Northern lights

12 June 2015

THEY started in the north-west of Unst, the land of legend for most of us where there are marvellous names such as Muckle Flugga and Grunka Hellier. It is the northernmost point of the British Isles, as well as of the united diocese of Aberdeen & Orkney. The Dean of the diocese (roughly equivalent to an archdeacon south of the border), the Very Revd Dr Emsley Nimmo, and his companion pilgrims were travelling in the footsteps of St Magnus, the revered saint of the Northern Isles who was reputed to be a great healer.

In such a diocese, Dr Nimmo is well used to sea travel, but the crossing by boat from Aberdeen to Shetland tested even his endurance. His fellow pilgrim, Steven Boon, one of the young members of the vestry of St Margaret of Scotland, Gallowgate, the Dean's congregation in Aberdeen, fared better.

The route took the pilgrims down through Yell and on to mainland Shetland to Lerwick, stopping off at a number of places dedicated to St Magnus. Then came the sea crossing to Kirkwall, in Orkney, where the cathedral is dedicated to St Magnus, and they prayed at the site where his remains are interred in one of the pillars.

Crossing the mainland of Orkney to the west, they reached the lovely old town of Stromness, visiting the prehistoric tomb of Maeshowe on the way. An easier crossing back across the Pentland Firth brought them to Fraserburgh so that the party could arrive back at St Margaret's, in Aberdeen, for Ascension Day.

It has been not only a pilgrimage but also a fund-raiser for the Ninian Comper windows in St Margaret's, where Comper's father had been the first priest. Sir Ninian, who designed and built so many churches in England, had been born and brought up in Gallowgate. The windows in St Margaret's were the earliest work he executed, and the stone mullions are in sore need of repair.

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