David's Monkish Meanderings 2010 travel blog

NZ's gift to Holy Island - pirri pirri burr!


St Cuthbert's Isle

Dive bombing Terns

Fish for lunch

Puffin on Inner Farne island

Carving of Cuthbert's departure

Pilgrims' way

An island treasure

Time to leave Holy Island already ... a few last memories I'll be taking away ...

First, I discovered that New Zealand has exported something to the island. Actually two things. The first is the Montana wines that I found in the Lindisfarne Mead shop next door. The unwelcome one is the pirri pirri burr weed that is now all over the island and gets into the coats of visitors' dogs. The theory is that thye seeds were in bales of wool from NZ :(

Second is the way the fishermen on the island make good use of old boats - cutting them in half and turning them upside down as storage sheds.

Third is the lengths to which St Cuthbert went to get some solitude. Holy Island itself was too accessible, so he moved on to a little island off the island (St Cuthbert's Isle). That wasn't remote enough, so he then moved on to an island several km off the coast, called Inner Farne. On Monday I took a trip to Inner Farne, catching a boat from a little town with the interesting name of Seahouses. There's a lot of interesting bird life on the island. Terns were nesting, and dive bombing and pecking anyone who got too close. I was glad I had a beanie to wear! More likeable - and very cute - were the puffins.

Cuthbert eventually died on Inner Farne, but was buried on Lindisfarne. I think I've alreasy referred to the fact that Cuthbert's remains were carried off the island because of the Viking threat. There is a huge modern carving in St Mary's church of the monks carrying Cuthbert's coffin away. Amazing to think that I saw what was left of it at Durham Cathedral.

Because of the association with saints like Aidan and Cuthbert, pilgrims have been coming to Holy Island for centuries. At low tide you can walk across the sea bed from the mainland. The "Pilgrims' Way" is marked with poles ... as for me, I'll be leaving the way I came, by taxi!

Finally, a mention of a present day person who I came to appreciate on the island. Actually, I appreciated Canon Kate Tristram before I got here, having read her very helpful book on the history of the island. Kate has been leading most of the daily services in St Mary's while I've been here, while they wait for a new vicar. On Tuesday I had an hour with her, drawing on her substantial historical knowledge in relation to so-called "Celtic" spirituality and related issues. She is 79, but still as sharp as a tack. Not too many years ago she completed another degree to broaden her understanding: a Masters in medieval languages, including Old Irish! Sometimes I think 55 is too old to be still studying - apparently not!

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