A BIT FROM ME Geoff Porter

Dear Subscriber,

Welcome to our June newsletter.

Those visiting us during May will have noticed our near-full car park as witness to the wonderful island weather this month. The record visitor numbers seem to have been accompanied by a high number of coastguard callouts to vehicle strandings:

The usual experience of a 'stranding' seems to result from a driver becoming aware that a quietness has descended upon the island caused by cessation of causeway traffic. A sudden decision to make a dash for the mainland follows. Perhaps they were not conscious that the North Sea had been gradually trickling across the sand and covering the now-deserted causeway getting deeper as they drive further along it. At some point sea water washes into their exhaust pipe and the engine stops....

The new experience seems to be emerging where the driver decides to park their vehicle in one of the causeway's turning circles then wander back to have a look around the island. However, far from being parking conveniences, these circles are provided as a safety measure enabling vehicles to quickly turn and go back - as the North Sea continues to flood over the road.

Unless you have a Holy Island tide table and local weather knowledge (!) the council causeway crossing times remain the best way of discovering when you can safely across between the island and mainland.

Please note that are no such predictions should you decide to hike across by following the poles along 'Pilgrims Way!

This is a very remote Northumberland - if you see someone who appears to be in difficulty please phone the UK emergency number: 999 .

Church-of-England - 25th Anniversary: Possibly one of the most significant events to take place since Henry VIII - 1994 was the year in which the Church of England first ordained women priests. In this diocese of Newcastle, our own Rev Canon Kate Tristram was amongst that first group. Many have followed in their ground-breaking footsteps. Maybe you were on the island on May 8th and perhaps even attended a service of thanksgiving in St.Mary's arranged by Sarah with Sam providing such an edifying acclamation. I was delighted to attend and support a dear friend who played a key part in my life on Lindisfarne.

Thank you all who wrote after we published news of the loss of Gary some of which I include below.

Sadly, we have not received an input from Ray this month but thank you so much to our regular contributors. 

We hope you enjoy our newsletter and look forward to getting in touch in July.

Geoff Porter
Editor (SitEzine)

Stop Press: Ascension Day service in St Mary's - I've never seen our Chancel so packed. Brilliant!



Sorry to hear the very sad news about Gary, he was a real Holy Island legend, and will be sadly missed. My family and I always looked forward to seeing Gary each year on holiday, on the Island, it's going to be very strange without him.

Gary was one of the good people of this world, it was an honour to call him my friend, and we are really going to miss him.

Rest in Peace Gary

Graeme L and Family


We were so sorry to hear about Gary passing away on Maundy Thursday.  We had got to know him after our numerous visits to Holy Island and were so glad that when we were there for a very short period last September we were able to talk to him and ask him how he was etc.

We always remember Maureen telling us what a helpful, kind person he was and isn't that the greatest accolade of all.  I am sure he will be greatly missed by all the islanders and of course the many people who got to know him in his shop.
lots of love

Sandy and Iain


Thank you so much for letting us know the sad news about Gary. We have been visiting the island since 2003 and the first thing we did when we arrived was to pop in and say "hi "to Gary.

He was a very special man, always so welcoming and friendly. He will be missed by many people.

Please - if you are able send my love to his family.



Really sad news about Gary.  Having led school parties for many years to the island we always found a welcome at the Island Store and were made to feel valued.  Many a time he would drop the odd penny off the price for the children if they were a little bit short.

We always told the children this was the best shop on the island.

I would always pop in on my own visits while completing my risk assessments and would often find a friendly welcome.  For me he was always an important part of the Island and will be very sadly missed by his family, friends and visitors.



Having been a visitor to Holy Island by small boat from the Forth for many years It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Gary, Island Store.  The warmth of his welcome made one feel special and a visit to the store a pleasure.  I remember him now whenever I eat Northumberland sausages.  I didn't know he was a church organist but one sensed there was more to the man that one didn't know.

Paul Shave - yacht Blue Spindrift


Thank you so much for continuing to produce the excellent newsletter which I read out to my husband and daughter each time it arrives.   It's a wonderful connection for us to the Island that we love dearly.  We've stayed on the island for 7-9 days each year for the last 11 years over the October half term - a holiday that we look forward to all year.  We were all deeply saddened to hear of Gary's passing - he has been a constant, and joyous, part of our time on the island for all of those years.  I am so grateful that you shared the news via the newsletter - recognising as you do the importance of privacy for residents.  Gary was such a lovely man and will miss him deeply.  We all shed a few tears when we read the newsletter this time and our visit this October just won't be the same.

We would be grateful to know if a collection fund was/is being set up connected with his funeral or in his memory and would be grateful if you could pass on any details of this.  I am sure other newsletter readers would welcome this information too.

With all best wishes

Easter Display in St Mary's Parish Church
from Holy Island & Lowick CofE 1st Schools

There was great excitement on the school field this month when Scarlett-Beau and Lily-Ella discovered our new outdoor mud kitchen! Apart from being lots of fun, playing and working with mud and sand invites problem solving, curiosity, exploration (getting messy!) and experimentation in an open-ended way. We will be developing our outdoor areas even more in the near future. We plan to have a water wall and are collecting pots, pans, big spoons and other items to make a music wall along the fence near the school shed. Learning outdoors is a great way to introduce mathematical and scientific learning within imaginative play.

Our sweet peas are continuing to grow well and are climbing proudly up the trellises in the planters outside school. We have added some sunflowers and are hoping for strong, tall plants as we track their height in centimetres each week. We have also added more bee and butterfly friendly plants including some vibrant, red Achillea and some soft, fluffy Lamb's Ears to the small meadow area at the side of the field. We were visited by gardener, Carol McLeod, at Lowick and she showed us how to make seed bombs in the style of Gertrude Jekyll - Carol was gardener at the world-famous Gertrude Jekyll garden on Holy Island. The children mixed wildflower seeds with clay and compost and enjoyed 'bombing' areas of the garden to encourage wildflowers, especially ones which insects and wildlife will enjoy.

Lowick and Holy Island schools visited the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh this month. It linked in very well with our previous and ongoing learning about plants. We were given a tour of the huge glasshouses and were able to see lots of the plants we have talked about in school. The children found out that plants are used for much more than just eating. They were fascinated to learn that rope, medicine, musical instruments, skin lotion and also scaffolding (bamboo) are all made from plants. The weather on the day was lovely and we enjoyed a sunny picnic lunch together on the lawn in the beautiful gardens.

A date for your diary: The PTA for Lowick and Holy Island First Schools would like to invite you to a Family Fun Day on Saturday 6 July, 10am - 2pm at Lowick C of E First School. It promises to be a very exciting day with lots to do, see and buy for all the family. We are looking for donations for our grand raffle and tombola stalls, so please do get in touch if you have something to donate

Looking forward to next half term, we are planning two visits during our upcoming castles topic; Norham and Lindisfarne Castles will give us very different examples of fortified buildings to explore. We are taking part in the William Turner Art event in Norham in June and some of our children will have their own landscapes exhibited in the village.  We have been delighted to make links with Nick Lewis at Lindisfarne Castle and have arranged to visit with Scarlett-Beau and Lily-Ella in June, then again with the whole school during our last week in July. The school will be joining the National Trust which means we can enjoy further visits to Lindisfarne and other properties in the area in the future.

We are having an all-day sports event here on the island on Thursday 20th June where we will have time for cricket in the morning followed by lunch on the school field with families and then our traditional -Sports Day' event will take place in the afternoon. I have a feeling we are going to have a great summer!

Heather Stiansen
Holy Island Church of England First School


It's been a funny old month with several day long let's ending with a successful Coffee Morning held on behalf of our Parish Church, St Mary's.

Once again the Ladies of the village provided home prepared scones, cakes, chutney and jams. As well as manning the stalls selling the edibles, the bric-a-brac, tombola and raffle tickets.

Thank you to all who provided and worked to tables, as well as those who came and bought food and goods.

I never thought I'd say thank you to the Politicians, but I take my hat off to them. They required the Hall as a venue for two elections this month and the fee's for those services now sits comfortably in the Hall bank account. What next, rumour has it that there may be a General Election later this year, if so, our funds will again benefit from providing a Polling Station.

Berlin Marathon Sunday 29 September 2019 - James Douglas is running in aid of Cancer Research and seeks sponsorship.

James is seeking sponsorship for Cancer Research and all donations will help fund active research that will continue the battle against this disease that has touched so many of us.

James has a sponsorship page (593) on the Cancer Research web site, but if you are not comfortable sending funds to a website, donations can be sent to James via Crossman Hall, Holy Island and we will pass on any cheques to James via his Family. Thank you.

Bye for now
David - Contact
OR via the new Crossman Hall website:


If a single bird captures the spirit of summer then it's surely the Swallow swooping fearlessly past bystanders to reach its nest, hopefully containing a brood of hungry and shrill youngsters.

As a species, Swallows have everything going for them. Firstly, we welcome them as harbingers of summer. We marvel at their sheer courage in flying the full length of Africa and half of Europe, overcoming numerous hazards, to reach us. Then finallly we regret their August and September migration gatherings on the island's wires and roofs as a sign that autumn and winter are coming.

Of course, they have the added advantage that they're among the loveliest of birds. Their steely blue plumage catches the light as they fly. They have neat little red chins, pristine white under-parts and long and elegant tail streamers.

In the 16 years I've been studying and ringing them on the island I've always found that folk take great pride in "their" Swallows. They look out for them coming and welcome them back with the same nesting sites often being used year after year.  The fishing sheds, the Long Passage in Marygate and the church porch as classic examples of very old-established sites.

This year the first reached the island around April 16, a week or so later than the earliest arrivals in recent years. It's just as well they were delayed further southwards.  As you'll all probably remember, April, apart from the Easter weekend, was a dry but decidedly chilly month. The weather was dominated by an easterly airflow which kept temperatures below the monthly average. Those early arrivals must have struggled to find vital food in the form of flying insects.

However, numbers gradually built up through the rest of the month and during May when the first half of that month also had below average temperatures with wind coming from a predominantly northerly direction.  At the time of writing in mid-May I reckon that local Swallow numbers are still fairly low, repeating the pattern of the last three or four years. Last year was particularly poor on the island and across the country in general.

However, we should remember that Swallow populations can be subject to wide fluctuations. For instance, from the 1990s up to around 2010 the numbers of Swallows, our most widespread summer visitor, gradually increased across Britain. However, since then numbers have been in decline, something reflected right across their European range.

Our Swallows don't waste any time in getting on with breeding. Just two days after those first birds arrived on the island. I watched from only about a dozen yards as a handsome male perched twittering on the wire fence along the main drain near the Coastguard station. He then dropped down to the bank below and started tugging out short pieces of dried grass as nesting material.

He then flew off, blade of brown grass in his beak, towards the fishing sheds. He'd obviously already started work on building or, more likely, refurbishing an old nest with some fresh material. Swallows often save themselves time and bother by tidying up and re-using old nests.

By the time you're reading this some early pairs could have hatched first clutches of eggs. I'll have to get my ringing pliers ready for a bit of work.  This year I've also volunteered to collect egg shells or any un-hatched eggs from these local nesting sites as part of an international investigation into a possible cause of the recent decline of the species.

This follows the recent discovery of surprisingly high concentrations of the pesticide DDT in the eggs of Swallows nesting in Holland. This was intriguing as the substance, along with other persistent organophosphates, has been banned throughout Europe since the 1980s.

This was part of an action taken after it was found that these substances were poisoning large numbers of small birds which fed on land where they'd been used as seed and crop dressings. The problems then continued right up the food chain. Some species at the top of the chain, including Peregrine falcons, were almost wiped out. They were both being poisoned by their food and were also failing to produce young because the shells of their eggs became so thin they broke during incubation.

However, DDT is still being used in Southern Africa, the wintering area of our Swallows, to lessen the spread of disease.  Research has found that the substances run off the land into rivers, ponds and other water.  They are absorbed by organic matter and then get into the bodies of tiny insects on which the Swallows feed.  Swallows are then carrying this contamination with them, as shown by the analysis of eggs in Holland..

Wire fences make ideal perches for our Swallows Photo: Mike S Hodgson

This summer more samples are being collected there also across Britain, Germany, Switzerland and Finland. This will help to measure the extent of the problem. It may shed light on the potential contribution of this exposure on the decline in the Swallow population. 

I haven't noticed any breeding problems among our local Swallows or received any information for other birders who ring large numbers of their young. Our local Swallows usually succeed in raising their broods, some also managing second families, so there doesn't appear to be any problems with egg-thinning.

But the research could indicate if there are any problems to look out for in the future. It would be sad to think that events thousands of miles away could have an impact on one of our best-loved summer visitors. Meanwhile, let's just sit back and enjoy the spectacle of them around the village over the next three months or so.


Despite being so busy and having lots to talk about, it is always the same at this time of the month for me - the request comes in from the editor of this noble publication for a new article and suddenly the mind goes blank... What on earth am I going to write about? I'll have conversations with myself along the lines of -Well I could mention the... no that's just plain boring' or -Perhaps the... nobody is interested in pigeon muck in the drains', and so on.

Then I remembered some of the letters I had through this month and all was well. There's been some crackers in the last few weeks. First of all it was lovely to hear from David and Sue Robinson - once of this very postcode being as they were custodians of the Castle from 1983-2002. The photo enclosed of snow on the inside of the office window (which was their bedroom) is quite something, and a reminder of how unpleasant things could be up here. Sue's story of being without water for weeks due to frozen pipes and huddled under duvets is all too common in the Castle archives.

A second letter was a little more out of the blue but also concerned a past resident. A Mr John Kinross was about to publish a book entitled Churches on the Marches (the Welsh Marches as opposed to this border up here) and had come across a memorial in Breinton Church near Hereford. The memorial had only recently been cleaned up and commemorated the life of Captain Rudhall Booth, once -Comander in Cheife of the Holy Island'. He had died of a -violent fever' in 1685 aged only 24. He might even have witnessed quite a few events on the Island during his time here; The Duke of Monmouth's visit in 1679, Sir Martin Beckman's survey of 1682, the completion of Osborne's Fort on the Heugh and possibly even the appearance of those wall paintings we found in the Kitchen a couple of years back. The 1670s and 80s have left a disproportionately large amount of material for some reason and this poignant little plaque in a church 327 miles away (I checked) is another to add to the archives, a stark remind of the fragility of life in those days and the diversity of the men who served in the Castle.

Closer to home the Castle had a decent Easter all told, and we have been enjoying the recent good weather on the Island. This has also helped our gardeners led by new gardener Fliss get cracking on the Jekyll Garden to get it ready for summer - if you haven't seen it in the last few years it really is worth a visit in July - September. You can now actually buy the very sweet peas grown in the garden in our shop in the village, as well as the roses planted in the western beds.

Nick Lewis
01289 389903


It has been a busy month here on the Reserve. We welcome new Reserve Manager Andy Denton to the team, who has previous experience as Seasonal Site Manager on Noss National Nature Reserve in Shetland, as well as working as a Ranger on the Farne Islands. We also have recruited two Shorebird Wardens, who will work along side Lead Shorebird Warden Katherine Dunsford at Lindisfarne this year.

Shorebird season is well under way, yet last week a large skein of Barnacle geese flew over Fenham Flats, continuing their migration from the south to Svalbard - an odd sight as Little Terns were feeding in the foreground. Winter and summer captured in one image.

Little Terns, Arctic Terns, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher all are sitting tight across the Reserve. Little Terns are the second rarest nesting seabird in the UK and are no bigger than a tennis ball! They lay their eggs directly onto the ground in a -scrape' and are well camouflaged in the sand. The breeding success of these little birds, as well as that of the Ringed Plover is in decline and one factor adding to this decline is increased human and dog disturbance. Visitors to the Reserve can help protect them by keeping dogs on a lead at all times and respecting the fenced off areas.

Ringed Plover - credited Andy Denton

The interpretation point at Budle Bay is now complete! It offers spectacular views across the mud flats, where at this time of the year Terns can be seen feeding in the Bay.

Following some TLC, the willow sculptures featuring the wildlife of the Reserve are back around the self-guided Nature Trail. Leaflets detailing the route of the trail can be found in the Window on Wild Lindisfarne, which is the starting point, as well as in the Lough Hide. The Nature Trail is a great way to see amazing wildlife butterflies and passerine birds, however please stay on the main paths and desire lines as Skylarks and Meadow Pipits are nesting on the ground hidden beneath the grass.

Over the coming weeks, we will continue to have a presence on the beaches to make sure the breeding shorebirds have all the protection they need to have another successful year at Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve. Please come and chat to the wardens about the birds - we are always happy to chat!

Katherine Dunsford
Lead Shorebird Warden
Lindisfarne NNR

FROM FORD & ETAL Elspeth Gilliland

Sunday 9th June: "The Bamburgh Run".  Vintage motorcycle run starting and finishing in Etal village.  Come along from around 9.30am to see this spectacular array of vintage and veteran motorcycles, the oldest dating back to 1903, and meet the riders.  The run begins at 10.30am with the motorcycles embarking on an 80 mile round trip, returning to Etal about 2pm.

Monday 10th June: Pub Quiz at the Black Bull.

Saturday 22nd June: Iron Age Day (Tillvas) at Etal.

Sunday 30th June: "Ready, Teddy Go" at Heatherslaw Light Railway.  Meet the teddies hard at work in the railway station; bring your own teddy or take one of the Railway's for a day out on the train and around Etal and Heatherslaw.  Take your Teddy with his Passport to Lavender Tearooms, Heatherslaw Tearoom and Heatherslaw Mill for a special treat.

Sunday 30th June, 6-9.30pm: Logi Firewalking presents a sponsored charity firewalk at Broomhouse Farmhouse.  22.00 per entry.  All profits from entry fee go to mental health charity.  For more information/to book contact 07729195559 or visit

Details of all the above can be found at

FROM THE VICARAGE Rev Canon Dr Sarah Hills

I've been thinking a lot about pilgrimage lately. About what it means, about how our journeys together through life and faith can lead us to connect better with God, with each other, and with our planet. Many people come to Holy Island as pilgrims, as people who journey. Whether that's to walk in the beauty of nature, or to bird watch, or to discover the spiritual heritage of this beautiful island. Or whether it's the place we call home, or the place we work. All of us have a story of our journey across the causeway. And for each of us it is different. What can we learn from each other about how to live well together in our world as we journey through it? What is your story of crossing the causeway? Well, all journeys start with the same thing - our stories. Your story, my story, all our stories. We are not all the same, and we do not all need to agree on everything all the time. But how can we live well together if we do not know something about each other, if we do not share our stories, if we do not try to understand the other? So how do we start to address this? Well, we start with sharing our stories, sharing ourselves, our lives, our hopes and dreams. And so I am going to share with you a story, about a particular journey, but in fact, it is a story that we can all enter, because it is above all, a story about how we live together, how we learn together, how we can build relationships and live better together.

This story is about a train journey - the -peace train'.  A few years ago, I was working in South Africa, and I travelled with 47 survivors of a bomb attack in the Western Cape. The bombs went off on Christmas Eve in 1996, in which 4 people died, and 70 injured. We journeyed to meet one of the perpetrators in Pretoria Prison. Stefaans,17 at the time he planted the bomb, was a member of a white supremacist group which targeted black people. For years he has been asking to meet the survivors so that he can make an apology.

Setting off from the station felt like the first stage of a pilgrimage- a journey to a place of encounter, and then returning to the ordinariness of life, yet with hope of transformation.  Pilgrimage involves time apart to prepare for encounter, and as we slid past the barren Karoo landscape baking in the sun, the turmoil of people's emotions was palpable. Anger, fear, grief, were contained by the rocking of the train and the growing sense of community as we held groups to prepare the survivors for the encounter with -the bomber'. 'Seeing' the person who left your family without the breadwinner; who took away your child; who left you scarred, seemed to be very important. Some wanted to tell him how angry they were, some wanted to be able to forgive, all wanted to share their story of that 'black Christmas'.

And the 'encounter'? A hall in the prison filled with survivors, prison staff,the  press, a choir...and then Stefaans enters. Thin, upright, tearful as he listened to their stories, and answered questions. He said, ' I am really sorry for what I have done. I don't deserve anyone's forgiveness.' Some of the survivors gave him their forgiveness, others said they are still very angry and cannot yet forgive him. A queue of survivors embraced him before he was taken out. An encounter which felt truthful, hugely painful, embodied, hopeful, sacred.

Waking up in my cabin on the train the next morning on the journey back, I watched a herd of springbok jumping in the veld. The sense of relief on the train matched their light footed ness.

It was a huge privilege to journey with them. Our journeys through life may not be easy, often they are difficult. They can take courage, and faith,  but in a world which is so broken, this peace train provides a beacon of hope. As we journey across the Holy Island causeway, my prayer for us all is that we also find our beacon of hope. Let me know!

With blessings


  Pattern of worship for Sundays
8am    Holy Communion (BCP) 
10.45am    Parish Eucharist 
5.30pm    Evensong
Pattern of worship (Monday - Saturday)
   8 am Morning Prayer Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
   8 am Eucharist Wednesday and Friday
   5.30 pm Evening Prayer every day

please check notice board in church porch in the event of revision