A BIT FROM ME Geoff Porter

Dear Subscriber,

Welcome to our July/August newsletter.

Firstly, thank you to all who kindly confirmed they had been able to access last month's newsletter after bulk-mailer restriction from using the personalised sending method. Other feedback included Malcolm seeking support on TV licencing and new subscriber, Diane, hoping for musical help.

Located in the previous Reading Room, the Holy Island Archive (Editor - John Bevan) had a local open day earlier in the week. Trustees were looking into raising funds to cover its use including charging non-residents. Hopefully, John will provide clarification shortly. In the meantime, I certainly recommend looking up the Holy Island section. Well done John and those who helped!

Regular visitors will find the island even more busy. Nevertheless, please check the causeway crossing times to ensure a safe crossing between the island and mainland. And if you see someone who seems to be getting into difficulty get in touch with the coastguard by phoning the UK emergency number: 999.

Island Archaeology: Last week the Peregrini diggers were re-exposing the foundations of the a medieval chapel on the Heugh. The position looks down into the ruins of the world-famous and relatively-new (11th century!) Benedictine Priory. Some postulate its landmark position suggests a period well before christianity experienced that first Viking attack. Dating is not yet conclusive and for the time being, the plan is to leave the site part-exposed for the benefit of visitors. I also hear that DigVentures (Lisa Westcott Wilkins) and Dr David Petts (Durham University) may be returning to continue their search for evidence of the original Anglo-Saxon monastery.

Thank you to all our authors for their contributions this month. As the holiday season builds to a climax we give ourselves a break from publishing in August. We look forward to appearing in your intray at the beginning of September.

Enjoy our newsletter and the summer holidays.

Geoff Porter
Editor (SitEzine)

Google Email: Some of our have noticed this. It seems that from 15th May GMail modified their in-tray filter. I discovered 'the hard way' when I realised that certain types of email (webmail) were being excluded from my in-tray. Gmail provide several solutions to overcome this. I chose their option: Go to your Google Account Security page and enable "Allow less secure apps". At this point my Gmail worked perfectly. Interestingly, an expert at Firetrust™ tells me: It's not really that it's less secure - it's just the way people have always added their passwords to email programs .... No I'm not really sure exactly what they mean. But I am sort of reassured that Gmail is now working. And like many I use a Mailwasher™ to check email before uploading and so far....


Dear Editor,

I wanted to ask for your help with something I hope we can really make a difference on.

I've just signed this petition to save free TV for older people - would you consider doing it too? It could make the difference to whether older people are able to watch TV.

It's very easy to do, all you need to do is click this link - - and follow the steps.

Thank you so much,

Malcolm B (Yorks)

Ed: Always happy to oblige, Malcolm!

Dear Editor,

 I play the small bagpipes and acquired a tune called "Lindisfarne".

Do you or anyone know if it has words or lyrics.

It is a lovely melody and I belong to a musical group and play it often. Have you ever heard of this tune? 

I enjoyed coming to your Holy Island many years ago.  I gave you a little story of playing my practice chanter beside the stone wall overlooking the North Sea and the wind was blowing so hard it carried my music up, up and away!


Ed: I was unable to help so Diane gave permission to publish her enquiry and has kindly offered to email the tune (bagpipe notes) to anyone interested. I wonder if it sounds the same on Northumbrian pipes... ;-)

Scarlett-Beau explains.....

There's quite a buzz around our school at the moment! You may have heard that work has begun on the school garden. On a particularly rainy day, John Moore from 'The Perennial Gardener' arrived with his team and a mechanical digger. Two skips had been delivered onto the school field earlier in the week and amidst the cold, wet June rain, the big garden clear up began. By the end of the day, the garden was cleared and the skips were filled to overflowing. Scarlett-Beau explains...

We are delighted with our new garden as we now have an outdoor space that will give us so many opportunities for learning. Research by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), shows that gardening enriches the curriculum, teaches children life skills and contributes to their emotional and physical health which leads to the development of active citizens of the future. Our garden will be like an extra classroom for the children. What a great way to learn! Thank you to John and his team for all their hard work. We are members of the RHS Campaign for School Gardening - a programme where support is given to school through a five-step school gardening award scheme which begins with planning and growing. We will keep you posted on progress! Also, if you have any plants or cuttings that you think would be good for our garden, do get in touch.

In other news, we had an excellent visit to the Great North Museum in Newcastle at the beginning of June. The day had an unusual start because this was the day when the train broke down at the Beal crossing. Scarlett-Beau and Lily-Ella showed great maturity and resilience as the events unfolded. As we were delayed too long for the school coach, we continued our journey together and negotiated the great excitement of multi-storey car parks, lifts and busy streets to get to the museum just in time for lunch. We then had lots of time to see Dippy the diplodocus and to visit the Fossil Stories Gallery. We were very interested to see fossilised crinoids - the 'sea lilies' we know better as St Cuthbert's beads.

We had an enjoyable visit to Lindisfarne Castle this month. After a warm welcome from the National Trust team, we explored each room and used binoculars to look out for landmarks around the castle. Lily-Ella was excited to see Emmanuel Head in the distance - she had been walking there a few days earlier - and Scarlett-Beau showed us her granny's house and her dad's shed next to the harbour. We are looking forward to returning to the castle in July when we will be joined by our friends at Lowick.

Sports day was a great success and the weather was kind to us. It was great to see the children and their families together on the Island for this important annual event.  A particular favourite was the dressing up race where the children had to put on comedy hats, scarves and huge wellies before kicking the ball.  And it was good to see a bit of rivalry when the dads were racing - it was so close, there had to be a photo finish. It was a fantastic day!

A quick reminder - our Family Fun Day takes place at Lowick on Saturday 6th July. Thank you to all who have donated prizes for the grand raffle and the tombola stall. We really appreciate your generosity.

As the summer term draws to a close, it's time to reflect on what has been quite a year for Holy Island First School. Our children have grown and have learned so much - as you can see below with Lily-Ella aged three. The girls are keen to learn in the classroom and this has been enhanced by some wonderful trips and memorable outdoor  'hands on' experiences.

We are all looking forward to next year - I'll let you know how the garden is growing and there's more excitement coming up - did we mention the trim trail? Enjoy the Summer!

Heather Stiansen
Holy Island Church of England First School


Hello and welcome to flaming June!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here in the North of Northumberland, the weather has been disappointing.

You will recall that as last month closed, the Coffee Morning held in the Hall had just closed and it is a delight to announce that 1,019.00GBPs were raised for Church funds. Very well done to those who baked and served; to those who manned and donated to the Raffle and Tombola; and the Guardians of the precious items in the Bric-a-brac and book sales tables. Of course, we must not forget those who came from near & far and bought the goods.

In early June we had visits from two couples looking for wedding venues and I'm happy to say that they have both booked to hold the Celebrations in Crossman Hall later in the year.

In mid-June we hosted a two day meeting organised by a group of Norwegians, where regret was expressed at the behaviour of the first group of Scandinavians to visit the Island in 793AD. This study weekend went well and ended with a concert of Celtic music.

Please don't forget on Tuesday 23 July, an Island Coffee Morning, organised by Gillian & Barbara, will be held in aid of James Douglas's sponsored run in the Berlin Marathon on Sunday 29 September. James is raising funds for Cancer Research. If you are on the Island on that day pop in and spend or donate.

My notes this month are on the short side, I dashing off mid-month and will be away until late June early July.

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


If the island ever had to choose a bird as its emblem or to be included on a coat of arms, I'm certain the Eider duck would be a firm contender.

After all, they're one of our handsomest and commonest species and are with us all the year round. They are always present around St Cuthbert's Island and off the Heugh with large numbers daily walking out to rest and socialise across at the beaches at the Black Law and the Beacons.

They're also very vocal, drakes gathering to serenade the females with far-carrying and repeated crooning calls. This has been likened, at least for readers of a certain age, with the mock "Oooh, noo" indignation of the late comedian Frankie Howerd at his television best.
Eiders have a very long association with local fishing communities in general and, if you believe in legends, with St Cuthbert in particular. This had led to them being referred to in the past as St Cuthbert's Duck or, more colloquially, Cuddy's duck. If you look carefully at Fenwick Lawson's sculpture in the Priory, an Eider is peeping out from under the hem of his robes.

The links with Cuthbert are based on the regularly repeated claims that he laid down rules for the protection of nesting females on the Farne Islands during his solitary retreats from our island. It it's true then he was Britain's first conservationist well over 1,000 years before the tern became fashionable.

Ducklings keep close behind mum for protection
[Picture:Andy Mould]

It's a lovely story. But it may be just be that, a lovely story. I'd really like to think that it was true. Most of what we know about Cuthbert comes from the writings of Bede but, unfortunately, he makes no mention of protecting Eiders.

Various attempts to trace the tale's authenticity have failed to get any further back than the 1880s. So it may just be a fanciful story dreamt up by those mischievous Victorians. In reality, it doesn't matter and certainly makes no difference to the attractiveness of this species.

Down the centuries St Cuthbert's supposed influence doesn't seem to have counted for very much. Eiders have been heavily exploited.  Adults were shot for food and their eggs were regularly taken for the table, particularly at times of hardship during both world wars.

In Scandinavia and Iceland, Eiders were "farmed" for their fine and soft breast feathers with which they line their nests. They feathers were used for the original eiderdowns, now largely replaced by our synthetic modern duvets. As valued as the down was, rather oddly, I've never been able to uncover any evidence that it was gathered locally.

As if shooting, egg-gathering and the exploitation of nest linings wasn't enough, I've even heard claims that rafts of Eiders gathered on the sea were used as handy targets for machine gun practice during the Second World War. 

Thankfully, these days Eiders seem to be left in peace to be admired and enjoyed wherever they occur around the island.

A female with ducklings is ignored by the resting drakes [Picture: Andy Mould]

At this time of year, of course, there's the added bonus in the more sheltered spots around the island of the delightful sight of female Eiders and their crèches of small ducklings.

The female Eiders in their sober brown plumages are among the single mums of the bird world. The gaudy drakes court them early in the season, groups of crooners often surrounding and competing for a single female. The winner mates with the duck and then as far as he is concerned that's his job done. Away he goes to resume a bachelor life until the next susceptible female comes swimming by.

It's left to the female to do everything.  She prepares the nest scrape, lining it with her down.  She incubates the eggs, hiding and leaving them for only short periods when she needs to feed and drink.  As soon as the young hatch and their down has dried she leads them into the sea. Then she has to guard over them until they are independent. 

To make the job a bit easier, females band together and herd their young into crèches. Several females will co-operate to guard the ducklings. It's a strategy which gives them a little more protection from the ever-present menace of marauding Herring , Greater and Lesser black-backed gulls and other predators.  Even so the young are still very vulnerable and the mortality rate is very high.

The other day in Sandham Bay I came upon several of these crèches in the flat waters between the beach and the barriers of rock breaking the strength of the open sea.  First there was a single female Eider escorting two well-grown youngsters. Further on there was a real crèche where four females were watching over 16 ducklings of various sizes. These ranged from tiny birds only a few days old to companions who were approaching the size of their mothers.

Still fluffy and very vulnerable in a dangerous world
[Picture:Andy Mould]

Then the next day, while driving off the island, another two female were surrounded by six small and fluffy ducklings was at the Causeway bridge.  

When I come across these crèches I always marvel at the fact that nearly all of these Eider chicks will have made the perilous sea crossing from the Farne Islands, one of their few regular breeding sites along the coast.  At this stage their wings are nothing but stumps so they have to follow mother the hard way by paddling determinedly across miles of open sea.

It's been many years since Eiders managed to regularly nest on our island or on the mainland where there is simply too much disturbance and the ever-present threat from Foxes, Otters, Stoats, big gulls, Carrion Crows and, of course, from the many dogs which now occur.

These days Eiders are very largely confined to nesting on the offshore islands where at least they are safe from mammalian predators although not from those with wings.

Life can never be easy for birds like the Eider, another very good reason to admire and value their presence around the island..


Since returning it to the Castle in January of this year, something hasn't been quite right with the Wind Indicator panel in the Entrance Hall. The wind continues to blow, but not much indicating seems to be happening.

It was taken out of the Castle - along most of the other contents - back in November 2016 ahead of the conservation project having been first hung on the wall in 1913 following its completion by Macdonald Gill, who himself had been working to a commission for Edward Hudson/Edwin Lutyens.

The Wind Indicator is fundamentally an oil painting on three wooden boards held together with iron straps and hung on the wall with two interlinked brackets at the top and two slotted screws at the bottom. Fairly simple really. Many of you will know though that all is not what it seems, for this is more than simply a painting of Holy Island and the coastline, of the defeat of the Spanish Armada and St Cuthbert on his little rock churning out beads with his hammer and anvil. The wind dial at the centre which almost encloses in the island in a semi-intentional circular metaphor is itself served by a brass pointer, which is in turn connected to rods and cogs which snake their way back into the wall, up the chimney, through the East Bedroom floorboards and skirting and finally connecting with the wind vane on the roof. In theory then, when the wind blows the pointer spins around and points the direction from whence it came, causing a muttering of delight from nearby visitors and pleasing squeak from one or two less-well lubricated (and out of sight) gears.

But in practice that isn't currently happening. The wind blows and the pointer moves - sometimes - but it is not consistent and certainly not accurate. I had a chat with the engineer from Cragside, who knows a thing or two about cogs and rods and lubricants, and so we have scheduled a visit from their engineering volunteers to come over and sort things out. We think a full clean and relubrication of the mechanism should do the trick. Interestingly though, back in the early 1990s, the Trust attempted to get the mechanism working and did so successfully, and in the process installed a new wind vane. It seems though that this vane is not quite fit for purpose in that the vane itself is perforated on one side (arrow on the other) with a rather fetching NT oakleaf logo...

The wind blows and goes straight through and out the other side.

So it might be I need to get a new wind vane. Happily the chap that made the 1992 one is still trading down in County Durham, and I recently asked him about a separate job (without releasing he did the vane) so that was a nice coincidence.

I always say that there is a slightly dark humour about the Wind Indicator; telling you the way the wind is blowing after you have battled your way up into the Castle, head down and turned slightly into your collar, hands in pockets, tears running down your cheeks. "Thanks Edwin, very funny". In fact, if I'd had a pound for every time I've said that in the Castle over the last decade or so...

Best wishes

Nick Lewis
01289 389903


Shorebird Season Update

We are right at the heart of Shorebird Season here on the Reserve, and what a cracking season we have had so far. Little Terns, Arctic Terns, Common Terns, Ringed Plovers, Oystercatcher and Eider Duck have all nested up and down the coast, with Ringed Plovers already on eggs in mid-April.

Little Tern

Strong winds at the start of May unfortunately led to a few of the early Ringed Plover nests to be buried by sand. However, as the weather settled more scrapes were appearing up and down the coast, and adults began their 21-23 day incubation of their precious eggs. Ringed Plover pairs form territories which they are fiercely protective of, and because of this they attempt to nest in any viable habitat they can. Regular monitoring by staff and volunteers has given us a better understanding of the places Ringed Plovers are trying to nest, and this feeds into our management plans for shorebird protection in the coming years. Often nesting outside of formal protection zones, they are vulnerable to accidental trampling by people and dogs as the eggs are well camouflaged against sand and shingle. Ringed Plovers will make you aware if you are too close to their nest by alarm calling, so listen out for the worried tones of birds when walking on the beaches. We advise avoiding dry sand and keeping dogs on leads to minimise disturbance to the birds.

Ringed Plover on the sands

Sections of beach are closed off between mid-April and mid-August to give the nesting shorebirds as much protection as possible to successfully nest and rear young. Ringed Plover breeding success has declined by over 50% in the past 25 years, mainly due to the loss of suitable breeding habitat. Similarly Little Tern success has also declined, and according to the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, they are Schedule 1 birds which means it is a criminal offence to intentionally and recklessly disturb and/or damage the birds, their eggs and their young.

Little Tern courtship began early May, involving graceful display flights and a 'who can catch the biggest fish to impress the ladies' competition between the male birds. Thankfully fish stocks appear to be strong this year, which we assess through monitoring the feeding activity of the birds.

One pair of Oystercatcher have chosen to nest on the outskirts of the Little Tern colony, almost acting as bodyguards by chasing off potential predators such as crows, gulls and even a Sparrowhawk!

The first egg to hatch was the fourth Ringed Plover pair to nest on the Reserve, aptly named RP4. Chicks are very small and have been likened to 'pom-poms on stilts'. Ringed Plover parents have their work cut out, as up to 4 chicks disperse in different directions as soon as they can support their body weight.

Oystercatcher on Scrape

During a day of heavy rain, the first of the Little Tern eggs hatched - LT6. As chicks age, their parents encourage them to venture close to the sea to start to learn how to feed for themselves, highlighting the need to close sections of the beach to give them the space they need to learn these essential life lessons safely and undisturbed by walkers and dogs.

We are now hoping for a few weeks of glorious sunshine to give the chicks the best chance of fledging and gain their strength for the long flight back to Africa for the Winter.

Katherine Dunsford
Lead Shorebird Warden
Lindisfarne NNR
Natural England

FROM FORD & ETAL Elspeth Gilliland

Pop-up Markets: in Etal Village Hall every Wednesday and Thursday during July and August except 11th July; also on Bank Holiday Monday.  11am-3pm.

Kids Baking: in 'the dough zone' at Heatherslaw Cornmill, most Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays during July and August at 11.30 and 2pm (please check website/social media for details).  Booking advisable 01890 820338/488.

Details of all the above can be found at


Last month I accompanied 17 Norway  clergy from Kristiansand deanery on their coach and lectured, and celebrated Holy Communion  with their dean at St Aidan's Bamburgh before  they walked the  pilgrim posts and relaxed at The Open Gate.  Another Norway group came a month after walking St. Cuihbert's Way.  It was good to renew friendships since I have visited many of their towns and villages.

Dr. Pat Lune  brought her US Spiritual Academy students who came to learn about the soul friend tradition. A group who nurture spiritual friendship in Canada came on a golfing trip and we spent a morning together. 

Twelve priest/reader bykers from Leeds Diocese invited me to give them a guided tour and treated me to lunch at The Ship;  It was also good to  reconnect with Rev Dr Marcus Losach, who leads USA Celtic lecture tours, and to meet the  Dean of Texas Cathedral.

Carol Few and I attended the Annual Gathering of The Community of Aidan and Hilda at Yarnfield Centre, Staffs., to celebrate our first twenty five years. I  gave a power point presentation starting with my visit to the island over 25 years ago, Carol took displays of The Open Gate, Kayleah provided the bookstall, and we had audio visual presentations from three continents.  We ended with a Zimbabwean Church of England Choir singing in Shona.

Last month I also had the privilege of preaching at St. Paul's Cathedral, London on Pentecost Sunday on the theme of fire. I talked about Aidan whose named means fire, and ended with these words: 'Many fear that fragmenting tendencies may break up the UK. Billy Bragg also has a song about UK: Its not a proper country, it doesn't have a patron saint. National newspapers have promoted Saint Aidan as front-runner to become UK's first patron saint. A fruit of Aidan's mission was that four previously warring tribes, of different languages, were bound together in the fellowship of the Gospel.'

I look forward to telling retreatants about Aidan and the Northern Saints during our early Aidan and Hilda Week,
August 20-24.


FROM THE VICARAGE Rev Canon Dr Sarah Hills

Dear friends,

As summer approaches (we hope - as I write the mist is down and more rain threatens!), we look forward to welcoming our many visitors and pilgrims to Holy Island. As we know, many groups and individuals from all over the world visit this place of ancient Christianity, and as a parish we offer our warm welcome and hospitality. Summer is also a time for fewer meetings, and hopefully for some time in the wonderful creation God gives us in this place. I have recently retaken up kayaking, and the last few evenings paddling off St Cuthbert's beach among the seals has been just wonderful. Time to reflect on the beauty, holiness and peace of this Holy island - and to sing with the seals!

We have had some lovely concerts and choral evensongs recently - the choir of St Martin in the Fields, London, being a recent highlight. Thank you to all who come to join us in our worship and cultural offerings. Over the summer we look forward to having with us the Marygate Singers, the Furness Music Society, the Bondington Voices, the Weighton Waites Choir and our musician in residence over St Aidan's weekend , Sam Slatcher. Sam is a singer songwriter who has a particular interest in songs of sanctuary, from St Cuthbert's time to the present refugee situation. Dates below.

We are delighted that the Holy Island Reading Room has opened, both for archival material and a space for meetings. Congratulations to all who have worked so hard, and with thanks to our funders. Website:

We wish our school children a lovely summer holiday - and also look forward to the grand opening of the Holy Island C of E Infant School garden on July 18th. And congratulate Headteacher Rebecca Simpson and her staff for the recent good Ofsted report...well done!

St Aidan's Day will be celebrated in church on August 31st/September 1st - more details to follow on our website and facebook page. Before that, we are delighted to welcome Bishop Mark of Berwick to Holy Island for baptisms and confirmations on St Cuthbert's Beach on July 7th at 11.00am (or in St Marys if the weather doesn't work out!)

We deeply regret the passing of Geoff Smith and of Freddie Hoult. Our prayers are with their families and friends.

As we think of St Aidan and his ministry here, so we hope and pray that his mission of gentle peacemaking will long continue. Rachel Poolman, Minister at St Cuthbert's URC Church and I have started Ecumenical Prayers for Peace every Thursday at 5.30pm in St Mary's. As for all our services, everyone is most welcome.

Please do visit our website -
And our facebook page - St Mary's Church - Holy Island

With blessings

PS: As the summer season gets into full swing, we think of those for whom this will be a very busy season, and hope and pray that those working in our tourist industry on this island may get some space now and then for much needed rest.

Please be assured of my support - I used to make candyfloss and serve fish and chips as a summer job!

Dates for your diary at St.Mary's

Sunday July 7, 11.00am: Service of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist on St Cuthbert's Beach with Bishop Mark (this will take the place of the usual 10.45am Holy Communion).
July 22 12pm: Furness Music Society concert
July 23 - 26th 9pm: Compline with the Marygate Singers
July 25 5.30pm: Choral Evensong with the Marygate Singers
July 27 3pm: Concert by the Marygate Singers
July 28 10.45am: Choral Eucharist with the Marygate Singers
August 10 5.30pm: Choral Evensong with the Bondington Singers
August 29 1.30pm: Concert by the Weighton Waites Choir
August 29 - September 2: Musician-in-Residence Sam Slatcher, singer/songwriter.


  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