To mark how he arranged our wonderful wedding on a remote island.
All I had to worry about was losing weight, arranging flights up and getting the dresses for the two bridesmaids and myself. There had been a threat of a ‘blackening’ where my future sister-in-law was preparing the drunken escapade which involves carting the bride-to-be around the small town of Kirkwall in revelry. Not my scene and I threatened back that if that plan went ahead I would cancel the whole wedding. Didn’t care; was my day.
Cecil went into over-drive preparing his first wedding at the ripe age of 49. We were getting married on his mother’s home island of Westray, a 90 minute ferry ride from Kirkwall on mainland Orkney and 900 miles away from London. Easy eh? That meant finding accomodation on an island 6×12 miles square, which hadn’t embraced tourism proper, had two 2- star hotels, a couple of B&Bs, six caravans for hire, and three shops which often ran out of milk and bread even if they were ordered in advance; two mobile phones, no internet, breath-taking scenery, violent weather and five churches for a then population of 490 folk largely untouched by what went on outside.
The man wanted to marry me so I let him get on with it all. His old mother had tons of contacts and the cheek of the devil so I knew all would go well. Besides I was busy working in London. She knew the catering family on Westray, which old wives had spare rooms to put up guests, how to get hold of the piper* and who should be invited from the huge family tree where somewhere along the line everyone was related.
Cecil knew how to arrange the boat to take people onto the island and then off again around midnight while the wedding was still going on, knew how to book the Westray Band ( the best in Orkney), to provide live entertainment. He was also arranging the honeymoon in ‘parts foreign’, probably not an easy task as a man who had never been off Orkney. There were rooms to arrange for the bridesmaids, a place for we, the betrothed, to stay and invitations to get out in person to people on at least two islands.. Then the cars, the making and distilling of the traditional potent home- brew and then not forgetting to see the minister and the church. I knew none of the Scottish dances but my fiance whose arthritic legs only moved most days through the power of drugs, said he’d teach me. He tried. Three hundred people turned up to celebrate a son of Westray marrying his London bride..
As is tradition in Westray, the wedding was to be on a Friday evening. It was August so the days were still long and the Parish Church wedding was planned for 6 o’clock. On that day it was too muddy to take photos of the wedding party at the ruin of North Tuan, his mother’s childhood home. The bridesmaids, my daughter and her friend, had travelled from London stopping at Youth Hostels and caravans on crofts. On the wedding day they both decided to go barefoot in the church. Little bit of hippiness.
After the service Cecil and I were taken by an old classic car to the school hall where we waited and waited in a side room . My dear mother-in-law told me I looked like royalty in my white dress, bedecked with satin and broderie anglaise. I wore long white gloves and even a veil. Once the dinner tables were ready and beautiful, the Orcadian piper, a family relative in full regalia, led us in slowly. Cecil’s best friend who was to be best man had died suddenly a week before so my brother took over with the speeches. The main hall had been decorated lovingly by the lasses of Pierowall village all ready for the dancing.
At midnight soup and sandwiches were served to everyone in the hall so absolutely no-one went hungry.Dawn broke about 4a.m.
Marriage done, everyone happy, slowly the ferry pulled away from Rapness Pier in Westray. Cecil and I listened as the sound of the bagpipes played on the green green shores until they sounded far far away.
* RIP funeral took place on May 20th 2011 Arne Flett Esq.