“Whichever way I look I see a clouded horizon”: Compton Mackenzie

MECCSA 2019, University of Stirling

Kathryn A. Burnett, University of the West of Scotland and Ray Burnett, Scottish Centre for Island Studies

“Whichever way I look I see a clouded horizon” wrote Mackenzie once of his uneasy relationship with the island of Herm, in the English Channel.  D.H. Lawrence’s tale (pub.1928) of the “the man who loved  islands” is reputed to be greatly informed by the complex affections and affectations of  – amongst many descriptors – writer, broadcaster, activist, and resolute islophile Compton Mackenzie.  The “topos of the island explores and creates bridges between the real and the imaginary” state Stephanides and Bassett (2008) but crucially also between “genres and disciplines ”. This paper deploys a retrospective lens through the post-war iconography of Whisky Galore (1949 Dir., Mackendrick), offering a pivoting multi-disciplinary perspective of Mackenzie ’s time in the Hebrides, as well as  his “island time” spent elsewhere. With reference to Mackenzie’s own memoirs – not least  of his time among the “aristocrats of democracy” – and his considerable published works, as well as media accounts and broadcast archive, off-shore socio-political questions will be asked of onshore cultural policy, and of continuing  dialogues of ‘remoteness’, ‘islandness’, independence and nationhood today.

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