Poetry Corner: Hoy

By Richard Wallace

Hoy stands on guard

as she always has.

Hoy, the pride of Orkney.


The Old Man of Hoy

looks on.


Hoy watches over

The Pentland Firth, the North Sea

and flirts with Scapa Flow.


Hoy is in command

of the tides and the currents

of water that surround her.


She does not accept criticism

and makes no apologies.

She sees no need.


The birds and the seals are her guests.

People who come to pay homage and

trample her heather are her guests.


The crofters who dug up her peat

were her guests.

All of them; everybody and everything.


Crofters who built stone houses,

stone barns and stone fences.

These crofters were her guests.


Lairds who prospered

from the toil of their crofters

were her guests.


The Island of Hoy

never favored one over the other.

She offered no judgment.


The Island of Hoy

allowed life to unfold

as it should or should not.


She accepted the wind and the rain;

driving rain, driven by the wind,

the work of the devil.


She accepted the sleet and the snow.

Sleet and snow to kill the new born lambs.

Sleet and snow to kill the mother sheep.


She accepted the blizzards that dashed the

surprised yoles on her rocks or

drove them out to sea.


She accepted all of these elements

that were unable to weaken her resolve.

Weaken the resolve of her people.


The Old Man of Hoy looked on

without malice or benevolence;

never favoring one over the other.


Hoy accepted the young folk,

eager and optimistic,

building their houses and barns.


Young folk raising families

and filled with hope.

Birthday parties and school bells ringing.


Church bells ringing and

people making plans.

Dreams of a sound future.


Hoy accepted that people

would move away.

People who were proud to be from Hoy.


Hoy never welcomed people

or cried when they left.

She did not pass judgment.


The Old Man of Hoy

looks on.

old man of hoy silhouette martin laird

Old Man of Hoy silhouette photo: Martin Laird


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5 replies »

  1. Phew. I’ve read it three times through, already.
    Hoy, over-looking all, through time. Phew.
    Could anyone set this to music?
    Can you hear it? A kind-of rolling tune – like the waves, passing Hoy?

    • Bernie Bell, thank you so much for your comments. They mean so much and if you know of anybody who can put this to music go for it. I don’t care about copyright or any of that. I especially thank Fiona Graham of The Orkney News for the care and thoughtfulness in presenting my poems, and thank you, Richard

      • You’re very welcome, Richard. It’s good to read …good things! And good to see that folk are observing, thinking, and interacting with the world, in this way.
        Here’s something……………..


        In particular, the comments.
        Orkney is full of talented, and creative, musicians. I’m hoping one of them might pick up on your words, and make the tune. Eamonn? Fiona- As-Was-Driver? Jo Philby & Elaine Grieve?
        We’ll have to wait and see!
        PS I have a bit of a thing about Hoy, over-looking all – overlooking the Neolithic Heart of Orkney, and our activities, down the millennia. Food for thought, and for poetry.

    • One evening during our 6 months stay in Stromnes we went over to the community hall on Hoy and were treated to music, poetry, and no shortage of sandwiches, cookies and apple juice. This poem, Hoy, is for anybody to use for whatever purpose. If you know of somebody who can make use of it pass it on….Richard

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