Friday, 20 August 2010

Postcard 74: I.M. - Edwin Morgan

Castle Urquhart on Loch Ness

What lies beneath these ripples on the loch?

I am grateful to Professor David Morley and to the Weaver of Grass for alerting me to the fact that the fine Scottish poet, Edwin Morgan, died on 19 August 2010.

You can read about the poet's life here. He was a remarkable man, with a gift not only for writing but also for teaching and translating. You can read an alliterative tribute from Carol Ann Duffy here.

We all have our favourite poems, some of which seem to fit certain seasons and situations. As I thought about Edwin Morgan, my mind flitted back to happy Scottish holidays - and to Loch Ness, in particular, which I had enjoyed seeing on the television programme, 'Coast', earlier this week.

It is not surprising therefore that I have chosen to link through to Morgan's evocative piece, 'The Loch Ness Monster's Song', which you can hear in the poet's own voice on The Poetry Archive site here. It may not be the poet's 'best' poem (whatever that may mean), but it certainly highlights his dexterity with language and, in my opinion, something of our poetic and indeed human fascination with things that are perhaps 'beyond our ken'.

P.S. I had just completed this post when I noticed that a tribute from Crafty Green Poet aka Juliet Wilson had popped up in my feed. Do take a look here.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Postcard 73: All at Sea ...

Puffins again!

A year ago I much enjoyed reading Sea Room, a book about the Shiant Islands by Adam Nicolson, who inherited the small archipelago from his father. Those who follow my blog posts will not be surprised to learn that the Puffins were among the star members of the cast for me - all 240 000 of them. It came as something of a shock, though, to read that some of these Amber Conservation Status birds ended up - and not so long ago - as food for humans.

Last month, we spent a happy afternoon at the Museum of Island Life at Kilmuir on Skye [above]. This fabulous museum is situated between Flora MacDonald's grave and the cool waters of the Minch.*

The visibility was quite good on the day of our visit: we watched a Golden Eagle hovering above us in the distance, and noticed some very strange landforms out at sea.

We looked at our map and discovered that these islands, a mere 12 miles from our shore, were indeed the Shiant Islands.

Above: the stone in the foreground is on Skye.
The Shiants are in the middle distance.
Harris lies beyond.

Above: close-up of the Shiant Island rock structure,
with steep column-like cliffs.

The islands consist of columns of Dolerite, and geologically are more akin to Staffa [of Fingal's Cave] than to the plethora of rock types found on Skye. They are home to huge colonies of Black Rats.

It may only be early August, but already the trees are turning here in South Wales, and there are signs of autumn. I have just read the update on the Skomer Island blog, informing us that following the fledging of this year's Pufflings, members of the Puffin colony have already left their island off the coast of Pembrokeshire for their winter voyage. You can read about them here. I find it incredible to think of these birds travelling so far north ... and then south again!

* On a previous visit we witnessed a scene of the purest light we have ever seen. It may not have been the aurora borealis, but it was the next best thing.