Island branded 'anti-gay' in row over ban on composer's civil
STEPHEN MCGINTY / The Scotsman / 1-6-07
SIR Peter Maxwell Davies, the Master of the Queen's Music, is
considering legal action after he was banned from having a "gay
wedding" on the Orkney island of Sanday.
The celebrated composer, who has lived on the island for the
past nine years, had planned to have a civil ceremony performed
by his neighbour, Charlie Ridley, the registrar for the island,
but has been forbidden by Orkney Islands Council.
Sir Peter, 72, and his partner of six years, Colin Parkinson,
52, a builder, had planned to tie the knot at the Sanday Light
Railway, a tourist attraction built by Mr Ridley, 47, over seven
years in the garden of his croft. They hoped to arrive by train,
driven by Mr Ridley, who would then perform the ceremony.
The composer, who officially opened the railway in August, was
even composing a piece called Sanday Railway for the ceremony,
which was expected to draw guests across the world of classical
and pop music.
But when Mr Ridley applied for permission to perform the civil
ceremony, he was told that only the registrar based at Kirkwall
was authorised to carry out a civil partnership. This would force
Sir Peter and his guests to travel 90 minutes by boat to the
In the same letter Mr Ridley was told he now had to comply with
public entertainment licensing regulations for his railway, which
would cost $5,000 a year. As a result Mr Ridley, who spent $50,000
building the railway, has started to tear it down and insisted
he would abandon the island.
Sir Peter, acknowledged as one of the foremost modern composers
- and whose works, ironically, include An Orkney Wedding - said
he and his partner still wanted to marry on Sanday with Mr Ridley
performing the ceremony.
He said: "I am taking legal advice. We are under the impression
that a local registrar can conduct civil ceremonies. Everybody
can get married where they live except me, it seems. It would
not have the same meaning to get married elsewhere, but I will
not give the council the pleasure of me marrying in Kirkwall.
We will do it elsewhere in the UK if we cannot do it on Sanday."
He continued: "Everybody on the island is in a terrible state
over what has happened to Charlie. If he leaves we will lose our
main tourist attraction. Why has it taken the council seven years
to throw these bills at Charlie?"
Meanwhile, Mr Ridley accused the council of anti-gay "discrimination"
and said he was still determined to wed the pair on Sanday. "In
the same letter they linked the need for a public entertainments
licence even though I have never charged a penny for the railway.
I cannot afford the $5,000 a year and all the other administration
and regulations involved. So I have closed the railway and I am
leaving. But not before I marry Peter and Colin here."
Orkney Islands Council (OIC) said that in common with all the
other home-based registrars in its registration district, the
Sanday registrar is not authorised to carry out civil partnership
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