Sunday, 20 September 2015

Storied Memories

“We cannot live fully without the treasury our ancestors have left to us.” – George Mackay Brown

Folklore and the importance of.

I speak of what I do not know. I do not know the tales of my local area. I believe they have probably been lost a long time ago. There are a few places in Britain where the past seems to seep into modern life, as if our ancestors haven’t quite lost their grip on us mortals. Orkney is one of those places (the Outer Hebrides are another, and Kilmartin Glen a third) and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit a wonderful story telling couple for Peatfire Tales

We were taken into a time not so long ago, and one which could almost have been true. But whether the stories were true or not detracts from what it was all about. It was about a connection to the past, and tales that our grandfathers might have listened to, when they sat at their own grandparents fire on Orkney. The tales, are probably not all that different around the world, but they give us a connection to a place and to a time and for that they're special.

It is easier to learn the tales of these northern places. The places where there seems to be more of a hidden life in these glens, within the tumbling waters and under the gentler light of the northern sun. The lands still hold the memory of what they once were; there are fewer housing estates, fewer mines, although the damming of the lochs and the planting of the plantations have done what they can to obliterate our past. The glens still hold the secrets: it's there if you know where to look. It was there in the raven's eye which caught mine as it was riding the wind at the top of Stac Pollaidh, it was there in the wren that woke me from my sleep in my one outdoor shelter. It was there when I swam in the Allt Ruadh last wednesday, taking half an hour to get in the water, and being unable to leave it once I was in. It was there in the tumble and splash of water, in the wren's warning click, in the midges, the heather and the blaeberries. The tales are still there; they are just waiting to be heard.

The tales of your place. Do they hold you? Can they be heard? Are they still there amongst the grass, in the canals, the whisper of the water voles and the calls of the peewits? Just don't let them disappear - that's my only word of advice for today.