J Storer Clouston review

Celebrating J Storer Clouston and Beyond

Events celebrating Scapa Flow wouldn’t quite be complete without some mention of the works of J. Storer Clouston and his connection with Orkney.

Although his early life was spent in Edinburgh where his father was Physician Superintendent of the Royal Edinburgh Asylum, in later life Storer Clouston made his home at Smoogro, Orphir.

A distinguished writer of historical articles about Orkney many of his fictional writings are also set in the county.

Storer Clouson believed, ‘Fiction entertains; it solaces and distracts the mind,’ and in his day he was hugely successful in producing novels that caught the public’s attention and provided great popular entertainment.

A challenge recently undertaken by members of the Stromness Writing Group was to use either a cover illustration or title from one of Storer Clouston’s novels as inspiration for a creative piece. These were brought together and shared with the support of Another Orkney Production at Orkney Library and Archive on Saturday afternoon, 12th May.

To set the tone of the gathering an extract was read from Lunatic at Large by Storer Clouston, first published in 1893. The similarity in tone to P G Wodehouse’s great comic novels is clear and it’s unsurprising to know that Wodehouse admired Storer Clouston. Other extracts from Beastmark the Spy and Garmiscarth displayed the wide range of Storer Couston’s descriptive writing and his ability to capture the varied faces of the Orcadian landscape at different times and seasons.

Several of the creative pieces produced by the group were also shared including two by Gill Tennant. These were of a more serious character making use of an asylum and the cold war for their settings, but it was not long before the mood became more tongue in cheek. The Spy in Fifty Shades of Grey by Fraser Dixon certainly distracted the mind and was followed by some robust nonsense about the curious self-belief of an eccentric about to launch himself on the world by Gabrielle Barnby.

The afternoon concluded with a traditional who-dunnit farce with After the Steed, by Lucy Gibbon. The moral of which, ‘Never buy a horse from a man on the side of the road,’ is surely one that everyone will agree with.

Gabrielle Barnby

24th May, Orcadian