17 April 2019, The Tablet

From Stone to Thorn

A poem for Easter

From Stone to Thorn

Morag MacInnes


At Midnight Mass in 1961, after feeling his way towards Catholicism for many years, the poet George Mackay Brown received Communion for the first time.

He had been drawn to Catholicism not by dogma, but by the beauty of a number of passages of literature, and by seeing the mysteries of the faith reflected in the endless, arduous turning of the Orkney agricultural year.

These 14 Stations of the Cross, to which Mackay Brown later added nine more cycles, were first published in his collection of poems, An Orkney Tapestry (1969). He imagined a stonemason constructing a new chapel, “putting blue and red clay and egg-yolk among the shallow scratchings of fourteen stones, so that the passion of Christ … was like the year-long labour of a crofter from furrow to loaf-and-ale”.

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