Edwin and the shipwreck cabin

Westray is a small island and has some really interesting characters; Edwin Rendall is one of them. My theory is that everyone on Westray has five jobs; it was true of the first person I met on the Island and has been true of many I have met subsequently. Edwin’s a farmer, photographer, artist and self-built gallery owner. Yes, I know, that’s only four, isn’t it? That means he must have a fifth job that I don’t know about. Man of Mystery doesn’t count as a job.

One of Edwin’s remarkable stories is that he and his wife Elaine and their two children Norman and Rosemary used to live in the cabin of a shipwrecked ship. When he got married in 1983 they moved into the cabin and used it as their first home together. They, along with their children, were the last family to live in there. It was continuously occupied as a home for 123 years.

The cabin was salvaged from the deck of a huge wooden Norwegian barque which ran aground on Westray carrying barrels of oil in 1879. Here’s Edwin looking through one of the ship’s windows:

Edwin Rendall - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The barque was called the Emerald. When it ran into trouble in heavy seas all the crew were rescued safely, the wreck was salvaged and enterprising islanders bought the cabin.

It’s now no longer lived in as a house but has a new lease of life as part of a characterful art and photography gallery. The Gallery is called the Wheeling Steen, which means ‘the resting stone’ in Orkney dialect. The dialect is close to Norwegian because of its Norse roots. I suspect they would need a rest after carrying such a huge wooden deck-cabin across the Island.

Here’s Edwin standing in the cabin. He’s holding a reproduction of a painting of the Emerald with the rear deck cabin just visible. It had a hole in it for the rear mast and a curved wooden roof:

Edwin Rendall - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Eventually the cabin was covered over with brick walls and a pitched roof. Inside, however, was still the snug wooden ship’s cabin, with its wooden panelled ceiling and wooden walls. There are layers of old wallpaper from many years of decoration still covering the wooden panels.

It’s now Edwin’s artist’s studio full of his paintings and he has built a beautiful new gallery space around it to show his photography of the Island. In the cabin are volumes of The Illustrated London News from 1879. Here’s Edwin reading one of the volumes from the year the cabin was salvaged:

Edwin Rendall - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I’m wondering what his fifth job is as he makes me a wonderful cup of coffee. Oh yes, of course; Edwin is maker of wonderful coffee for visitors to the Wheeling Steen Gallery.

Edwin Rendall - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I love Edwin’s photographs and paintings, whichever direction he goes in.

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