Wark fae Orkney Voices

Photo by Barbara Johnston

Ould Orkney Hooses

I like owld rueens in the country 
stone wans, widden wans, metal wans
they speak tae me

Tae some thir a blot on the landscape
trim hid up ur knock hid doon
set light tae hid

Roosty corrugated roofs catch me eye
contrast wae blue an green
sky through holes

Peelan pent flaekan off a door
draas me closer, layer on layer
texture an culur

Sage moss on saggan slates
precarious on crumblan waals
orange wae lichen

Stone lintil supports a chimley breest
knotty widden wan abune the open door
binder in the yard

So minny untelt stories
whaur did they aal go?
dream an imagine

Barbara Johnston, February 2021

Photographs: Barbara Johnston

Photo by Barbara Johnston

The Seasons – Ingrid Grieve

Photo by Ingrid Grieve
Whit I like aboot spring
Spring colours
blue, green, yellow
shinan oot
like peedie suns
tae cheers iss up
defiant in the face
o all a harsh voar can throw
The first shout o ‘the swallows are back...open the garage door'
The promise o longer days
And the hope o warmer wans too
Gittan the washeen oot in a good sook o wind
The clocks gan forward
and it's light enough efter tea tae git doon tae the ebb
Buds on trees
Nestan birds
The peedie wren singan his hert oot
(bit no startan at 2 in the morneen)
Gangs o lambs playan games
Plooed fields
Breer fields
The kye gittan pit oot and gan clean hysk
Plantan tatties and neeps
and kennan that this year a’ll keep up wae the gerdeen
and the ervo, tirso and dog flooers are no gan tae git the better o me

Whit am no so keen on
The swallows mess in the garage
Cowld when it should be warman
Lambeen snow
East winds and needly rain

Whit I like aboot summer
Summer colours
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet
Long days
Warm days
Sunsets at Kirbister Loch
Fields o long gress wavan in the wind
mussa-kruppen among the heather
Baby birds at the  feeders
Honey Bees, bumble bees on
curly doddies, trowie gloves, yule girse
Tatties and neeps coman up
Bere fields
Barley fields
No hivan tae lukk fur a cott
(bit takkan wan jist in case)

Whit I don’t like
realisan that the ervo, tirso and dog flooers among the neeps his gotten the better o me again
A bonny night spoiled by midgies
East winds and needly rain

Whit I love aboot Autumn
Hairst colours, ochres, rusts, olives and purples
Barley fields
Bere fields
Dark clouds and golden light
The soond o an ott field blowan in a hushle o wind
Combines gan flat oot tae git the hervist in afore the wather turns
Dookan fur apples
A penny fur me pop
Tulimentan nights
Trimsan seas
Glettan skies
The fire lit for the first time in months
Coorteens closed
Bake off

I dont like
East winds and needly rain

I like winter
Colours o blue, black, grey, and white
wae splashes o red in sunrises, sunsets, robin breasts and dog wid
A coorse night when wur cosy in aside the fire
A run up west efter a Northerly skreever
listenan tae the runge o the sea
and watching the the whaal backs duck and dive in the dowdoswang
I like sharp frosts
crunchy snow, mittens, toories and snowmen
The low yellow light ower the Flow
A sudden glett through a stormy sky
in a day o hellyiefers
addan strips o colour tae sleepan fields
Bare branches against blue-grey skies
Mirry dancers
Moon brochs
Snowy gaamfers
Christmas lights and eerie orams tae brighten up mid winter
New Year wae the hope o better things tae come

I don't like
Warm winters
East winds and needly rain

Photographs to go along with her poem by Ingrid Grieve

Marina by Lorraine Bruce

The Marina – Photograph by Lorraine Bruce
The watur culur sun
splashes oan 
wind vanes,
flashan in sync
high ubun the decks
whar the whitemaas dance.

Rock-a-bye bots
whistle a selkie maelody,
an’ sweengan halyards
tip-tap the rhythm
oan swayan
mainsail masts.

A lazy Northerly swael
rolls in by the breakwatar
while shimeran
hulls tug oan thur tethurs,
tormented bae the push an
pul o’ the sea.

Lorraine Bruce     September 2020
Original Painting by Lorraine Bruce

The Fast Train to Papay – Lorraine Bruce

Wan fine day in the middle o June
Wae the snow lyan thick under a pandrop moon.
Wae heeded off fair excited an happy
Fur wae hid a ticket fur the fast train tae Papay

Wae took wur sates an strapped wursaels in,
Wettan an watchan fur the fun tae begin
The whistle blew or id could a been reed
Bit I ken wae set off at a hael o a speed

The fursht thing wae saw wis Tammie Norrie
Dansan a queek step wae a lafan scorrie
They twirled among the merry dancers up high
 Green and purple dresses flittan cross the sky

The next thing wae saw wis a scabby mans heed
He wis wearan a coolie made oot o sea weed
Then came a whitema playan a fiddle
Dansan a polka and singan in riddles

Noo a partan wae saw wae ur castanets clappan
Shae wis keepan the baet wae hur muckle toes tappan
A Skeldro wis playan a tune on the pipes
While jugglan three buckies, a caeth and two snipes

Thur wis a skarfie hingan his sleeves oot tae dry
He hid gret treacle wallops aboon peedie black eyes
A selkie wis playan wae a muckle snorry bone
Made fae some simmans an an owld mill stone

Next came Scooty Alan alwis luckan fur a fight
Some say ee’s a pirate, some say ee’s clean gite
Then a spoot wae a boot oan is wan good feet
Tripped um up an kittled um, an made the poor lad greet

Wae soon came tae Papay, brecks skrekan tae slow is doon
Hid id only been ten meenits since wae hid set off fae the toon
A bress band started up is wae stepped doon fae the train
And Doondies dressed in silver passed roond glesses o champagne

The finest maet wis served up, thur must hiv been ten courses
Thaen wae paraded roond the island on the backs o peenk sea horses
Thur wis castles made o bannos and lochs o home brewed ale 
Dykes o fattie cutties an a bridge made oot o kale

Wae got back tae the train is the sun wis goan doon
Happy and exhausted wae heeded fur the toon
Afore wae kent it wae wur back and gittan off again
Am never seen a train is fast is that fast train

Life is too short and thurs such a lot tae see
If yu work too hard hid’ll drive yu ree
In yur life yu should dae things that mak yu feel happy
Why no tak a trip oan the fast train tae Papay?

Drawing by Lorraine Bruce

This Island – Sheila Garson

Photo by Sheila Garson
This island 
	with its sandy ribbons
		its cosy geos
		its busy craigs
		its endless wave-torn shore

This island
	with	its mysterious grassy howes
		its hidden brochs
		its resting places
		its ancient, curvilinear homes

This island
	with	its white, snowy swan
		its tern swoop
		its curlew call
		its skein of feral geese

This island
	with	its field neatly squared
		its road long 
		its ditch deep
		its farm set to a grid
This island
	with	its kye grazing contented
		its seal basking
		its otter hidden
		its sheep and folk entwined

This island 
	with	its soaring Disney castle
		its Douche folly
		its gas tower
		its past cast in stone

This island
	with	its village by the shore
		its helping tide
		its sheltered bay
		its cave, a dark delight

This island 
	with	its face raised to the sun
		its heart warm
		its soul kind
		its soil, a welcome home.

Sheila Garson May 2021


Photos in slide show Sheila Garson

Photo Alison Miller

The Resting Place – Vera Butler

No one did I ken in that kirkyard
They stood aloof in thir weel tended lairs
A place o comfort for many
but not for me.

We met beside the kirkyard wall
Some folk I kent, some unkan tae me,
walking the road tae the shore,
a distance between us no only in feet,
my accent broadest of all.

The shore when reached ower gress and stones
wis a place o beauty and serenity in this mad world,
the Hoy hills so near I could almost reach oot and touch thim.
Comfortingly close tonight.

The film crew – weel a slight exaggeration! – 
guided us throo the movements, 
and laughter and sadness mingled 
beside the cowld blue-black sea.
Fingers numbing wae the sinking sun

Oil lamps and torches noo lit for the final shots,
a feeling of bonding taegither tae dae wir best.
Wid George feel this love o his wark vibrate 
throo rock, gress and earth tae his eternal bed?
Or wis he here wae is?

So here I stood on Warbeth shore as Kittag,
waiting and hoping beside the dark sea
that my man Peter would be washed ashore
and I  would find him dead, 
dead like my feelings for him.
Only then could my life start again, 
without fear and toil and sadness.

Hid felt that night like we stepped back in time
something so timeless in a wey
the power o the sea, the hills o Hoy darkening 
and looming bigger the darker it got.
The rhythm o the waves broken only by the caall 
o the eider ducks silhouetted 
against the dying light in the west 
as they cam home tae roost.

And there we stood reluctant tae leave
till the cowld made is shift. 
Torches and lamps lit wir path 
and voices and accents mingled taegither
as we cam tae the kirkyard wall, and whar 
before I thowt I kent no one, 
I stopped and whispered thank you 
tae a man I'd nivver met.			
George Mackay Brown’s gravestone, carved by Sculptor Frances Pelly. Round the edge is a quote from his poem ‘A Work for Poets’ from Following a Lark, 1996: CARVE THE RUNES THEN BE CONTENT WITH SILENCE

(Earlier in 2021 Vera Butler was cast as Kittag in the St Magnus Festival’s production of The Storm Watchers by George Mackay Brown. They filmed one scene on the shore at Warbeth, near to where GMB is buried.)

Photo Vera Buler

Ode Tae Me Cock

Aye weel ye might glare at me, 
me handsome owld boy, 
bit yir lukkan yer age, there's no mistake 
and weel past yer use by date.

I need a younger model, 
a different blood line, 
and I doot yiv reached 
the end o yir time.

You've strutted your stuff 
for many a day, 
dazzled and kept us amused 
wae your antics as king o the yerd

Dinna luk at me so, as hid’s brakkan me hert
to see you gettan owld and frail
Yer crow more a squawk in yer throat 
and the feathers fallin out o yer tail.

The lasses all gether aroond, 
dae they sense sometheen's amiss?
I reach doon tae grab you, a flurry o faethers 
an I cradle you closs tae me breist. 

I plant a wee kiss on yer heid.
Forgive me I whisper as I bend doon 
and tighten me howld on yer neck 
chist as me granny used tae dae 
I thraw  yir scrawny owld neck

Noo all is quiet, the deed is done. 
the lasses go fendan for worms 
while I'm left wi notheen more tae dae 
bit tae bury me poor deid cock.

Photo Vera Butler

Fishermen’s hut Birsay

Come a Wak wae Me – Greer Norquoy

Along the road the daffodils aer past their best 
Doon the Gaitnip track a bee buzzes by
White sheets flap and crack on Linda’s claes line
A pair o’ oyster catchers fly in unison ower the field o’ breer
The rutted tracks that were puddles a month ago
Aer noo dry footprints in cracked relief.
The vast translucent Mediterranean blue sky contrasts 
Wi’ a deep whale blue sea
The tide is oot, the beds o’ kelp glitter in the efternoon sun.
Daisies, lesser celandine, yarrow, soldiers wound wort
Pepper the tufted gress beside weel trodden
Paths devoid o’ vegetation.
No sign o’ picky ternos at The Castles yit bit
Two eider drakes squabble ower a lone female
Mallimaks sit singly or in pairs
Their raucous caals echo on the Skiba Geo cliffs
While ithers freewheel on the updraft like kites
Larks chorus, peedie specks hoveran high above.
The shore road on the wey back is dry and dusty
Dandelions makan their first appearance along the verges
Sheeps wool clings on tae the shire wire fence
Half an ‘oor o’ blissful solitude, a daily tonic.

Me Luv

O me luv is like a peedie flooer
That grows near Yesnaby
O me luv is that peedie flooer
That’s sometimes herd tae see.

Luv is like Primula Scotica
Weathereen storms aye gaan by
Five hert shaped bluish, purple petals
Aroond a bright yelloo eye.

No wan fur gret big shoowey blooms
Bit wae a beauty none the less
A rare example o’ the luv
Fur which I hiv been blessed.

An’ jist like is hid thrives ower weel
Abune the gressy shore
An’ I will luv thee still me dear
Fur noo an’ evermore.

Twice Blide – Issy Grieve

We hae eens fae aff, comman tae bide
They phoned and telt is, my we were blide
Taakan thir car, they’ll be oot and aboot
Just a bed really, hid ill be grand, no doot.

Thir comman the morn! For whit a steer
Makan the bed, and gan daft dittan oot
Me message list is long, of coorse they’ll need fed
Wae fancy cooked breakfasts and lemon drizzle kek

Sausages, bacon and egg, and plenty o toast
The notion o airbnb, long since lost
More messages yet, rung up at the till
Fancy dinners, hids like feedan a mill

Thir gann the morn, thank the lord for that
Am knackered wey speakan, cookan and bakan
Me dishwasher thinks, am clean lost the plot
Hids been fill and emptied, a helluva lot.

We haed eens fae aff, och hid wis fine
Bed claes are washed, oot on the line
Me auld claes are on, salt fish for wir tea
Blide thir on the boat, crossan the sea.

Atlantic Pulse

Between land and sea
The well worn track
Trod by generations
Is here I stand, slightly back

From rugged edge
With undercut cliff
The grass horizontal
Is where I stand, slightly back

The billowing waves
Crash and roar
Sea spray rises
Is why I stand, slightly back

The guillemots cry
Puffins avoid attack
Bonxies swoop and soar
Yet still I  stand, slightly back

The Atlantic pulse
Draws you near
Forgets your attention
Is hard to stand, slightly back

Someone take my hand
Nature’s magnetic pull
Lures you closer 
Please hold me back 

Where next?

Orkney Voices

Gousters, Glims and Veerie-orums

Alison Miller

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