It Was Always Meant To Be

by Dave Woodcock
(Burray)

Almost 50 years ago, when I was young and not happy with the routine way that my life was going, I upped sticks and moved to Orkney, where I worked in the bacon factory. I immediately fell in love with the place and the people.

Practicalities intervened, however. As I was spending more on beer in The Torvaugh than I was earning, I had to return south where I could earn enough to keep the brewers happy. I never forgot Orkney, although I did not think that I would ever return.

I am a fatalist. Fate has always been kind to me, even if by devious routes, and fate decided that I should eventually return.

After I married Pam (probably the only sensible decision that I have ever made), we ended up living on a smallholding with 350 goats and various other animals, including a flock of North Ronaldsay sheep. Because of my involvement with the sheep, my son and I found ourselves selected to go each year up to Linga Holm just off Stronsay to help with the management of the North Ronaldsay flock maintained there by The Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

Each trip was like a mix between a wildlife documentary and “Boys Own,” and we both loved it. On our return each year we would sing the praises of Orkney to Pam. In the end, she suggested that we all move up.

My son bought a building plot in Tankerness for himself and his wife and daughter, and my daughter and her husband and son were going to live with us until they could get a place of their own.

I insisted that Pam could not move up until she had seen Orkney in bad weather, so we came up at various time of year, but every time we came the weather was wonderful. The legend of “Sunny Orkney” was born.

My son got divorced and decided that he would have to stay south so that he could see his daughter. My daughter got a job that she loved and also decided not to move with us. Pam and I were both in love with Orkney by this time. We decided that we would still move. A bit of a role reversal, as it is supposed to be the kids that grow up and move away from the parents, not the other way round.

Our farm was put on the market the week that the Northern Rock collapse started the financial crisis. After a long time it sold for considerably less that we had originally thought, but at last we could move.

After looking at many houses, which either one or the other of us did not like, we found Windbreck in Burray. I loved the house and its location and Pam loved how she could envisage changing it. So the deal was done.

My final memory of our old house is of standing in the porch with the 6’1” hairy hulk of a farmer that is my son weeping on my shoulder, and wondering if I had done the right thing. But with the dog in the car, chickens and ducks in the trailer and a heavy heart in my chest, we left.

Pam altered the house beyond recognition, but it is still good. I wake every morning to look out across Water Sound and think that there are not many people in the world as lucky as I am.

We have settled well. The people up here are what really makes the place so great, both locals and incomers. I am never surprised when Orkney is selected as the best place in the UK to live.

We both get a lot of fun from the fantastic music up here. Although we are not competent musicians, we're encouraged to give it a go. We have got involved in a few things, musical and non-musical, to try and “pay back” something if we can.

There is always so much to do that we never have much spare time. The kids complain that we are always out when they phone.

There must be some bad points about living here. When I think of one I will add it, but at the moment I just want to live as long as I can amongst these beautiful islands surrounded by good friends and great people.

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A Beautiful Life
by: Rhonda

What a wonderful description of your journey to Orkney ... away ... and back again. I've heard that theme many times from people who came to Orkney for a visit or a short stay and ended up longing for these islands for years, until they could finally move back.

This place does seem to have an almost magical hold on some people - myself included. I'm glad you and Pam had the courage to make it happen, even though it means being farther away from your family than you'd like. But getting up each day and loving where you live is a real blessing.

Thank you for sharing your story, Dave.

Warmly,

Rhonda

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