The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

Rackwick, Hoy March 1954, a poem by John Bremner


Written in 1954 and submitted to a local newspaper by John Bremner, author of the book Hoy, The Dark Enchanted Island (published by Bellavista Publications, 1997)

Hid in the mists of the northern seas
Lie the storm-swept isles of the Orcades
And far famed Scapa Flow
Here, where the biting northern blasts
There chilling breath o'er the islands cast
The Roman conquerors had passed
Two thousand years ago

Here where of old wild songs were sung
And the wassail-bowl was passed along
By the stormy Pentland shore
Here, where the Norseman settled his home
Round Rackwick Bay oft flecked with foam
From whence he sailed the seas to roam
In the halcyon days of yo're

Here in this dark deep vale of Hoy
My home of old when a carefree boy
Live the sons of the Vikings still
Fearless and true to their plighted bond
They have made their mark in the lands beyond
But yet at heart they still are fond
Of the cot at the base of the hill

The white-washed croft on the "brest o' the brae"
What tales it could tell of a bygone day
When life was a joy sublime
Ever the gods of war o'er a peaceful world
There banner of hate had yet unfurled
Ere our bravest and best had to death been hurled
In a cause that was deemed divine

That croft on the brae is empty now
The hearth is cold where once the "lowe"
Off a cheery peat-fire's blaze
A welcome gave to all whose feet
Did wend their way to the ingle seat
For neighbours here were wont to meet
In far-off happier days

And the well-tilled fields that of yore we knew
Have long lain "leg", and the early dew
Of morn un-noticed falls
On the rigs that once with golden grain
Waved in the Zephyrs that fanned the plain
And the crofters life was no spent in vain
In his humble straw-roofed halls

Old times have changed and the trend today
Is to win to wealthy by the shortest way
But what of the years ahead?
"Ill fares the land, to ills a prey
Where wealthy amasses and men decay!"
And the pear-fires flame, round Rackwick Bay
Will soon be cold and dead.

John Bremner