Today, Friday, Magnus Linklater CBE and Professor Emerita Kristin Linklater, will receive Honorary Fellowships from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) at St Magnus Cathedral along with the many students who will be graduating.
On the eve of the graduation the UHI Annual Lecture for 2017 took place in The Orkney Theatre, Kirkwall. The lecture took the entertaining form of a conversation hosted by Councillor John Ross Scott (Chair of the Board of Orkney College) with Magnus and Kristin Linklater.
The relaxed mood to the evening was set with entertainment in the foyer by the Applied Music students. Once inside Orkney’s theatre Dr Bill Ross, Principal of Orkney College UHI explained the extent of the UHI and its diversity. The UHI began its Annual Lectures in 2002 but it was in 2004 that Orkney last hosted it.
John Ross Scott took over and was joined on stage with both Magnus and Kristin Linklater. The conversation ranged over the decades and generations starting with the family upbringing, early life in Orkney, moving to Easter Ross and finally the siblings going their own ways to pursue their individual pathways.
Kristin reflected on growing up in the Linklater home in what is now the Merkister Hotel. Set at the lochside the children were outdoors all the time. An early childhood of adventures on the loch and long walks to the Dounby School. Lively family gatherings took place with mealtimes being described as dramatic. Both siblings fondly remembered their mother’s inability to cook potatoes quoting their father, the writer Eric Linklater, quoting RLS Weir of Hermiston:
“Get me a lass that can plain-boil a potato, if she was a whure off the streets.”
Moving to Easter Ross to be in touch with the literati, the family went their separate ways as they were eventually sent off to boarding school.
Three of the four Linklater children went on to university but for Kristin she took another course following more in her mother’s footsteps and went to drama school. Teaching was at first a means to earn a living and then a move to the United States opened her eyes to a different world. A world of civil rights. Kristin explained:
“I had to look at the world in the way I had never before”.
In the states she set up the Shakespeare Company in Massachusetts where also her son was born. Eventually she went on to found The Company of Women “to support the struggle of girls’ voices”.
For Magnus Linklater graduating from Cambridge and an almost accidental career into journalism led him on a different pathway. An encounter with journalist Quentin Crew resulted in him getting a job with the Daily Express in Manchester. Many anecdotes were recounted from both Magnus and Kristin of the famous people they had met over their careers.
The siblings’ mother, Marjorie, on her return to Orkney was an “enormous source of energy“. She was instrumental in the formation of many organisations in the islands such as the St Magnus Festival and the Pier Arts Centre. She was also active in the campaign to prevent uranium being mined in Orkney and Save the Seals. Magnus recounted when as editor of The Scotsman his mother would write several letters objecting to the ‘leaders’ in the paper as being pro-union. This eventually resulted in him censoring one of his mother’s letters.
In 1999 Kristin bought her house in Quoyloo which she has now developed into an internationally renowned voice centre. She speaks fondly of her team who continue to help her at the centre and which “helps to make me feel part of this community.”
Asked what one piece of advice they would give to today’s students Magnus recalled his father’s ‘Art of Adventure’ where you can make safe choices or risky choices. “Embrace the bolder, take the riskier choice”, he said
Kristin described it as moving into life, to find out who you are in this life. Quoting T.S. Eliot “In my end is my beginning.” She went on:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
The evening closed with a vote of thanks from Vice Principal, Professor Crichton Lang.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame