Rackwick - A study into its role in the development of contemporary art and culture in Orkney

  • Andrew Rognvald Parkinson

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Research (awarded by UHI)


For a period in the 1960s and 1970s Rackwick,on the island of Hoy, became the focal point for three of Orkney’s most significant artists. The poet George Mackay Brown first visited the valley in 1946 and wrote numerous works inspired by Rackwick including the poem cycle, Fishermen with Ploughs, published in 1971. The painter Sylvia Wishart adopted a home in Rackwick in the early 1960s and produced a series of remarkable paintings over the following decade. The composer Peter Maxwell Davies lived in Rackwick between 1974and 1998, creating work of breath-taking power and originality. All three artists were sustained by the unique surroundings, culture and history of one of Orkney’s most enigmaticplaces.The study takesthe work of the poet, painter and composer as a starting point to investigate the role that Rackwick played in the development of their work. Research also highlightsthe impact that these individual and collective endeavours had on the broader cultural scene in Orkney. The research iscentred on the creative output of the principalcharacters in the study—the published poetry, prose, drama and non-fiction of George Mackay Brown, the drawing and painting of Sylvia Wishart and the music ofPeter Maxwell Davies. In addition, a great deal of Rackwick-related material exists originating from both George Mackay Brown and Peter Maxwell Davies in the form of essays, memoirs, broadcast interviews and letters. Much less has been said or written about Sylvia Wishart’s relationship to Rackwick and it will be a key ambition of the study to provide comment on the influence that Rackwick, as well as the people associated with it, had on the development of the artist’s work.
Date of Award29 Mar 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of the Highlands and Islands
SupervisorOisín Plumb (Supervisor) & Donna Heddle (Supervisor)

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