First Lines

As a resource for the project, we took the first lines of fifty Orkney books from the shelves of the Stromness Library, strangely that came to 1,000 words. We then invited Wirdsmit Young Writers Group to take those opening lines and run with them in whatever direction they fancied. We will share those results at a later date. Those First Lines also became the source material for a sound piece, a book illustration competition and a writing workshop. Visitors to the old Stromness Library were asked to select one of the first lines and read it aloud. This audio formed the basis for a sound piece by Mark Jenkins where the selection of first lines become a new story. Music by James Watson. Here is the full collection of First Lines….

Kali sat up in her stone bed filled with heather and thrust aside the sheepskin robe which covered her. The Boy with the Bronze Axe – Kathleen Fidler Orkney has been called an archaeolgist’s paradise. The Islands of Orkney – Liv Kjørsvik Schei & Gunnie Moberg On a wind-blown island off the far north of Scotland, a small town clings to a rocky foreshore. Sea Haven – Keith Allardyce & Bryce Wilson What – what’s that you say? Something strange arrived on the ferry today. Andy from Orkney – Nan Merriweather Islands can range from continental proportions right down to a mere sea-girt platform which is little more than a stepping-stone set in the ocean. A Window on North Ronaldsay – Peter Tulloch The people of Orkney are a mingled weave. Portrait of OrkneyGeorge Mackay Brown North Ronaldsay is the most northerly island of Orkney. Island Saga – Mary Scott Through the kitchen window, where I write most mornings after breakfast, a sky of dove-grey clouds, silver edged, and blue chasms. Under Brinkie’s Brae – George Mackay Brown There was a king called Fornjot who ruled over Finland and Kvenland, the countries stretching to the east of what we call the Gulf of Bothnia, which lies opposite the White Sea. Orkneyinga Saga – Translated by Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards I was born on the 15th of May, 1887, in a farm called The Folly, in the parish of Deerness in Orkney. An Autobiography – Edwin Muir In Orkney the past is never far below the surface. The Little General and the Rousay Crofters – William PL Thomson My earliest memory of Orkney is of a boy of seven standing in a field of daisies at Pipersquoy. Orkney Shore – Robert Rendall The sea is to dwellers in islands what mountain or forest is to inlanders: a place of mystery peopled by creatures that are frequently hostile, but sometimes benevolent. The Folklore of Orkney and Shetland – Ernest Marwick In offering to the public these old-world myths, I must warn the reader that he will often meet what he may be inclined to regard as monstrously extravagant and absurd. Orkney Folklore and Traditions – Walter Traill Dennison I was about to lock up the shop last Thursday night when the roar of a vehicle with a faulty exhaust warned me that Willick o’ Pirliebraes was approaching. Willick and the Black, Black Oil – David Sinclair The traveller to Orkney can choose both route and vehicle. Orkney and Shetland – Eric Linklater Slowly the night shadow passed from the island and the Sound. Greenvoe – George Mackay Brown It was horrible. The Driftwood Fiddle – Harry Berry Sigurd woke as he did every morning, with sea noises in his ear. Pictures in the Cave – George Mackay Brown Thursday on our island is paper-day. Orkney Short Stories – George Mackay Brown A social worker visited an old Orkney gentleman. Lamb’s Tales – Gregor Lamb “Don’t go near the edge, it’s too windy!” Rhubard, Kittens and Me – Kate Barrett The first men to reach Orkney, perhaps four or five thousand years ago, looked on islands similar in size and shape to those of today, but otherwise very different. The New Orkney Book – ed. John Shearer, W. Groundwater & J.D Mackay The town of Stromness in Orkney is protected from the north and west by a hill called Brinkie’s Brae. Dr John Rae – R.L. Richards The township of Redland, in the Parish of Firth, lies about three miles north of the village of Finstown. Reminiscences of an Orkney Parish – John Firth When my father, who had been having health problems for some time, came home from the doctor one day to tell us he was finished with farming, it came as a shock to the rest of the family, who had for so long considered him to be indestructible. Hid’s A’al in a Day’s Wark – R.M. Baikie The Orkney islands lie to the north of Scotland, sundered by what is often a stormy piece of water, the Pentland Firth. For the Islands I Sing – George Mackay Brown The stars were fading into the pale sky of early morning and the gravel was white when Jocelyn set off on her journey north. The Dark Pools of Light – Iris Clyde Looking out from between the two large piles of biscuit tins which made her shop window a fore-ordained also-ran in the contest to find Orkney’s best-dressed window, Mrs Janet Manson, the postmistress of Stenwick, saw three figures coming down the road and recognised them as the the trio of personalities who bulked largest in the parish gossip of the moment. Stenwick Days – R.T. Johnston When I woke among the currant-bushes I saw her coming out of the cottage door with fist round the gander’s neck. Sealskin Trousers – Eric Linklater It was impossible to grow up in Stromness without a sense of the past. Can you help us with the author and title that this comes from? There were three or four men in the smiddy, each in a different posture of relaxation, and the subject was, as always on such occasions, “Weeman”. The Collected Orkney Dialect Tales – C.M Costie ‘Papa Westray’ is a relatively modern cartographer’s invention. A Jar of Seed-Corn – Jocelyn Rendall In compliance with Mr Pennant’s request I undertook the Survey of the Orkney, and on May 4th, 1774, left Stromness and visited the isle of Graemsay. A Tour Through Orkney and Shetland – George Low His name was Lugh, and when he rode into battle at the head of his army, he dazzled his enemies with a radiance like the sun. Tales of Long Ago – Howie Firth In the island of Sanday there is a parish called Burness, and in that parish there is a house called Hellihowe, and next to that house there is a green mound, and in that mound lived a hogboon. The Hogboon of Hellihowe – Tom Muir One wild blustering night many winters ago a number of neighbours had gathered around a rousing peat fire in the Herston district of South Ronladsay. Around the Orkney Peat Fires – complied by W.R Mackintosh The little red rusty Elwick Bay was a familiar sight in Orkney waters for many years. Tales of the Elwick Bay – Bill & Sylvia Dennison Although Pictish Orkney came to a sudden and possibly violent end over a thousand years ago, some kind of sketchy knowledge of the Picts was always preserved. History of Orkney – William P.L Thomson It is not possible to live in Orkney and not be aware of nature in all its forms. Shoal and Sheaf – David M.N Tinch The Orkney Islands lie further north than Fort Churchill, outpost of the fur trade on the frozen shore of Canada’s Hudson Bay. No Ordinary Journey – Bryce Wilson Our lives are governed by the radiations of the sun. Sea under my counterWilliam Groat There is the Pentland Firth to cross, first of all. An Orkney Tapestry – George Mackay Brown Here in Orkney you are never far from the elements, and from a certain understanding of the human condition. In from the Cuithes –  Ed. Howie Firth – (from chapter 1: Orkney: A Ferry Louper’s View by Gerald Meyer) The day is cold and grey. A Countrywoman’s Diary – Bessie Skea The word ‘trow’ comes from the old Norse word ‘troll’, meaning a supernatural creature. The Mermaid Bride – Tom Muir The wind smote the western cliffs and wrestled the ebbing tide, sending spume fanning across the bay. Stromness: A History – Bryce Wilson In times long ago, and even in the writer’s memory, old people believed that the ocean was inhabited by a race of beings whom they called ‘Fin men or Fin folk’. George Marwick: Yesnaby’s Master Storyteller – Ed. Tom Muir & James Irvine A Miss World was born there and so was a poet whom T S Eliot admired as a man of genius. Orkney – Howie Firth Where I shall live when I retire – where I am living now, on leave from the great watershed – there is, at the top of summer, no darkness at midnight. Dark Days of Summer – Eric Linklater


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