From One Island to Another


Since childhood I have been fascinated by islands, and for 27 years I was fortunate to live in the Hebrides, firstly as teacher on Colonsay, and latterly on Islay. Holidays were almost always taken on other Scottish islands. Each one different, each with its own unique history, and all endowed with a wealth of varied landscape and abundant wildlife.

In combining my interests in islands and writing, I have written many poems about islands and I hope, one day, to put them into a new collection. In these poems I aim to capture something of the essence of each island. I have visited almost all of the inhabited islands of the Hebrides and a few uninhabited islands have been explored too. Each island has resulted in scores of photographs, wildlife records and a poem or two. One visit is never enough. I hope to be able to return to all of them.

Colonsay where I was Headteacher of Kilchattan Primary School from 1991 to 1997, and Islay where I have lived since 1997 will have a prominent place in the collection. The rest will range from Lewis to Vatersay in the Outer Hebrides; from Skye and the Small Isles to Gigha in the Inner Hebrides and from Orkney to the Clyde islands. I will probably include poems from Lindisfarne and from the islands of the Pembrokeshire Coast.

The poems will be concerned with landscape, people, natural history, history and incidents that have captured my imagination. As long as there are islands I will continue to visit and write about them so this project is likely to continue for a very long time. In the meantime, some of the poems have already appeared in magazines and anthologies, and it is likely that others will follow.

From One Island to Another

there is nothing
to show there's land 
	across the sea.

When clouds convert to mist
	that sits 
on the sea's surface, 
the mind relies on memory 
to add the lines of islands, 
	the rise of distant hills.

When mist drifts and lifts,
the outlined islands,
shapes of distant hills
	emerge like wraiths,
like shadows of themselves,
until sun scalpels through,
reveals each detail
against a blue so clear,
the miles of ocean 
seem to disappear 
and I could walk 
	across the water.

This poem, First Published in ‘These Islands, We Sing’ – Ed. Kevin MacNeil, Polygon, 2011, was written about the view from my Islay cabin but it applies equally to the views from many other islands.

In 2015 this poem featured on the Crionn Photography website along with some beautiful photographs of views from Skye.