6: An Orkney Tapestry

Seven Books by George Mackay Brown

In the sixth Book Group of the centenary series, Linden Bicket and Kirsteen McCue, joint editors of the new edition of An Orkney Tapestry recently published by Birlinn, joined us on 14 October 2021 to discuss this seminal work.

First published by Victor Gollancz in 1969, An Orkney Tapestry was commissioned by George Mackay Brown’s publisher as an introduction to the islands, but is not a conventional history or guide book. Through its poetry and drama and prose, it reveals a highly personal view of Orkney through the view given of its landscapes, its people and their arts and industries. It reveals a place marked by things that are ancient and give a sense of permanence – as well as by change.  

‘I have tried to make a kind of profile of Orkney, which is not a likeness of today only; it has been worked on for many centuries’, GMB said in the foreword.

The work explores ideas and themes that emerge in his early poems and journalism – and are developed and refined in his later work. It is a celebration of place and people – and it asks troubled questions of the future.

This new edition makes the work easily available again for the first time in over 40 years. It includes drawings by the artist Sylvia Wishart, a close friend of the writer, which were commissioned for the original hardback.

Linden Bicket

Originally from Ayrshire, Linden Bicket completed an honours degree in Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow, and was awarded the Neil Munro Medal. In 2011 she completed her doctorate, A God-ordained web of creation: The faithful fictions of George Mackay Brown, also at the University of Glasgow. It was shortlisted for the Ross Roy medal for best PhD in a field relating to Scottish Literature.

From 2011-12 she worked as research assistant on the project, ‘George Mackay Brown: A Literary Executor’s Archive’. She is now a Lecturer in Literature and Religion in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh.

She has published widely on George Mackay Brown and is the author of George Mackay Brown and the Scottish Catholic Imagination (Edinburgh University Press, 2017). She has recently co-edited, with Kirsteen McCue, a new edition of George Mackay Brown’s An Orkney Tapestry (Polygon) to mark the centenary of Brown’s birth in 2021.

She is also interested in Scottish children’s fiction and she is currently researching the work of women Catholic writers, including Elizabeth Jennings, Flannery O’Connor, and Alice Thomas Ellis.

Kirsteen McCue

Kirsteen McCue is Professor of Scottish Literature and Song Culture and Co-Director of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University of Glasgow. She has published widely on Romantic song culture, including ‘The Culture of Song’ in the Oxford Companion to British Romanticism (2018), essays on Lord Byron and John Clare, and on Burns’s songs and musical responses to Burns’s work.

She is editor of James Hogg’s Songs by the Ettrick Shepherd and Hogg’s Contributions to Musical Collections and Miscellaneous Songs for the Collected Works of James Hogg (Edinburgh University Press, 2014) and has co-edited Women’s Travel Writings in Scotland with Pamela Perkins (Routledge, 2016).

Her edition of Robert Burns’s Songs for George Thomson, vol 4. of the Oxford Works of Robert Burns appeared earlier in 2021. She is currently working on British National Song culture during the period 1750–1850. 

But she has a passion also for Scottish travel and nature writing and has just co-edited, with Linden Bicket, the Orcadian writer George Mackay Brown’s An Orkney Tapestry (Polygon) to mark the centenary of Brown’s birth in 2021.

Seven Books

If you would like to attend a session, please request a Zoom link for the one you would like to attend: gmbfellows@gmail.com

If you would like to ask a question about any of the books featured, please email: gmbfellows@gmail.com

7pm Monday 19 April 2021

Ron Ferguson: Magnus

7pm Monday 17 May 2021

Simon Hall: The Year of the Whale

7pm Monday 7 June 2021

Pamela Beasant: Letters from Hamnavoe

7pm Thursday 29 July 2021

Morag MacInnes, Fiona MacInnes and Anne Bevan: Bairns’ Stories

7pm Monday 11 October 2021

Malachy Tallack: Simple Fire: Selected Short Stories

8pm Thursday 14 October 2021

Linden Bicket and Kirsteen McCue: An Orkney Tapestry

7pm Monday 18 October 2021

Maggie Fergusson: For the Islands I Sing

Return to GMB Centenary 2021

Featured image: photograph of George Mackay Brown (detail) by Gunnie Moberg courtesy Orkney Library and Archive

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