3. Letters from Hamnavoe

Seven Books by George Mackay Brown

In February 1971 George Mackay Brown began to write a weekly column for The Orcadian newspaper – a letter from his home town for Stromness exiles everywhere. It became a weekly task that would continue for the next 25 years.

Some four years years after The First Letter was written – ironically during a postal strike – 148 were selected and published in 1975 as Letters from Hamnavoe, ‘light reading,’ he said, for quiet townsfolk on a Thursday afternoon.’ One imagined the origins of Stromness in the first house – a hostelry – built at Hamnavoe at the end of the bay; others pondered the origins of place-names and street-names; various festivals and pieces of folklore; well known writers and local personalities; change and childhood memories; Stromness Shopping Week; and tourists.

Seven Books 3 in the Centenary Book Group series, hosted by the GMB Fellowship and Orkney Library & Archive, was introduced by writer Pam Beasant.

To send feedback or comments, please email us at gmbfellows@gmail.com.

Pamela Beasant

Pamela Beasant is a widely published poet and non-fiction writer. Seven plays have been commissioned and performed in Orkney including A Hamnavoe Man (2006) about George Mackay Brown. 

Poetry titles include Running with a Snow Leopard (Two Ravens Press); Orkney: a celebration of light and landscape, with photographer Iain Sarjeant, and A Crow in the Rear-View Mirror (Hansel Cooperative Press). Other poetry commissions include work in Archipelagos, published by the University of Edinburgh as part of the Writing the North project. Her poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and literary magazines including New Writing Scotland, Slightly FoxedThese Islands We Sing (Polygon), Chapman, 100 Favourite Scottish Love Poems and Scotia Nova (both Luath). 

Non-fiction includes Stanley Cursiter; a life of the artist (Orkney Museum), and St Magnus Festival; a celebration (The Orcadian), and many information books for children.

In 2007, Pamela was the first George Mackay Brown Fellow in Orkney, the Scottish Poetry Library’s Poet Partner in 2008-09, and is part of the Scottish Book Trust’s Live Literature scheme. She directed the Orkney Writers’ Course for the St Magnus International Festival (with co-tutor Jen Hadfield) from 2011 until 2017. 

Seven Books

For these seven online book groups, people joined us from all over the world – Orkney, Shetland, Scotland, England, Poland, Lithuania, Slovenia, Spain, Italy, France, the United Sates and Canada. If you have any comments about the series, 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

8pm Thursday 14 October 2021

Linden Bicket and Kirsteen McCue: An Orkney Tapestry

7pm Monday 11 October 2021

Malachy Tallack: Simple Fire: Selected Short Stories

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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