By Bernie Bell
I’m recovering from the first cold of the season – clocks have changed, colds have arrived. I didn’t feel like a big walk, so we went to the Bu, in Orphir, to mooch about a bit, on the beach there.
First of all, we had a look the most recent addition to the way-marker stones and interpretation boards, for the St. Magnus Way, which have been placed on the side of the Orkneyinga Saga Visitor Centre at the Bu.
I have previously admired Frances Pelly’s carvings, which are placed in Happy Valley https://theorkneynews.scot/2019/04/16/something-about-stone-carving/
….and was interested to see her most recent piece. The theme of this section of the St. Magnus Way is hospitality, and Frances’ carving shows fishes, loaves, and a bowl of fruit, with the symbol of the St Magnus Way, carved into the apple.
The lowest section of the carving, asks “How have I ….of all men…deserved a feast.”
And I ask – isn’t everyone deserving of, if not a feast, at least enough to eat?
The interpretation board, designed by Iain Ashman, provides background information, and a map of this section of The Way
There are so many meanings to hospitality – there is the “If we only have one egg, the guest will have that egg”, kind. There’s the “We have nothing, but we have open arms”, kind. The “Come in, I’ll give you shelter” kind. The “Sit yourself down and have a drink” kind. With the Vikings, sometimes it was the – get them drunk then burn the house down around them – kind.
At one time, the drinking hall at this site will have been a place of rousing hospitality. The remains of the hall are still there, tucked in by the wall of the kirkyard
We then mooched on the beach, looking back towards the remains of the round kirk, which I wrote of here https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/10/13/the-old-kirks-of-orkney-vikings/
This beach always has pleasing stones, with lines and patterns on them, and, this time, we found an interesting bit of metal chain, looking very much like it was ready for a boat to tie up at any time…
Is this a flooded quarry? Or a little pool, in among the rocks?
And, a very fine lichen – shows how clean the air is.
Then back to the Visitor Centre to avail ourselves of what Paddington Bear would refer to as ‘The Facilities’, and have a look at the exhibition about the Orkney Viking Sagas, where we noticed a genealogy of the Viking Earls of Orkney, some of whom looked strangely familiar…….
Einar ‘Wry Mouth’ – Jeremy Paxman?
Sigurd ‘The Stout’ – Robbie Coltrane?
Guthorm – has Mr Spock been time travelling?
And – that Joanna Lumley gets everywhere!
You could go along, and see if you can recognize any more familiar faces!
The exhibition includes a drawing by Iain Ashman of what the settlement there might have looked like, back in the day. I particularly like this, as, for me, it gives such a strong idea of how that little bay may have been – it’s not all that different today, and there is still a working farm there. I can’t help thinking that, whenever the folk at that farm, dig the land there, they’re likely to find links with the past?
The Orkneyinga Saga Visitor Centre, is a community-run project, so if you have visited there, and appreciated the facilities and hospitality of the local community, your Danegeld will be welcome!
On the way home, we called by Leigh’s fast food van in the Finstown car park, for some very yummy vegeburgers……
….and I realised that the St Magnus way-marker stone and interpretive board for the section leading to Orphir, are there, in the Finstown car park – again designed and made by Frances Pelley and Iain Ashman
We realised that, inadvertently, we’re walking the St. Magnus way. We go for a walk, we notice the symbols – bit by bit, they will connect up…………..