In small communities, stories are often told in asides and whispers. When the boat, the Ben Lomond arrived near the shores of the Isle of Lewis in May 1952, rumours began immediately. They were still circulating when I was growing up on the island in the 1960s and 1970s, wrote Donald S Murray in an article published in the Herald newspaper from Glasgow on Saturday March 13. (Above, young Donald, left, with his brother Allan)
Donald S. Murray's newly-published book's been chosen as the Historical Book of the Month by the London-based Times newspaper.
The novel ‘In A Veil of Mist’ which is being released via several on-line events this week, takes place in Tolsta. Set in 1952, it examines the impact of Operation Cauldron, a series of secret biological warfare trials run by the British, American, and Canadian governments that took place off the coast of Lewis. As part of the trials, scientists from Porton Down research centre in Wiltshire and the Royal Navy released deadly biological agents like the bubonic plague, testing their effects on animals aboard a floating pontoon in the Minch, where the reader lands in the opening pages.
Interview by Katie Macleod for Scottish Islands Explorer Magazine
While the rest of us baked banana bread and loaves of sourdough to pass the time during last year’s lockdowns, Donald S. Murray wrote three books. But even without the enforced time at home, the author says he’s never found it difficult to write. “I think I live in my head so much it’s been okay!” he laughs.
If I had been told at the start of all this that the launch of any of my books would be in Lancashire, I would have thought you were mad.
However, it appears it’s where the event is going to take place for In a Veil of Mist. There are good reasons for it!
It all starts when a poisoned breeze blows across the waves ... Operation Cauldron, 1952.
ONE GOOD REASON TO REMAIN IN LOCKDOWN
(inspired by Colum McCann’s ‘Apeirogon’)
It is safer to stay still.
Migrating birds are often killed
by everyday obstacles.
Such as steel pylons, the chill
of unexpected snowfall.
Crops that either rot or fail.
Sandstorms. Occasional oil-spills.
Poison. Overflowing drains.
A jagged, rusty nail.
All reasons why it’s wiser to remain
like the blackbird, starling, sparrow,
birds that rise and dip,
gorge and peck their fill
among the trees that grow
just beyond the space where I write,
outside the window-sill.