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Fiona Shaw stars as Beatrice, the leader of a Hebridean convent in AD

500, in Judith Warner 's retelling of the myth of the mermaid who lost her voice after falling in love with a man.

Director Michael Fox. Stereo

Genome: [r4 Bd=19920702]

Unknown: Fiona Shaw

Unknown: Judith Warner

Director: Michael Fox.

Maire: Kate Lonergan

Manus: Colin Kerrigan

Iain: John Branwell

Conn: Kieran Cunningham

Crimthan: James Quinn

Micheil: Robert Calvert

Rachel: Saskia Downes

Harpist: Clifford Lantaff


Poet Kenneth Steven has a special relationship with the small Hebridean island of Iona, set in the Atlantic off the west coast of Scotland. It was the place of learning and worship in the 6th century, when St Columba brought Christianity from Ireland and set up a monastery, and today it still has a spiritual quality for many of its visitors. Kenneth has visited since he was a child and collected stones polished by the sea along its beaches. Today he reflects on Iona's place as a 'meeting of the sea roads, which has had such a profound impact on so many, and has done for longer than we can ever know'.

'..That is why

I keep returning, thirsty, to this place

That is older than my understanding,

Younger than my broken spirit.'.


Poet Kenneth Steven writes on Hoy, the only place of cliffs and mountains in the archipelago of the Orkney islands. Kenneth describes the beauty of the Orkney islands as seen in their greenness and lushness, in contrast to the harsher landscape of the north-east corner of Scotland just to their south. 'These islands seem almost cut out of some richly endowed agricultural shore far to the south and planted in the sea just to the top right of Scotland'. But Hoy is different, the island has a wildness not found elsewhere in the islands.

Kenneth reflects on the relationship between writer George Mackay Brown and the composer Peter Maxwell Davies, who died in 2016. They had met and Peter Maxwell Davies made the decision to live on Hoy in its rugged yet peaceful landscape. 'His falling in love with Hoy was not just a passing whim. He had to win his right to the place in almost fairy-tale like terms. But the peace he had so craved was all about him and his was able to compose; the music that flowed through him could be released at last.'.


Kenneth Steven looks at Rum, a wild and windswept Hebridean island, and responds to its landscape in poetry. Rum is the largest of a group making up the 'Small Isles', Rum, Muck, Eigg and Canna, lying west of the fishing port of Mallaig in the Scottish Highlands. 'I don't know a Hebridean island more beautiful to approach. Every time I do I think of it again as a treasure island.'

Its remote and rugged beauty attracted an eccentric Victorian industrialist, who bought it and attempted to transform it into his own vision of an island home, complete with a castle. 'The castle itself was built of red sandstone and shaped from the Isle of Arran. Greenhouses were brought for the growing of peaches, grapes and nectarines. There were heated pools for turtles and alligators; an aviary was constructed for birds of paradise and humming birds.'

It was not to last, and Kenneth looks at what's left of the island fantasy today, leaving him with a profound sense of sadness.


Poet Kenneth Steven writes on Raasay, an island close to Skye once home to the great Gaelic bard Sorley Maclean. Kenneth describes the history of this 'fiercely traditional island', with its continuing belief in the sanctity of the Sabbath Day - Sunday. 'This was prevalent until recently all across the Highlands and islands; it has faded with increasing secularisation, but on Raasay (as in other Outer Hebridean islands in particular) it remains firm'.

Kenneth looks at two famous sons of Raasay, both born in 1911. Calum MacLeod is famous for building a road across the island when requests for its construction had fallen on deaf ears. 'Over a period of about ten years he constructed one-and-three-quarter miles of road, using little more than a shovel, pick and wheelbarrow.'

But his main interest is in the work of Sorley Maclean, Gaelic poet. 'Gaelic was his mother tongue, the language of the heart, and the poetry he wrote was out of the burning fires of the heart. This was no gentle poetry. Sorley Maclean's people were from Raasay and Skye and the memory of their struggle for justice and for land beat within him like a living drum.'.

05St Kilda20160923

Poet Kenneth Steven writes on the remote islands of St Kilda, where the community is only a distant memory echoed in the sound of seabirds. This is an island far out in the ocean. 'To make the sea crossing to St Kilda a boat is heading into the full fury of the North Atlantic; west of here lies nothing more than Rockall - and then America.'

Once a thriving community lived on the island known as Hirta. 'Not only was there life on St Kilda, there was joy in life. The reports written by early visitors make that abundantly clear: the people made music and danced, they were singers of songs and tellers of tales. They faced hardship together and even death on a daily basis, but this little society held together in happiness.'

But by 1930 the British Government wanted an end to the expense of supporting this remote colony, and the community were forced to take the decision to evacuate. Now there are only the empty shells of houses and the endless cries of seabirds.

'In all the cobbles, concrete years to come

Their islands promises to lie at the bottom of a glass,

Or silent forever in their eyes, a story frozen

Like a fly in the amber of time.'

Producer Mark Rickards.