Echoes from Another World

Inchcolm Abbey

A couple of weeks back, at the tail end of the season for the ferries, Elinor and I purchased tickets to head over and visit the island of Inchcolm and the abbey there. It’s something we’ve been wanting to do, and in my case, I was also keeping my ears open for potential inspiration for the contest I’m planning to enter.

It was a rather cold Sunday afternoon, and terribly windy. The crossing featured a recorded voice that pointed out various items of moderate interest along the way, such as facts and figures about the Firth of Forth, the history of the Rail Bridge, the location of a North Sea oil pipeline terminus, and a mention of a friendly dolphin that used to hang around the ships. Also, we bought a cup of tea. It wasn’t terribly exciting.

Still, one of the commercial ferries seemed like by far the best option for getting to the island, trumping:

  1. buying a boat
  2. renting a boat
  3. stealing a helicopter
  4. swimming

(And there’s a landing fee that we would have had to pay regardless of how we arrived!)

Inchcolm Abbey was an interesting enough place to visit once we were there. It had grown into an elaborate complex over the centuries, and we enjoyed climbing up and down the crazy staircases and wandering the corridors.

At one point, Elinor and I both thought we caught a whisper of music: singing or humming, with a hint of a purposeful melodic contour.

Was it a fellow visitor? Site staff or volunteers going about their tasks? Ghosts? Maybe a recording? (I’m embarrassed to say that we each came up with that possibility independently, but if it was true, the speakers were extremely well-hidden.) I like to fancy that we were hearing lingering echoes from worship that took place long, long ago, passed among the stones, faint but never quite dying away.

My other lasting impression was imagining the bitter winds, rain, and occasional snow that the monks would have patiently endured, out on this exposed rock in the middle of the firth. They must have loved the coming of summer, and the appearance of each sunrise.

I think I can make something of this.

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