Orkney Voices

Wark fae Orkney Voices

Alison Miller

The Orkney Voices Group wis started at the beginneen o 2018. The aim o hid wis tae mak a spaece whaar Orcadian spaekers could finnd weys o writan an spaekan aboot writeen. 

The idea grew oot o a Scottish PEN project, Many Voices, that encouraged different groups ower Scotland tae finnd thir voices in creative writeen classes. Here is a link tae the project on the Scottish PEN website.

At the end o the project, the fokk in the Orkney group wanted tae keep goan, so we ran it wirsels up tae Easter 2018. Be this time the George Mackay Fellowship haed agreed tae tak the group under ids umbrella an applied fur – an got – fundeen fur it fae OIC’s Culture Fund. Orkney Library & Archive gaed us the use o a room an support us wae books an materials an copies o the Orkney Dictionary.

So faer members o the group are haen wark published in Living Orkney an in the No 18 issue o Gutter Magazine, a Scottish-wide literary magazine, as weel as two Open Book publications, I See My Voice an The Gift of Time. Wir workan on bringan oot a book o the group’s wark laeter in 2021, tae mark the centenary o George Mackay Brown. 

They haev performed thir poems an stories – or haen them read by ither group members – at the George Mackay Brown Fellowship Orkney Book Festival, 2017; Book Week Scotland, Orkney Library, 2017; Scottish PEN event in Edinburgh, February 2018; The Reel Summer Concerts, 2018 & 2019; Armistice Day November 2018; the Kirkwall BID Burns Days, January 2019 & 2020; West Side Cinema International Women’s Day event, March 2019. In January 2021, no able tae meet in person, we performed an recorded a Burns event on Zoom.

Fae time tae time we invite different writers tae come an dae a workshop. In 2018, Marlene Mainland led a session usan family photographs as a springboard for the group’s writeen. In January 2019, Yvonne Gray tuk the group through the process o writan a Renga aroond the theme o winter an Robert Burns. (See below) In April 2019, award-winning poet Jen Hadfield visited Orkney and led a session wi the group, as weel as daean a readeen o her most recent wark in the eveneen in Stromness Library. An since then, laeter in 2019, Pam Beasant cam along tae gae us a session on poetry. In 2020, under lockdoon restrictions, Morag MacInnes joined us on Zoom tae spaek aboot her writeen in Orcadian.

Usually we meet in Orkney Library & Archive, but at the meenit the group meets wance a fortnight on Zoom, led be writer Alison Miller. Hid is oppen tae spaekers o Orcadian wha want tae write in Orcadian or English or in a combination o them both.

If you aer interested, please get in touch wae Alison, e-mail: alisonmiller67@btinternet.com

Wark fae Orkney Voices


Renga in Winter

Reid Lantern in the Mirk

The sweepan blast -
blindan sleet an snaw. Winter's dirge
soothes my soul.

Moonlight pale on flagstones -
hurry tae the shelter o the byre!

Reid lantern in the mirk.
Treckle poored in a tub -
sweet feed for the kye. 

Tracks in the snow
lead tae a deid hen.

Maet for the men
ready for wark - porridge,
bannocks, butter, tea.

A secret tryst ahint the lichen-crusted wall -
rough-hewn hands no more.

Streets hotchan again -
hardly room tae move.
Bluidy cruise ships!

Paddle in the burn. Blue forget-me-nots.
Heaven's right here.

Empty shinan streets.
Walkan tae the Seturday job . . .
dae I hiv tae?

Yir no so bad. Ye'll likely dae.
so whit dae ye think?

Hervest cumman soon -
golden fields right tae the loch.
Bloated flies on rosehips.

The oats sing; the barley pops.
The combine snarls.
Hokku derived fae the first two stanzas o "Winter: a Dirge" by Robert Burns 
Renga composed by Orkney Voices on Seturday 26 January 2019 
in the Marwick Room, Orkney Library and Archive, Kirkwall

Vera Butler, Sheila Garson, Yvonne Gray (Mester), Ingrid Grieve, Issy Grieve, Barbara Johnston, Alison Miller (Host).

Featured images of Orkney Voices: courtesy Rebecca Marr

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