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Collection of writer George Mackay Brown donated to Orkney library

Papers, drafts and notebooks from poet and author to be catalogued

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Collection from writer George Mackay Brown donated to Orkney library

A private collection work from Scottish author George Mackay Brown, has been permanently loaned to the Orkney Library and Archive.

Coming from the Stromnesshome of the writer's former literary executive, Archie Bevan in Stromness, the first instalment of around 20 boxes received by the Archive contains original manuscripts and unpublished material, including early drafts of the author’s novels and poetry.

Orkney Library and Archive is currently working to turn the collection of handwritten notes, scribblings and well-worn notebooks into presentable objects of literary significance. Glasgow University postgraduate research student Linden Bicket is undertaking the task of sifting through the collection and cataloguing each item. It is estimated that the project should reach completion by summer of 2012.

The end product should be well worth the wait. According to senior library archivist David Mackie, some of the handwritten annotations and dates reveal how long the writer could spend toiling over a single poem or chapter – in some cases the time lapse between drafts is as much as five years.

Mackay Brown’s apparently inexhaustible redrafting provides an interesting insight into his poetry writing in particular, and plays down the notion that verse flowed from the hand of the poet in a moment of creativity, without so much as an ink blot, let alone a correction.

An Orkney resident, Mackay Brown’s enduring love for the islands which provided the primary inspiration behind his greatest works is well-known, and many fans of the author make the pilgrimage to the islands each year.

Visitors are welcome to visit the Orkney Library and Archive, which is open to the public. A list of the papers included in the first part of the George Mackay Brown collection can also be viewed at library website.

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