"An Orkney Boyhood" by Duncan Cameron Mackenzie is a wonderful evocation of a childhood spent in the 1950s and 1960s on Burray. At two miles by three, Burray is one of the smaller Orkney islands, albeit one that had been (and remains) connected to other larger islands since World War Two by the Churchill Barriers.
As the foreword of this lovely book explains, the "Flashbacks" series sets out to present in printed form the words of individuals recounting aspects of their lives in Scotland. This can take the form of interviews, memoirs or autobiography. In "An Orkney Boyhood" the author sets out his own story in very much his own way. His approach is simple and straightforward, but very well written, and this, combined with skillful organisation of the content, engages the reader very effectively indeed. The account comes over as being extremely honest. The author does not shirk from anecdotes that readers with modern urban sensibilities will find difficult: how, for example, from a young age he became the family member responsible for controlling overpopulation among the domestic cats, by drowning excess kittens. Other stories, for example concerning the home made electric blanket (once mains electricity had arrived on Burray), about being lowered into the well to resolve the water supply problem, and about the raft made by boys from leaking oil drums, are easier to read because you know the author must have survived the experiences to be able to write about them.
The real attraction of this book comes from the combination of two quite separate elements. On the one hand this is a story of growing up in an era in which a significant part of the wider population grew up. Many of the stories and experiences resonate strongly for all of us of a certain age. On the other hand, this is also an account of life on the island of Burray, at a time during which mains electricity and piped water were only just arriving, and when peat cutting and beachcombing (and even small scale marine salvage) provided a supply of pocket money to local children. It is this combination of the familiar (though often forgotten) and the unfamiliar which makes "An Orkney Boyhood" such a joy.