George Mackay Brown’s First Collection
George Mackay Brown was in Eastbank sanatorium in Kirkwall when he decided, in 1954, to publish his first collection, The Storm and other Poems.
Encouraged by the poet Edwin Muir, who was also from Orkney, George had been studying at Newbattle Abbey near Edinburgh where the older poet was the Warden. When he had to return home in spring 1953 due to ill health, Muir wrote to him, urging him to make the most of his ability as a writer:
‘You have a gift that most people pass their lives without having . . . and you can do something with it, to our good and your own.’
Edwin Muir wrote the introduction and the artist Ian MacInnes, George’s close friend from schooldays, designed the cover for the collection.
Evidently pleased with the drawing, GMB wrote to a friend, writer, folklorist and bookseller Ernest Marwick, telling him ‘Ian MacInnes has drawn a fine frontispiece . . .’; and to another, farmer, antiquarian and local historian Peter Leith, remarking ‘The illustrations by Ian MacInnes are very fine.’
The books – 250 in number, George said – sold out in just two weeks. A further printing had not been anticipated and the typeset was dismantled.
Erlend Brown’s Story
In the centenary of the birth of George Mackay Brown in 1921, BBC Radio Orkney and the GMB Fellowship launched an appeal to find out how many copies of The Storm and other poems might still exist, how far they had travelled, and what stories might be associated with them.
Artist, print maker and former curator of the Pier Arts Centre, Erlend Brown was one of those who responded. Aged just seven when The Storm was published, he had gone on in the years ahead to provide images for a number of George Mackay Brown’s books. He said he had from his uncle a signed copy of The Storm. Then he added:
‘I also have the printer’s block for the cover and the frontispiece.’
Both items were included among artefacts on view in the centenary exhibitions at the Pier Arts Centre and in the Orkney Museum in 2021.
Erlend decided that when the block was returned, he would like to use it to make a print – 68 years after its original use for the cover of The Storm.
Soon afterwards, he had a further idea. He proposed to create a limited edition of prints as a project for the GMB Centenary, and that the prints should be sold to raise funds for the work of the GMB Fellowship.
Through Erlend’s generosity and dedication to making the print – the time and care he gave to it, working with Carol Dunbar of the Pier Arts Centre at Soulisquoy Printmakers in Stromness – the project was completed in July 2022.
He delivered the completed edition of 100 prints that month.
It was with great sadness that we learned shortly afterwards of his death on 25 July 2022.
Letterpress print. Illustration by Ian MacInnes.
Edition size: 100. Paper size: 245mm x 325mm.
Hand-printed by Erlend Brown, with Carol Dunbar
at Soulisquoy Printmakers, Stromness.
More details on the making of the print will be added to our website shortly.
The GMB Fellowship is now able to offer for sale, with kind permission from the Estate of Ian MacInnes, a limited edition print of the cover of George Mackay Brown’s first published book of poems, The Storm and Other Poems (1954).
We hope to use proceeds from the sale of The Storm print in memory of Erlend Brown and his work to fund a future project involving art and writing.
To buy a print . . .
Prints are available at the Pier Arts Centre, Stromness; from GMB Fellowship (please email email@example.com) or else purchase using PayPal below.
Print only: £75 (local collection)
Print delivered by post: £79 (inc. £4.00 p&p)
Limited edition print of the cover of The Storm and Other Poems (1954)
This is a letterpress print of an illustration by artist Ian MacInnes (1922-2003) for The Storm and Other Poems (1954), the first collection of poems by writer and poet George Mackay Brown (1921-1996). It has been made with kind permission of the Estate of Ian MacInnes. Printed by Erlend Brown, with Carol Dunbar at Soulisquoy Printmakers, Stromness, 2022.
We would be delighted to hear from more owners of The Storm and Other Poems so we can continue to build up a list of places the book has reached, and stories of how they came to their owners, and what they mean to them. If you have a copy of The Storm and have not already been in touch but would be willing to tell us about it, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org