Tuesday, 28 May 2013


Wirdsmit Group members at the Brownie Cottage
By the time the lottery funding had ended, it was clear that the Wirdsmit Group should continue and the obvious home for it was the George Mackay Brown Fellowship. GMB himself gave encouragement to young writers who approached him, and many did. For some months now Wirdsmit has received support from the group set up in his name, particularly from Pam Beasant, as well as from Louise Graham of Orkney Library & Archive, who applied successfully to OIC's Culture Fund to allow the group to carry on.

And it is no wonder the group continues to attract interest and support, for the quality of work that they produce never fails to impress.

Below is a small selection of clips from the two workshops members of the group have taken part in in the past few weeks. Thank you to those who have given permission for your work to be quoted. 

May the group grow and flourish and the young folk continue to develop their writing. 

'The Fin Not the Shark'

In the workshop in Stromness Library, Alan Bissett led a session on holding back in writing, keeping your reader guessing and wondering, so that they will go on reading. More effective, he told them, citing the film Jaws, to 'show the fin not the shark'. Here are two beginnings that show the young students learned the lesson well. 

Fire licked at Orion’s feet, and yet he still did not move. Smoke billowed around him, rising far into the sky, tainting the clear mountain air. A crow screamed, shooting out of a burning tree. Orion stood still, rooted to the spot, feeling the flames creep up his torso, lighting up the forest round about him. Eventually the raging heat engulfed his head, and he was plunged into darkness. Aisling Philips


The question I had wanted to ask my parents for years pounded inside my head.
‘Mum?’, I asked cautiously.
‘Yes dear?’
But that was it, my confidence gone.
‘Doesn’t matter.’
I twisted a lock of hair around my fingers in discomfort. I guess I was scared,
scared that my life would change forever. Ruisa Connolly

Writing Orkney Nature

A large part of writing is really looking at the world and paying close attention to detail. Two weeks ago a group of twelve young writers went to the Brownie Cottage to do just that, including those moving to Wirdsmit II.  For them it marked the final time they would spend with the younger group members. 

The trip fell within the week of the Orkney Nature Festival and with some help and advice from Sydney Gauld of OBRC and Gaby Barnby from Stromness Writing Group, Amber Connolly brought the youngsters to Orphir to look closely at Orkney nature and write about it.  

An unknown flower and seed head

Tall yellow flowers, they feel soft and smooth. They look like they only opened recently because at the top of the plant there are still buds. The leaves look like small broccoli leaves. There is a gentle, soft, sweet smell. It might have been wild though I doubt it.
I can remember when we first moved to Orkney I was fascinated by flowers, after all there weren’t many in London! When I was seven I loved finding dead animals and having funerals for them in the back garden. I would always put flowers on the graves. Most of the time they even had grave stones! I would always pick the prettiest flowers I could find, as long as they weren’t mums. If I had found these flowers I would have used them. Maya Tams-Gray
PS The flower/seed head was from a brussel sprout plant, so a good guess!


Hen Harrier

Silent bird of prey
Swarming over our heads
Large and hungry, ready to strike
Down, down, further into nothingness.

A rat, no a hare
Captured in talons,
You clutch on, not letting go
Then disappear into the clouds.

Will you return one day?                         

Ellhana Welbon


Writing about a shell from the ‘lucky dip’


The hollow frame of the shell is cold and crumbles to the touch.
It used to contain energetic life, the tiny animal exploring the sea bed. But now it is no longer supporting life, it is dead and dry.
It has been trampled underfoot without a thought and has been mingled with the sand.
One day a young girl picks up the shell, takes it home, and puts it outside her window.
Every day as she opens her curtains she looks at the empty, lifeless husk.
Every day the vicious wind and rain lashes the old shell, wearing it and crumbling it to pieces.
Every day the shell patiently waits.  Finley Tams-Gray


Writing about a stone

Stone cold
Too cold to touch
Open to a new world
Nestled in the ground
Energy gone.

Megan Card 



  1. Julian Branscombe28 May 2013 at 15:00

    Really great writing. I love the poems. There has been some inspiration going on.

    1. Yes, indeed, Julian. Thank you for your comment. I hope some of the young people see it. (Keep your eye on this particular blog because we may get more material from other members of the group.)


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