Throughout our 30th year, we will be sharing a series of blog posts with anecdotes, snippets, and memories from many of the people who have spent time with us at Moniack Mhor over the years.
In this first post, we warmly welcome Graham Morgan, writer and now Moniack Mhor Board member, who tells us what comes to mind for him:
Going to bed in my own room, books gathered from the Moniack Mhor Library, the remains of the sunset, lighting the walls, my lap top on the desk with a full days writing on it. That was such a wonderful feeling; another four days in front of me and time just for me, to think and write and go for walks to nowhere.
Moniack was not always about civilised conversation. I have vivid memories of someone, now one of my best friends, setting her poems on fire and threatening to walk to Inverness in the blizzard, while undiscovered till the morning, another participant was sleeping off his trip to the Pub in a handy cupboard.
Those moments when the tinkers told their past to us. Sitting in the Hobbit hut listening to stories I couldn’t have imagined, a wonderful sharing, helping us with our own history.
I always felt nervous sharing my work with the tutors, those small silent moments when I was sure they would tell me not to bother. Leaving, full of the desire to find music in my story; to sit up late after tea writing the night away.
When I first learnt we needed to make tea together, I was indignant and slightly frightened. It became the highlight of my stay. A couple of hours of giggling; opening bottles of wine, learning about each other and low and behold! We had made a lovely tea to give to our fellow residents.
That end of our stay ceilidh, the fire on, snow falling outside, a buzz of excitement and slightly too obvious fear. The applause at each act, some people opting for music or singing. None of us wanting to leave the next day.
So many of us thought that people like us did not deserve this place, had no talent, were not worth the effort. Treated like Royalty; our fear diminished, we began to find a voice we didn’t know we had.
Sitting on the stone circle of seats, looking across to the hills, not reading, nor thinking about writing; just listening to the bird song and the sheep in the distance. Thinking this isn’t about writing, this is about learning to live again.
Not daring to speak to the other guests. They seemed so clever, so skilled; hiding in my room with my crisps and whisky. By the end of the week exchanging addresses and promises to keep in touch.
So many weekends when our small group, nearly everyone on the dole, nearly everyone with memories we would rather not have, began to realise that we too were precious that our reality needed told too.
That time not so long ago, when, after all these years, flummoxed by simple things like form or plot, punctuation and grammar; to be honest, still completely flummoxed. That time when I was able to leave my two books behind as gifts for future residents. Did that really happen?
When I brought people back through my work, we learnt to stop fearing the idea of writing, expression, even art. We spoke aloud and we celebrated. We also ate in company when we hadn’t in years, slept in the same building as men despite our terror of that. We dared to believe in ourselves and tutors like John Glenday, Laura Hird, Cynthia Rogerson and Kevin McNeil made that a reality. We gloried in our voice and between us we changed worlds of sadness into ones where hope was just a touch more present. Thank you Moniack Mhor.