“Bessie Millie sold favourable winds to visiting sea captains from her hovel on Brinkies Brae in eighteenth century Stromness...” ('Travellers', George MacKay Brown)

Stromness from the seaOn Brinkies Brae, tumble-stone ocean,
Tips her head to listen deep
Smells the sea spray, breathes her magic
Silent spells her secrets keep

And Bessie Millie sang the ocean
Lured sailors with her siren call
Strong woman with blood pulsing passion
Sang love songs to the sea’s wild squall

On Brinkies Brae, ordinary woman
Weaves baskets with her salt-raw hands
Kisses the spirit of the wild wind
And reads the augurs of the sands

And Bessie Millie sang the ocean
Lured sailors with her siren call
Strong woman with blood pulsing passion
Sang love songs to the sea’s wild squall

On Brinkies Brae they offer pennies
Glint silver like moon on the sea
Wild Bessie, lover of the storm clouds
Would rather set the wild winds free

But Bessie Millie sang the ocean
Lured sailors with her siren call
Strong woman with blood pulsing passion
Sang love songs to the sea’s wild squall

Few would mention Bessie Millie
Few would look and few would see
Strange incantations feared and offered
To those who risk their lives at sea

On Brinkies Brae, tumble stone ocean,
old woman with a bird-bright eye
Sea witch flying with the fulmar
Soul soaring in the sea-spray sky

©Jacqueline Woodward-Smith, (22nd July 2007 – 24th June 2010)