Friday 1 October 2021

Evensong: Jenny Quick


Hum to the Broch of Gurness

Composed and played at the Broch of Gurness in Orkney by Jenny Quick.

Information derived from 
Until the summer of 1929 there was a massive, grassy mound by the shore, known as the Knowe o' Aikerness. Robert Rendall, Orkney writer and antiquarian, was sketching on the knowe (hill),when one of the legs of his stool sank into the ground. On removing some of the  stones, he found a staircase leading down into the mound.  Excavation began that year and, for the first time in centuries, the broch and its outbuildings were revealed.

The broch as it is today
Built between  200 BC and 100 BC,  originally around 26 feet high, with an internal diameter of 65 ft, the broch was a defensive tower, surrounded by small stone dwellings. The whole site was circled by outer defences comprising a band of three ramparts and three ditches. All the available space between the tower and the outer defences was filled by semi-detached stone houses, partitioned to form living areas each containing a hearth, stone furniture and a recognisable toilet. This fortified village housed around 40 families.
Entry to the broch was by processional passage
, lined by houses, on the eastern side of the settlement. 
The entrance way to the Gurness broch tower, lined on both sides by the buildings that made up the village.
 The broch's defensive role decreased over time, until around 100AD, after years of neglect, it was finally abandoned and its upper sections dismantled to provide  building materials for later houses in the area. The structure that remains today is, at its highest, 11.5 feet tall, with a solid base. There are small cells in the  hollow section of the wall, on either side of the main entrance.  In one house there is an underground cellar, containing a still visible spring-filled water tank.
The broch tower from the remains of the Pictish house

It remains a massive, imposing
site, hard by the sea. For those with the skill and imagination to recreate the past in their mind's eye, people the houses and streets, fill the air with shouts, laughter and the workings of tools, it is romantic and haunting in its current abandonment. Best to visit in the brightness of a summer night, when the tour buses from the cruise liners have departed, and you can wander around unimpeded. Jenny Quick's little Hum  provides a perfect soundtrack for this deserted community, built two and a half thousand years ago, with the Orkney wind a constant soundscape.


Mike said...

Mrs I: pictures not showing.

Mike said...

Totally off topic, but it looks like Dame Dick has stepped in the cow pat again. As if giving the Go for the killing of an innocent Brazilian lad wasn't enough? She may be a woman (?) but she gives the females of the species a bad name.

mrs ishmael said...

Apologies, Ishmaelites - I don't know what went wrong with the uploading of the photos, but I hope I have rectified the problem now. Thanks, mr mike, for letting me know, as the post looked fine at my end. It is only a little piece, prompted by a feature on Radio Orkney. I wanted to showcase that strange music and instrument. The musician is also a keyboard artist, teacher, and exponent of the Alexander Technique. She’s not Orcadian – apparently she was visiting Orkney and was inspired by the desolate Broch – said she heard a hum in her head and turned it into music.

Mike said...

Thank you Mrs I. I was looking forward to the pics. If it were just Bercow, or BoJo, or Clinton I wouldn't have pointed it out. Anyhow, interesting to see the pics. Regards, mike.

mrs ishmael said...

You are very welcome, mr mike - glad you found it interesting.

ms prickli patel said...

you truly are an inspiration, mrs ishmael...

yes, what vision you display:

i sincerely believe our syrian immigrants would feel quite at home in the broch.

in fact, as a former probation-officer, would you consider returning to work for the home office on operation warm welcome?


there's some nasty progressive business going down on the previous comment-thread in which i'd really rather not get involved.

mrs ishmael said...

Thank you, Ms Patel, I'm flattered by your kind offer. Unfortunately, Orkney has not a great track record of providing a forever home to our Syrian immigrants - of the four Syrian families who were welcomed to Orkney in 2019, not a one remains. Citing the lack of a mosque, absence of halal food and distance from the great Cities of The South, but primarily because the families hated each other, being from different tribes, two years later they are all relocated on the mainland. Plans are now afoot to welcome Afghan families.