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SOS: MV Naomh Éanna

from breakers’ yard to breaker’s yard . . .?   To all who knew the Aran Islands before the Celtic Tiger came and went, leaving such havoc in its wake, the ferry MV Naomh Éanna (1956-86) is an icon in the aesthetics of the voyage and of saner times. When I went out to live on Inis Mór in November 1968 she was not in service but in Dublin for a Board of Trade Survey. I had to go out in a three-hour crossing aboard a trawler from Ros a’ Mhil in Connemara, in a Storm 10.The Naomh Éanna would not have set out in such conditions. (She was top heavy at the best of times.) Once on the island…

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Agog to go to Gometra

  My great interest and excitement as this year opens up is to travel to Gometra, an island in the Staffa archipelago, just off Ulva, to the west of Mull. Owned and farmed by Roc Sandford it is one of those rare places off the beaten sea-roads and other tracks holding on to community as tenuously as once, not so long ago, the Erne, now commonly to be seen there, struggled but failed to survive human predation. I shall set out from Oban in late May with my journal and fishing gear, my basic food supplies, my survival kit, my bivvy bag, and all the rest. There is almost nothing on Gometra one could class as a modern convenience, I…

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Archipelago Issue 8 on the horizon …

I was in Ireland shortly after Seamus Heaney’s death, in Dublin, then on west to the Aran Islands. Both as seen from the Poolbeg Light on the South Wall at the mouth of the Liffey on a blowy day and rising tide and from a storm-bound Aran, Ireland seemed a smaller place without his presence, somehow empty, empty as a fish-box washed up in the tidemark.   Issue 8 of Archipelago is dedicated to his memory. I’ll not repeat here what I say in its Editorial as to his support for the archipelagic venture. But the issue has for frontispiece a collaborative work by Norman Ackroyd and Seamus Heaney, in which the poem ‘Postscript’ is ghosted over an etching of…

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Weather (not) permitting . . .

'Gannet's Eye View' by Andrew McNeillie

  I should have asked my friend the gannet before I set out, for a gannet’s eye view of the chances. But it was not to be and I knew it in my heart. I knew it in my bones as I stepped off the plane in Steornabhagh (21 May), though I took everything I could as a ‘sign’ to the contrary. My plan was to explore Lewis and then go south to join a party of friends (old and soon-to-be) at Tairbeart on Harris in readiness for the word from Angus Campbell to haste ye to Leverbrugh and embark. It was not to be. I knew it literally in my bones next day as I walked in a bitter…

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A Late Voyage to St Kilda

The New Year is already well underway. The long-hand on the clock is stretching towards the light, as a drowning person’s hand might reach for rescue. Spring is beginning to bury its dead. The evenings delay their roosting little-by-little. And when night at last rises up in the shadows and thickens, on come the desk-lamps, out come the maps and charts, and the serious dreaming begins, in the best spirit of Baudelaire’s ‘Le Voyage’. You should not wish your life away. You only have one. But I would throw all the days between now and the end of May overboard, if I could, and put out this moment from Leverburgh, on Harris, for St Kilda. That is my plan, if…

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Depopulated Shores

Douglas Dunn (Scotland’s greatest living poet), will be giving a reading at an occasion open to the public in the Old Library, All Souls College, Oxford, on 8 November, from 6pm. All are welcome. Professor Dunn’s St Kilda’s Parliament (1981) and a long list of his poems about Scotland’s outer limits were an important, long-term inspiration behind the eventual founding of Archipelago in 2007. Readers will remember that his work first appeared in the second issue of the magazine in the form of a lengthy disquisition – ‘English: A Scottish Essay’ – on the poet’s tongue and its – and his nation’s – relation to the English language. The poem ends, after more than 250 lines, as follows: One day I’ll…

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Ailsa Craig

Those of you who have put out to sea aboard ARCHIPELAGO before will know she is powered by an Ailsa Craig. It’s a thing we take comfort in, as she goes plunging after Seeker Reaper  (Skipper Hay at the wheel) dirling: Long is sgioba,  long is sgioba,  gaoth is gillean, gaoth is gillean . . . Now, after so many months at sea I lose count, and down to our last gugha between us, I am pleased to tell you we have glimpsed land. Issue 7 is almost all in the hold, and we’ll be ready in good time for the men in white coats – the fish-market men – as November dawns on the harbour town and the deciduous…

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High Summer

Geoffrey Hill’s Odi Barbare (see elsewhere on this site) has been shortlisted for the Forward Prize. We send Professor Hill our congratulations and urge readers to order a copy of the book while stocks last. It will not be reprinted. Archipelago 7 is almost all delivered. We have had to postpone at least two pieces to issue 8 having otherwise exceeded our optimum extent. That is, along the lines of the last three issues. Among the contributors: Tim Dee, John Elder, Seamus Heaney, Roger Hutchinson, James Macdonald Lockhart, Michael Longley, Angus Martin, Sandy Moffat, Les Murray, Katherine Rundell, Robin Robertson, Tim Robinson, and other treats and surprises. Among locations touched on: Kintyre, Raasay, Giant’s Causeway, Rathlin, Connemara, Co. Clare, Vermont,…

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