HER birth in November 1980 was marked by a poem from one of the finest writers modern Scotland has produced.

This in turn was set to music by a globally acclaimed composer and sung by choirs at an international arts festival.

Not many births have been so widely heralded, but Lucy Rendall was the first child to be born at Rackwick on the Orkney island of Hoy for 32 years. And the girl immortalised in George Mackay Brown's poem Lullaby for Lucy, is now getting married.

Mackay Brown, one of the greatest Scottish writers of the 20th century, died in 1996. Although he lived in Stromness, like many other Orcadians he spent time on Hoy and stayed in a friend's cottage at Rackwick.

Rackwick has been described by some as the most beautiful part of Orkney with its valley and bay, but has struggled to retain younger generations.

The birth of a child after more than three decades was celebrated in the acrostic poem and set to music by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen's music.

The Lullaby was first performed by the St Magnus Singers at the 1981 St Magnus Festival and will be sung by a choir at the wedding.

Maxwell Davies had a house on the top of Rackwick cliffs for more than 20 years, but has now moved to the more gentle contours of Sanday.

He was well known to Lucy. "We used to always see Max when he was on Hoy, " she said. "But he stops and speaks whenever I meet him in Kirkwall now."

There is also a picture of her and other small children, with Mackay Brown at a party in the Maxwell Davies house at the end of a St Magnus Festival.

Next month she will marry her fiance, local joiner Mark Flett, also 24, at St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall and the words of the late Mackay Brown's poem will again drift through the air on the music of Maxwell Davies. Lucy, now a nurse at the Balfour Hospital in Kirkwall, also the town where the couple live, said she was deeply touched by the artistic accolade.

"Obviously I didn't really appreciate it when I was young, " she said. "I didn't understand what an honour and privilege it was to have such works dedicated to me, but I do now. The words are lovely, and so is the music."

After Lucy's ceremony at St Magnus Cathedral there will be a reception at Harray, where her fiance's family live.

The next day the wedding party will go to Hoy for a homecoming party.

The locals are well rehearsed in such occasions.

Indeed her own parents' homecoming 27 years ago was the inspiration for Maxwell Davies's internationally celebrated orchestral piece, An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise. It has since been performed by symphony orchestras around the world, from Korea to Kazakstan.

Lucy's mother Dorothy Rendall remembers the original event well.

"The tradition here is that there is a wedding party the day after, for all the islanders who couldn't go the day before, " she said. "That's what we are doing for Lucy. In our case we got married in England in July 1978 and came back in the August.

Peter Maxwell Davies was at the party, which went on all night."

She said there are musical flourishes in the piece which signified one local woman jumping in the air.

Mrs Rendall, who was brought up in Warwickshire, first visited the island in 1977, when she was doing environmental work. That was when she met her husband Jack, whose family have been in Rackwick since 1679 and the battle of Bothwell Bridge.

One of his forbears was one of only four Covenanters who made it ashore when their ship the Crown sank. They were being sent to the West Indies after being defeated by the Duke of Monmouth.

Three made it to Rackwick.

"We were staying in a cottage in Rackwick, " she said. "The weather was foul, but the atmosphere was great and we had a lovely time.

Now I have come to love the place and would never move away. I was 43 when I had Lucy and it was very special to have the Lullaby written for her. She is our only child."

Sadly, she said the population in Rackwick is dwindling.

"There are a lot of holiday houses here now but many are owned by local folk from Stromness who add a great deal to Rackwick, " she said "They come all the year round and give us all a great boost.

There are fewer than 400 people on Hoy now but in Rackwick we are down to five. Four of us are over 60.

We would love to have young families, but unless they have work or are self-employed, it doesn't work out."



(The first letter of each line spells her name)

Let all plants and creatures of the valley now


Calling a new

Young one to join the celebration.

Rowan and lamb and waters salt and sweet

Entreat the

New child to the brimming

Dance of the valley,

Apledge and a promise.

Lonely they were long, the creatures of Rackwick, till

Lucy came among them, all brightness and light.

Reprinted from The Collected Poems of George Mackay Brown edited by Archie Bevan and Brian Murray.

Published by John Murray.