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Episode 5 of 5
In 1934 the Orcadian poet Edwin Muir embarked on his iconic 'Scottish Journey' a set of travels round depression-era Scotland where he tried to get to grips with Scottish identity and to consider what the future held for a country whose industries were being devastated by a recession
'. . . a silent clearance is going on in industrial Scotland, a clearance not of human beings, but of what they depend upon for life'
As a man very much of his time, of the 1930s, he wavered between socialism and nationalism as cures for Scotland's ills, but in-between reflected on the nature of work, poverty, Scottishness, tourism, the ideal way of living, the highland and the lowland character and the possible existence of a best of all possible worlds on his native Orkney.
In the summer of 2011, crime writer Louise Welsh decided to embark on a mini whistle-stop version of Muir's journey, taking to the roads in an open-top car, just as he did, and trying to get a flavour now of a country also in the grip of austerity and flirting with nationalism. This week we reach the end of Muir's journey in Orkney heading with teacher and author Simon Hall to the tiny island of Wyre where the poet was brought up. Muir thought Orkney was the best of all possible worlds with its mix of farming, technology and timelessness. Archaeologist Ingrid Mainland shows that such prosperity has a long history even back to neolithic times in the findings of the Ness of Brodgar dig. But are we getting any closer to homing in on that elusive Scottish identity? Even Muir in the end couldn't answer that question...