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Episode 11: Orkney’s Prospero

Gail, Hazel and host Philippa are transported to Orkney as they explore the life and works of the poet and novelist George Mackay Brown OBE. Together with his biographer Maggie Fergusson and Colin Waters of the Scottish Poetry Library, they bring to light a writer who was at once a solitary soul and a raconteur, a lover and a drinker, a member of the Edinburgh literati yet fame-shy. From the oft-recited ‘Hamnavoe’ to the Booker-nominated Beside the Ocean of Time Mackay Brown’s work sings of his island roots, interweaving life and social history with myth and legend. In this month’s travels through the magazine’s archives, Christopher Robbins and Rory Murphy tackle the high falutin literary rap of Finnegans Wake, and there are the usual wide-ranging recommendations for reading off the beaten track too.

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Show Notes

Please find links to books, articles, and further reading listed below. The digits in brackets following each listing refer to the minute and second they are mentioned. (Episode duration: 39 minutes; 59 seconds)

Books Mentioned

We may be able to get hold of second-hand copies of the out-of-print titles listed below. Please get in touch with Anna in the Slightly Foxed office for more information.

– Rosemary Sutcliff’s Roman novels: The Eagle of the Ninth and The Silver Branch (1:30)

Slightly Foxed Issue 63 (2:17)

The Scots Kitchen, F. M. McNeill (2:39)

The Balkan Trilogy, Olivia Manning (2:56)

Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers (3:01)

Boy and Going Solo, Roald Dahl (3:13)

Attrib, Eley Williams (5:15)

Cousin Rosamund, the third title in Rebecca West’s Saga of the Century trilogy, is out of print (5:53)

The Outrun, Amy Liptrot (6:04)

– George Mackay Brown: The Life, Maggie Fergusson is out of print (7:21)

Greenvoe, George Mackay Brown (19:20)

Following a Lark: Poems, George Mackay Brown is out of print (21:05)

Beside the Ocean of Time, George Mackay Brown (21:15)

Finnegans Wake, James Joyce (24:54)

Jeremy, Hugh Walpole is out of print (33:31)

Slow Horses and Joe Country, Mick Herron (34:57)

Leaving Alexandria, Richard Holloway (36:21)

Noctuary, Niall Campbell (37:28)

Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump, David Shields (37:51)

Related Slightly Foxed Articles

Porridge and the Shorter Catechism, Morag MacInnes on F. M. McNeill, The Scots Kitchen, Issue 63 (2:36)

Hauntings, Michèle Roberts on Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night, Issue 63 (3:01)

Sound Nonsense, Christopher Robbins on James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, Issue 22 (25:03)

Other Links

The Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh (7:23)

– ‘Hamnavoe’ by George Mackay Brown is available to read in full on The Poetry Archive (12:58)

Music and sound effects
Opening music: Preludio from Violin Partita No.3 in E Major by Bach
Farewell to Stromness by Peter Maxwell Davies

The Slightly Foxed Podcast is hosted by Philippa Lamb and produced by Podcastable

Comments & Reviews

Leave a comment

  1. C. Garner, Northumberland says:

    ‘I’ve just listened to the SF podcast on George Mackay Brown. Best. So. Far. The subject was so interesting, I wanted a lot more. Good work everyone.’

  2. Charles R. Sheard says:

    Having but recently been introduced to Slightly Foxed, I have been binge-listening to your wonderful series of podcasts, and today arrived at Episode 11. First, I applaud your decision to have a recurring emphasis on writers associated with particular places, as I have always been drawn to such works and authors, and I look forward to seeing where these take me. But of a more important personal note, I was thrilled to hear that George Mackay Brown was your inaugural choice – and to being encountering this podcase mere days after what would have been his 100th birthday is quite the coincidence. His has been a voice I have turned to over two decades now in all moods and manners, finding in his words the salt spray borne over blowing barley, the sea just out of sight beyond the crested rise. When your guests mentioned his sense of connection to the past and the future, I could not help but think of his foreword to Winter Tales, which ends, “Without the story – in which everyone living, unborn, and dead, participates – men are no more than ‘bits of paper blown on the cold wind . . .'”

    While we are all fortunate that so many of his works are currently in print, I for one would not be disappointed if Slightly Foxed were to consider adding him to their catalogue. And thank you so very much for playing a good portion of “Farewell to Stromness” at the end, which when coupled with Brown’s poignant thoughts inevitably tightens the throat with melancholy.

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