Harbour wall poem

Four stone triangles inset into the wall on Kirkwall harbour have the words of an old poem carved into them.

Each triangle bears two lines of the poem; “When the wind is in the east”

fisherman's poem

A modern take on an old proverb

When the wind is in the east

When the wind is in the east,
‘Tis neither good for man nor beast;
When the wind is in the north,
The skillful fisher goes not forth;
When the wind is in the south,
It blows the bait in the fishes’ mouth;
When the wind is in the west,
Then ’tis at the very best.

Although the positioning of the stones has changed the poem from it’s original, it loses none of it’s meaning but we wonder if the direction of the winds have the same impact on the modern seafarer as they did in the late 1600’s.

James Howell

This poem is thought to have been written by James Howell, a 17th Century British writer and historian who lived between 1594 and 1666.  It featured in Howells’ Book of Proverbs, published in 1638.

James Howell was the first writers to earn his living from writing exclusively in English language.

More information

James Howell – Principal Literary Works

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