Saying goodbye again

2 days ago the island laid to rest one of the pillars of this community: Kathleen Scott. She was born on this island and although moved away for many years, she returned to care for her family and spent the rest of her life here.

I confess I didn’t know Kathleen as well I would have liked, as is always the case, we think we have more time than we do. I’d been invited to share a meal with Kathleen in the house she’d recently bought, we were both looking forward to some sirloin steak and chips, but sadly it wasn’t to be, perhaps in another life.

Kathleen, mercifully passed away peacefully after a relatively short battle with cancer, her funeral on Saturday had the best turn out of any funeral I’d seen on the island – over 80 people I’m told, including Liam Macarthur and the crew of the ferry – Kathleen being a powerful force on our pier crew! I’m amazed we all fitted into the bird observatory for soup and sandwiches after the service!

 

Despite the circumstances it was a good day, Kathleen certainly would not have stood for anything less than perfect, even the forces of nature would bow to her will, so as those of us who knew and loved her – gave her a proper send off!

From around 1 pm until at least 10 pm that night, the bird observatory was alive with people, sharing stories, laughing, enjoying each other’s conpany.

 

It’s at times like this though that you can’t help but look at the bigger picture and something occurred to me the morning after the funeral, as everyone was recovering from the night before.

Up until now I had thought it was a good thing that being the youngest here, I would outlive many people on the island, and carry their traditions and stories with me to a new generation of North Ronaldsay islanders but there’s more to the story than that.

As the older people on this island pass on, they’ll take with them a depth of connection to this island that can’t be recorded, measured or replaced, a connection that has been built over generations of living on the island, being taught the old ways from their fathers and their fathers father.

It’s quite something to have known someone for 10 or 20 years but to have known them for 60 or 70…

Every year we have a birthday party on the island, last year’s was celebrating the 80th birthday’s of 5 school friends! 5 people from the same class in school are still together and still friends in their 80’s! Now that is amazing isn’t it? How many of your school friends do you still talk to? It’s this connection through time that’s dying out, not just on this island but from the world in general, people lose touch, move away and ties are broken, but here they exist still.

That’s really quite beautiful isn’t it? But then again I’m quite sentimental.

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