Purple Service A specialist service that supports the development of communication and play skills for children with epilepsy, under the age of 5 years - please click here for more information. Close notice
Bg Top Edge Bg Bottom Edge
Home > News

And so we Flew to Orkney!

Inga, Muir's carer since the day he was born, is from Finstown in Orkney. She came to work for us as our nanny. At that time we had only Connor, now almost 20 years old. Muir was born just two years late and Rory followed within a year of that. I could not have coped with three children under the age of five, as well as a full time job without Inga. She is our Mary Poppins! 

I can't remember when I insisted that Inga take Connor home with her to Orkney but I did when he was young and it meant that for a long time he had been somewhere that I had not. As of this week that all changed. I can now say that I have been to Orkney. And it was no ordinary visit because we did it as part of Mum on the Run for Epilepsy (MORE), running in and out of schools across the island to raise awareness of epilepsy. The visit would not have been as successful without MMT's Anna, who organised the trip with military precision. 

We flew in to Orkney on Sunday evening and checked in to our lovely B&B - the Karrawa, where they took wonderful care of us. There is such a sense of community in Orkney that when we picked up our hire car, he knew exactly where to send us! We joined the Valentine's dinner dates at the local hotel - but just for one course - before retiring. 

Kirkwall GrammerOur first port of call the next day was Kirkwall Grammar School. Anna had been light in detail up to this point. KGS is brand new - only four weeks old, in fact and all I can say is KGS, you lucky ducks! This school is to die for. I had the privilege of speaking from the stage of the Orkney Theatre, the school's assembly hall, shared with the local community. It is the most outstanding venue I have ever had the opportunity of presenting in. Added to which, I had a truly unique audience of senior pupils who filled just half of this 400 seat auditorium, who never moved, coughed, flinched, or anything. But they asked amazing questions and I was literally stunned by this exceptional group of senior pupils.

It was a theme that was to prevail across all the schools we visited in the course of our travels around Orkney over two days. Next up, Stromness Academy, just the Deputy Headmaster and the Head of Guidance teaching, because pupils were still in prelims. But MORE will follow here. 

St Andrews Primary SchoolThen St Andrews Primary School blew us away. Touched by epilepsy, a little girl told us about her daddy who has recently been diagnosed with epilepsy and whose seizures she often witnesses and worries about. She wants to fundraise in his honour. And a little boy whose grandmother, just the weekend before and because of our visit, confessed she had epilepsy and told him to listen carefully. This is a wonderful community that is clearly robust and self-supporting but some things remain private until there is a reason to coax them out of secrecy. We were deeply touched by these reactions to our presence. The pupils of St Andrews celebrated the occasion with a wonderful rendition of 'This Little Light of Mine', with tambourines galore and Head Teacher Thelma Holt on guitar. The moment was very special and one we shall remember fondly following this MORE campaign. 

Our day climaxed with a brief visit to the Italian Chapel, a nissan hut on Lamb Holm, stunningly converted into an exquisite chapel by Italian prisoners of war during World War II, who were housed on the previously uninhabited island whilst they constructed Churchill Barriers to the East of Scapa Flow. There is nothing quite like a bit of culture whilst being a MORE! We followed that with an extremely worthwhile and interesting meeting with a senior member of the Orkney Rotary Club and again, MORE will follow here. 


Firth Primary SchoolOur second day took us to Firth and Evie Primary Schools, traditional smallhighland schools with a cosy community atmosphere that probably cannot be replicated - unless you are a small school in the highlands! Classes are small but year groups are taught together. In truth, this is my favourite age group to speak to about epilepsy. Out of the mouths of babes come the most honest questions. They never fail to challenge me and I love it. The rug was well and truly pulled from under my feet at Firth Primary School however, for two reasons - a little boy so bravely confessed to his classmates that he had been struggling with epilepsy for quite a while and even described the detail of his seizures. Then it transpired that Inga's nephew was in the class too and little did I know that he had already met our son Muir and played with him! Sometimes the world can feel like a small place. 

Evie Primary SchoolEvie Primary was no different with engaging pupils, challenging questions and a healthy curiosity for this new subject - which I love. The headmistress of both Firth and Evie Primary Schools, Ingrid Rendall, made us so welcome and staff too. Our impact at Firth meant that she included P5 as well as P6 & P7 in the presentation and they were truly a pleasure to engage with on the subject of epilepsy.

Anna called time and we had to make a mad dash for the airport and home but culture had been squeezed in. In between our school visits, we saw the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Orkney Cathedral and even the Sands of Evie. Orkney is definitely a special place, quite beautiful in a way and with a sense of community that is to be envied. I am intrigued and curious about the fact that Orkney has the highest incidence of MS in the UK. Epilepsy seems to be quite prevalent too, for such a small population (20,000). Maybe this is one for our epidemiologists. I will definitely be asking the question.

< ┬áReturn to news