GEORGE MACKAY BROWN website
A Marvellous Journey
A peedie look at the life and work of GMB
of the Week
Islands and again in Hamnavoe, George describes a week in the
life of a Stromness child, c1930, each day having its own character.
was dull, the beginning of the school week and washing day with it's
day-long labour, heat, steam, smells of wet fabrics, with bleach,
soapflakes and blue. It was
the day the Adventure comic magazine was published, but it
couldn't have been one of his favourites as he made little of it.
His Monday highlight was having ham and eggs for tea.
Tuesday George thought nondescript but had as its saving grace the arrival of The Wizard comic. He waited with his two pennies outside Rae's shop after the Ola brought the post and the papers, waiting for the spell to be cast, and he was certainly enchanted by the world of comics. In the house were the smells of fire, and hot metal and linen as the previous days washing was ironed on the kitchen table.
had a certain excitement being Mart Day, Stromness buzzing with
busy-ness, farmers and their wives clinching deals and shopping. Horses were on the streets as well as bikes and carts.
Farmers stood around at the Pier Head, smoking pipes,
occasionally exchanging a few words.
his spirits began to lift, heading towards the end of the week.
It was 'half-day', early closing for all the shops.
George describes a quietness about the town until the arrival of
the Orcadian which people read standing there in the streets or sitting
in their windows. As he remembers it, it was the old folk who read the
newspaper. More relevant to
him, Thursday was the day the Rover came out. If he had managed to save any money, he could go to the
pictures in the Town Hall to see Tom Mix and Felix the Cat –
was fragrant, he remembered in adulthood, evidence of his lingering
delight from boyhood: freedom in the afternoon from the prison of
school, the expectation of a glorious weekend.
Even if it didn't turn out quite as joyous as anticipated, Friday
nevertheless had the flavour of all the best that could possibly be.
He put on his Life Boy uniform of blue jersey, blue stockings
with white stripes, and a sailor cap.
In the church hall various activities awaited; netball and
fretwork perhaps. And for
George, it was the greatest day: The Hotspur appeared, a boy's
paper full of school stories which he loved most of all.
of the fragrance may have been due to Friday being his mother's
cake-baking day. She shared
a fire with a neighbour to bake sponge cakes, shortbread and all light
was prescribed. Most people
had their best Sunday suits to wear to the kirk.
Mary, George's mother, always had a poke [paper bag] of sweeties
to make the long sermon endurable.
was a time for home made cakes for tea, but then the idyll was shattered
as the prison house loomed again.
Those children who hadn't done their homework on Friday or
Saturday now had to face the inevitable, settling down by lamplight in
winter, after Sunday tea.
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