Saturday, 20 August 2016

Sooth Mooth Woe: My Hot Sex Story

It is sometimes difficult manning the phones at an Island library & archive when you are not a local. There are all kinds of strange author names and book titles and sometimes mistakes are made.

Here in the archive, we take our turn to receive the incoming calls from the public for the whole building. It was my turn last Friday morning:

ME: (brightly, courteously and terribly professionally) Good Morning, Orkney Library and Archive, Archiver speaking!

CALLER: This is a very broad-accented aulder gentleman here looking fer a book!

ME: (brightly, courteously and terribly professionally) Just a moment *brings up screen on pc* What is the title of the book?

CALLER: Hot Sex.

ME: Em... pardon?

CALLER: (clearly and carefully) HOT. SEX.

ME: (thinking) Is he saying hot sex? Is this a rude nuisance call? Is he saying hot sex to me?
         Emmmm..... what is the author's name?

CALLER: Welsh man.

ME: (thinking) A rude Welsh man? Is that a euphemism?? *looks up Welshman, Welschmann,  Welchman etc. on system*

I'm afraid we have no books by that author's name.

CALLER: Hid's no matter....hid's aboot codes.

ME: What?

CALLER: The book's aboot codes.

ME: (thinking) Rude codes? Is that a euphemism?

 I'm sorry that I couldn't help.

CALLER: Hid's no matter. Ch'o noo.

ME: (primly) Good bye. *frantically googles*

Dear readers, this was the book:

Friday, 12 August 2016

Crying for County Show Cakes

We like cakes and we like the County Show.

Imagine our delight therefore, when we found a copy of James Flett & Sons' bakery production list for the 1979 show.

We are very noble at Orkney Archive and, although it is every member of staff's dearest wish to spend tomorrow whirling about in a tea-cup, drunk, with cream and jam all over our faces, in the company of tractors, two of us will be manning the archive desk.

Just... manning the desk. With no cakes. No booze. No tea cups. No tractors. Just crying.

We may have complained about this before...

Orkney Archive Reference D122/6/1

Saturday, 6 August 2016


We have written before about Orcadian Olympic wrestler Tom Ward. He competed as a wrestler 80 years ago at the 1936 'Hitler Olympics.' Here is an extract from the Orcadian announcing his participation:

(We particularly like the description of Tom as a 'fine, lion hearted fellow' and can only hope that we will ever be described in such terms.)

Taken from The Orcadian 16th April 1936

Information taken from Fereday project written by Tom's relation Christy Ward: Orkney Archive reference: D70/12/10

Friday, 29 July 2016

I Beg Your Pardon...Do You Garden?

Gunnie Moberg:Double exposure images made in the garden at Don. These ones date between 1996 -2003. The scans are made from Gunnie’s test prints.

We complain about the weather a lot on this blog and typical Orkney has provided plenty of grist for our grumpy mill this year with thunder, torrential rain, heat-waves and icy winds. Sometimes all in one morning.

The mood is definitely more Summery now though and we have had a lot of lovely days. We should probably do our gardens but we will probably just lie around eating twixes instead. (Other chocolate bars are available... like wispas....or snickers.... or, oooh, the yorkies with raison and biscuits in... mmmmmm)

It has been over a year now since Rebecca Marr left the Gunnie Moberg Archive but her lovely blog about the process of cataloguing the collection is still active and it is worth taking a look at this post on Gunnie's beautiful Stromness garden if you are feeling gardeny yet lazy.

You can look at Rebecca's own photographs here.

Sunday, 17 July 2016


This article in the Guardian reminded me of this post from 2012.

I have just about recovered from the shock of discovering James and Bari's alarming depictions (what ARE they of???)  and my therapist thinks I'm about ready look at the doodle again... here goes...



Friday, 15 July 2016

Farewell Patsy!

Today is the sad day of our Bookbug coordinator Patsy's departure. Patsy has spent over a decade singing, dressing up and crafting with the babies and toddlers of Orkney and, more importantly, making fantastic homebakes for our tea room.

Join us in a weep as Patsy pulls on her spangly Christmas tree hat, grabs her broom, straps on her pirate pantaloons and sails off to pastures new...

We have added a cup of tea and a bun to this lovely pic of Patsy as everyone loves a cup of tea and a bun (RIGHT?) and she must be pretty thirsty after all that singing.

We'll miss you Patsy!

Thursday, 14 July 2016

William P. L. Thomson

William P. L. Thomson, OBE, MA, M.Univ., Dip.Ed., FSA Scot.

It was with great sadness that we learned of Willie Thomson's death last week.

A former rector of Kirkwall Grammar School and greatly respected author of many books on Orkney's  history, Mr Thomson was a regular researcher here at the archive and we hold all of his works in the Orkney Room.

His books include The History of Orkney (1987) which was revised in 2001, The Little General and the Rousay Crofters (1981), Kelp-making in Orkney (1983), Orkney: Land and People (2008), and Orkney Crofters in Crisis (2013). There is a small display of these in the Orkney Room today.

We also hold some of his essays and lectures in the archive as well as a recorded interview which covers the kelp-making process.

We have turned to his tomes time and time again when answering enquiries on Orcadian history. Mr Thomson was always a pleasure to speak to and we will miss him very much.

His funeral is today.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Orkney Ghostbuster

The re-boot of Ghostbusters opens today after months of outrage at the very idea that ladies with lady-parts are playing the four lead roles. What next? Ladies presenting prime-time shows like Strictly and Bake Off? Lady prime ministers?? Ladies on the actual street just walking around and stuff and saying things and not staying in the kitchen???

Now that's scary.

Ernest Walker Marwick, the wonderful collector of Orkney lore gathered together many examples of Orcadian ghost stories.

There is the story of the young lad in Copinsay who, when his parents were away took the opportunity to exhume a grave (AS YOU DO),known locally as the Reekiknowe, upon which a ghostly spectre begged him over three consecutive nights to 'bury me bones, bury me bones' with increasing intensity until the lad did so. (D31/3/4)

A miller and his family from Swanney all saw a huge, black dog bound across their floor and disappear under the bed. The next day the miller was found drowned at the shore and his cat drowned in the mill stream.  (D31/3/4)

Ernest Marwick was also told about the Swanney loch ghost which looked like 'a sheep standing on it's hind legs' and was seen running across the road and then disappearing. It was also described as a floating ball of white steam.( D31/1/5/14)

My favourite is the crying baby of Deerness who had been terrorising people by following them through the darkness for years. The child had apparently been illegitimate and had died unnamed. This was finally put a stop to when a local man shouted 'Hadd away wi' thee bare arse.' The child apparently disappeared, content to finally have a name. The name bare-arse. (D31/1/5/15)


Saturday, 9 July 2016

Wimbledon Final. Calmly.

We are NOT going to get overexcited this time.

 Yes, Andy Murray is in the Wimbledon final tomorrow and yes, we may have gotten a touch over emotional about it in the past. There may have been heartfelt songs composed when we should have been working but we've got a hold on things this year and, with the help of a professional therapist, we shall watch tomorrow with an air of zen-like serenity.

Here are some Orcadian tennis players from the past to wish Muzza good luck:

'Good luck Andy!'
Good luck indeed beuy!

2,4,6,8, who do we appreciate? A,N,D,Y, tomorrow we'll be flying high!

Yoo hoo! Good luuuuck!

 Look into my eyes... no, not around the eyes, INTO my eyes. You SHALL win Wimbledon Andy, It will be...

Photographs taken from the Orkney Photographic archive and Orkney Archive Reference D70/9/10

Friday, 1 July 2016

Orkney at War - Stanley Cursiter at the Somme

In July 1916 Stanley Cursiter spent a short time at the Somme. After many months of training for the 7th Scottish Rifles as a private, he was given three days leave, then... "a week later I was sitting in a front line trench on the Somme".

Stanley Cursiter
Archive Reference: L7959/3
"The unit I was sent to was the 1st Battalion of the Scottish Rifles - the Cameronians - which at that time was holding the extreme right flank of the British Army. The Battalion had suffered badly in an attack on the little village of Le Transloy, and had lost almost a quarter of its strength. In a final tour of the front line, the almost continuous rain, the mud of the Somme, and flooded trenches, took a severe toll in sickness. The Battalion was withdrawn to a back area between Amiens and Abbeville, where it could be re-built with drafts of recruits. It was at this stage that I went down with a bad attack of bronchitis and asthma."
Discharge Papers
Archive Reference: D26/1/1 A
Due to ill health Stanley Cursiter never went back to the front line, but "pleaded with the presiding doctors not to send me back to England". Instead with his aptitude for drawing and lithographic training, he was discharged from the Scottish Rifles on 22nd July 1916 and received a commission on the 24th July 1916 and promotion to Lieutenant to print maps at 4th Field Survey Battalion at 4th Army Headquarters. For this work he was mentioned twice in dispatches and received the OBE.

If you would like to know more about life in the trenches, we have a copy of "Twelve Days on the Somme" by Sidney Rogerson in the Orkney Room reference 941.09. Stanley Cursiter contributed a drawing of Camp 34, Trones Wood to this book.

Quotes taken from "Looking Back - a book of reminiscences" by Stanley Cursiter, published in 1974, Orkney Room reference 759.2 Y
Other information taken from "Who was Who in Orkney" by W.S. Hewison, published in 1998, Orkney Room reference 920 Y and other documents in Archive D26/1/1A.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Orkney at War - The Hampshire Sinking

As part of our Orkney at War series of displays, we now have one dedicated to the Sinking of HMS Hampshire and the Death of Lord Kitchener.

This display has been compiled from existing records and books which we hold in the Orkney Archive, some of which are very new to us, such as the photograph and biography of William Cake, one of the unfortunate men who perished in the tragedy. We are very grateful to all the depositors of "new" records and photographs we have received since the beginning of our WW1 centenary displays.

Field Marshall Earl Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, in 1914.
Photo and caption from The Kitchener Enigma by Trevor Royle
Orkney Room reference: 941.09 Y
Kitchener set sail from Scapa Flow bound for Archangel, Russia on board HMS Hampshire on the afternoon of the 5th June 1916. Less than 3 hours after departure the ship suffered a massive explosion after hitting a mine 3 miles off the coast of Marwick Head, Birsay. The ship sank within 15 minutes and all on board were lost except for 12 very lucky survivors.
The 737 men who died in the tragedy consisted of the crew of the Hampshire and Lord Kitchener's entourage, including Lord Kitchener himself.
Kitchener was very well known at the time of the tragedy,
"If it be difficult to explain, it is impossible to deny that Lord Kitchener inspired multitudes who had never set eyes on him, who knew of him only by hearsay, with a sentiment something akin to passionate personal devotion."
 Quote from Sir George Arthur, Bt., M.V.O. from the foreword of
The Loss of HMS Hampshire and the Death of Lord Kitchener by a Survivor, W C Phillips
Orkney Room reference: 941.09 Y
HMS Hampshire
Captain: H J Savill; Dimensions: 10,850 tons, 450 x 68.5 x 25.5 feet;
Guns: 6 x 6", 2 x 12 pounder, 20 x 3 pounder; Completed 1905.
Archive Photo reference: L3787-4

Leaving Scapa Flow
Lord Kitchener disembarking from a ship, shortly before his departure from Scapa Flow, June 1916.
Archive Photo reference: L4315/3
"It was 3pm on Monday, June 5th, 1916, that news got round the ship that we were sailing at 4.30pm to convey Lord Kitchener and his staff to an unknown Russian Port. The excitement was great. One and all were very proud to think that our ship was the one selected for such a mission."
 Quoted from The Loss of HMS Hampshire and the Death of Lord Kitchener by a Survivor, W C Phillips
Orkney Room reference: 941.09 Y  
The Weather
"The weather of June was cold, misty, sunless and wet; but vegetation made good progress. There were several strong winds during the first fortnight, but the strongest was on that fateful evening of the 5th, when at 8pm a north-west wind was blowing with a velocity of 52 miles. Not one day of the first 20 passed without wind from some northerly quarter."
Extract from the Met Report from June 1916. Archive Reference: D1/692 WW1 Scrapbook

"We cleared the Harbour and were then met by our escort, which comprised two fast destroyers. The sea was wicked - the two destroyers as they steamed along parallel with us suffered terribly; at times the mountainous waves washed over them completely.

I passed the remark to my mates that they surely would not come much further, and as we expected, they were ordered back to Base, much to the relief of their crews."
Quoted from The Loss of HMS Hampshire and the Death of Lord Kitchener by a Survivor, W C Phillips
Orkney Room reference: 941.09 Y
Route of HMS Hampshire from The Kitchener Enigma by Trevor Royle
Orkney Room reference: 941.09 Y
The Explosion
On board: "a terrific blast went through the ship, shaking her from stern to stern. Something out of the ordinary had happened, and the fumes which began to spread gave evidence that we had probably struck a mine. The force of the explosion had extinguished all the lights, and I shall never forget that dreadful jolting walk in the darkness and fumes, which the mine had given off, to that glimmer of light coming through the hatchway."
Quoted from The Loss of HMS Hampshire and the Death of Lord Kitchener by a Survivor, W C Phillips
Orkney Room reference: 941.09 Y
On shore: "He [her father] came in, he was back on then you see, he didn't see the explosion, and he saw her, but didn't see the explosion, and he came in, he said "There's a big warship coming smashing past Marwick Head." I went out and I said, "I think she's not doing much smashing". And then she headed for the shore, she just headed herself for coming in on the Birsay shore then, but unfortunately she fell off, for you see she was only 3 mile out, that if she'd gone further in we surely could have rescued some. And she fell off and then she started to go down by the bow, like this, and it seemed as if she stopped to me, stopped just for a few minutes, when I thought that her bow might have touched the bottom. And then she just disappeared like that, she turned turtle, they said."
Quote from Mrs Hunter interviewed for Radio Orkney by Brian Flett and Ann Manson, 23 Dec 1981. Transcription by James Irvine. Archive reference OSA/TA/26/3
"And I said to my father "Where will the rafts go?", he said, "Down the Flow", so I said, "Oh that should be all right", for there were ships coming out to look for, after the Hampshire, she would meet in with them, but they didn't because the wind changed and drove them into the next parish of Sandwick. And unfortunately they knew nothing, they'd seen the Hampshire but they didn't know anything had happened to her. For as one of the young men said to me, it was a pity as they could have done something, him and another young man that could have done a lot."
Quote from Mrs Hunter interviewed for Radio Orkney by Brian Flett and Ann Manson, 23 Dec 1981. Transcription by James Irvine. Archive reference OSA/TA/26/3
Illustration from The Mystery of Lord Kitchener's Death by Donald McCormick
Orkney Room reference: 941.09 Y

Out of over 700 men who were on board HMS Hampshire, only 12 survived.
"Now the exposure was beginning to take effect ... The night was drawing on and men were dying very swiftly now. Two hours had passed ... At last one large wave swooped us against a very high cliff and the raft caught on some rocks. I remember lying on a rock ... and the feeling of hands pulling me up over the cliffs."

Quote and photo from The Loss of HMS Hampshire and the Death of Lord Kitchener by a Survivor, W C Phillips
Orkney Room reference: 941.09 Y
(Photo- Four of the survivors with W C Phillips sitting on the right)
Loss of Life
Our Archive does not hold many stories of the men who died on the Hampshire, but we hope with the such projects as the Kitchener and Hampshire Memorial Project, more information will come to Orkney.
Here are a couple:
 Frank Glover, Sea Transport Officer 1st Class, lost his life in the Hampshire sinking, seen here in HMS Hampshire Football League. Photo Archive reference: L3736/1

Acting Stoker Petty Officer William Cake

After the sinking of HMS Hampshire, William's body was found on the shore. It is said in the family that he died of hypothermia as his finger and nails were very much cut and broken through his efforts to pull himself over the beach.
Archive Reference: D1/1211
Loss of Lord Kitchener
 Photo Archive reference: L5090/2

Poems from John Fraser's WW1 Scrapbook, Archive Reference: D1/692
On 2nd July, on behalf of the people of Orkney and dedicated to Lord Kitchener and the crew of HMS Hampshire, the Kitchener Memorial was unveiled on Marwick Head, Birsay.

Photo Archive references: TK1888 and TK1905

There is more in the display about the reactions from locals and those further afield about this tragedy. Please do pop in to see it if you are in Kirkwall.
The display will be up until the end of June 2016.

This weekend will mark 100 years since the ship went down, and to commemorate every man who perished, The Orkney Heritage Society and the Birsay Heritage Trust are mounting a series of events at the Birsay Community Centre and the Kitchener Memorial culminating in the unveiling of a new curtain wall which will include all 737 names of the men who died that night, as well as the 9 members of the crew of the Laurel Crown which sank there on 22nd June 1916.


Monday, 30 May 2016

Orkney at War - Wartime Visitors

As part of our Orkney at War exhibition we have a few original items on show in the Archive Searchroom.

One gift we received a couple of years ago which we are quite excited about is a Visitor's Book from the Y.M.C.A. in Longhope.

"Long Hope Bay during the war was the headquarters of the auxiliaries of the Grand Fleet, and never in its history were so many vessels of such varied types assembled in the harbour. The village of Long Hope, where there is a good pier, naturally became much frequented by officers and men from the ships, and eventually a commodious Y.M.C.A. was erected, which did much useful work. Tea on the beach was always a pleasant change from ship life (and tinned milk!), and the Post Office at Long Hope became a favourite rendezvous for informal tea-parties."

Quote from Scapa and a Camera by C W Burrows, p51. Orkney Room reference 941.09 Y

The book records many visitors and volunteers to the Y M C A from August 1916 - 1939. The first page contains some well-known names:

It is signed on 1st August 1916 by Admiral John Jellicoe, Commander in Chief. It is also signed by his wife Gwendoline Jellicoe and her sister, Freda Cayzer from Tarbert House, Ross-shire. I do hope they enjoyed their cup of tea.
Archive reference: D1/1207
Other items on show are:
John Fraser's record of Orcadians service in the 1914-1918 war which is an indexed scrapbook of soldiers deaths and officer ranks of Orcadians in WW1 containing mostly press cuttings, which include photographs of soldiers and officers from all the parishes of Orkney who served and died.
Archive reference: D1/692
Lily Gunn's Souvenir and Autograph book which contains drawings, poems, photographs and messages from patients of the British Farmers Hospital and the Number 2 Anglo-Belgian Hospital, Calais, France from 1916-1918.
Archive reference: D1/983
An extract of Military Tribunal Register of Cases
A Technical Instruction Committee of the Secondary Education Committee was formed in 1910, which in the following year became the Advisory Committee concerned with extension work in Orkney of the Aberdeen and North of Scotland College of Agriculture. On account of its links with agriculture this Advisory Committee was in turn metamorphosed into the District Agricultural Committee on Food Production in 1916, and had thrust upon its various functions far removed from secondary education, including matters pertaining to military recruitment and the supply of labour for farms. By an extension of this aspect of its work the committee was used, according to the Agricultural Military Service Act , 1916, for the hearing of appeals for exemption from military service on grounds of agricultural necessity.
Two men mentioned in this particular extract are:
John Sabiston, aged 19 from Northbigging, Swona, a ploughman, fisherman and boatman was refused exemption from military service on 28th April 1916. He appealed on 19th May 1916, but his appeal was dismissed on 2nd June 1916.
Peter S Garrioch, aged 40, from Grindally, Orphir, a farmer, was granted conditional exemption on 11th April 1916.
This extract contains about 25 names and we have about 20 pages of names in the whole register. Our friends at the Orkney Family History Society have kindly volunteered to transcribe all the pages for us.
Archive reference: CO5/3/8
This small exhibition of original items will stay on display until the end of August 2016.  

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Orkney at War (May, June, July 1916)

Here are some items from our eighth instalment of our Orkney at War Exhibition. The display attempts to show how World War One affected Orkney and Orcadians using items from the Orkney Archive collections. Items such as newspaper reports, scrapbooks, council minutes, photographs, letters and diaries.

This quarter of May, June and July 1916 is dominated by reports of tragic events at sea: The Battle of Jutland on the night of 31st May - 1st June and the sinking of HMS Hampshire and the death of Lord Kitchener on the night of 5th June.

HMS Hampshire

But first from Margaret Tait's diary:

Sunday 1st May 1916:
Have been in bed for three days with a cold. Since last writing Willie has been twice to Edinburgh with German prisoners. I went down to the drill hall and saw three of them, one of whom winked at us. He was a black tinker looking character. One of the prisoners was found in a trunk, supposed to be his wife's travelling trunk and had come all the way across the Atlantic only to be caught at Kirkwall. How disappointed his wife must have been. Oh dear I wish my cold was better, I'm so tired of lying in the house.
Tomorrow is feeing market day. [where farmers engaged servants and labourers for the coming term]

In the RNR (Royal Naval Reserve) recruiting rules changed again:

Then from the diary of Margaret Tait:

Saturday 3rd June 1916:
Rumours were afloat that a naval engagement was going on on Wednesday 31st May but I could not believe it true. Last night Jim and I worked until 11pm putting new glass in a large picture for one of our Fleet men on the Bellerophon when Maggie came in and told us a battle had really taken place and 10 of our ships were sunk. After that I could do no more work for thinking of all our men who had pictures to be framed and who, poor souls, might never come back. Such a lot of Fleet men come in with pictures to be framed.
I kept hoping all night the sad news might prove untrue so this morning one of the men of the Royal Oak, one of the ships in action, came in with some pictures to be framed and told me it was too true. They can't tell very much so he said, "It's all very sad and that's all I can tell you".
We had heard the Malborough was sunk but he said she would come back all right in a little while. Poor chap he was so hurt because he could not get words to his friends of his safety. All day on Saturday the Territorials were burying the dead in Longhope, so we were told. What a gloom was cast over the town and how depressed we all were to think of our noble ships and brave sailors and officers going down that summer night on the North Sea or off the coast of Jutland.

And in the Orkney Herald, the first local official report:

And a personal report in a letter to A W Cursiter written on the 9th June:

HMS "Duke of Edinburgh"

My dear Mr Cursiter, I guess you may like to know that I am alive & well which is a real full blown miracle & nothing less; thanks to the Almighty & the skipper under Providential direction we got off without a scratch.
It just rained big shells all around us & we missed at least one torpedo by a few feet.
However all's well etc: but I couldn't help thinking when I looked at your book, "Prehistoric Scotland" of what I said...
...last time we met about the ships perhaps being lost. By the way I've not finished it yet. I hope to come & see you presently all being well.
Every other ship in our squadron is now at the bottom of the North Sea: awful isn't it? But what an escape! Poor Center[?] died of burns from the explosion of the mine 24 hours later.

Kind regards to Mrs Cursiter,
Yours sincerely K A Jones

Back home in Stromness on the 6th June the local town council met to discuss the price of Gas:

After hearing a report from the Gas Committee the meeting unanimously decided that the price of gas should be 9/7, per 1000 cubic feet from 28th May last and that a circular should be sent to consumers, intimating the rise and that the same has been caused through the increase in price of coals and freight. The Gas Collector was instructed to give three notices to consumers of gas.
(sgd) Andrew Wylie P. [Provost]

Then from Margaret Tait's diary news of another tragedy:

Wednesday night [7th June]
Just as I was preparing for bed last night [Tuesday 6th] word came by wireless that a Cruiser was blown up off Marwick Head. A wild storm was raging so I could not sleep for the thinking of the poor souls struggling in the water and such a wild coast that no help could reach them in such a storm. This morning we heard that it was the Hampshire and later we heard that Lord Kitchener and all his staff were on board. I kept hoping such a calamity would prove to be untrue.

Thursday [8th June]
Alas it is true and every sailor on board perished except 10. Willie was up at Birsay today looking for the bodies who might be washed ashore. This seems to be a black week in the history of the Empire.

Then the official report was printed in the newspaper:

The Orcadian 10th June 1916
H.M.S. Hampshire Sunk
Lord Kitchener and Staff Feared Lost
Viscount French Probable New War Secretary

The secretary of the Admiralty has received the following telegram from the Admiral Commander in Chief of the Grand Fleet:-
"I have to report with deep regret that H.M.S. Hampshire (Capt. Robert J Savill, R.N.) with Lord Kitchener and staff on board was sunk last night about eight pm west of the Orkneys, either by mine or torpedo. Four boats were seen by observers on shore to leave the ship. The wind was N.N.W. and heavy seas were running. Patrol boats and destroyers at once proceeded to the spot and a party was sent along the coast to search but only some bodies and a capsized boat have been found up to present. As the whole shore has been searched, I fear there is little hope of there being any survivors. No report has yet been received from the search party on shore. The Hampshire was on her way to Russia."

And in Margaret Tait's diary:

Sunday 11th June 1916
There's a memorial service in the cathedral tonight for Lord Kitchener. His loss is the greatest calamity the nation has got since the war began. The weather keeps very cold, not like June.

Orkney Archive References: Margaret Tait's Diary D1/525; Royal Naval Reserve Memo CE55/4/31; The Orkney Herald special edition D1/547; Jutland Letter D8/4/2/4; Stromness Town Council Minute book S1/17; Hampshire Photograph L3787-4.

Note: this blog post contains personal viewpoints and reports issued at the time, so some of the information my be inaccurate. 

The exhibition in the Archive Searchroom also contains postcards from a POW in Germany, more newspaper reports of the time, a plan of the ships locations at the beginning of the Battle of Jutland, other wartime photographs and naval reserve memos. Please do come in to see it if you are in Orkney this summer.

Click on the label "Orkney at War" below to see more posts in this series.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Orkney at War (Feb, Mar and Apr 1916)

A little late this time, but here are some items from our seventh instalment of our Orkney at War Exhibition. This display attempts to show how World War One affected Orkney and Orcadians using items from the Orkney Archive collections which were created at the time. Archives such as newspaper reports, souvenir books, Military Tribunals, photographs and council minutes.

Sadly there are no entries in Margaret Tait's diary for these months, so instead I can show you some more pictures and comments from Nurse Lily Gunn's souvenir book.

"What! Write in a book where ladies look, And critics spy, not I, not I." by Sgt Major W Stephenson.
From the newspapers:

Orcadian, 5th February 1916 - Snippets from Soldiers Letters
An Orcadian who is serving with the Edinburgh Battalion Royal Scots guards, writes: On arrival at our port of disembarkation we were placed under canvas for the night. Canvas in January came as somewhat of a surprise, but as we were given an extra blanket, we were very comfortable, though we slept 14 to a tent. The morning after we arrived in France we were marched to the station and embarked in cattle trucks, 30 men in each truck. Our billets are scattered over a large area, and are mostly barns through a distillery is also used. The great drawback to life in a barn is the want of light. No lights are allowed as there is the great danger of the straw catching fire, and things are continually being lost. Work here is much the same as in England. We do platoon drill and bayonet fighting, and have already found out that the words "rest camp" is a misnomer. The climate is fine and healthy, and so far has been dry and we are enjoying ourselves fairly well. There is a village near our billet, and we are allowed to visit at night.

Orcadian 12th February 1916 - Eggs for our Wounded Soldiers
From the following list for eggs collected in the various country districts in the north of Scotland, it is gratifying to notice that Orkney takes first place in this splendid work. The figures are fir the first five weeks of the present year:- East Aberdeenshire, 107 dozens; West Aberdeenshire, 94; Banffshire, 50, Elgin and Nairn, 78; Inverness (Mainland) 75; Ross-shire (Mainland), 36; Sutherland and Caithness, 39; Orkney, 204; Shetland, 40.

From the Kirkwall Town Council Minutes:
The following letter was read:- "Registered No. 23832 General Post Office, Edinburgh, 8th February 1916. Sir, Orkney Mail Service. With reference to your letter of the 17th ultimo addressed to the Postmaster of Kirkwall, I am directed by the Postmaster General to state, for the information of your Council, that, while much regretting the inconvenience occasioned by the recent interruptions in the steamer service between Scrabster and Stromness, due to weather conditions, he fears that he cannot see his way to take action as regards the revision to a service through Scapa Flow. This is a matter which rests entirely with the Admiralty, and is not one in which the Postmaster General can interfere. I am, Sir, your most obedient servant, (sgd) J E Kirkwood, Secretary."

The Clerk stated that he had as instructed written the Admiral Commanding the Orkneys and Shetlands and Mr Munro and Mr Wason and that he had received a formal acknowledgement from the Admiral's Secretary and letters from Mr Munro and Mr Wason stating they would do their best with the Departments concerned.

From February 1916, local authorities hosted Military Tribunals which decided whether some men with particular trades could be exempt from enlisting. The results were publishing in the newspapers.

Orcadian 15th April 1916 - The Orkney Tribunal met at Kirkwall on Monday - Baillie McLennan presiding. The other members sitting were Messrs James Johnston, W.L. Hutchison, G Bain, R Houston, and Rev. G R Murison. Lieut. Munro, Seaforth Highlanders was present as military representative.

Application by a Shapinsay Farmer A Shapinsay farmer with 200 acres arable and 10 pasture, 6 work horses, 4 young horses and 11 ewes applied for exemption on his own behalf. His wife was 35 years of age. His father aged 75 and his mother aged 71 were on the farm with him. He had a male servant aged 18, another aged 24 (a discharged Territorial on the termination of agreement).
Conditional exemption was granted applicant and temporary exemption until 10th August to the younger of his servants.
An Application Refused A young man of 25 years of age, married, applied on his own behalf. He worked his father's place of 23 acres arable land, rented at only £4. Only his father, aged 55 and his mother age 50 were on the farm. On the place were 1 horse, 6 cattle and 2 sheep. he took a few days with the road contractor when not required on the farm. A medical certificate was produced to the effect that the tenant of the place suffered from chronic bronchitis.
On applicant being informed that his application was refused, he said they would just have to give off the place.
The Chairman replied - that is a matter upon which we cannot advise you.

Fighting by Invitation A Deerness farmer applied for the exemption of his brother. He has 67 acres arable, 3 work horse, 1 young horse, 18 cattle and ten sheep. On the farm was applicant 41, married and his brother, single, his mother and a delicate sister.
Applicant said: "My brother was never canvassed"
The Military Representative: "and he had to wait until he was asked did he?"
The Clerk: "Would he have enlisted had he been canvassed?"
Applicant: "I don't know"
The Military Representative: "Fighting by invitation"

From a Stromness Doctor's scrapbook:

From the newspapers:
Orkney Herald, 29th March 1916 - Captured at Kirkwall: German Who hid in a Trunk
It was reported a fortnight ago that a German had been arrested in a lady's trunk in his' wife's cabin on board a Scandinavian liner which had arrived in Kirkwall for examination. A Copenhagen telegram now gives publicity to some particulars of the incident:-
Among the passengers on board the steamer Frederick VII which arrived at Copenhagen on Monday afternoon, the 20th inst. from New York, was a German lady Fran Roewer, whose adventures occupy columns of the local papers. Her husband, a German engineer at Kiau Chau, escaped from a Japanese Internment Camp to New York, to which place the lady proceeded from Europe to fetch him to Germany. The couple evolved a novel plan to evade British inspection at Kirkwall. It was arranged that Roewer should cross the Atlantic in his wife's cabin trunk. In order to effect this he was obliged to undergo a preliminary anti-obesity cure for three months before embarking.
At first the scheme proved successful. The lady occupied two special rooms on board ship, and Roewer hid in the ordinary large trunk during the daytime breathing through a specially made ventilator under the name plate and enjoyed liberty at night. No-one on board suspected anything though some passengers expressed surprise at the lady's huge appetite. All the meals were served in her cabin and an extra supply of sandwiches were desired every night.
At Kirkwall Roewer left the trunk as he feared British inspection, and was caught in a small packing room. He has been interned, but his wife was allowed to proceed.

From the Register of Sasines:
In April 1916 a feu disposition for a piece of ground of about 6 acres in North Walls was recorded in the Register of Sasines. The ground was entrusted to the Office of the Lord High Admiral by Thomas and Theodosia Middlemore of Melsetter "to be used only as a cemetery".

This was the land now called Lyness Cemetery:
Archive references: Lily Gunn's Souvenir Book D1/983; Kirkwall Town Council Minutes K1/1/17; Orcadians serving from Flotta D1/1127; Lyness Cemetery photo by Tom Kent TK1749
Click on the label "Orkney at War" below to see more blog posts on this subject.