Donald S Murray – writer & poet

Donald S Murray
writer & poet

For the Safety of All
Published by Historic Environment Scotland and the Northern Lighthouse Board
July 2021

  • Donald S. Murray explores Scotland's lighthouses through history, storytelling and the voices of the lightkeepers. From ancient beacons to the work of the Stevensons and the Northern Lighthouse Board, and from wartime strife to automation and preservation, the lighthouses stand as a testament to the nation's innate connection to the sea.

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In a Veil of Mist
Published by Saraband
March 2021

  • A haunting exploration of the costs and fallout of warmongering, Donald S. Murray follows his prize-winning first novel with an equally moving exploration of another little-known incident in the Outer Hebridean island where he grew up.
  • The Times Historical Fiction Book of the Month

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The Man Who Talks to Birds
Published by Saraband
December 2020

  • In this short collection of poems written during lockdown at his Shetland home, Murray explores the changing realities of the island and how he, in turn, has been changed.

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Achanalt: Poems by Donald S Murray
Artists book with Hugh Bryden
October 2020

 A concertina-form artists book with the 24 poems on one side and a 12ft long watercolour describing a walk along the platform and up to the grave of airman Bertram Dickson on the other side. 
The accompanying short story is printed separately and both enclosed in a slipcase.
5 inches x 7 inches x 1 inch
30 page concertina plus 12 page short story pamphlet.

This won the Callum MacDonald Memorial Award from the Saltire Society this year.

Established in 2001, the award was created to encourage, recognise and reward the publication of poetry in pamphlet form. Administered by the Scottish Poetry Library, it is awarded to the publisher of the pamphlet. 

As the Women Lay Dreaming
Published by Saraband
November 2018

  • Inspired by the Iolaire disaster of 1919, this is a deeply moving novel about passion constrained, coping with loss and a changing world. As the Women Lay Dreaming explores how a single event can so dramatically impact communities, individuals and, indeed, our very souls. 
  • Paul Torday Memorial Prize 2020
  • HWA Debut Crown 2019, LONGLISTED
  • The Herald Scottish Culture Awards 2019, Outstanding Literature Award, SHORTLISTED
  • Authors' Club Best First Novel Award 2019, SHORTLISTED
  • Walter Scott Prize 2019, 'Academy Recommends List'
  • Highland Book Prize 2018, LONGLISTED
  • Waterstone’s Scottish Book of the Month November 2018

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The Dark Stuff: Stories from the Peatlands
Published by Bloomsbury
April 2018

  • Donald S. Murray spent much of his childhood either playing or working on the moor, chasing sheep across empty acres and cutting and gathering peat for fuel. The Dark Stuff is an examination of how this landscape affected him and others.
  • Illustrations by Doug Robertson.

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The Italian Chapel, Orkney
Published by Birlinn
May 2017

  • This book tells the story of the strength and tenacity, laughter and tears of the Italian prisoners of war who built the Italian Chapel in Orkney during World War II, showing how spirits defeated and despondent during years of exile were lifted by its creation. It does this with its own artistry and grace, using folk-tale and myth to provide a fitting counterpart to the wonder and beauty of the building that inspired it.

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Herring Tales: How the Silver Darlings Shaped Human Taste and History
Published by Bloomsbury
August 2016

  • Following a journey from the western edge of Norway to the east of England, from Shetland and the Outer Hebrides to the fishing ports of the Baltic coast of Germany and the Netherlands, culminating in a visit to Iceland's Herring Era Museum, Donald S. Murray has stitched together tales of the fish that was of central importance to the lives of our ancestors, noting how both it - and those involved in their capture - were celebrated in the art, literature, craft, music and folklore of life in northern Europe.
  • Named one of the Guardian’s Best Nature Books of 2015  
  • Illustrations by Doug Robertson.

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SY StorY: A Portrait of Stornoway Harbour
Published by Birlinn
January 2015

  • SY StorY, in Donald S. Murray’s inimitable verse and prose, tells Stornoway’s story from the days when Mesolithic people sheltered there to its present-day life as a bustling, modern harbour, casting light on men and boats, native herring girls and island visitors, the town’s triumphs and tragedies.
  • Illustrations by Doug Robertson.

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The Guga Stone: Lies, Legends and Lunacies from St Kilda
Published by Luath Press
June 2014

  • Acrobats, airmen, cormorants, cragsmen and angels leap, climb, shimmer and swoop through the pages of The Guga Stone. With subtle humour, Donald S. Murray mixes mythology, fiction and history to recreate St Kilda’s tales and legends for our time.
  • Named one of the Guardian’s Best Nature Books of 2013
  • Illustrations by Doug Robertson.

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Sequamur (Let us Follow): A Gaelic language play
March 2014 (first produced)  April 2021 (first appears in book form)

The title for this debut play is taken from the school motto of The Nicolson Institute in Stornoway, which is central to the action. Though the school’s headteacher was enlightened for his day and committed to education, William J Gibson encouraged young men from the Stornoway school to take up arms in the First World War. Sadly, many never returned home. 

Sequamur features in Michelle Macleod’s book, Dràma na Gàidhlig: Ceud Bliadhna air an Àrd-ùrlar: A Century of Gaelic Drama.  The book was published in April 2021 by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies and is a celebration of the often-overlooked genre of Gaelic theatre. The book features Sequamur and seven other plays spanning the early 20th Century to the present day, along with English translations.
 

Nights of Passion at Scarinish Temperance Hotel
Published by Islands Book Trust
2013

  • In this short booklet of poetry, he records his first impressions of the Inner Hebridean island of Tiree – the land of many of his maternal ancestors.  In its pages, he contemplates both the irritating mating calls of the corncrake and the even more absurd mating rituals of his fellow human beings – as well as the island’s history and geography, past and present, the sweep of rocks and magnificent beaches that ring Tiree’s coast…

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Weaving Songs
Published by Acair
November 2011

  • Drawing on the richness of his imagination and his experiences as a child in the Isle of Lewis, Donald S. Murray has fashioned his own original collection of Weaving Songs. They celebrate Harris Tweed – the cloth his weaver father played his small part in creating while working on the loom behind their croft-house. Full of craft, skill, rigour, colour and vitality, his verse and prose have much in common with the patterns of that unique fabric. 
  • Photographs by Carol Ann Peacock. 

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Small Expectations
Published by Two Ravens Press
February 2010

  • Small Expectations is a Hebridean parody of ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens, mingling humour, ghost stories, prose, and verse to convey the experiences of a Lewis version of Pip. 

This book is out-of-print and the publisher is no longer trading. Used copies are available via link below.

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The Guga Hunters
Published by Birlinn
October 2008

  • Every year, ten men from Ness, at the northern tip of the Isle of Lewis, sail north-east for some forty miles to a remote rock called Sulasgeir. Their mission is to catch and harvest the guga, the almost fully grown gannet chicks nesting on the two hundred foot high cliffs that circle the tiny island, which is barely half a mile long. The Guga Hunters tells the story of the men who voyage to Sulasgeir each year and the district they hail from, bringing out the full colour of their lives, the humour and drama of their exploits. 

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Speak To Us Catriona: New Tales and Traditions of The Lews
Published by Islands Book Trust
2007

  • In this collection of haunting and memorable poems, Donald S. Murray takes his inspiration from The Tales and Traditions of the Lews, the posthumously published work of the celebrated amateur folklorist and historian Dr Donald Macdonald of Gisla.
  • Shortlisted for the Callum MacDonald Memorial Award 

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Between Minch and Muckle Flugga
Published by Kettillonia
December 2005

  • In these poems Donald S. Murray writes with wonderful wit and a real sense of intimacy of men and women from the Western Isles to Shetland whose characters, for generations, have been carved and weathered by the sea that fills their harbours, scours their shorelines and colours their perceptions of the world.

This book is out-of-print and unavailable 

Special Deliverance: Short Stories from the Western Isles
Published by Scottish Cultural Press
1997

  • A collection of Donald's previously published and broadcast short stories.
  • Shortlisted for a Saltire Society First Book Award.

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