Writing in The Orkney Herald at the start of the New Year of 1949, Islandman (aka George Mackay Brown) gives us some words to think on.
THE ORKNEY PATRIOTS
It is a bad thing to be narrowly patriotic. Year by year, increasingly we see abundant evidence that Orcadians are becoming more and more attached to their native islands. They go out to discover and record the beauties of Yesnaby, Rackwick, Eynhallow, Birsay. The more sensitive of them attempt to capture the grey subtle Orcadian spirit in art, literature, and lore. This inquisitiveness about Orkney’s past and Orkney’s essential spirit is wholly a good thing, a tendency to be encouraged.
Yet it is essential never to forget that Orkney is not separate and sufficient unto itself, and never can be. Our patriotism need not blind us to the fact that we are only part of a wider, nobler, and more inclusive civilisation, that of Western Europe.
The Orkneyman who sneers at the English and French and Spaniards, and thinks of himself as a pure-descended Viking, is a fool.
PEACE IN OUR TIME
My sincerest wish for 1949 is that Orcadians may come increasingly to know and love the spirit of their own islands. But let us never forget that our broader civilisation is shared by Germans and Danes and Italians. Beyond them again are Russians, and Japanese, and Fiji islanders. Unless we make some serious attempt to understand them, there may not be any Orkney left to explore in 2000AD
The Orkney Herald and Advertiser, 4th January 1949
Another great poet, Hamish Henderson, expressed it thus:
Roch the wind in the clear day’s dawin
Blaws the cloods heelster-gowdie ow’r the bay,
But there’s mair nor a roch wind blawin
Through the great glen o’ the warld the day.
It’s a thocht that will gar oor rottans
– A’ they rogues that gang gallus, fresh and gay –
Tak the road, and seek ither loanins
For their ill ploys, tae sport and play
Nae mair will the bonnie callants
Mairch tae war when oor braggarts crousely craw,
Nor wee weans frae pit-heid and clachan
Mourn the ships sailin’ doon the Broomielaw.
Broken faimlies in lands we’ve herriet,
Will curse Scotland the Brave nae mair, nae mair;
Black and white, ane til ither mairriet,
Mak the vile barracks o’ their maisters bare.
So come all ye at hame wi’ Freedom,
Never heed whit the hoodies croak for doom.
In your hoose a’ the bairns o’ Adam
Can find breid, barley-bree and painted room.
When MacLean meets wi’s freens in Springburn
A’ the roses and geans will turn tae bloom,
And a black boy frae yont Nyanga
Dings the fell gallows o’ the burghers doon.
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