It’s a North Ronaldsay tradition, that on New Years Day at around 3 in the afternoon, we gather around the standing stone, at the edge of a field with a mysterious neatly cut but off-centre hole. I’m not sure anyone really knows what this standing stone or the hole is about but every year we anoint the hole with a dram!
Once everyone has arrived, we hold hands in a circle around the stone with a bit of accordion music, played by an islander to keep us in time! We go around in one direction, then change, we might do this a couple of times, depending on how cold the accordion player is getting!
After the dancing, we’ll pass around every bottle of whiskey that’s been brought and take a nip from each one, I was pleased to discover that it isn’t an old wives tale that a tot of whiskey warms the cockles! After 3 nips, I was pleasantly warm again, so we went for another turn around the stone!
Finally breaking up and making our way up the island to the home of Ian Scott; North Ronaldsay’s born and bred artists, sculptor and co-organiser to some of our biggest social events through the winter months.
I’m reliably told that 20 people attended the dance, all of which partook in a dram and some cake at Ian’s, a few people came later and there would’ve been people coming and going for much of the day. It’s a lovely cosy atmosphere for bringing in the New Year, tucked up around a roaring fire, a dram in one hand and a selection of cake, biscuits and crackers making the rounds.
Not to toot our own horn but when North Ronaldsay puts on a doo, we do make an effort and that effort has been translated through the generations, as was obvious last night with native islanders, kids and grandkids of native islanders, incomers, friends and family of the incomers all gathering together to see in the New Year together. It’s really quite an incredible thing that so many people from different walks of life have woven themselves into the fabric of this small island and it’s traditions. We’ve all thrown our lot in with the natives and incomers that have come to mean the world to each other.
The connections made through life define us and I’d wager there are few places left in the world where such a strong sense of community still lives. On this 5 mile long island, with a population of 50 or so, everyone knows each other, everyone knows each others business, every aspect of our lives is interwoven into everyone else’s and because of that unity, the people who live here will never be just fellow islanders, we’re family.