Welcome to the November issue of the Voice for Arran.

Last month saw the passing of our much loved founder Alison Prince. To honour her contribution to the paper, and to Arran more generally, we thought that this editorial space should once again be handed over to her. The following is an extract from one of Alison’s ‘On The Green’ pieces (which she regularly contributed to the Arran Banner) dating back to 2003, and which her granddaughter read at her funeral in Whiting Bay. Alison’s words speak a truth, they remain relevant and compelling, and reflect the hope that we can continue in her strong ethical stance to do justice to the vision she had both for the Voice and for Arran,

“I know there’s a tacit taboo about discussing death and its effects on those who have to live on. But I’m ignoring it. We all suffer at some point from the hammer blow of a loss that seems to threaten our entire being and I don’t see why these cataclysms should be treated as an embarrassing secret.

Older cultures understood this and made provision for it with ceremonies that gave form and shape to grief. Our current civilisation teeters uneasily in the last days of a religion that is fading from its power. In its place many people have nothing at all except a scared conviction that they have to bolster themselves with material goods. But an increasing number, of whom I am one, look back to more ancient beliefs that are proving themselves newly true.

A sense that there is a sacred truth inherent in the natural world itself is a very real spiritual strength. The only trouble is, it lacks ritual structure. We perhaps need our ceremonies and our music and prayers. When tragedy happens we have to find a way to mark what has happened, together with our friends, and we usually manage that. But afterwards, there comes the long and hard question of how to go on into a changed life.

We need a belief. A human hand in one’s own is a great comfort, but what else is there to trust? We seek something permanent and vast, but personal. For me, and perhaps for many of us on Arran, spiritual truth lies in the heart of the place that surrounds us.

There is an extraordinary beauty and rightness about such things as the shape of the hill against the sky and the sweet, ever mysterious line of the horizon, so real and yet so intimately related to one’s position on earth. This rightness extends to small things. The curled shape of a shell found on the beach, the spiral pattern of seeds in a sunflower head, or the curl of an animal’s horns are not random or accidental. They are shaped according to an utterly reliable mathematical formula and the relationship governing them underlies countless natural structures.

For me this reality is a constant ongoing miracle. Every particle of it, every grain of sand and stone, every leaf and pine needle and raindrop adds to a changing but continuing beauty and its truth is absolute. One can never fully know it, but it is utterly to be trusted. It cannot let you down. As Thomas Traherne put it – somewhere around 1660 – “All virtues lie in the world as seeds in a pomegranate.” He was quoting Solomon, so the idea wasn’t a new one.”

Alison Prince (1931 – 2019)