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Steve Savage Publishers Ltd
CoverInterrogation of Silence

The Writings of George Mackay Brown

Rowena Murray and Brian Murray
sample extract...

From someone who had published almost nothing, Brown quickly became a prolific journalist. For an insight into his regular output we can look at his contributions to The Orkney Herald for September 1945, which included four columns of 'Stromness News', four reports, four articles, three book reviews, three essays and the first of a long series of his column 'Island Diary'. His journalism included not simply reports but also essays and leader columns. As his output grew, he began to move beyond apprenticeship, stretching his responsibility, escaping from its constraints, proving himself as a journalist and, in the process, maintaining close contact with the community's debates and just about all of its activities.

What we see in the writing itself is Brown's commitment to both the social role and the literary discipline of journalism:

'Island Diary' is just three years old.... It was born in very inauspicious circumstances. During those dreadful years of the war, the entire reporting staff of The Orkney Herald was in the forces. Copy was scarce, and space hard to fill ... conceived first of all as a stop-gap, a number of light gossipy paragraphs to occupy the greater part of a column ... That first week 'Island Diary' was very flippant and very gossipy. It concerned itself ... with the fact that ice cream was once more on sale, after five years of enforced absence. It required considerable ingenuity to weave a whole readable column out of that simple fact, but I managed it.

In this 'celebration' of his own column, he was frank about his initial limitations, but not so modest as to fail to take credit for his achievements. What some might see as recycling is another form of effective journalism: drawing attention to his original column, revisiting previous controversies, possibly renewing them. Brown's journalism was not just a response to his muse; he was concerned to make his writing readable and was not afraid to write controversial articles, some provoking strong, even violent, responses from readers.