man diving into the harbour, his head hits the water and it looks like he is standing on his head

Hanging from the Earth

English Teacher and poet Yvonne Gray and Head Teacher Rosemary Newton came to the Gunnie Moberg Archive with a creative idea – to use Gunnie Moberg images as inspiration for the annual Sanday Community School writing competition. Five images were selected and displayed around the school. The entries were judged anonymously and announced at the final school assembly of the summer.

Here we are delighted to share the results with you. This competition really opened our eyes to how the Gunnie Moberg Archive can be used in creative and inspiring ways.

It is exciting to see how images can spark off a story, how the same image can reveal different things to different people, how sometimes the story starts with what is just outside the frame, how images of the real world can make us imagine other worlds, how photographs can make us feel.

An exhibition of all the winning entries and the images that inspired them is on at Orkney Library & Archive until 16 September.

The photograph at the top of this post, taken during Stromness Shopping Week in 1981, inspired winner Lewis Leslie to take a different view of the world.

Hanging from the Earth 

‘Hurry up, Simon!’ Jonah yelled back at me. He was on the other side of the puddle and racing away from me, towards the field’s one hill that had a Triangulation Point on the summit. ‘You’ll never catch me at this pace!’

I ran and jumped over the puddle, chasing after him. The field we were in was filled with rabbit holes and sandy bunkers, just like every other Scottish filed around us. Last night was very wet and windy, but the weather had cleared up by now and it was sunny, great for playing catch.

Jonah jumped over a swamped bunker hole and kept running. I didn’t see the hole and accidentally stepped into it as I sprinted. The fall soaked my jeans. Jonah turned around, hearing me, and ran back to me.

‘Are you OK?’ he asked, his eyes wide. I stood up, wiping the sticky mud from my legs and told him that I was.

‘What did you fall over?’ Jonah asked, crouching next to the hole I tripped in. He grinned at me and poked his hand into the murky water. Almost immediately he pulled it back out, staring at it and turning it to see both sides.

‘What is it?’ I said, crouching next to him. He stared at the water. I pushed him away and pushed my hand in to the water to the wrist. The water looked deep on the surface, but on my wrist I could feel that it was not even a centimetre thick, as if the surface of the water was where it should be, but the water underneath it just didn’t exist.

Beyond the thin film of floating water was the unmistakeable feeling of a cold breeze on my wet hand.

But instead of pulling my hand back like Jonah, I pushed it in until I was elbow deep in cold air. I felt around to see if I could feel anything out of the ordinary, as in anything stranger than underwater wind. Where I felt the ground, I could feel a fine, dusty like substance. I grabbed some and pulled it back, but when it appeared with the rest of my hand it was just a dark grey sludge.

‘What is it?’ Jonah mused, trailing a finger through the odd grey mud.

‘I think it got wet when I took it back’ I said, wiping the stuff on the grass.

‘Do you think…’ Jonah began, glancing at the water.

‘What?’. But Jonah didn’t answer me. Instead he dunked his head into the water up to his neck. When he came back up, water dripping down his face, he said, ‘Come on Simon!’ and dived down into the water, disappearing his entire tall frame into the shallow, sandy water.

After a few seconds, Jonah’s hand burst through the surface of the water and stretched towards me. He beckoned me with his fingers at me and I took his hand hesitantly, looking around at the field I was kneeling in.

As Jonah pulled me through the water, to my elbow, then my shoulder, I felt the air on my skin. When my head broke the surface, I gasped and coughed, tasting bitter and sandy water. Whereas when I went in to and came out of the hole technically upside down, I now crawled out of it right way up, having reversed gravity as I passed through.

I rubbed my eyes, getting sand and mud out of them. Jonah smacked me on the arm.

‘What?’ I asked. ‘Where are we?’ But Jonah didn’t answer. He just stared. And I did too.

The field we were in was completely destroyed. In the place of rabbit holes, there were huge craters. In the place of grass, there was ash. And in the place of the Triangulation Point on the hill, there was a towering pole, displaying an enormous English flag flapping in the breeze.

‘What happened here?’ Jonah said quietly.

‘There must have been a war or something. Between the Scottish and English’ I said, wondering why on Earth there could have been a war. Jonah was silent and pale.

‘I don’t like it here Simon’ said Jonah, sounding very frightened indeed. We left through the hole into the normal, green field and tried to forget about the field of ashes.

From then on, our biggest problem was explaining to Mum how we had managed to get quite so wet on such a sunny day.

Lewis Leslie S4 Winner of the Secondary category

The aerial photograph of Orkney sea cliffs inspired two of the winning entries.

An aerial view of a cliff with sea birds, Marwick Head, Birsay. One bird swoops on the left of the image while crowds of them sit in the rock face. Waves and dark blue sea below, the cliffs a marbled grey, the birds black.

Bird nesting

I am a bird nesting on a sunny day. I took an egg from the nest because the other bird had 5 and I had 4.

Then he had 4 and I had 5. If he pushes me I push him back. All the birds push each other.

The birds stop. Another bird lays an egg and then it starts all over again.

Ebony P2 Winner of the Lower Primary category

The Cliff of History

I have seen a lot in history. I have witnessed many things. I have had life born on me and life die on me. The birds that have been born on me have always come back to me and now they are my friends. Their chicks have come back too. The people who have climed on me have come back again and again as so many do. They enjoy climbing my sheer rock face.

I have seen many things in my life so far. But my favourite would have to be the dinosaurs. Those marvellous creatures swam, flew and walked all around me and some are even inside me and below me right now. I keep their bones a hidden treasure.

The view that I wake up to every morning is marvellous. You can’t wake up to a better view in the world. The view stretching out for miles and miles, the sun rising over the sea is lovely. On a stormy day the sea is like a dragon trying to eat me. The sound of the waves is lovely and terrifying to hear. I stretch out for miles and miles.

I remember the first ship that wrecked itself upon me. The HMS Tidal. A few people managed to hold onto my rocky ledges but others were not so fortunate and were swept away never to be seen again. Many ships have followed that one. They don’t see my rocky guard dogs lurking in the sea.

The first person to climb me was a cave man who just wanted an egg for breakfast. And speaking of food, the picnickers that have come to eat on my head have enjoyed the walk up to me and so have the walkers that enjoyed my mountain’s terrain. The weather around me is lovely most of the time but when it gets bad, it gets bad. When the weather is like that it feels like a dragon trying to eat me. The waves are like its flames eroding me and making me crumble into the sea. And when it is a hot day the birds that nest on me shelter in my shadows to get to the shade. Some even go for a swim in the ocean in front of me. And on stormy days they shelter in any nook and cranny they can find in me and huddle together for warmth.

I’ve seen a lot in my life so far – I can’t wait to see what the future gives me.

Ethan Jack Lennon P6 Winner of the Upper Primary category

Winning entries

Lower Primary

Winner: Bird Nesting – Ebony P2

Highly commended: The world exploded – William P1

Highly commended: A man had his face in the water – Ivory P1

Upper Primary

Winner: The Cliff of History – Ethan Jack Lennon P6

Highly commended: Drop Down Dead – Kasey Brown P6


Winner: Hanging from the Earth – Lewis Leslie S4

Highly commended: Kiss of Aphrodite – Ebony Bruce S1

hanging from the earth  poster blog

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