Sunday, June 16, 2019

Trowie tragedy. Wind farm proposals blamed



(With thanks to Rev Couth Rivvens (retd) for this contribution)


As can be seen from the photographs which accompany this instalment of North Notes, disaster has struck the burgeoning community of trowies just off the main A970 near the Heights of Olnesfirth. It is understood a combination of the recent northerly breezes and marauding sheep have caused some of the trow offspring to come to grief, either through being wedged in crevasses, or simply falling over and being unable to rise from their prone positions. One trow has complete lost his (or her – it is difficult to ascertain gender among trows) hair.

The invisible presence of trows in the empty hill land between the Flossy Loch and the Burn of Eela Water has been an accepted fact for many generations, but their more public advent in recent times is thought to be connected with the prophecies of the 18th century hermit known as the Shunn of Sheenabrek. He it was who warned, in a statement made while he was being forcibly removed from a Christmas service at the old Hillswick Kirk, of ‘a great advent of whirling wheels in the sky over Hamargrind Scord’, which is now thought to be reference to the impending Contracts for Difference auction  regarding the Viking Energy windfarm at the Lang Kames. 

The Shunn also said, as he was submerged in the sea off the West Ayre by Kirk minister Rev Humpff Bailliwick in an effort to shut him up, that ‘the Trows of Flossy will stand guard against wind farm developments anywhere in Eshaness’, a  statement little understood at the time by  those watching. However, the appearance of, initially, a mother and father trow and what is clearly a flourishing offspring, followed by perhaps a dozen much smaller creatures (known as ‘micro-peerie trowies’, and once extremely common in North Roe) has caused much conjecture locally as to the relationship between windpower developments and the trowie population, so long well-nigh dormant, except in Bressay.

Suggestions that electric fencing and windbreaks be erected to prevent sheep causing further alarm, despondency and injury to the trow population have been vetoed by locals, concerned at the possible effect on the many tourists who stop to photograph and occasionally bend the knee in trowie-worship. 

A proposal for grant funding to carry out a consultation on possible trow-protection measures is understood to be on its way to the SIC, and meanwhile, anyone passing is urged to stop and rescue any fallen or wedged trows. An application for retrospective planning permission to site what is called ‘suitable trow accommodation’ nearby has been with the SIC Planning Department for, it is said, over 20 years.

There are no plans for any major windfarm developments in Eshaness. Yet. Though it is understood some steps have been taken.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Seven Waves - the finished installation


From now until September, the 'Seven Waves' installation by Erlend Brown and Dave Jackson is open to the public at St Clement's Church, Rodel on the Isle of Harris. See posts below for details.

Based on the the cycle of poems by George Mackay Brown called Tryst in Egilsay, which have been specially translated into Gaelic for this project, the spectacular sails painted by Dave and Erlend meditate on the tragic - and inspiring - events on Egilsay, which saw the martyrdom of  the Earl who would become Saint Magnus.

Seven Waves was opened on 1 June by Jane Ryder, chair of Historic Environment Scotland, the organisation which manages St Clement's.

All photographs by Lea Schuetz-Cohen






Friday, May 31, 2019

First pictures of 'Seven Waves' installation at St Clement's, Rodel, Harris



'Seven Waves' opens at St Clement's Church, Rodel, Harris, on Saturday 1 June, and will be there until September. The huge 'sails' painted by Dave Jackson and Erlend Brown to interpret George Mackay Brown's poem-cycle 'Tryst on Egilsay', about St Magnus, Earl Haakon and the murder of Magnus offer a breathtaking counterpoint to the stunning medieval architecture of this ancient Hebridean kirk.  All photographs by Lea Schuetz-Cohen.

A write-up on the project is in the latest Orkney News.


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

St Magnus sails into the Western Isles


     
Wave One: Earl Haakon, by Dave Jackson
     
     One of Europe’s greatest martyred peacemakers celebrated in Harris.     

             ‘Seven Waves’ is the first major art installation at historic St Clement’s, Rodel.


              Historic Environment Scotland (HES) welcome art collaboration  “of                               international  importance”


              George Mackay Brown’s ‘Tryst on Egilsay’ translated into Gaelic

              Interpreted by artists Dave Jackson and Erlend Brown – George Mackay                        Brown’s nephew

              Opening 1 June by Jane Ryder OBE, Chair of HES
 
Wave Six: The Men of Egilsay by Erlend Brown

The links connecting Orkney, the Western Isles and Scandinavia will be celebrated this summer in a major contemporary art installation at St Clement’s Church in Rodel, Harris – managed by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and recognised as the finest medieval building in the Hebrides.

Dave Jackson and Erlend Brown’s Seven Waves is an interpretation on a spectacular scale of George Mackay Brown’s cycle of poems ‘Tryst on Egilsay’. It’s the story of how, nine centuries ago, the devoutly Christian Earl Magnus Erlendsson, joint ruler of Orkney and Shetland with his cousin Earl Haakon, under Norwegian oversight, was betrayed and murdered on the island of Egilsay, ushering in an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity in Northern Europe.

Each poem, in English and translated for the first time into Gaelic by Ruairidh MacLean, is matched with a huge hanging canvas ‘wave’ suspended from the St Clement’s roof.

George Mackay Brown called the martyrdom of Magnus ‘the most precious event in Orkney’s history’ and Seven Waves makes explicit the Western Isles – and Scotland’s – Scandinavian heritage.

Ruairidh MacLean:

“Old Norse and Gaelic interacted a lot, especially in the Western isles. A very high proportion of the place names in the Western Isles are actually Norse.”

Dave Jackson:

“Erlend and myself have interpreted George Mackay Brown’s beautiful and insightful poetry in a way which conveys both the haunting physical landscape of Egilsay and the huge political and metaphysical power of what happened there. St Magnus’s martyrdom and his search for peace in a viciously warlike world has resonated down the ages and is as powerful a symbol today as it ever was.”

Being able to mount the exhibition in St Clement’s was both a thrill and an immense privilege, Dave said

“This is a building of worldwide historical importance and enormous spiritual and emotional power. Erlend and I really hope our art and the poems about one of Europe’s greatest religious and political martyrs is both appropriate and inspiring in this context. It is a real privilege to be here and tremendously exciting.”

Erlend Brown said his uncle would have been happy with the project:

“George would have been pleased with the translation of his poems into Gaelic as his mother (born Mhairi Mackay) was a Gaelic speaker from Sutherland and she was a strong influences as he grew up.”

Claire Whitbread, Exhibitions Manager for HES, said the organisation was delighted to be involved in the project.

“It’s wonderful to have been able to bring this truly extraordinary art installation to Harris, and to be able to stage it in such a historic and atmospheric space has really created a special experience. We have worked closely with Dave and Erlend  and believe that Seven Waves complements St Clement’s architecture and spirit, as well as bringing together aspects of Gaelic, North isles and Norse culture in an effective and moving way.”

Seven Waves is open to the public from 1 June until 1 September.


The official opening of Seven Waves is on Saturday 1 June, 6.45 for 7.00pm, St Clement’s Church, Rodel, Isle of Harris, HS5 3TW. 

Part of an earlier installation of Seven Waves at Birsay in Orkney

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Ollaberry Hall Sunday Teas: the summer of feasting begins

Martha arrived in a wet and misty Shetland at 9.00am off the NorthLink ferry Hrossey, and the islands were looking grim: grey, grumpy and not even slightly summery. It was no welcome for a returning Northmavinite on a week's break from medical work. And scant reward for a night on the uneasy North Sea.

But light and lusciousness were looming on this dreich Sunday. My daughter is 25, and so for a quarter of a century ( she began young) she has known the scintillating glories of Shetland Sunday Hall Teas. And Ollaberry is the king. Or queen. Or democratically elected community leader.

Some will say the teas on the West Side of the Shetland Mainland are as good. Others that the legendary island of Whalsay offers more and better baking. But I am not allowed to go to Whalsay (it's a long story) so I am unable to judge. BBC Radio Four made a documentary about Shetland Sunday Teas and did go to Whalsay. It certainly sounded good.

The truth is that all the Hall teas - where local folk, mostly women, get together to produce savouries, sandwiches, soups and homebakes in spectacular style and quantity, raising funds for the hall and local charities - are fantastic. My own local hall, Hillswick, is superb. It's just that Ollaberry, in my experience, has the edge.

In the book my son James and I wrote about our love for Shetland and its way of celebrating through food, Ollaberry and its teas feature heavily (so do Aith and Walls, actually). I know this is a sensitive subject. But today, all roads led to Ollaberry. For Martha, the holidays were set to begin there.

And as we dropped off an old steam ironing press at the Bruckland SCRAN recycling centre, the cloud and haar began to lift. As we arrived at the Ollaberry Hall, just beating a bus party of tourists, the sun began to shine. And inside, a very heaven of sweet and savoury delights awaited.

This was Ollaberry at the top of its game. From the array of sandwiches, including gluten free options, through other breads, cajun and sassermaet sausage rolls, mini pizzas, vol-au-vents, savoury bacon buns, quiches and other such pies, I tried to restrict myself and failed. But the cakes. The fancies, as they're called in Shetland...it was the delicacy and precision as much as the amount. And just when my plate was full, my tray teetering, there were the puddings...

To drink? Tea, coffee, and..."do you still do Coke floats?" asked Martha, wistfully remembering all those childhood Sabbaths.

"Of course," said Frances. "We haven't been asked for one for a while, but..."

And there it was. Forget your Proustian Madelaines. A dod of ice cream in a glass of Coca-Cola and suddenly the past was rushing through the bloodstream (I had to try it) helped along the way by some unexpected Pasteis de Nata action. Because in Ollaberry, baking does not stand still. Fancies are internationally renewed, constantly reinvented.

Damn, I forgot to mention the scones, fruit loaf, home-made jam, and of course the raffle.

The holidays begin in the Ollaberry Hall. You should definitely try it.