Published: 29/08/2012 11:00 - Updated: 28/08/2012 17:49

The things you learn on a night out in Wick!

 

Professor Ian Charles Scott sitting in the late poet George Mackay Brown’s rocking chair (under a painting Scott had created of him) at Stromness Museum.
Professor Ian Charles Scott sitting in the late poet George Mackay Brown’s rocking chair (under a painting Scott had created of him) at Stromness Museum.
NOTHING breeds success like success.

 

I think we’ve had a very successful summer in Caithness. Sure the weather could have been better – but at least we didn’t have to contend with all those flash floods that caused so much havoc in other parts of the country. And, by all accounts, we probably had the best of the weather up here in the far north.

I was actually thinking how lucky we are to be part of a thriving community which contributes so much to our overall wellbeing.

We had a magnificent HarbourFest in Wick. The gala week, as always, was a great achievement and – when it really mattered – the rain held off for the most part for the procession of decorated floats through the town.

The pipe band has entertained locals and visitors alike throughout the summer with its town centre parades. Across the county we’ve enjoyed a hectic programme of Highland games, vintage vehicle rallies and a whole host of community fundraising efforts in practically every village.

“In communal life,” wrote the Dunbeath-born novelist, Neil Gunn, “it is quite simply the recognition of others, the need to be one with them and to enjoy the work and the games, to contribute what one can to increase the mutual delight.”

So, by my reckoning, there is an army of Caithness folk who go that extra mile by their sheer commitment, determination and willingness to volunteer to “increase the mutual delight” the rest of us might seem, at times, to take for granted.

Full marks and full credit to Ryan Cook who had the bottle (and was willing to commit the financial resources) to continue organising and promoting B-fest. What a superb time we had – both musically and under the golden sun that shone all that day.

A seasonal ritual that gives me particular delight is the joy of following Wick Academy.

Last week’s Vale game apart – no mention here of that 6-0 “slaughtering” – it has been great to feel part of the team’s continuing success story, even if just as a fan, standing – in all weathers – at the sidelines.

There will doubtless be those who look down on our small worldly existence but here I am reminded of that great quote from the novel, Young Art and Old Hector (also from Gunn).

Art, the young boy, asks Hector, the old man he has befriended, why he had never gone away from the confines of their small seaside community. Certainly Hector had thought about it. But now he had no regrets.

“You see, I know every corner of this land, every little burn and stream, and even the boulders in the stream. And I know the moors and every lochan on them. And I know the hills, and the passes, and the ruins, and I know things that happened here on our land long long ago, and men who are long dead now I knew, and women. I knew them all. They are part of me. And more than that I can never know now.

“It’s not the size of the knowing that matters, I think it’s the kind of knowing. If, when, you know a thing, it warms your heart, then it’s a friendly knowing and worth the having. In any case you remember it, and it will stay with you to the end of your days.”

I like that! With a warm heart I will settle for that kind of knowing.

ANOTHER man who has contributed much to our shared mutual delight is Wick’s own internationally-renowned surrealist artist Ian Scott. Or Professor Ian Charles Scott, to give him his full monicker.

Scott has established his very own personal tradition of presenting an annual talk-cum-slide show every year when he returns home to the county. A tradition that goes back about 35 years.

This year was no exception, albeit the subject matter – “Rather repugnant musings on colour in medieval art and more enlightened insights into modern perceptions” – had all the hallmarks, frankly, of providing too much information!

Amazing to hear the multiplicity of colourful uses that artists can make with cow’s urine, crushed Mexican beetles, burnt elephant tusks and ground-down mollusc shells...

Scott, who describes himself as “the fringe character of the art world”, had chosen his subject matter perhaps as a tilting at the windmills of that “self-referential” elite. His presentation was nothing if not eclectic!

Still basking in the post-Olympic glow, he reminded his audience that the illustrator Jack Yeats (brother of Ireland’s famous poet) once won a silver medal in the 1924 Olympics for his painting The Liffey Swim in the then arts and culture section of the games. True.

The things you learn on a night out in Wick!

Before we knew it, Scott had his audience engaged in a series psychometric challenges to test our receptiveness to seeing beyond the immediate and obvious in the images that make up our daily lives. (Here, I must admit, I failed them all.)

He talked us through Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych of images entitled The Garden of Earthly Delights. There were visions of hell; bagpipes playing demons and life’s “mad merry-go-round”!

The evening was rounded off with a series of slides depicting the development of Scott’s own unique brand and personal perceptions of the world around him.

He is a charismatic individual, a true force of nature and, I am sure he won’t mind me saying, a rather “Nutty Professor”. And we are all the better for it!

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