Oxfam and Robert Rendall’s ‘Orkney Shore’

By Bernie Bell

In the ’comments’ to my ‘Fun With Limpets’ piece, I mentioned that we’d ordered a copy of Robert Rendall’s  ‘Orkney Shore’ from Oxfam, and how I was surprised to find that second hand goods can be ordered on-line from Oxfam as well as shopping in Oxfam shops.


It makes sense, as so much is on-line now – it’s another way to sell successfully and sell more.

‘Orkney Shore’ arrived, well wrapped to protect an elderly book – 1973 – but still with a very tidy dust-jacket….

The parcel included a ‘Thank you for shopping with us’ letter from Oxfam, which says…

“Send us things you no longer use.  Donate your pre-loved books, clothing, homewares and music to Oxfam by post.  It’s free, easy and helps the planet by extending the life of unwanted items. Find out more at https://onlineshop.oxfam.org.uk/donate-clothes?cid=rdt_donate-clothes “

The first thing I read in ‘Orkney Shore’  is Robert Rendall’s Introduction….

“On a shelf in the downstreet window of Cumming and Spence’s shop in Albert Street there stood in my boy-hood days a glass sweetie bottle containing sticks of old-fashioned sugar candy; not the smooth rod-like barley sugar of today, but a genuine confection, crystalized on suspended strings of thin twine and looking like geological specimens of some edible rock-crystal or quartzose rock.  It crunched beautifully between the teeth, the separate crystals dissolving one from the other as the stick was sucked.  The central string was of no account except as a guarantee of orthodox manufacture. In this book the autobiographical thread is the indispensable bit of twine round which local nature lore has been crystalized: the records of Orkney marine life from past and present are the sugar candy.”

Looks promising – full of life of all kinds – and ‘Thank you’ to Eoin Ross for telling me about it!

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  1. I’m now reading ‘Orkney Shore’ and it is as I thought it would be – full of LIFE and things connecting, as LIFE does.

    He writes of when he first started to draw creatures, and says “A bird could be drawn in two sweeping curves from beak to tip of tail….” And this reminded me of the carved bird in Unstan Cairn. I can’t put images into comments but there is a pic of the carving in this piece…. https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/05/05/re-the-boyne-to-brodgar-programme-iii/

    A simple image – clear lines of a bird, swooping.

    He writes… “Children’s games reflect pretty clearly the temper of the times.” And I was reminded of ‘Ring A Ring O’ Roses’ from the Plague years. Are children now making up games or rhymes based around Covid? These days I don’t have enough to do with children, to know – I wouldn’t be surprised if they are, as children are realists about such things.

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