Born and raised in Stromness in the Orkney Islands' Mainland, Orcadian artist and historian Bryce Wilson writes with warmth and humour about growing up in post-WWII Orkney. Included in these entertaining personal recollections are delightful tales never before in print, featuring luminaries from Orkney's cultural scene of days gone by and continuing on into present-day Orkney Islands life.
Among Bryce's friends mentioned in this book are numbered the beloved Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney and Christopher Fry, along with Orcadian painters Sylvia Wishart and Stanley Cursitor. Less-known but no less delightful, Orkney's own "Spice Girls" - a middle-aged accordion and fiddle trio who once drew enthusiastic crowds to the front bar of the Royal - keep company in Bryce's tales with Margaret Atwood, Barbara Rae RA, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Charles Dickens' great-great-grandson and the occasional royal.
In the voice of a natural and good-humoured storyteller, Bryce gives the origin story of Orkney's infamous "Back to Denmark" movement, tells of the early days of Stromness' world-class Pier Arts Centre founded by Margaret Gardiner (with a little help from our author) and how Orkney's fine museums, in which he had more than a hand, came to be. Given equal importance in this faceted tapestry of a life are reminiscences of happy summer holidays spent with Uncle James and Auntie Cathy on the tiny island of Graemsay set beside stories that might be considered larger, such as communal efforts to have Orkney's Arctic explorer Dr John Rae recognized for his incredible achievements. Bryce's tales travel further than Orkney, as did the man himself and his many sea-faring Orcadian forebears, taking after their Viking ancestors. The author visits Egypt, Russia, Spain, Thailand and Borneo and heads home to tell of touching reunions between Orcadians and their Canadian Metis relatives, born of old ties between Orkneymen and their work for Canada's Hudson's Bay Company.
Liberally enhanced with the author's own full-colour art, his original poetry is sprinkled through this islander's life story. Personal reflections and art provided by some of his many talented friends add to the amazingly broad picture of Orkney life presented in this lovely memoir. Writing of a time and a way of Scottish island life now vanished, Bryce Wilson's memoir is a rich treasure of tales for all who love Orkney.