• A bit from me...
  • Holy Island Causeway: user safety
  • Through the eyes of a resident
  • Peregrini Lindisfarne landscape partnership
  • Archaeological excavation on Holy Island
  • Holy Island village hall rebuilding appeal
  • Lindisfarne Castle
  • The amazing journey of an island swallow
  • Natural England Lindisfarne NNR
  • The final committal
  • Having a say in the care of our beautiful coast
  • News from Ford & Etal
  • From the community of Aidan and Hilda
  • From the Vicarage
  • Pause for thought

Dr Ian Kille leading a geological ramble around Holy Island.

A BIT FROM ME Geoff Porter

Dear !*NAME*!,

Welcome to our July issue of Sitezine

The world will be aware of the outcome of the British referendum on the European Union and the 'sour grapes' attitude expressed by some not happy with the 'Brexit' vote. But whilst a 52% majority is by no means a landslide, the United Kingdom is a democracy and will uphold the vote of the majority. Ever a gentleman, the prime minister has fallen on his sword. The opposition party is in turmoil. Watch this space....

Last month I mentioned that our swallows had returned were rebuilding their nest over the front door. Well, after several catastrophic attempts, it seems that their rebuilding skills are sadly lacking. The broken nest has now been abandoned and with it with it the prospect of facing summer without the thrill of following a new brood. A bit like being a follower of the English football team!

This morning as I write the sun sits burningly alone in a clear blue sky. But not for long as Monday heralded the start of the Wimbledon tennis championships. Amongst a pile of ironing Maureen's attention is focused on the TV screen. 'Come on Tim' I shout trying to share in her enthusiasm.

The huge crowds visiting Holy Island over the past week were certainly in for a real treat with 'Lindisfarne' topping the bill at the Holy Island Festival. Outside in Sanctuary Close, beside the Big Top circus, there were displays on the archaeology being revealed from the various continuing live digs being conducted by 'Dig Ventures' and 'Oracle Heritage Services'.

So far as the website is concerned, we have been supplied with information enabling our Etal Castle, Berwick Barracks, Dunstanburgh Castle and Lindisfarne Priory webpages to be brought up to date as well as the causeway crossing times.

Thank you (and welcome back Paul) to all our writers for keeping all our subscribers in touch with Holy Island over the past month. We've even managed to squeeze in a report on the 'final committal of 110 Anglo-Saxon skeletons into the crypt of St Aidan's Church, Bamburgh' from Jessica Turner and an invitation from Liz Walters to have a say in the care of our beautiful Northumberland Coast.

Finally, please note that, as in previous years, this will be our last issue until we return after the summer holidays on 1st September.

In the meantime we hope you enjoy our newsletter and have a great summer.

God Bless - Geoff Porter


Progress: the SSI officer and highways are currently working on a work plan which will then be priced and worked up. It is almost certain to be over 2 years to allow budget provision but is ongoing now thank goodness. I will update you as soon as I have firm dates.

Douglas Watkin
Northumberland County Council

ED: Thank you for taking the time to bring us up-to-date.


'The editor's email' asked if any of the writers team could checkout the archeologists who were digging on various sites during the Holy Island Festival not long before they closed down. I became a roving reporter but I am a lay person in such matters and all inaccuracies are mine. The Dig is a partnership between the Peregrine Project, Durham University and Venture  It was mentioned on the BBC Radio Four Sunday programme.

Two digs took place on the heugh. Paul Frodsham of . One revealed traces of an early medieval building. Paul speculated whether this was the site of Saint Aidan's cell, since he came from Iona where the abbot.(i.e. Columba) had his cell on a ridge. The other revealed a wall. They speculated whether this was a watch tower which the Anonymous Life of Cuthbert refers to with reference to Lindisfarne brothers looking out for fire signals from Farne Island to indicate that Cuthbert had died.

Two human skulls were found in the two digs in Sanctuary Field. David Petts, Associate Director of Durham University's Institute of Medieval and Early Modern studies thought there were hints of a cemetery from the period of the Celtic/Anglo-Saxon monastic village.  At some point this cemetery was seriously damaged and overlaid. They also found the second silver coin (a sceat) so far found on the island. It was dated as between 735-58 and had on it the head of Northumbria's King Eadbert.

Dig Ventures were responsible for Trench 3 on Glebe Field behind the Fiddlers' Green houses. This proved to be chock full of archaeology. They unearthed a cobbled road way and a paved walkway with steps and remains of what looked like a fisherman's cottage.  The finds here were from the later  medieval period, when the Benedictine Priory was established. They found a small fragment of Anglo-Saxon bone from the 9th century and some green glaze pottery from the 13rh century. is a social enterprise. People from all over the world give money to it and come as volunteer.  They hope that this partnership will grow and continue for five years and that local and non local people will volunteer to dig. Then they might find what lies behind the initial finds.

Ray Simpson

ED: Thank you to Ray for looking into and explaining this most recent archaeological development being carried out on Holy Island. In particular, I wait with baited breath as work comes to an end on the Heugh. Will the Lantern Chapel and Watchtower be revealed or will we have to wait for continued excavations next Summer....


A real success at the Peregrini Lindisfarne Heritage Festival

Under blue skies and blazing sunshine the weekend of 25th and 26th June saw the first ever Peregrini Lindisfarne Heritage Festival showcase its range of projects to local residents and visitors to Holy Island. Running alongside the Holy Island Festival, approximately 4000 people enjoyed a range of heritage demonstrations highlighting our cultural past including open pottery firing, spoon whittling and medieval herbalism. The Peregrini Information stand was well attended and the arts and crafts gazebo saw young and old test their creative flair. Face painter Julie Charlton transformed some young faces into some amazing characters and Dr Ian Kille guided people on a geological ramble around the island. 

Earlier this year Peregrini landscape photography classes helped develop the skills of amateur photographers; the photographic exhibition saw nearly 450 people vote for their favourite photograph, the results of which will be advertised soon.

Anyone interested in getting involved in Peregrini Lindisfarne can email me at or call the Peregrini office on 01668 213086.


This June a joint team from Durham University and DigVentures carried out a two-week archaeological excavation on Holy Island. We opened up three trenches- two in Sanctuary Close and one on the western side of the village. The project is interested in identifying remains of the Anglo-Saxon monastery, which would have been much larger than the later medieval priory. This year we tried to evaluate a number of areas of interest identified in an earlier geophysical survey we carried out in 2014 with the support of National Geographic.

In our trenches in Sanctuary Close, we believe we have found evidence for the early monastery. In one trench, we identified a large bank of rubble. On inspection this turned out to have lots of disarticulated human bone embedded within it. Whilst we started dismantling this feature we found two fragments of Anglo-Saxon carving. Both were probably simple burial markers, and one was a fine, if fragmentary, example of the small group of namestones that have been found before on Lindisfarne. This combination of human bone and grave markers suggests we must be close to an Anglo-Saxon cemetery, although it has clearly been badly damaged. As we removed this rubble deposit, we started to find a number of stone settings, possibly gullies, that seem to hint at some buildings in the immediate vicinity. In our other trench in this field, we found an area of flagstone paving and yet more rubble spreads. From this area we found several pieces of metal slag, perhaps indicating metal working nearby. Most importantly, we also found a silver coin of King Eadberht (AD737-58); this is very similar to a coin found during excavations under the English Heritage visitor centre that took place in the 1970s.

In our field to the west of the village we found evidence for a substantial medieval (12th-15th century AD) occupation. A series of walls and floors were uncovered, and we found a number of big rubbish pits, which were crammed with seashells, presumably the debris from baiting long-lines for fishing. We found lots of other evidence for island life in this area, including iron fish-hooks, a fragment of sawn whalebone, many fish bones and distinctive iron nails from wooden boats. Although we did not find direct evidence for earlier Anglo-Saxon activity in this area, we did find a piece of a bone comb dating to the late first millennium AD.

Overall, although we only had a short season, our discoveries have been incredibly interesting and are helping us to focus in on key areas of early medieval activity around the main monastic heart of the island. We certainly hope to return next summer to expand on our work. We would also like to take this opportunity to thanks all those on the island who were so welcoming and kept us warm, dry, topped up with coffee and provided with lots of other forms of support. We'll make sure everyone on the island is kept informed of our work and I'll be back up on the island before Christmas to give a talk about the results of our work and to give people a chance to look at some of the finds we made.

Dr David Petts
Dept of Archaeology
Durham University


It was a dreich morning. Haar drifting across the Island blown by a cold wet sea wind, real topcoat weather, the date Monday 30 May 2016! It's supposed to be summer.

The significance of the day; it was the first public event in the new Crossman Hall. At four o clock the previous day, Ladies of the village arrived to set up for the coffee morning in aid of St Mary's, the Parish Church.
Following a well-tested pattern; raffle ticket sellers with tickets, pens and buckets were set up near the entrance, they were followed by tombola and bric-a-brac stalls, then the hot and cold drinks. For the homemade scones, cakes and savoury tarts, together with jams & chutney, it was necessary to move into the main hall.
The crowds poured in and spent well, raising more than 1,000 for the Church and positive comments for our new building.

For one who has been for so long and so closely involved in this project, it was a great feeling to see this impressive building come to life as a gathering place for our community and others. Already there are several confirmed bookings and a number expression's of interest.

The Trustees have agreed to run the hall over the summer months as a learning curve and have the formal opening celebration early in October when most people will be less busy and able to attend.

One of the outstanding surprises arrived on site in mid-month.
Many of you will remember the Late Dr Janet Backhouse, Keeper of Ancient Manuscripts at the British Library (BL) and author of the beautiful illustrated 'Lindisfarne Gospels'.
The Trustees wanted to pay tribute to Janet and remind visitors that Holy Island is the home of the Gospels. Permission was obtained from the BL to use three plates from Janet's book as murals along the front of the new hall. They are an outstanding feature of the new hall.
Sincere thanks to the British Library, London, for their allowing the use the illustrations from the Lindisfarne Gospels and to Altro Ltd., the specialist Company who provide the panels.

Finally, following discussion with the Families, we have agreed to provide an appropriate hardwood bench in the Hall grounds dedicated to (Tinko and Massey), Tommy Douglas & Clive Massey, longstanding & hardworking Trustees who were taken from us before they were able to see the results of their labours.
Anyone wishing to make a contribution, please contact David Lishman or David O'Connor via The Crossman Hall, Holy Island.
Thank you all.



Anyone walking up the Front Street and turning into the Big Loannin on Saturday night would stop and stare. There was a queue of one hundred standing outside the Hall admiring the Gospel Murals. Was this new installation the attraction - no?

Lindisfarne, the Group were playing in the Hall as part of the Holy Island Festival. Doors opened at 7o'clock and the sell-out concert soon had an eager audience. Things were buzzin and the warm-up musician came on stage early and soon had all singing and laughing. Then it was time for the interval, 30 minutes for a pee, a fag and a drink.

Then earlier than programed the main event began, you could almost feel the new building bracing it's self for the first concert live loud music and Oh Boy did they play.

The Lindisfarne Story unfold from the heady days of the late sixties and early seventies right through to today. The audience responded to the crack and the music. The band over-ran and the evening closed with several encores of 'Fog on the Tyne' and a standing ovation.

Thanks to all, especially the Techs & Riggers, who made this unforgettable evening possible.


The latest work in the project has been to install a temporary - and rather ugly - drainpipe on the Upper Battery. This is there to help ensure that the 'test panel' - the section of wall where we are trialling new pointing and render - can be kept free of water from the waterspout above, from which rainwater otherwise simply runs down on to the panel. The drainpipe connects to the spout and then discharges onto the surface drain on the battery. If successful it is likely we will try to install a more permanent downpipe, although not in the same position as this one, and probably not the same grey colour! This would still then discharge into the surface channel, but a new drain would need to be installed to link to one of the historic holes in the wall - just visible below the parapet wall as you walk up to the Castle.

This throws up another side to the work here in that we may have to lift the stone flags on the Upper Battery to see what historic drainage still exists and how, if at all, it could be reused in a new drainage system. I mentioned last month that the Lower Battery had been lifted partially during a drainage survey and any work on the Upper level would be to the same end. Where it differs slightly is that the area we would be looking at may contain more definite archaeology relating to the old fort; being nearer the parapet walls where the guns were fixed. There is also the faint possibility that should we hit the summit of Beblowe Crag - as we have already in another test pit on the Upper Battery - we may even be onto the pre-Castle levels, but that is an outside bet at best.

Inside we have been looking at how we can improve visitor experience at the Castle once the work is done. Some of the Castle is going to need new electrical cabling so it makes sense to install this while plaster is off the walls and so last month we met with one of our engineers to discuss this process. One important impact this could have is that we have the chance to improve the lighting scheme in the Castle with new and repositioned lights. The Castle was electrified in 1970 but as we present the place as it would have been in about 1910, the lighting can feel somewhat inauthentic. If we were able to electrify certain collection items (like chandeliers and wall sconces) then we might get back to something akin to the way the Castle was lit a century ago. Sockets will also be discreetly placed near fireplaces to give the option of using modern fake fires, which are surprisingly realistic these days. So along with the building being given a lick of paint (to say the least), when the project is fished the whole visit should show a notable visual improvement.

In terms of next year we should soon be in a position to let everyone know what is happening and when; the work programmes are being finalised and tender documents nearly ready to go out. It all suddenly seems very real!

Meanwhile at the shop Mel has got the new plant bench for the back garden, which sounds trivial, but in fact means that she can expand her garden range to include more variety of plants. Given the poor weather and frosts earlier in the year it is just as well she has left this until now, although given how wet June has been we won't get too excited just yet. Inside there are plenty of promotions going on and with summer due on the Island anytime there will be related stock arriving soon so look out for that.

Lindisfarne Castle
01289 389903


Many of our island Swallows are feeding their first broods of young after a slow start to the breeding season caused by the cold and miserable weather of April and early May.

This delayed their arrival and when they did get here they faced a shortage of flying insect food, so vital to rebuild their strength after the long migration from their African wintering grounds. Their minds must have been on survival rather than settling down to nest.

One male Swallow which arrived back on the island perished, probably because of this early shortage of food. But because he was ringed he has given us an insight into just how demanding their lives can be.

I've been ringing Swallows on the island for more than a decade. Once a Swallow has a tiny uniquely-number metal ring it becomes an identifiable individual and we can gain a lot of information if it is recovered. 

This bird was found near the Crown& Anchor by Shelia Lishman when she was picking up litter which seeming increasingly to be left around the village. Noticing it was ringed, she put it in her freezer until she contacted me.  When I collected it I found it was an adult male with beautifully long tail streamers.

The ring was one of a series I'd used on a brood of five chicks I'd processed in June 2011 in Tommy and Beatha's garage in Lewins Lane, one of my regular ringing sites.  Tommy was always delighted by the Swallows in his garage and down at the beach. I know he'd have been fascinated  by this one.

Ringing has shown that male Swallows usually return to the general area where they were born. Females don't and that appears to be nature's way of avoiding in-breeding.

It's reasonable to assume that this Swallow had returned to the island annually to breed somewhere around the village, perhaps even back in the garage where he fledged, but succumbed to hunger soon after his final home-coming.

Because we know its birthplace and age, it's possible to calculate how far this particular bird has travelled in its five years of life.  Swallows which breed in Britain and Western Europe winter almost exclusively in South Africa.  From the island that's a round trip of about 20,000 miles. Our Swallow will have completed that journey five times, a total of 100,000 miles.

But that's just its migration mileage to and from the island. It will also have travelled thousands more miles out hunting while breeding and feeding young here and during its the winter months in South Africa.

This typical male Swallow with long tail steamers shows its iridescent blue gloss in bright sunlight. [ Photograph: Tim Dean]

But, of course, those are just the bald statistics. Just as remarkable are the details of those migrations.  Recoveries of ringed Swallows from our region show that when they leave in autumn they move down the coast, feeding as they go and often roost at night in reedbeds. Many have been found in vast roosts near the south coast before they cross into France.

They then move southwards through Spain and Portugal, usually still managing to find abundant insects if the weather is kind. They then reach the Mediterranean to begin the toughest stage of their journey with many new threats.

Firstly, they have to avoid new predators which specialises in hunting passing migrants. One of these, Eleonora's Falcon, named after a 14th Century warrior-princess and national heroine of Sardinia, is so fast and agile that it can easily fly down Swallows and Swifts. It even delays its breeding on sea cliffs until the period of peak migration so its young can be fed on a diet of easily-caught tired birds.

Most Swallows cross the western end of the Mediterranean. On several autumn visits I've watched many hundreds skimming the waves through the Straits of Gibraltar, to reach North Africa. Then they face sudden changes in weather. Baking heat, bare mountains and arid desert can all take their toll.

Swallows face stark choices: They can either head directly southwards across one of the greatest natural barriers on earth, the Sahara Desert. Or they can opt for the longer and still very hazardous route down the Atlantic coast of Africa. Whichever they take, predators, starvation and heat exhaustion are all threats.

Those which overcome these hurdles reach central Africa where they can again find abundant food to fuel their onward journey. Their destination, South Africa, provides much easier conditions enabling them to feed, rest and rebuild their strength.  Then, of course, by the following February and March they have to do the same journey in reverse.

Considering all the threats and problems of these epic migrations, it always seems marvellous that so many Swallows manage to return and delight us each spring. Our Lewins Lane bird must have been a tough little character to survive five such amazing migrations but he may well have been typical of island Swallows.

Taking all problems into account, a lifespan of five years might seem remarkable. But the British longevity record involves a Swallow found freshly- dead in Hampshire 11 years after being ringed in a local nest.

It must have travelled over 200,000 miles on migrations alone and that's the equivalent of flying to the Moon and half way back. Not bad for a bird weighing less than a 1 coin.


The shorebird season is almost half way through now and we are starting to see chicks emerging throughout the Reserve. Soon after tern and ringed plover chicks hatch they can be extremely mobile using the whole beach to feed and rest. This makes it even more important for visitors to our amazing beaches to take heed of signs and keep dogs on leads or at heel throughout the Reserve. All species of tern have been well represented this year and hopefully this will translate well into birds fledging and returning in a couple of years to breed back at Lindisfarne- time will tell.
Despite most wildlife being 2 weeks behind where they were last year because of the weather there are orchids and wildflowers painting the dunes with a splash of colour. Northern Marsh, Early Marsh and Pyramidal Orchids can be seen amongst others in various stages throughout the Reserve. 

Last weekend we were at the Holy Island Festival with a stall and spoke to the public about Lindisfarne NNR. We had volunteers Gill and Colin helping and making badges and flappy terns with the kids (and big kids). We also had pictures drawn by pupils from Holy Island and Lowick First Schools displayed which were really eye catching for people passing the stall.
Events to look out for in the future are our annual Shorebird Celebration at the Window on Wild Lindisfarne on the 23rd of July, Seal Safari on the 20th of August (booking required) and Yoga on the North Shore on the 21st of August (booking required).

Mhairi Maclauchlan
Reserve Warden, Beal Station,
Tel: 01289 381 470

ED: Mhairi's blog and facebook page can be found at and .


The final committal of 110 Anglo-Saxon skeletons into the crypt of St Aidan's Church, Bamburgh took place on Friday 24th June.

A poignant and moving ceremony to mark the final committal of the Anglo-Saxon Bowl Hole skeletons was held at St. Aidan's Church, Bamburgh on Friday. Encased in individual zinc charnel boxes the skeletons have been finally laid to rest in the small second crypt beneath the 11th Century chancel.

The specially created ossuary is the culmination of years of work by Bamburgh Heritage Trust and the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership. The skeletons were excavated between 1998-2007 from the sand dunes to the south of Bamburgh Castle by Bamburgh Research Project. Years of research by Bamburgh Research Project and Durham University in partnership with Bamburgh Castle Estate has resulted in an unrivalled wealth of information about our Anglo-Saxon ancestors who were living in Bamburgh 1,400 years ago.

A beautiful horse drawn antique hearse brought the remaining ten charnel boxes from Bamburgh Castle to the church and the skeletons were accompanied on their final journey by the staff from Bamburgh Castle and archaeologists from Bamburgh Research Project.

The ceremony was led by the Canon Rev Brian Hurst with the Venerable Peter Robinson, Archdeacon of Lindisfarne. The Canon Rev Hurst said "It seems very fitting that these individuals have found their final resting place in the crypt of St Adain's church - they who may have known King Oswald and his gentle bishop, Aidan - they who would have known a church on this site and may have known that here it was that Aidan died. It is almost as if the crypt has been waiting for them to come and offer them this peaceful resting space."

The service included a talk by the author Max Adams about the wider historic importance of Anglo-Saxon Bamburgh and Graeme Young, the director of Bamburgh Research Project, covered the archaeological significance of the site. A particularly moving element of the service was when Tom Clark read 'The Seafarer', an Anglo-Saxon poem, in original Old English - the very language that these people would have spoken and heard.

Jessica Turner of the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership said "It was all incredibly moving and very beautiful. We are immensely grateful to all those who helped make today possible."

The skeletons are now secure in the second crypt behind a stunning grille designed and made by local blacksmith and artist Stephen Lunn. Stephen's design is a modern interpretation of the AngloSaxon knot with animal heads reflecting the zoomorphic tradition in ancient Celtic art and the 3D knot work reflecting the Anglo-Saxon - the two artistic traditions that merged in St. Oswald's Bamburgh and resulted in the Golden Age of Northumbria.

Jessica Turner -
All photographs are by Ian Glendinning -


The Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership is inviting local people to have their say in an exciting new project to care for our beautiful coast.

With support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the AONB Partnership is working together with Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Seahouses Development Trust and Natural England to develop a new project which will look after the sweeping sandy beaches, rolling dunes, village greens and community spaces, farmland and grasslands, which make up our coastal environment. These areas all need careful care and management to maintain the landscape, protect the plants and animals that live here and enable local residents and visitors to explore and enjoy it.

If funding is secured, the new Coast Care project will support volunteers of all ages to care for and nurture this exceptional landscape. There will be opportunities for volunteers who want to contribute on their own or as part of a group and those who are able to make a regular commitment as well as those who just have a couple of hours to spare. In short, there will be something for everyone. The project team are keen to hear from anybody who would be interested in supporting this project as a volunteer.

Cllr John Woodman, Chair of the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership, said, "The Northumberland coast is very special to all of us who live here and it is really important that we create ways for local people to look after it. The project will provide training, expenses and support for people who are able to give a little of their free time. Whether a regular weekly commitment, joining a volunteer group, leading guided walks or events or making cakes for meetings or fundraising activities, there will be something for everyone."

The project vision is that by working together, we will be able to make a difference forever.

If you think you could help, please let the AONB know by completing the questionnaire which is available online at All respondents will be entered into a prize draw to win a Northumbrian hamper (winner announced after 19th August 2016). Responses must be received by 30th July 2016.

NEWS FROM FORD & ETAL Elspeth Gilliland

July Events

Every Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday:  Family bread-making sessions at Heatherslaw Cornmill, 11.30am & 2.30pm - free with normal admission

Every Thursday at Etal Village Hall 11am-3pm - St Abb's Pop up Market - lots of lovely local food and crafts

5th-28th July - Exhibition in 'the poultry shed' opposite Heatherslaw Cornmill - Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays 11am-4pm  - An Update on Local History by TillVAS.  Free entry.

17th July - Farmers Market at Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre

30th July - The Handlebards present Much Ado about Nothing at Pallinsburn House.  Fundraiser for HospiceCare North Northumberland.  Outdoor Shakespeare from the inimitable Handlebards, 4 men cycling the length and breadth of the UK (and beyond!) carrying all their props and equipment with them.  Hilarious, original and highly talented.

31st July - 10am - 4pm in Etal Village Hall - Antiques and Collectors Fair.


The founding leader of our community in Norway is a sailor and a pastor.

Last month he brought four staff from his church: the youth pastor, the families pastor, the catechist and the organist. They went running round the island, but the catechist told me he ran three times round Emmanuel Head. I asked him why. 'In honour of the Trinity' he explained. Did he know that Trinity Lighthouse erected that white pillar?

Thank you to those who responded to my article in the June issue. 

In July and August there will be retreats at The Open Gate at North View on seasons of the soul, wholeness and mindfulness. August 26 - 31 is a study week on Aidan, linked to the publication in July of a book, St. Aidan's Way of Mission: Celtic insights for a post-Christian world, written by Brent Lyons Lee, one of our leaders in Australia, and a colleague.

The new Open Gate Wardens have been appointed, Lesley and Kevin Downham. They officially start in the Autumn but will be in and out before then. After years in Business Management, much of which was in the Publishing sector Kevin became a funeral director before his current role as Head of Faith and Pastoral Care in a high security prison. In this role Kevin leads a multi-faith team of chaplains supporting prisoners, staff and prisoner families. Kevin is a singer and musician playing the accordion, concertina and mandolin amongst other instruments.

Lesley is currently Executive Officer for an international charity providing  support to the Board of Trustees and the Senior Management Team having spent a career in providing administrative support in the charity sector. Lesley is a singer and is learning to play the harp. Additionally she is a gifted photographer and enjoys walking and cycling.

Together they love cooking and entertaining and look forward to welcoming friends into their new home on the island.

Ray Simpson
Founding Guardian,
The International Community of Aidan and Hilda

FROM THE VICARAGE Revd Dr Paul Collins

During the EU Referendum Campaign many people asked for the 'facts'. Each side supplied its own version of some of the 'facts'. Many people were disappointed that 'facts' seemed to be in short supply.

Well perhaps the reality is that there are no 'facts' at all.

Yes, we all experience day to day life and we share our experiences by speaking of them to others. But once we open our mouths and clothe those experiences in words and language, we have already interpreted our experience. Those who translate from one language to another are very appropriately called 'interpreters'.

Yes, for the sake of ease we all operate as though there were 'facts' but this is just a convenience, and a convenience which has its limitations.

The world as we know it, life as we live it, our very selves as we seem to be, are all constructed and conditioned by language. And when we speak, whatever the extent of vocabulary we may have, language speaks us, as much as we speak language. Language is game: like all games it has its rules (grammar or conventions). If we do not play by the rules of our language game, we will not be understood. So to speak is to play a game: and that means that language speaks us.

In the Old Testament there is a law about witnesses: A single witness shall not suffice to convict a person of any crime or wrongdoing in connection with any offence that may be committed. Only on the evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be sustained. (Deuteronomy 19.15, NRSV) This is not only about the possibility of a person holding a grudge against another: but is also a recognition that each of us will have our own perception of the experience of an event or person - and that our spoken testimony on its own is not 'fact'.

There is a group of people who do their best to break the rules of language: the poets. They seek to use words and language to create meaning by stretching rules and playing with conventions. They seek very often to take us beyond our desire for 'facts' to a place 'beyond', 'outside' and different from the mundane and the banal. It is my own view that our politicians need to be much more open about the lack of 'facts' and perhaps learn some lessons from our poets.

Stevie Smith's Not waving but drowning is a simple but elegant example of a poet's play with language:

Nobody heard him, the dead man,  
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought  
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,  
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always  
(Still the dead one lay moaning)  
I was much too far out all my life  
And not waving but drowning.

Stevie Smith 1972

Paul Collins
The Vicarage, Holy Island
Berwick-upon-Tweed, TD15 2RX
Tel. 01289 389 216

PAUSE FOR THOUGHT Revd Canon Kate Tristram


These two little words have been called the saddest in our language.  'If only... if only...'  There is a German saying, 'If the word 'if' didn't exist my father would be a millionaire'.  Well yes, he might be a millionaire, but he would not be human.  As humans we can always imagine that things might have been different.  Things might have been worse: that makes us thankful.  Or they might become worse: that makes us anxious.  Or they might get better: that makes us hopeful.  So many of our feelings are involved with this little word 'if'.  As far as we know animals don't think like this, so 'if ' is one of the things that makes us human.

We can play games with history.  I remember in my youth being told, 'If Cleopatra's nose had been half-an-inch longer it would have changed the whole history of the world'.  Why?  Because then she wouldn't have been perfectly beautiful, and Mark Antony would not have fallen in love with her and lost the battle to Augustus Caesar, and there would have been no Roman Empire, and we should have been still in the Iron Age, and so on.  But often our 'if only' is not part of a game, but we are looking back on our lives with regret for lost opportunities.  Some people spend quite a lot of time brooding over things like that.

I think we should challenge our regretful 'if onlys'.  'If only it wasn't too late...'

But who says it's too late? What if there is something opening up for you, something that it's not too late to do?

In the Christian tradition God has an 'if only' to say to us.  'If only you would hear my voice'... he says many times in the Bible.  'If only you would come alive to the things I want to give you: joy instead of sorrow, meaning instead of pointlessness, beauty instead of drabness, goodness instead of evil.'  That is God's 'if only' to us.  We decide how to respond.