Heriot Toun in summer


Following on from 7 short sails, mailboat is a new project based around communication by wind, current and an uncertain timescale.

Artists involved:

Linda Cracknell
Peter Davidson
Alec Finlay
Alison Flett
John Glenday
Pat Law
Robert Macfarlane
Adam Nicolson


In a world where we've come to expect instant computerised contact, a handwritten postcard is now a novelty and a delight. A message in a bottle even more so - something refreshing about the the lack of control of it all. The fact that we can only guess where the bottle will end up (if anywhere) who will find it (if anyone) and how long it might take to reach its final destination (if it reaches land at all) fuels the imagination with endless scenarios. St. Kilda islanders used a similar process to communicate with Lewis and Harris in the late 19th century, their vision not so romantic, more of a cry for help. Instead of a bottle they often used an old tin and a sheeps bladder to keep it afloat.

In this new project, mailboat, poets and writers have each created a message to be paired with an image and cast adrift in a bottle. First and foremost it's a project about folk. The messages are given in a spirit that transcends space and time and reaches out to anyone who might be in the right place at the right time to discover them on a shoreline. A hello from our shores to theirs. A postcard. We ask them to reply to the message with a story or a poem or simple a note saying hi - or a few grains of sand from the bottle's port of arrival. In fact, anything they'd like to share with us would be welcomed.

So in the summer of 2010 yacht Kirsty was put to work again, this time to take us out to the Minch between the mainland and the Hebrides, where the bottles were posted north on a hope, a prayer and a flood tide. And with any luck we'll make contact with somebody, somewhere, sometime.



Enclosed with each message:


To whoever picks up this bottle and reads the message, it’s good to meet you in a virtual but real sort of way…

The message you’ve just found began with the idea of connection - connection to other lands and people in higher latitudes. What you’ve just found is a message which is part of the project mailboat involving myself Pat Law, visual artist, and a group of poets and writers: Linda Cracknell, Peter Davidson, Alec Finlay, Alsion Flett, John Glenday, Robert Macfarlane and Adam Nicolson.

The bottles were cast into the Minch off the west coast of Scotland in July 21st 2010 on a flood tide where the current would carry them north. You have just found one of them. We have no idea where the bottles will end up or who will find them but we would be delighted if you made contact whether you found this in Skye or in Sweden!

If you’d like to send us a story or a poem, that would be great  - or a few grains of sand/earth from the bottles’ port of arrival would be welcome too – or simply a note to say hello. Any kind of response you’d like to give would be appreciated.

Please can you contact:
pat@heriot-toun.co.uk        landline:+44 (0) 1875 835 229  

Postal address:
Heriot Toun Studio
Scottish Borders
EH38 5YE

Please can you also contact the name of the poet/writer whose message and address you have in your hand, we’d all love to hear from you.
The following website link will lead to the mailboat  project webpage: www.studiolog.heriot-toun.co.uk 

Pat Law,  July 2010, Scotland

Linda Cracknell - linda@lcracknell.freeserve.co.uk
Linda Cracknell

Peter Davidson - prkadavidson@yahoo.co.uk
Peter Davidson


Alec Finlay - alecfinlay@yahoo.com
Alec Finlay

Alison Flett - alisonflett@fsmail.net
Alison Flett

John Glenday

story to be finished by the finder... Robert Macfarlane
story to be finished by the finder...
Robert Macfarlane

Adam Nicolson - adam@shiantisles.net
Adam Nicolson


About the contributors:

Linda Cracknell has written numerous radio plays and drama scripts as well as fiction, and teaches creative writing in workshops across Scotland and internationally. www.lindacracknell.blogspot.com

Peter Davidson is Professor in Renaissance Studies and Scholar-Keeper of the University's Collections at the University of Aberdeen. He published 'The Idea of North' in 2005, 'The Universal Baroque' in 2007 and a collection of poems *The Palace of Oblivion* in 2008."

Alec Finlay is an artist, poet & publisher. He now lives in the North-East of England, in Byker (Newcastle upon Tyne). www.alecfinlay.com

Alison Flett is a writer, born and bred in Edinburgh but now living in Orkney (and actually just about to move to Australia) Her book of poetry "Whit Lassyz Ur Inty" was shortlisted for the Saltire Book of the Year Award. She has recently completed her first novel.

John Glenday is a Scottish poet who does not "belong to any school of anything – there is no conscious, theoretical basis behind [his] writing; poetry is simply the best possible medium [he] can find, under the circumstances, for saying what needs saying".

Pat Law is a visual artist who mostly collaborates with other artists, sails on the west coast of Scotland and lives in the Scottish Borders.

Robert Macfarlane is the author of two award winning books: Mountains of the Mind (2003) which won the Guardian First Book Award and The Wild Places (2007) which won the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature and the Scottish Arts Council Non-Fiction Book Of The Year Award in 2008.

Adam Nicolson is a writer and owner of the beautiful Shiant Isles in the Minch. www.shiantisles.net

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