumbeu, and Donald Shaw (festival director) and his Harvest music. Celtic Connections also celebrates folk musicians who gained their success through attention at the festival.

I hope the young musicians were inspired by this memorable opening concert. 
What a first class experience for the young performers tonight. 

I don’t understand Gaelic, but I enjoy the Gaelic singers who perform each year at Celtic Connections. There is something magical about it and Gaelic song is very popular at Celtic. 

2018 was the year of the young people in Scotland, who I hope were encouraged to have their voices heard. 

English is the universal language French the language of diplomacy but Gaelic is the language of the Gods."

Interesting. This year Celtic Connections festival is paired with the small Celtic country of Galicia. 
Galicia sits on the north west corner of Spain – and has had to fight for it autonomy..
They were controlled by Franco's dictatorship. Their democracy was restored when the legislature passed the Statute of Autonomy of 1981 approved in referendum and currently in force, providing Galicia with self-government. (Galicia has a population of 2.7 million)

Galicia, is an autonomous community in Spain’s northwest, is a verdant region with an Atlantic coastline. The cathedral of regional capital Santiago de Compostela is the reputed burial place of the biblical apostle Saint James the Great, and the destination for those following the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. The western cliffs of Cape Finisterre were considered by the Romans to be the end of the known world.

Saturday 30 June 2018

Island Nations

Scottish indy is about bringing our island nations together in a more united and stronger way than ever, in an equal partnership. 

By contrast to the Faroe islands the beautiful island of Barra faces a crisis. Barra has the only scheduled flights to a beach airport. Imposed restrictions on non EU workers mean fishing boats are idle and this will effect the major employer, fish processing firm Barra Atlantic. Fishermen from the Philippines islands are desperate to come, but cannot get visas. While exceptions are made for Australian sheep shearers. I recently visited the Western isles and it struck me to have a healthy economy we must care about all our remote regions. 

Respect for diversity is good and we benefit from rigorous debate and co-operation. Why does one culture have to be repressed, to benefit another? Equality and fairness does not mean we are all the same – we are actually very different. What it does mean is equal opportunities, which can’t exist alongside patronage and elitism. After the Grenfell fire and the fight for justice, Carillion and more disasters do people still buy into this fake system …. 

The Scots language has been protected within the EU by a European charter. One third of today’s population speak a modern version of the same language used by Burns. Will old Scotia’s heritage, laws, rights, language, culture and arts be protected once we leave the EU? Will our wildlife be protected?

Indy means freedom of choice, being mature, regaining confidence, and adaptable in our wee nation - not to suit bankers. Why don’t the Highland and islands set up their own small, non profit banking system, or mobile broadband (as in the Faroes). Indy will enable change as we build a country best suited to Scotland individual needs, geography, immigration and resources (for example farming is opposite to England’s)   
Indy isn’t about Edinburgh or London, but about more local decision making and much smaller councils. Indy is about finding our own way in order to make the most of our resources. 

The islands were not remote at all – and in those days of the Neolithic Brodgar of Ness as historian Tom Devine says – “the land divides, the sea unites.”

‘Fortune favours the brave. ‘
’To harness our unique potential.’
evening sun on Orkney

Scotland – 5.5m population 
Iceland – 350.000 population
Denmark – 6.5m population134.76/km2
Finland – 5.5m  population - 16/km2
Ireland – 6.5m: Population density ‎77.8 /km2

**Excellent series of programs by journalist Lesley Riddoch’s NATION and with Phantom River films,on successful small countries requires funding. The first program on the Faroe islands – 50,000 land mass,18 barren islands,  All makes Scotland look a substantial and not so wee place, as we’ve been fooled into believing, after all!

Also highly recommend Allan Little’s ‘Friends in the North’ BBC - 

Harris beach

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Orkney Sagas

Life on the extremes – Orkney Stories and magical tones, light and colours.
Orkney is supposed to feed the soul and the subtle magical lights and tones here certainly lift hearts and minds. From the softest blues and gentlest greens, there is a pure quality to the light. There are sea bird sanctuaries, many ancient remains, and the islands sing with their Nordic sagas.

Orkney turns upon poles of light and has 70 islands, 20 of them inhabited.
Westray, Eday, Ronaldsay, Sandy, Stronsay, Hoy,...
“A summer midnight, the north is red with the twin lamps of dawn and sunset.” George Mackay Brown (the Holy Places- 1976)

The boat trip over on the Northlink ferry was EPIC!, with 60 mile an hour gusts and the boat lurching. Quite a ride!
We arrived at Stromness, a characterful stone built town, where we visited the museum and read of their history and stories - of the artic explorer John Rae and his statue here; the Earls of Orkney, the Norwegian settlements; Indian moccasins, a necklace made of human teeth collected by traveller John Rankin, Orkney was built on travellers of course.
 “From its central location between England and the Baltic, it became the great port of call for all the ships bound for the western ocean.“ Dairy Isaac Bennes 1789

- The first day we travelled over the north coast, where the strong gusts made powerful waves that crashed on the headlines. We visited the former 15th century home of Robert Stewart, half brother of Mary Queen of Scots, near the Brough of Birsay. We were surprised, Orkney is richly cultivated and cattle are its biggest export. 

On Wednesday we travelled south across the wild Churchill barriers and stopped to photo the high waves. Strangely too the Scapa flow was the base of the British navy during the great wars.
At the very moving Italian chapel we read of the Italians held as prisoners of war at Camp 60 in 1942, who built the barriers. They built the tiny chapel to offer hope while they suffered great hardships, and so ‘there was still a part of them that was free.’ A place of wonder and of spiritual peace built amid great hardships. Thank you.'

The Italian chapel
- At Robertson’s café at St Margaret’s Hope, we spoke to a very blonde young lady – Scandinavians were the ‘gift never given back’ she told us. Margaret was the granddaughter of the Scottish King Alexander III, who was on her way home to be crowned when she fell ill. Sadly this all led to many years of Wars of Succession. (not Wars of independence or Secession. Scotland is an older nation than England and 'Britain' is a recent invention.)

(Scotland as a nation is older than England - 9th century - by several decades. This matters because after the Maid of Norway died in 1290 leaving no successor to the Scottish throne, it was not "The Wars of Independence" that followed, but aggression by Edward I of England to take over by conquest. At that time Scotland's population was 30% of Britain's and is now 8%, which shows the suppression of Scotland culturally and economically by London) .)

- At Kirkwall the Old library has been refurnished and upstairs in the gallery is displayed the art of Sheila Scott and we notice that many had been sold. She also has impressive tapestries displayed at the Kirkwall airport. The shops here sell beautiful delicate jewellery based on Orkney’s natural landscapes. .(Sheila Fleet, Ortak, Aurora, Hume Sweet Hume.)  


Thursday at Scarra Brae the winds were howling hard and the seas were full of bright froths. This ancient Neolithic villages is 7,000 years old and is a miracle to behold. As the winds continued to blow, we took a guided tour of the impressive standing stones of the Brodgar of Ness – incredible to visit and quite mind blowing. The Orkney standing stones came from the different tribes of the islands – who brought them here perhaps by water. Did they bring them as symbols of working together? The stones sit on open land beside water with extensive panoramas. 
Ring of Brodgar
This ancient place is beside the Ness of Brodgar where they are busy excavating in the summer months, was discovered in 2003. It is believed that this settlement was an ancient temple that peoples travelled from far and wide to visit, and is older than Stonehenge.

"What a beautiful, spiritual place, where many ancient paths travel and stories meet."

Orkney is a rich source of artistry.
The composer Peter Maxwell Davies – ‘The sights and sounds of the islands, the brightness of mackerel shails, the calling of birds, the strumming and pounding of the wind and sea came to resonate in his music. It urges that we dance in step together to create peace and harmony among ourselves and with the natural world of which we are a part .‘

Scarra Brae
Stenness Standing stones
II   The Orkney islands are fiercely independent and proud of their Nordic stories and British mythologies and if you are looking for Scottish tartans, Gaelic or clans here, you'll not find them!

Scottish Mythology :  

The “Received opinion” – in studies by ancient history experts on our islands ignore Scotland with an emphasis on Irish and British mythology. This discovery at Brodgar has shown that civilization did not start southern Mediterranean, as has been the 'Received Opinion', and in fact travelled northwards. Ancient Greek mythology spoke of a ‘a circular temple at Hyperbores” – the Brodgar is well before Stonehenge. Did the megalith culture spread out from Orkney, or the Hebrides, and travel by skin boats 5,000 years ago, to Greece and even to Africa? - claims historian Stuart McHardy.

There are more Cuilleachs in Scotland than Ireland, ancient Scottish goddess of restoring life a system of belief based this dual goddess who has mountains named after her - her name meant ‘veiled one’; Ben Nevis, Lochnagar, Ben Wigins and Ben Cruachan. There is the Maes Howes cairn tomb at south of the standing stones, 
A Celtic speaking and belief system warrior tribal society lived in Scotland until the 18th century which was "rooted in the landscape and is truly indigenous.'

Woodie Guthrie “Some will rob you with six guns/ Some will rob you with a fountain pen.”

“Every nation has one central theme at it  score. In Canada it ‘survival’.” Margaret Atwood. In Scotland it is extremes and travel.

“Scotland’s future history”, Stuart McHardy
“If This is your Land, Where are your Stories” J Edward Chamberlin
“Arts and the Nation”, Alan Riach, Alexander Moffat, John Purser

Small personal café
Photos of stormy seas
Ruins of a castle
Magical stones
Indians moccasins
Necklace of teeth
Ancient remains and tombs

Empires collapse the distance separating the west from other places…In the 18th century we may have needed empires (or the Romans) – but today we have fast travel and fast internet communications –
Do we need huge centralized empires anymore? What we do need is independent nation states in larger trading blocks that co-operate on trade and security. We need a new treaty of union between Scotland and England - the old 1701 treaty is not fit for purpose anymore (if it ever was)