James Fisher’s account of finally landing on Rockall after years of trying is misty-eyed and sentimental. He’s charmed by this remote and lonely isle.
NARRATOR: 18th September, 1955. ‘Hall’s ledge’ lies a few dozen feet below James Fisher.
JAMES FISHER: My relief was to have the waiting over with, to be on the way to Rockall at last. The chance of a lifetime was exactly below the helicopter, when Leonard said something to his wincher on the intercomm, and down I went.
NARRATOR: Fisher is one of four people about to claim Rockall on behalf of the Queen.
JAMES FISHER: There was a three dimensional enlargement of all the photographs I had so carefully studied, twenty feet, now ten feet, below. I began to spin a little, thought for a moment that Leonard had overshot Hall’s Ledge altogether, then saw the western end of it below my feet.
The winch set me down gently among friends. Peel, Fraser, smiling, helped me out of the strop.
“Do you mind if I kiss the rock?” I asked them. They didn’t mind.
NARRATOR: Finally on the island after years trying to get there, Fisher still talks of it in terms of an unreal photograph. He has to actually kiss it to feel it beneath his feet.
Histories of Rockall are stiff-lipped and closed – and few of them really describe the rock itself, dwelling instead on empty waters, or the cold. And the waves, mostly they describe the waves. But where some see an island defined by its absense, Fisher sees something romantic. And nostalgic.
JAMES FISHER: At Rockall many have died, sadly and hardly, in the cruel sea; near it many good, tough men work and find us hard-earned food; upon Rockall a few have stood or clung, with some difficulty and sometimes in danger; from it a few little scientific secrets have been wrested by the lucky ones.
Rockall must still have many secrets, and I hope that those who come to it, as come they must to-morrow, or the next day, will be as lucky as I.
AboutA Lonely Isle is a collection of anecdotes about Rockall, a remote island in the Atlantic ocean. Each chapter is based on accounts written by visitors over the last two hundred years.
The project came together by a process of dead reckoning. Researched in 2012, written in 2014, recorded in 2015, scored in 2017, and published in 2018, it’s a product of guessing and sun-sights, serendipity and cumulative error.
The Last Outpost of Empire (music for A Lonely Isle)
by Richard J. Birkin
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