GEORGE MACKAY BROWN
Under Brinkie's Brae
a long time ago writing an article in The Orkney Herald about
possible fantastic headlines in Heralds to come. One of the
headlines was OLD MAN OF HOY COLLAPSES INTO SEA ...
For some reason a few readers took this bold headline for stark fact; and anxious ex-islanders in the south phoned and wrote, enquiring just exactly when and how the catastrophe had taken place ...
But it seems that, in fact, the imaginary headline may not be so utterly fantastic after all. During Shopping Week* some of us spent an agreeable hour or two listening to Professor R.Miller's talk [with slides] on 'The Natural Environment of Orkney'. One of the slides was of the Daniell print  of the Old Man of Hoy standing on two legs. When one of the legs collapsed has never been recorded; but sometime in the mid-19th century, with an almighty thunder and ruin of falling stone, the cataclysm took place.
Did anyone - a passing fisherman or seaman - happen to be looking when the Old Man lost one leg? It seems not. But Hoy must have been an awed island next morning ... When some day the whole stack slithers under the waves, the whole world will be shaken, such is the fame that the column has achieved in the last ten years.
© George Mackay Brown 1977
from an article in the Orcadian newspaper 11.8.1977 , some ten years after the Old Man had been climbed by Chris Bonnington and others.
* Shopping Week is an annual Stromness event, a gala week in July.
William Daniell's print referred to above. Date may be 1818, not 1814 as George says.
Old Man of Hoy as it is today
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