By Tim Porteus

THE Boat Shore at Cockenzie is a magical place: a small natural cove, embraced by ancient rocks and a beach seeped in the history of the local community.

Legend tells us that the name Cockenzie is derived from Cul Cionnich, meaning Cove of Kenneth in Gaelic.

St Kenneth was a Celtic saint and a follower of St Columba. His missionary work took him all over Scotland, including the coastline of the Forth. It is said his arrival at this small natural harbour gave the place its name.

Last weekend, artist Andrew Crummy, who lives in the village, organised three ‘sunset evenings’ at the Boat Shore. Local musicians, singers, artists and actors gathered on the beach with an audience of fellow locals to share the sunset.

I sadly couldn’t attend the first two but was able to make the last evening with some of my children. It was a wonderful mix of music and song, with a very funny short drama, and a setting sun as the backdrop.

It was a poignant evening for myself, and I know for some others too; a moment of reflection as well as coming together. I had planned to tell a tale about St Kenneth, but I changed my mind just before the event.

Instead, I told a tale of a friendship between a tortoise and a butterfly and what sunsets meant to them. In story, anything is possible, and I made this tale to help ease someone’s sadness in experiencing an ending.

I was later asked if I could share it, and so here is the story:

There was once a tortoise who became friends with a butterfly. On the first day of their friendship, the tortoise invited the butterfly to sit with him on his favourite rock, to watch the sunset.

However, Butterfly had no idea what a sunset was, and so when she saw the sun fall gradually from the sky she became concerned.

“What’s happening to the sun?” she asked in a worried tone.

“It’s the sunset,” said Tortoise, “it’s when the sun goes down and ends the day.”

“What, already! That’s it?” asked Butterfly, horrified. “This is just my first day being a butterfly and my days are over?”

Tortoise smiled: “No my wee friend, it’s not all over. The sun will come back and there will be another day.”

But Butterfly remained anxious: “How can you be sure the sun will come back?”

“Trust me, I know. I’ve seen many sunsets,” said Tortoise. “The sun always comes back. Sometimes it takes longer than others, sometimes you can’t see the sun because of clouds, but it always returns and makes another day.”

Butterfly was now reassured and so settled down to watch, as the sun dipped lower, painting the sky. She expected the sun to sizzle and the sea to steam when they touched each other, but of course that didn’t happen. The sun slid quietly below the horizon, leaving a trail of bright red and orange.

“That was beautiful, wasn’t it?” Tortoise said.

But Butterfly’s reply was unexpected: “I think I don’t like sunsets very much.”

Tortoise curled up the wrinkles on his old face in surprise: “Why not, don’t you think it was spectacular, the way it painted the sky?”

“Suppose, but it was sad, really sad,” said Butterfly.


“Yes, because the sunset ends the day and that’s sad. Endings are sad.”

Tortoise nodded in a way tortoises do when they’re thinking: “Yes that’s true, endings can be sad. But everything ends sooner or later. Nothing lasts forever.”

“But that’s what I mean Tortoise, it’s so sad. I don’t want to sit and celebrate the end of something.”

Tortoise thought for a moment: “Although endings can be sad, they also give meaning and value to our time. Without sunsets we would not treasure our days. Our life would become one long blah of sameness.”

“A blah of sameness?”

“Yes, my expression,” smiled Tortoise proudly.

“But that’s easy for you to say, Tortoise, because you have more time than me, you will have more days.”

“Perhaps, but that means your time is more precious than mine. And your sunsets are greater celebrations of your days.”

Butterfly thought about this. “You seem quite wise, Tortoise,” she said, looking at her friend.

“Yes,” he replied immodestly, “I do have that reputation. I suppose I have a lot of time to think, sitting on this rock.”

It began to get dark and colder.

“Now it’s time for our dreams. Soon there will be the sunrise,” said Tortoise.

“Sunrise? Is that when the sun returns?”

Tortoise nodded: “Yes, you see you don’t get a sunrise without a sunset. Although endings can be sad, they open the door to new beginnings. At the other side of a sunset there is a sunrise.”

Tortoise was indeed wise and Butterfly felt reassured by his wisdom.

That summer, the two friends watched many sunsets together. They would share stories about their day as the sun went down. Then one evening, as flocks of geese were flying overhead, Butterfly spoke sadly.

“Tortoise, I need to go. It’s getting cold. I’m off to Africa. Do you think there are sunsets there?”

“I’m sure of it,” replied Tortoise.

“I love sunsets now,” said Butterfly. “They have shown me to treasure and celebrate my days. But I am sad this is our last one together.”

“Me too,” said Tortoise.

The two friends sat together on their rock as the sunset commemorated their summer with a blaze of colour. Then they said goodbye.

A new dawn now lay ahead for them both, for the end of one story is the beginning of another.

And at the other side of a goodbye, there is a hello.