A VISIT TO THE ISLAND OF SANDAY by the Revd. Alexander Goodfellow. First published 1912 by W. R. Mackintosh, Kirkwall. Second edition published 1978 by Cienfuegos Press,, Over-the-Water, Sanday, Orkney, KW17 2BL. ISBN 978-0-904564-10-5. This eBook edition published 2013 by ChristieBooks, PO Box 35, Hastings, East Sussex, TN341ZS
Being a new edition of the introduction to Goodfellow’s Church History of Sanday, with some light-hearted illustrations* that have no justification other than serving to stimulate the imagination as to how it might have been. The text is prefaced with a rather tortuous introduction by the publisher, Stuart Christie, relating to current political problems facing Scotland in general, and Orkney and Shetland in particular.
‘A history of the small Orcadian island of Sanday (the then — 1981 — base of anarchist publishing house Cienfuegos Press), — with an introduction by the publisher, Stuart Christie — to the Rev. Alexander Goodfellow’s ‘A visit to the Island of Sanday’. It is a commentary on nationalism and Scottish independence that proposes an alternative system of direct democracy and self-managed federalism. The Reverend Alexander Goodfellow’s Church History of Sanday (1912) is, of course, a partial one in both senses of the word; but a small island like Sanday cannot pick and chose its historians and any future chronicler must draw on this valuable and pioneering account from which we shall be republishing the most relevant chapters.
Dr. Goodfellow’s prejudices tend naturally towards Church and State; he is first and foremost a Presbyterian minister and an historian second. One must sift out from his accounts that which is truth and that which is opinion, such as his belief that “ . . . devout men engaged in the conversion of the Orcadian heathens, to show their utter abhorrence of the ancient superstition, may have erected their chapels on the very ruins of the temples of Odin”. Here, as with everywhere else, it was not abhorrence or contempt but emulation that induced •one religion to appropriate the holy places and customs of the religion it superseded. Where it could not eradicate, it adapted; where it suited, it turned the old gods into devils or monsters; or it reduced them in the scale of goodness to mere saints. Later, when the Reformation overtook Popery, much the same process took place again with the new borrowing heavily from the old.
‘It is pertinent and provocative to note the continuous element both in the cohesive form of established religion and the way it has been reconciled with the interests of successive invaders. The Presbyterian religion has always been a forerunner of the modern democratic State in which the Government is an elected tyranny giving the choice of people as rulers, but guaranteeing the permanent stability of rule from above.
‘The history of Orkney up to the present time makes an irrelevance of most modem political systems, all of which worship the State to one degree or another, or attempt to deify it in the form of nationalism. It is immaterial to the needs of the people of Orkney if they are governed from Edinburgh, London, Strasbourg or Brussels. The geographical distance at which the hub of government operates is not relevant to the present day. It would remain as distant from our realities and needs if it were situated in Wick or Thurso. The Orcadian is, by tradition, not a nationalist but essentially an internationalist and one finds them all over the world; as a seafarer, farmer, etc., – the world’s his and her oyster. However, with the subject of devolution dominating the political stage in the coming months the question of political alliances and national “allegiances” is going to be put to Orcadians and Shetlanders. It is a question to which considerable thought should be given. However, nationalism in Scotland and Wales is not necessarily totalitarian – any more than State socialism is necessarily so – it merely creates the atmosphere for totalitarianism if the State needs it by fostering a national identification which overrides class interests and feelings of liberty . . .’ (From the Introduction to ‘A Visit To The Island of Sanday‘)