SITEZINE: Holy Island's E-Mail Newsletter: October 2020

A BIT FROM ME Geoff Porter
photo: Carl Stiansen

Dear Subscriber,

Welcome to our October issue and especially if you are amongst our latest subscribers, we hope we manage to cover at least one of the interest choices you indicated.

Our sympathies with those areas where the world pandemic relentlessly challenges health, income and lifestyles. So many must feel our remote community is safe and comfortable from Covid threat. But the apparent serenity of a duck quietly gliding over the pond surface beguiles the furiously paddling feet beneath. Whether resident or commuter from the mainland to manage our shops we are all concerned over the unmanageable numbers continuing to visit the island - despite the latest Northumberland UK lockdown message...

Regardless, a big thank you to those who visited and supported our brand-new Scarecrow Festival - and a report on it follows from our 'brandnew' curate Sam. Of course Sam is only new as a curate at St.Mary's. Sam and husband Don, helped in running 'Marygate House' in its distant past and over more recent years have returned to take over as Marygate's Wardens - with Sam now well on-course towards ordination.  

Worthy Scarecrow competition winners, with 'tea for two', were Tracey and Kevin from 'Bamburgh View' Some of you may be more familiar with Kevin as the voice behind and his village tour map !!

As well as Sam's contribution and those from our regular writers and Shaun, we welcome the article from schoolteacher Heather's husband, Carl, on his 'WeekEending Show' on from Alnwick. And thank you to those readers who took the time to write to us - some of which are included below.

Enjoy our newsletter - we'll be getting in touch again in November.

God Bless and Stay Safe,

Geoff Porter
Editor (SitEzine)


Dear Editor

A brief thank you for your ongoing sharing of Island life, keeping me and so many others mindful of that special place.

I have regularly visited since the early eighties and look forward to returning once this  annoying virus goes away.

Thank you again for your contribution.

Stay safe,

Stephen W /Dun Laoghaire/Co Dublin

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This is a great read - thank you.

Looking forward to visiting again soon.

Stay safe

Keith B

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Hello, to all, and Geoff:

I just received my newsletter from Smithsonian group and read that birds were dropping dead out of the sky over the Southwest U.S., New Mexico area first noticed I guess.I will somewhat quote, or paraphrase what it said:

Migratory birds, skin and bones look, included owls, warblers, hummingbirds, loons, flycatchers, woodpeckers, etc...

They think it is possibly from our smoke over here on the West Coast, Calif.!!  I'm not surprised at has certainly done me in this summer.

We had days and days of not seeing the sun, then it turns a white, yellow glow w/sun trying to break through!!  I have not been able to go out much and when I do it is MASK time again!!!

Even the usual flying insects that we see every summer are not here this year!!  It seems we are going to have a long-lasting horror story which will come later.  I, personally, don't think we have enough qualified forestry people to know how to take care of our forests.  Well, now they know...a lot of the trees already had damage from beetles, etc.  But it does not take a genius to see that, so I am surprised this finally comes to light.  I'm just a bystander so maybe I should not speak out yet!

Don't ask me if this is officially "climate change" or not (does anyone REALLY know??)  All I know is that over my lifetime, some 80 some odd years, it has grown increasingly DRY, and temps have gone up little by little.  So goes trying to figure out the weather patterns!!

This is about it for now.  And, I always put God in the picture.  Does anyone want to try to figure Him out?  If they do, please let me know!!

OK, God bless you all and be safe.  Watch and document your could be important for you/us...and the birds.

Love, blessings, and onward!!
Please keep your wonderful bulletins coming!!!

Barbara B-R / Redding / California USA

Scarecrow Festival 2020

And we are back! Our children have shown such great resilience and enthusiasm as they have returned to school. Our first few days were spent welcoming everyone back and reminding the children of the old and new everyday routines - some children hadn't been in school since March so for them, it was a big step to take.

Here on the island, Scarlett-Beau and Lily-Ella have enjoyed setting up our new role play area. We are re-creating 'The Shack' which is a stall selling burgers, hot dogs and crab sandwiches. I can tell that the girls have been taking a lot of notice when watching their mums at work. Lily-Ella has insisted we have a flat frying plate to flip the burgers and Scarlett-Beau is enjoying asking us, "Who ordered a burger with cheese?"  This is a great way to encourage the girls to write signs, price lists and menus. Also, real life maths with counting money and beginning to give change is always good fun!

We are enjoying our new topic researching animals and finding out how to take care of our environment. Watch this space for some interesting articles coming soon!

Heather Stiansen

'Pinks' -photo: Carl Stiansen

There is great news this week for fans of all things Northumbrian and nature when 'The Weekending Show' returns to the airwaves on Lionheart Radio 107.3FM on Saturday 26 September at 2pm.

The show, which features Northumbrian chat, gardening tips, nature notes from the field, local music, and stories about Northumbrian heritage, is now also available as 'The Nature Garden' podcast so you can catch up with the shorter version of the show at any time.

Gardening writer, Tom Pattinson; birder, Tom Cadwallender, British Trust for Ornithology; and Steve Lowe, Northumberland Rivers Trust; as well as nature organisations including The Northumberland Wildlife Trust join show host, Carl Stiansen, for the new Autumn series. Carl is a Holy Island resident and produces the show from his radio room at The Schoolhouse. He's been making radio programmes for over 15 years and has worked for the world services including American Public Radio and Deutsche Welle.

Carl said: "The lockdown forced us to record the show in a completely different way as we couldn't use the studio to broadcast live due to the government guidelines. It took a couple of weeks for us all to adjust but the new format is working really well and we've had incredibly positive feedback from all over the world.

"We can't wait to be back on the air on Lionheart on Saturday so if you like a canny bit chat and fancy a cuppa with us when we take 'Tea for Two at 2-ish', please do tune in."

The radio show broadcasts on Saturdays at 2pm on 107.3FM or you can stream it online at or on apps such as TuneIn.

You can join the conversation and send questions or your own nature notes to the team on Twitter @gardenersradio and on Facebook: @TheNatureGarden or email: or via the website:

For more information: please contact: Carl Stiansen: telephone: 07954336033 or email:

Author: David O'Connor

This month saw the hall's first income generation of this year, a year blighted by Covid 19 and in order to facilitate much needed revenue, the hall was closed to local use from 1 to 26 September. This enabled the Archaeologists to operate their Covid 19 protection policy and continue their work on the Island.

The first days of September hosted a small modern dance troupe in final rehearsal for a performance at a Festival in Greenwich over the weekend 12/13 September.

Then our biggest customer of the month, 'DigVentures', moved in: the Archaeologists who have over recent years opened an exciting window on the Island's early medieval history, buried in the Sanctuary Close and on The Heugh.

This year the diggers hope to move down to another layer of material that may expand our knowledge of the whys  and wherefores of the developing importance of this site so closely associated with early Christianity.

And within a day or two of reopening the Close, three coins were recovered, including one bearing Aelthred 11 of Northumbria's name, from about AD840.

When I passed by the hall to check all was well, you could feel the buzz of excitement; "what will we discover next"

An interesting footnote; found amongst the bones last year were the remains of a Killer Whale. Killer Whales are among a number of Cetaceans that are regularly recorded offshore along the NE Coast. They are probably attracted by food: i.e. the significant Grey and Common Seal populations.

If you are interested in learning more about the Island's past visit DigVentures website. It's a whole new world!

Stay safe and well

David O'

Author - Ian Kerr


During October it's always the eagerly anticipated Siberian and eastern rarities which claim the attention of bird-watchers on our wonderful island. But as far as I'm concerned it's two really common visitors, Redwings and Starlings, which create the real wildlife spectaculars.

Redwings, small and colourful members of the thrush family,and the humble and very familiar Starlings pour across the North Sea in huge numbers to take advantage of our normally much more temperate winters.

Redwings create a wonderful sight as wave after wave, often involving thousands every day, pass low overhead in October and November.  Starlings tend to arrive overnight so are much less obvious until, of course, they mark their big regular wintering roost at the Lough with those wonderful and elaborate flying displays known as murmerations.

To be out on a brilliant red dawn and watch the arrival of countless numbers of Redwings or to marvel at huge flocks of Starlings shape-shifting and swirling as dusk falls on the island are among the real wildlife treats of the year.

Redwings breed in a huge arc stretching eastwards from northern Scandinavia through the boreal and birch zones of Russia to Siberia. They are forced to move out in autumn as temperatures drop towards the sub-zero Arctic winter.  Millions then sweep through Scandinavia and onwards into western and southern Europe for the winter.

They are highly nomadic, lacking any real or lasting attachment to any particular area. They simple move according to the availability of food.  During autumn, our Redwings will feast first on the berries of Hawthorn, Rowan, Elder and other fruits of the lonnens and island gardens. Berries are rich in sugars and proteins and are needed to help them "refuel" after their North Sea crossing.  

They'll then spread out across the mainland and as berry crops are exhausted they'll switch to foraging on the ground among the leaf litter for fallen fruits and small invertebrates or in open grassland.

They just keep moving onwards as we get into winter and weather worsens. They are rather fragile birds and don't cope well with frost and snow, another reason why they are genetically programmed to keep moving.

They're by far the most numerous arrivals in Northumberland and along the rest of the east coast. They are really beautiful small birds, if rather misnamed as it's not their wings but their flanks which are bright orange. They have basic brown plumage with heavy dark streaking, much the same as our resident Song Thrushes. But they are distinguished by bold face patterns provide by a distinctive creamy eye-stripe and, of course, by those bright flank markings.

If they've had an easy North Sea crossing and remain fit many simply overfly the coast and continued south westwards. Others spiral down to gorge on those berries and to rest before rising to move on. Some, more tired than others, may linger for a few days.

Some will remain on the mainland during winter but most will press onwards to enjoy the softer conditions of Ireland, Iberia and the fringes of the Mediterranean.

It's not unusual to see several thousand a day pass overhead at this stage although some truly staggering movements have been recorded. For example, one morning back in late October 1991 an estimated 20,000 were on the island and 15,000 were estimated on the Farne Islands.

They'd crossed the North Sea in ideal weather conditions with clear skies and little breeze. As they approached the coast they hit a dense wall of fog. On the island, huge parties spiralling down through the fog, apparently attracted by the lights glowing dimly through the wet gloom.

When dawn broke every tree, bush, lawn and even the streets were filled with Redwings.  The fog then lifted and the vast majority departed as suddenly and spectacularly as they'd arrived. Despite being grounded they were in good condition and able to resume their journey.

Similarly, in October 2017 a co-ordinated effort by birdwatchers produced a count during a single day of around 17,200 crossing the island. But as Redwings migrate on a broad front it's probable that on those particular occasions hundreds of thousands were on the move.  Little wonder that they're our most common autumn migrants.

Redwing showing its orange flank patch Photo: Max Whitby

Starlings don't get a particularly good press. With their reputation for squabbling and bullying other species at our bird tables and the back lawn, they aren't particular popular with public. They're often referred to disparagingly as "stinkers" for very obvious reasons if they happen to take to roosting en masse in local trees.

But you've got to admire their tenacity and skill at exploiting any available food source and, of course, those wonderful murmerations before dropping to roost, usually in reed beds if they are available as at our Lough or in plantations and woodland.

Many non-birders might be surprise to hear that Starlings aren't doing well in Britain. They are on the official Red List of species of conservation concern, breeding populations having halved over the past 25 years.

The vast majority we see in autumn and winter are visitors from Russia, the Baltic States and Scandinavia, driven out, like the Redwings, by the harsh northern winters. They arrive here and live in vast flocks and their presence tends to lull us into a false sense of security about their true numbers.

It used to be thought that murmerations was a way of confusing aerial predators, not allowing a falcon, hawk or owl to concentrate on any particular individual. But as they regularly perform when no threat is evident it could simply be a social thing, perhaps a way of advertising the roost and gaining safety by numbers.

If this autumn and winter the Starlings form their regular roost at the Lough I'd recommend that you go along and watch in the dying light. You can either walk around to the Lough itself or watch from half way along the Straight Lonnen with a clear view across the fields. If the Starlings put on one of their performances I'll guarantee you'll be more than impressed.

Lindisfarne Castle

Over the last few weeks I've been avidly watching the rescheduled Tour de France, and while the riders were dragging themselves up some Alpine Col it occurred to me that this strangest of years has been a bit like a Category 1 climb on a bike. Hard, very hard in places with the occasional relief of a high-speed descent or a sprint for intermediate points, but still the looming challenge summit in the distance. I always think that once the kids go back to school that the year has somehow reached the summit, but 2020 isn't like any year any of us have yet known, and there may well be hidden gradients to come.

For me it has been especially seminal as my 4-year-old started school in September (I know, its flown by), and suddenly the audible sigh I used to let out at the end of the school holidays at the castle - once the mad summer period was over - isn't there anymore. Maybe that's just me, but in the context of the present situation perhaps my September sighs are a thing of the past. I certainly have never seen the island as busy, even with my relatively small dataset of 13 years but I remember the post-crash boom of 2008/9 when we had 100,000 visitors through the castle for the first (and so far, only) time and this feels busier. It is heart-breaking to see all these people on the island and have the castle remain closed but that is the reality we are faced with. Despite numerous ideas and plans and route-designs and so on, opening the building remains incompatible with a highly infectious respiratory disease such as COVID-19. Thankfully the shop has been able to open which has been great to see and I know it has been a busy few weeks for Lorraine and her team.

From Cuthbert Cave

Now, you all know I like an anniversary, and so when you stick the kettle on this coming 10th October you can do so in the knowledge that its been 305 years since the castle was last successfully captured; by the Jacobites, and then promptly retaken by the government. You probably all know the story by now, so I'll not take up my word count with it again, but I was doing some digging and joined a few dots about the real hero of this 'Errington Affair (as I rather pretentiously think of the 1715 capture). Captain Thomas Philips was the officer in charge of the company of soldiers who retook the castle the morning after Lancelot and Mark Errington had taken it. As well as this, out of his own pocket Philips resupplied the castle with provisions and led parties to observe the Rebels' motions and encouraging the Country to take up arms in his Majesty's favour while also capturing the contents of Errington's ship in the harbour and paying his men (and some islanders from whom he'd hired horses) with the proceeds. I've always known about 'Philip's survey of 1742' of the castle which is in the National Archives (MR1/574) but it was only recently when I discovered the Captain Philips of 1715 was an engineer, that I realised it was the same man who produced the survey 27 years later. He was also involved - under the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor - with the construction of Ravensdown Barracks in Berwick so he is a pretty important figure in the military history of this area. 

Best wishes

Nick / 07918 335 471
Instagram @northumberlandcoastnt / Twitter @NTNorthd_Coast 

Photo:  JJD
Photo: JJD

The Reserve is now well on the way to completing its annual transition as the summer breeding birds have begun their long migrations and we welcome the 50,000 waders, geese and ducks that call the Reserve home during winter.

Last week the last of the shorebird protective fencing has been removed from the Reserve. Whilst the fences and seasonal restrictions have been removed it is important to remember that the restriction regarding dogs on leads is still in place across the Reserve. This is one of the byelaws and remains in place throughout the year. Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve is not only an important breeding ground for several species of vulnerable shorebirds but is also a vital wintering ground and refuelling stop for tens of thousands of birds. Waterfowl will travel from the frigid Arctic Circle every autumn to use the vast rich intertidal area to feed on worms, molluscs and eel grass that can be found here. If they remained in their summer breeding areas the ground would be frozen solid and they would have nothing to eat so the mild British winters offer ample opportunity to feed throughout the coldest months of the year. Many of these birds will move in and out with the tide and as a consequence be in direct conflict with people and dogs along the coastline. This is why we ask that dogs be kept on leads at all times on the Reserve even on the beaches. If flocks of birds are continually disturbed they are unable to lay down the fat reserves required to either recover from their migration to Lindisfarne or make the arduous migration back to their breeding or wintering grounds and many perish as a consequence. So if you see a flock of birds along the coast please give them space to relax and feed.

Over the last couple of weeks the first Pink-footed Geese have been returning to the Reserve all the way from Iceland. Numbers of Wigeon and Light-bellied Brent Geese have also been building and are currently at several thousand individuals each. As we head into October these numbers will steadily increase resulting in half the world's population of East Atlantic Light-bellied Brent Geese using the Reserve. It is a reminder of the importance of the Reserve not just on a national scale but on an international one too.

We have recently been able to bring back small volunteering parties to help us undertake our autumn and winter practical program, using strict Covid protocols, so in the coming months we will be busy grass raking, scrub clearing and litter-picking.

We are busy collating the data from the breeding shorebird season but the initial headline is that it has been a tough season for them with several high tides accompanied by higher than normal disturbance. Once the numbers are crunched we will update you with the final figures.

Best Wishes,
Andy Denton
Reserve Manager
Lindisfarne & Newham NNRs


Last month I promised to explain why it is a good idea when photographing galaxies, nebulae or star clusters to take multiple pictures of your target.  Combining plenty of individual exposures (or "sub-frames" in astro-parlance) really helps to achieve the best possible final image.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  One is to help get around the numerous glitches that inevitably occur when taking astronomical photographs.  Another reason is to improve what it known as an image's "signal to noise ratio".

First let me tell you about glitches.  There are so many things that can go wrong to choose from!  One notorious problem is cloud.  Because the night sky is inherently dim, it is necessary to use lengthy exposure times to reveal the fainter details of your target.  I typically use exposures from 60 seconds up to 10 minutes.  During such extended periods, it is not uncommon for a cloud to obscure the region of the sky that you are imaging.  Sometimes this results in the frame being completely ruined.  And sometimes the image is mostly OK, but perhaps a little less bright than it would have been had the sky remained clear.

Milky Way Mosaic
A single sub-frame showing the Leo Trio of galaxies vandalised by light trails from no fewer than three separate satellites that intruded into frame during the five-minute exposure.

Airplanes are another source of trouble.  Their contrails can be hard to spot at night.  But as they drift slowly across the sky, they frequently obscure stars just like clouds do.  Also problematic are the bright flashing lights that all aircraft must display at night.  These cause long intermittent streaks of light in my images if an offending plane travels across one of my precious frames.

Satellites can similarly cause lines of light to streak through my images.  This tends to happen mostly around dawn and dusk, when the sky is dark but the satellite overhead may be illuminated by the Sun.  Satellite trails are generally continuous because they tend not to flash like an aircraft's navigation lights.

The largest and brightest satellite is the International Space Station (ISS) which is a regular visitor to the skies above Holy Island.  It is generally visible for just a couple of minutes as it zooms rapidly overhead.  You can find out the exact times and direction to look by entering "Berwick-upon-Tweed" on NASA's website and then clicking on "View sighting opportunities".

Recently Elon Musk's much smaller Starlink communications satellites are starting to appear in fast-moving gangs of up to 60.  They have become notorious for the havoc they are causing to astronomy, intruding on innumerable photographs.  These satellites are being launched in large batches at a rate of several hundred per month.  Within a few years there will be many thousands flying in low earth orbit.  When a Starlink constellation passes overhead it is hard to miss.  People are concerned that the tranquil beauty of the clear night sky is going to be permanently spoiled and become a fading memory.

To his credit, Elon Musk's company SpaceX has been taking astronomers' complaints seriously.  Experiments are being carried out with sun-shades and with painting the surface of the satellites black to reduce their reflectivity.  Sadly though it is unlikely that any of these measures can entirely fix the problem.

The finished close-up image of the Leo Trio combining data from many individual subframes with a total exposure time of more than seven hours. Notice the sharper detail. The satellite trails have disappeared thanks to "outlier rejection"!

Fortunately other tricks can help.  This is precisely where taking multiple individual exposures can ride to the rescue.  Using appropriate computer software, it is possible to examine a collection of sub-frames and to discard just those specific parts of each image that have been ruined by the satellite trail.  All the good data in the rest of each image can still be retained.  This magical trick - known as "outlier rejection" - is a real life-saver.  Take a look at the two pictures accompanying this article, which show a satellite-blighted image taken from Skylark Observatory on Holy Island before and after application of this repair technique.

The second benefit of taking multiple pictures of an astronomical target is to improve the signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio.  The reasons for this are a little complicated, but essentially light from an object of interest tends to add together from frame to frame to build a stronger signal.  Whereas the random noise in each image tends to even-out.  I feed all my sub-frames into a computer program that churns away for an hour or two and then - if all is well - outputs a finished image showing improved detail.

To see what can be achieved, take a closer look at the second image accompanying this column.  It shows the "Leo Trio" - three distant and varied galaxies that appear close together in the sky in the constellation of Leo.  In this final image outlier rejection has eliminated the annoying satellite trails.  And by combining almost a hundred individual sub-frames, the finished picture reveals intricate details of the galaxies by integrating data that was collected over seven hours on several different Holy Island nights.


In the year 590 AD a terrible pestilence ravaged Italy. The Pope, Pelagius II died of it. His elected successor was the Abbot of Saint Andrew's Monastery in Rome. He is known to later ages as Pope Gregory the Great. Not the best of times for taking on a new responsibility, but he was equal to it. What did he do? Well, there was no churches' lockdown, so he was able to preach to the people a sermon. It was powerful stuff, the main drift being that the people were in a heap of trouble because of their past misdeeds and wickedness ; that they should repent and mend their ways; that they should supplicate God that he turn away his wrath from them.

As we will see, this approach was replicated, centuries later, in the liturgical documents of the English church.

Gregory instructed that there be seven processions, from different starting points, but all to converge on the site on the Esquiline Hill where now stands the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. As they processed, all were to chant the 7-fold Kyrie, eleison. Lord, have mercy.

Legend has it that during the processions Gregory saw a vision of the Archangel Michael standing atop the Mausoleum of Hadrian. He was returning his sword to its sheath; this, a sign that the penance was complete. The Mausoleum was known thereafter as the Castel Sant'Angelo.

To England : over the centuries, England has suffered dreadfully from plagues. We recall the Black Death of 1348/9, a species of bubonic plague, originating, as Dr Lingard informs us, in 'Cathay', that is, China. Now fancy that.

The ravages of the Black Death were, however, largely confined to the lower orders. As Lingard tells us, the quality folks shut themselves up in their castles/manor houses and eschewed contact or communication with the locality.

We have then the plagues and sweating sicknesses of Tudor times; the Great Plague of 1665; cholera in the C19; the mortality rate of the Spanish Flu pandemic following on from the First German War. I could go on.

In this context, I often think of Psalm 91. It is set for the 18th morning. It also forms part of the psalmody for the Office of Compline. Consider v.3: how God will deliver from "the noisome pestilence". The message is emphasized (vv.5 and 6) that we shall not be afraid for 'the pestilence that walketh in darkness : nor for the sickness that destroyeth in the noon-day'.

The message of the Psalm is that God, if properly approached, can ward off or provide relief against sickness.

The Litany of the 1549 Prayer Book, conformably to this, contains a petition to be delivered from (inter alia) 'plage, pestilence and famine'.

The Second Prayer Book of Edward Vl -1552- introduced as one of the Occasional Prayers incorporated into the Litany the prayer entitled 'In the tyme of any common plague or sickness'. I set it out in the original spelling:

O Almighty God, which in thy wrath, in the time of King David, did slea with the plague of pestilence lx and ten thousand, and yet remembryng thy mercye dyddest save the rest: have pietie upon us miserable sinners, that nowe are visited with great sickenes and mortalitie, that like as thou diddest then command thy angel to cease from punishing : So it may now please thee to withdrawe from us thys plague and grievous sickenesse, through Jesu Chryste oure Lorde

Please note the general tenor being that the plague was imposed as divine punishment.

Proctor and Frere observe, laconically, how the prayer had its motivation in the 'necessities of the time', an obvious reference to the 'sweating sickness' of 1551.
After the interlude of Philip and Mary, we come to the reign of Elizabeth 1. This brought us the Third or Elizabethan Prayer Book of 1559. It re-produces the above cited prayer from the 1552 Prayer Book. They certainly needed it in Elizabeth's reign. In 1563, in London alone, over 80.000 died of the plague. Queen Elizabeth self-isolated in Windsor Castle and ordered that anyone approaching from London should be hanged.

Further major outbreaks took place in 1578,1582,1592,1603 and 1607. When Shakespeare wrote, 'A plague o' both your houses', he will surely have known what he was writing about. See Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Sc.i.

We turn now to the Book of Common Prayer of 1662.The Prayer 'in the time of any common plague or sickness' is longer than the earlier versions. It is at least as emphatic in presenting plague and sickness as some form of castigation for wrongdoing ;also in presenting the need for an atonement and seeking mercy on that account. Here it is:

O Almighty God, who in thy wrath did send a plague upon thine own people in the wilderness for their obstinate rebellion against Moses and Aaron, and also in the time of king David didst slay with the plague of pestilence threescore and ten thousand and yet remembring thy mercy didst save the rest; Have pity upon us miserable sinners, who now are visited with great sickness and mortality, that like as thou didst then accept of an atonement, and didst command the destroying Angel to cease from punishing; so it may now please thee to withdraw from us this plague and grievous sickness, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The sources prompting the above prayer, so far as my bible-study goes, are Numbers 16 vv41-50 ; for David, the Second Samuel 24 vv 10-25

I should add that the 1662 Book also included Prayers of Thanksgiving (just in case) for deliverance from the plague or other common sickness.

I am informed, reliably as I believe, that Common Worship 2000 does not contain any prayers for use in time of plague, pestilence, Hong Kong flu etc . Since I have not scoured the volumes of Common Worship to check the matter, I cannot vouch for the existence of the omission; or what reasons there might be for it.

References: Proctor and Frere refers to the 1941 Revised Edition of the History of the Book of Common Prayer.
Lingard is a reference to the 1844 Edition of Dr John Lingard's History of England in 13 volumes.


Last month our Anglican Episcopal Visitor, Bishop Christopher Cocksworth, made a visitation of the Community.  He spent two nights on Holy Island, interviewing the  Open Gate staff, our visiting Deputy Guardian and myself, on the island, and ten others on the Caim Council of the community  by zoom from High Rigg.  He is a good listener and drew out questions we hardly knew we wanted to ask!

He interviewed me at the time of Harem's funeral. How moving to walk past Harem's house and stand as his coffin was carried to the churchyard.

The Open Gate -  completely re-organised to meet Covid guidelines - has now run retreats for just six people, e.g. on cross-stitching and earthy mysticism and mindfulness.  In November I lead a retreat on Dying Well.

A number of residents have commented on the good work Faith and Scott Brennan have done on both the house and garden of Whitehouse.  From March they will live there. They will focus on mentoring small groups, as well as offering on-line training.

Five Urban Change-makers walked Cuthbert Way and were accommodated in the Whitehouse garden for a rounding off session. They work in deprived areas by listening to the residents, identifying their assets, and enabling action.  This was the last day before such gatherings were banned in Northumberland.

In far away Queensland, a frequent Holy Island pilgrim, Heather Johnston, who has placed a trail post signed 'Lindisfarne' on her bush land dedicated to returning Aboriginals,  is preparing to become a CAH Monk.  Although she cannot travel, she wants her zoom ceremony to focus on social inclusion. She points out that  Aidan and Hilda provide excellent models: royalty and no-income monk, male and female. free-er of slaves, recogniser of gifts in unexpected places (Caedmon), foreigner and local Anglo Saxon etc. 

Keep well.

FROM OUR CHURCHES Rev Canon Dr Sarah Hills & Rev Rachel Poolman

Holy Island Churches Together

 Just in the last few days there has been a nip in the air. Autumn is on the way. New school term has started, college and university students are setting off, and for the rest of us, a time to take stock after the summer. It has been quite a few months here on the island. At the beginning of the summer we were still in full lockdown, followed by many thousands of visitors to the island when it was lifted.

It has been wonderful to be able to reopen St Mary's for services, albeit on a restricted basis. Thank you to all who have helped make this possible. We have also just started a Sunday evening zoom service online for those unable to join us but who can access the internet. It is on the first Sunday of each month at 530pm. If you would like a zoom invitation, please do let me know.  And for those who are unable to come into church or to join with zoom, we are trying to keep in contact in other ways - please do let me know if you would like a phone call, or anything/anybody you would like us to pray for.

We had a lovely Harvest with a scarecrow festival - Sam has written about this later in the magazine.

And some very sad news over the last weeks of the deaths of Harm Jan Vreiling, Peggy Teago and Rita Douglas.

Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, friends and all who knew them.

Our Curate Sam Quilty will be ordained deacon this Saturday in St Mary's. Many congratulations to her, and I'm sure you will join me in praying for her on this special day at the start of her ordained ministry among us.

As I write, we have again had covid restrictions tightened. This is an anxious time for many, and please don't hesitate to be in contact if you would like to talk, or ask for prayers. But I know that Holy Island will pull together as it has done before with a great sense of community spirit and help and support for each other. Thank you for all the ways that you all 'love your neighbour as yourself'.

With blessings,

Sarah Hills
St Mary's Church
01289 389216
Rachel Poolman
St Cuthbert's Centre (UnitedReformed Church)



Current Worship Times

Due to the restrictions of Covid 19 we are sorry our Parish Church is not open daily but know that our prayers are with you.

Services for this month :

Sunday 10.45am - Parish Holy Communion
Sunday 8am BCP Communion. (1st Sunday of the month only)
Wednesday 5.30pm - Evening Prayer

The church will be open for 2 hours after these services for Prayer and reflection.

Please wear face Mask in church.

Lord, help us to be with one another... even if at a physical distance. Help us to build a kinder world. To reach out. To love and to care. To be sensible and not to panic. Help us, Lord, to hope. Because together we can. Amen.

Revd Dr Sarah Hills

A Blessing - for this time and every time

Lift your hearts to heaven
and receive the eternal gift of peace

Keep your feet on the ground
and walk with those who need God's love

This day

you are loved by God
You are held by God
You are blessed by God

Now and for evermore

Rachel Poolman