Although Robert Rendall (1898-1967) was one of Orkney's most highly-regarded poets, his poetry has been hard to obtain for many years. Edited by John Flett Brown and Brian Murray, this Collected Poems contains all the poems in his four published collections, Country Sonnets (1940), Orkney Variants (1951), Shore Poems (1957) and The Hidden Land (1966), together with many poems which were published in newspapers or survive only in manuscript. For the first time readers will be able to appreciate the true breadth of Rendall's poetic work.
Robert Rendall was born in Glasgow in 1898. His parents came from Orkney and at the age of seven he moved there, going to school in Kirkwall. Most of his working life was spent at the Kirkwall drapers, George Rendall & Co., and he served in the Royal Navy during the First World War.
Although Rendall had no formal higher education, he had a wide range of interests and was highly respected for his contributions in diverse fields. He travelled widely in Europe. A committed Christian, he was a keen painter, a naturalist with a particular interest in shells, an archaeological investigator and a creative writer. He was involved with Sunday School, Bible Class, Adventurers and the Brethren, and was known for his work studying and elucidating Scripture. Forty years investigating the Birsay shore resulted in a standard work on Orkney shells, published in the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Proceedings (1956). His most dramatic archaeological discovery was coming upon the Broch of Gurness in 1929 while painting in Evie, when his stool broke through the ground to reveal stone steps below.
Rendall encouraged the younger poet George Mackay Brown, visiting him regularly in hospital in the 1950s. And it was Robert Rendall's own poetry that secured his reputation, quite apart from his other qualities and achievements. Four collections were published in his lifetime, winning him many appreciative readers. Robert Rendall died in 1967.
'One of the great lyric poets of Scotland ... Key poems include "Cragsman's Widow", "By wi' the Sea", "The Planticru", "The Fisherman" and "Celestial Kinsmen", poems which George Mackay Brown ranked as among the finest written in Scotland in the Twentieth Century. ... One of the great triumphs for Orkney literature in recent years has been the long-awaited publication of Robert Rendall -- Collected Poems, edited by John Flett Brown and Brian Murray. This book brings Rendall's poetic work together in its entirety for the first time.'
--Simon Hall, author of The History of Orkney Literature, on the Writing the North website.
'This new, and first, edition of Robert Rendall's Collected Poems, painstakingly compiled and edited by John Flett Brown and Brian Murray, is a huge and timely undertaking, and a crucial addition to Orkney's literary heritage ... Robert Rendall was a great appreciator with a tirelessly enquiring mind. His life and influence need to be remembered, and his poetry deserves to live, and be read and enjoyed by succeeding generations.'
-- Pam Beasant, Northwords Now
'This has been a labour of persistence and love ... The editors are to be congratulated in bringing to a new public, not only a great Orcadian, but also one of the most remarkable individuals of the Open Brethren. His poetry will endure, and this volume again makes it accessible to a wider public.'
-- Neil Dickson, Brethren Historical Review
'Robert Rendall's lyrics achieve timelessness and universality again and again.
'We older Orcadians realised that another remarkable literary man was among us when a very thin book of poems was published in 1946: Country Sonnets. In fact it wouldn't have been such a remarkable book but for one single poem in dialect ... "The Fisherman" was a rare and perfect gem...
'Orkney Variants, the next RR book, was a box of gems: "Salt i' the bluid", "The winter lift is glintan doon", "See this is Lisa's but and ben", and many more. The mouth of the poet was touched again and again with the Muse's fire.
'The vein must peter out, the pure gold must surely come to an end! There was no sign of it in the next volume, Shore Poems ... The third volume has at least one sonnet that is as fine as any sonnet of this century: "Renewal". There was, in RR's last years, a fourth volume, in which the graph of achievement is on the wane perhaps, but not to any serious extent; his swansong is full of memorable pieces...
'It is extraordinary that a poet of such high endeavour and achievement has never been reprinted. It can't be allowed to continue, surely. We can't deprive young Orcadians of such life-enhancing rare delights.
'I can already -- and not before time -- detect a reviving interest in the work of this modern poet. It is not stuff you blow the dust off; it is "as vivid as a pulsing star". It is an inheritance for all Orcadians, especially the young. It tells us islanders what we truly are.'
-- George Mackay Brown, The Orcadian (1989)