The Literature of
Orkney and Shetland

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Christina Costie


Christina Mackay Costie was born in Kirkwall on the 6th of August 1902. She grew up with her parents, a sister, and a brother on St Catherine’s Place, and attended Kirkwall Grammar School (then, Kirkwall Burgh School). She later moved to Willowburn Road, where she remained with her sister for the rest of her life. …read more >>

Reading Orkney and Shetland Writing: The Dialogues


During the first part of the project, Writing the North has been exploring Orkney and Shetland literature in the form of  conversations between academic researchers and creative writers.  We started with a series of short pieces and extracts from the early nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth.  We wanted to explore both island writing and the experiences of visitors so we chose a selection of different material from Walter Scott’s novel The Pirate–one of the most popular of the nineteenth century–to the almost unknown poet Margaret Chalmers.  We’ve been looking at novels, short stories, poetry and history. …read more >>

Reading Margaret Chalmers

Guest post by Fiona Piercy

If someone had told me a year ago, when I started a class on 18th century poetry, that I’d go on to write my undergraduate dissertation on the subject I wouldn’t have believed them. Filled with political satire and classical allusions studying poetry of the 18th century seemed a daunting task to undertake. However, nestled amongst the canonical greats, such as Pope and Burns, that dominated the class’ reading list was a poet I’d never heard of: Margaret Chalmers. …read more >>

Rediscovering Robert Rendall

Guest post by Simon Hall

The Orkney poet Robert Rendall (1898-1967) loved European travel almost as much as he loved his home islands. The antithesis of the parochial islander, he travelled extensively, sampling the cultures of Germany, France and Switzerland. He made no fewer than nine trips to Italy, and it was on one of these visits that he and a travelling companion stood on the Palatine Hill, surveying the glories of the city of Rome. ‘Hid’s bonny’, conceded the poet, ‘but hid’s no a petch on Birsay!’ …read more >>

J. Storer Clouston: Novelist

Guest post by Erlend Clouston

On March 30, 1928, a letter from crime novelist Dorothy L. Sayers slid under the door of a stark stone mansion overhanging Scapa Flow. Sayers, then one the world’s best-known female writers, wished to apologise: she had omitted, in an earlier note, details of the fee due to her northern correspondent for including one of his stories in Sayers’ first anthology of detective mysteries. It was her secretary/husband’s fault, she explained: ‘He tells me that the excitement of sending a letter to Orkney distracted his mind as he is himself an Orcadian.’ …read more >>