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This report is taken from PN Review 83, Volume 18 Number 3, January - February 1992.

George Mackay Brown at Seventy Roderic Dunnett
The faltering flute-song went out to mingle with the long rush of Atlantic breakers among the reefs, and with the wind surges in the high corn, and with the shouts of the boy an the far side of the hill, fading now. It was a pastoral, a country blessing, a song of peace without end. It drew strength from all the island noises - it put a fleeting beauty upon them - and then returned to itself, completing the pure lyric circle.

            Time in a Red Coat

George Mackay Brown has been hearing island noises for seven decades. The Orkney poet's output currently includes nine collections of poetry, half a dozen volumes of short stories, two longer stories and three full-length novels. He has just celebrated his 70th Birthday, and was this autumn awarded a Scottish Arts Council Award for his Selected Poems 1954-83.

Mackay Brown was born in 1921, the youngest of six. Though his mother came from a Gaelic-speaking Sutherland family, he never learned the language himself. In his twenties he fell victim to TB, which weakened him severely, though he survived its onslaughts to work as a journalist for the Kirkwall Herald, and continues to this day with his regular column for its successor, The Orcadian.

   
At noon he went to the inn.
   Voices, smoke, shadows. He sifted
   One heavy hard gleam from the gossip.
                          'A Writer's Day'


Brown had by that time discovered the ...


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