Five Stars in Auriga

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPublic lecture/debate/seminar


The stars and their origins are the theme of three works by the Scottish composer Edward McGuire – interwoven here with stories from the Scottish Borders of lives connected by astronomy and space.

Opening music: The Big Bang (7’39”)
Performed by trumpeter: Bede Williams

Dr Bede Williams is Head of Instrumental Studies at the University of St Andrews where he teaches a wide range of courses, coaches chamber music and conducts the St Andrews Chamber Orchestra and New Music Ensemble.

Then comes the story of James Veitch, the Jedburgh ploughwright, born 250 years ago, who became a great telescope maker. He made one for Sir Walter Scott, also born 250 years ago, and one for another Jedburgh man, the physicist Sir David Brewster.

Music: Orbit (7’19”)
Performed by trumpeter: Bede Williams

Jedburgh was the birthplace of astronomer and mathematician Mary Somerville, regarded as “the queen of science” of her age. The Borders were the setting for many of the stories of John Buchan, author of The Thirty-Nine Steps, whose works included a remarkable story about the nature of space in his short story and poetry collection of 1912, The Moon Endureth. Further back in time was Michael Scot, the 12th-century astronomer and mathematician who translated Aristotle’s physics, remembered in Borders folklore as the man who cleft the Eildon Hill in three, and buried in Melrose Abbey.

Closing music: Auriga (13’50”)
Performed by the Wallace Collection
Introduced by Ellen Thomson

Each of the five stars is represented by a separate instrument, with the first trumpet for the brightest, fiery Capella.

Howie Firth’s text for the linking narrative and its Borders theme was inspired by many conversations with a lifelong friend of the Festival from Jedburgh, the late Dr Tim Dolan.
Period2 Sept 2021
Event titleOrkney Science Festival
Event typeConference
LocationKirkwallShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational