Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Literary Leching / Posthumous Perving.

Orkney Archive Reference D23/29/6
Dusty: (sliding magazine onto table) Isn't he lovely?

Archiver: Ooooh! Lovely! Who's that?

Dusty: J. Storer Clouston. He was very good looking don't you think?

Archiver: Yes, handsome. Indeed...

Dusty: So handsome.

Archiver: Yep.

Dusty: A brilliant writer too of course.

Archiver: Oh yeah. Definitely.

Dusty: Nice cheek bones...

Archiver: Yeah...

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Panting for Planting

Plan of old garden at Orphir House, Gyre.
Well hello there archive-I-stumbled-upon-today! Could you delight us any more? I think not.

a) It is a beautiful spring day and you are a plan of trees and list of plants for the garden at Orphir House (which was rebuilt in 1886.)


 List of plants growing in the layer rockery at East Cottage on 5 May 1895.

b)You are the record of the old garden, a garden past, which makes us feel mournful and wistful... which we love.

Plan of trees in the old garden.
c) As great fans of luuuurve, and romance the rubbings taken of initials carved into trees made us squeal with delight.



Rubbings of initials carved into the bark of trees.
Well done Orkney Archive Reference D15/21/21. A sterling job.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Savoury Balls


Look at these merry flappers laughing at a pie. They are laughing because the pie is rank and they are about to serve it to someone they hate.

These 1920s Jack Monroes (We heart Jack Monroe) have compiled a selection of 'thrifty' recipes for the harried housewife. (The definition of thrifty, like bully, awful, and villain has changed over the years and originally meant 'evil'.) My favourite was a tempting mixture of salt, suet and white flour with the evocative name of 'Savoury Balls'. But then I read about the exquisite combination of wet toast, veal, egg and lemon rind that is 'Veal Moulded'. Eventually, I decided I admired the straight forward approach of the vegetable section most:

Boil stuff. For ages.

Why not treat your other half with a plate of boiled onions tonight?




I am also filled with jealousy for the recipients of this special dinner served in 1899 at the Kirkwall Free Church. The menu begins with 'Brown Soup', continues with non-specific 'fowl' and yummy tapioca pudding all followed by a mound of raisins washed down with some delicious water. MMmmmmmmmmm....



Orkney Archive Reference D133/5

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Pay up! Pretty please!

While sorting a new collection from a local hotel business, I found lots of receipted invoices. Many are from Orkney, but there are also some from merchants across Scotland. They help to show the day to day running of a local business at the turn of the 19th-20th century, but some of them are also quite pretty. Here are a few examples:






I'm sure I'd be happy to pay my bill, if I was sent such beautifully designed invoices.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Fancy a Friday Foto Fling?

"What a handsome hill!" I hear you cry.

"I should like to climb it immediately. Where is it?"

The answer readers is we do not know. Upon looking for an elusive Tom Kent copy, I stumbled upon a folder of his photographs entitled simply '?'.

Within is a few photos, like the one above, for which we have no information. Some have guesses on the back such as 'meteorite?' for a photo of a crumbly old stone or 'Egilsay? Octocentenary?' for this one:


Again, there is a guess of Egilsay for this photo of an escapee from some manner of procession:

Other images include what looks like an open-air church meeting, the skeleton of what may be an otter still in the grip of a steel trap, and this:








What is this.


WHAT IS THIS? Best answer receives a Unison stress pig and an item of Orkney Library and Archive merchandise.

Friday, 7 February 2014

The Mystery of the Blue Jacket Boy....Solved!!

And here he is, our Blue Jacket Boy:


A message to everyone from Mary, grandaughter of David John Phillips I wish to forward my everlasting gratitude to the lady who delivered my grandfather’s letter to the Orkney Library and Archive and to all the researchers who found the identity of the ‘Bluejacket Boy’, my grandfather, David John Phillips. ‘Dai’ married my wonderful Orcadian grandmother, Catherine Isabella Coghill Johnston on 11th April 1919 at the Congregational Manse, Kirkwall. David returned home to Llanelli with his new bride ‘Bella’ where they opened a greengrocer’s shop and had two children, my mother Minnie and my aunt Jean. David and Bella lived with us throughout my formative years so were my ‘grand’ parents in every sense. They were an inspiring and loving couple. I still miss them both terribly. I am truly grateful to you all as without you,and the Orkney Library Archive, this precious letter would have remained a mystery forever. Thank you to everybody from my heart.


David J Phillips and Catherine Johnston

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Update on The Mystery of the Blue Jacket Boy....are we there yet?

Huge thanks to all the researchers and followers on the Orkney Archive Blog for finding out all the information and spreading the word. Assuming that the "Uncle Dai" mentioned in the letter is The Bluejacket Boy, his full name would be David Phillips. Now, take a deep breath...

The Timeline so far is...

1889 - estimated DOB for David John Phillips born in Llanelli to John & Margaret (source census returns)

1891 – estimated DOB for David John Phillips, RNVR, Wales Division (source WW1 service record)

1891 – Census for Llanelli Family lived at ?1 Tregob, Llanelli. Siblings: Margaret A; Mary E; Hannah M; Jessie J; Katie M; Blowden

1901 – Census for Llanelli contains a Phillips family living at 15 Woodend Road, near Swansea Road

1911 – Census for Llanelli contains a Phillips family living at 15 Woodend Road, near Swansea Road
  • Father:John Phillips;
  • Mother: Margaret Phillips
  • Son: David Phillips, age 22, groom [Dai?]
  • Dau: Hannah Phillips, age 18;
  • Dau: Blodwin Phillips, age 5 [Blodie?]
  • Dau: Katie Phillips, age 10


1911 – Census for Kirkwall contains a Johnstone family living in Garden Buildings near Bridge Street
  • Father: John Johnstone, 49, Plumber, born Halkirk, Caithness
  • Mother: Jane P Johnstone, 50, born Wick, Caithness
  • Dau: Mary J Johnstone, 22, born Wick, Caithness
  • Dau: Cath I C Johnstone, 14, born Wick, Caithness


1914 - Outbreak of WW1

1914 – Birth in BMD Records Ethel Jayne to Jessie J Phillips & Edwin W Jayne.

Extract from Letter (Archive Reference D1/1124)

1914-1918 – Residence An Orkney resident’s grandfather billeted with a family in Bridge Street during WW1. Later, this grandfather married one of the daughters, Mary Jane Johnstone.

Photograph of Bridge Street by Tom Kent, c.1904 (Reference TK3253)



1916 – WW1 Service Record David John Phillips No.Z/3130; DOB 15 August 1891; Fruiterer; Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Wales Division; Height 5ft 4in; Eyes Hazel; Served on HMS Cyclops [depot & repair ship based Scapa Flow] Sep 1916-Nov 1917.

1916/7 - Blue Jacket Boy wrote letter home to Llanelli from Orkney. It was never delivered.

Extract from Letter (Archive Reference D1/1124)

1919 – Marriage Johnston Family Website Catherine Isabella Coghill BELLA Johnston b. 1896 Wick, Caithness + David John Phillips, fruiterer, RNVR HMS Cyclops, b. at Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales m. 11 Apr 1919 Congregational Manse, Kirkwall

1919 – Marriage in ScotlandsPeople BMD website David John Phillips, 30, fruiterer, 61 Swansea Road, Llanelly married Catherine Isabella Coghill Johnston, Garden Street, Kirkwall 11 April 1919 in the Congregational Manse, Kirkwall

1919 – WW1 Service Record Discharged 5 May 1919 at Pembroke.

1920 – Electoral Register for Llanelli John, Margaret and David J Phillips all live at 61 Swansea Road.

1923 – Birth from Johnston Family Website Minnie Phillips b. abt Mar 1923 Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales

1923 – Birth in BMD Records Minnie Phillips born March Quarter 1923 daughter of David John Phillips and Catherine Johnston

c.1920s – Marriage (source Orkney resident) of his grandfather who worked at the Orkney Herald and Mary Jane Johnstone.

1941 – Marriage in BMD Records Ethel Jayne married Clifford Hopkin Hargreaves – no offspring found.

1941 – Marriage in BMD Records Katie M Phillips married Robert L Morgans in Llanelli, 1941 (Oct-Dec quarter)

1943 – Marriage in Johnstone Family Website Miss Phillips + Mr Hodge b. abt Jun 1920 Exeter, Devon m. abt Sep 1943 Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales

1943 – Marriage in FreeBMD website Miss Phillips married Mr Hodge in Llanelly registration district, Sep quarter 1943.

1952 – Birth in FreeBMD website Miss Hodge, mother’s maiden name Phillips, June quarter 1952

c.1960s – Oral History Visit to Phillips family in Llanelli, Wales by Orkney resident and his parents, as they were old family friends (he didn’t know why)

1980 - Letter found behind a fireplace in a house in Bridge Street, Kirkwall in 1980. Letter addressed to Mr John Phillips, 61 Swansea Road, Llanelli.

2013 – Letter passed to Orkney Archives. The hunt began……

The story has since appeared on Radio Orkney, Llanelli Star and the Dyfed Family History Society Newsletter.

I have removed some of the more recent names for data protection. We are currently trying to get in touch with Miss Hodge, Dai Phillips granddaughter.

Sources used:
  • www.findmypast.co.uk
  • Orkney Family History Society Census booklet for 1911
  • Johnstone Family Website https://sites.google.com/site/johnstonsinwallsorkney
  • www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk
  • Electoral Roll in Carmarthenshire Archives
  • www.freebmd.org.uk
  • Local Orkney resident

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Sound Familiar?


Taken from The Genealogy of the Orkney Traills byWilliam Traill of Woodwick, 1883.
 Apologies for the lengthy break in blogging but we were just too full of Christmas pies and busy playing with our new lego sets to manage until now.

Today is, of course, Burn's night and I informed Dusty that I intended to celebrate this by posting verses by Colonel Thomas Traill the 1st of Holland (1618 - 1648) which many believe to have been an inspiration for 'My Love is Like A Red, Red Rose'.

This was risky as Dusty has been in a deeply committed, albeit posthumous, relationship with Rabbie since the early 90s. "It's a rumour", she said sternly. "There's NO proof that Traill's was the original! Robert travelled a lot, he could have heard it anywhere"

Proof schmoof. It's a nice version.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Time Travelling Fridays 3

We meet again for our final advent Time Travelling Friday. Today's voyager through space and time is the recently crowned BBC sports personality of the year, our fave, Andy Murray.

Although we have always been great fans of Andy's slight dourness and unwillingness to pander to the press, many have criticised poor Muzza for his supposed 'moodiness'.

Well, we can exclusively reveal that Andy's world-weariness is due to a twenty year stint spent as a grocer in late 1800s Stromness. He's just really, really tired and sick of his penny sweets getting pinched.


Peace's Almanac 1881 Trade Directory for Stromness.


Next up, Donald Sutherland, who was accused of using his actor looks and lovely voice to 'unfairly seduce' a certain Magnus Flett of Harray into the Lord Seaforth's regiment. Conspiring to 'carry him out of the country contrary to his inclination and without giving him an opportunity for a fair trial.'


Oh Donald!


Orkney Archive reference SC11/5/1778/46






Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Goat Mania !!!!!

At long last, a magazine all about goats. The years of cataloguing have been worth it.

You think that the cover is the very pinnacle of delight and then you turn to page 11 to read the article entitled 'Goat Mania'.

" Goat mania is something that grows on you unawares, but once you have it, it never leaves you..."

This is followed by an article entitled 'A Sure Sign of Insanity':

" The first clue to your impending imbalance is to THINK you might like to keep a goat... it will butt you, stand on you, just for the fun it'll kick you, belch in your face... only a female could cause so much trouble and still be loved, cherished and pampered. Well I'll be getting my own back, she's soon to go to the Billy!!"


The publication is basically a series of exhortations for people to NOT own goats which is unusually frank for an enthusiasts' journal.

One edition has a description of goat birth which is not for the faint-hearted nor for those attempting to have their afternoon tea break...

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Time Travelling Fridays 2 (except on Saturday, as we wuz ill.)


Prepare to be amazed once more, as we unveil more time-travelling celebrities as your special advent treat:


Orkney Archive Sc11/5/1831/134
You may have assumed that Patrick Stewart won the role of Jean Luc-Picard because of his actorly skills but it was actually his experience of travelling through time and space to 1830s Orkney where he worked as a painter.

At one point, Patrick was taken to court over an unpaid bill of £19, 14 shillings and 5 pence. But his lawyer said that the charge was 'libellous' and actually due to a clerk writing a bill down twice by mistake. The firm later folded.

Orkney Archive reference SC11/5/1831/134


We also have completely water-tight and not at all nonsensical proof that John Snow also had a bash at the time-travel malarky and ended up being John Balfour's attorney, receiving bossy letters about bonds, notes of hand and various connected instructions.





Orkney Archive Reference D2/6/5



Friday, 6 December 2013

Time Travelling Fridays


"So how will you treat us this December Orkney Archive?", we hear you cry.

"In previous years you have thrilled us with pictures of your Christmas decorations and Stromness have a proper quiz and everything. There is going to be something. Right?"

But of course, dear hearts, never fear. Faithful readers shall remember our amazing photographic evidence of Cheryl Cole's amazing, yet puzzling, trip back in time to Prince Charles' visit to the Orkney Fudge factory.

Friends, that is but the tip of the incredible iceberg which is going to blow your Christmassy minds. Please welcome... Orkney Archive's Time-Travelling Fridays.

Turns out that many of our celebrity friends have decided to pay a visit to Orkney's days of yore and we shall be bringing you the proof as an advent treat. You're totally welcome.

First up, you may think that Elizabeth Taylor was married but 8 times to merely 7 husbands, but no! She travelled back in time to fin-de-siecle Orkney, hooked up to a local lad and promptly sued him for alimony.She probably scarpered back to the late-twentieth century when she realised she was only getting £6 a year.


Orkney Archive Reference SC11/5/1910/18
 Next: Frank Skinner! Not only did Frank decide to take a holiday in 1947, he also took the time to remodel the Royal Hotel in Kirkwall and, I'm sure you'll agree, did a lovely job. Cheers Frank!




Orkney Archive Reference K1/26/9


Next week, correspondence from our favourite dapper news reader and mischief from a certain space-travelling Captain. Tune in for Orkney Archives Time Travelling Fridaaaaaays!!!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

On This Day In Orkney, In 1947...


Stanley Cursitor received a letter:


Stanley Cursiter was born in Kirkwall in 1887 and died in Stromness in 1976. He was educated at Kirkwall Grammar School and Edinburgh College of Art.

He served in the First World War with the Scottish Rifles and the Fourth Field Survey Battalion where he helped to revolutionise the preparation and printing of field maps. He was awarded a military O.B.E.(see above) and was twice mentioned in dispatches.


He quickly became known as a painter of landscapes, particularly of his native Orkney. Stanley Cursiter was Keeper of the National Galleries of Scotland and later Director from 1930 - 1948. In the latter year he was appointed Her Majesty's Painter and Limner in Scotland.


On his retiral from the Galleries, he made his home in Orkney, but soon found himself engaged in a new career of portrait painting and during the next fifteen years he painted many notable people.
Among important professional tasks which he performed was the painting of the picture showing H.M. Queen receiving the Honours of Scotland in St. Giles Cathedral. This picture now hangs in Holyrood House.




He served on a number of national bodies concerned with the fine arts. He was the first secretary of the Royal Fine Arts Commission in Scotland and for some time Secretary of the Royal Scottish Academy. He was President of the Society of Scottish Artists and President of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour. He was also a member of the Council of the Royal Society in Edinburgh.


As a painter, he is represented in several permanent and many private collections. He published in 1946, under the title "Peploe", a biographical study of his friend and contemporary S.J. Peploe, and in 1948, a book on Scottish Art.

His writings, ranging from observations on the arts to stories of Orkney life appeared in various newspapers and magazines.

For his many services to Kirkwall he was given the Freedom of the City and Royal Burgh; he was a deputy Lieutenant of Orkney. He designed the gold chain of office worn by the Provosts in the latter years of Kirkwall Town Council. (The chain is presently on show in Orkney Islands Council Offices).


St. Magnus Cathedral was always a source of inspiration to him and was the subject of many of his paintings. He gave advice which resulted in the saving of the building from structural collapse and made many appeals on its behalf. He suggested the setting up of St. Rognvald's Chapel and designed the furnishings.

Description prepared by Alan Borthwick, Scottish Archive Network project



OBE letter Orkney Archive Reference D26/6/1 and photographs from the Orkney Photographic Archive.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Jeez, Louise!

Today is the birth date of Louisa May Alcott and C. S. Lewis, both authors of much-loved children's classics.

It is appropriate, therefore, that the 29th of November shall evermore be synonymous with the departure of our much-loved assistant librarian (and Children's librarian) Louise. Sob! This is a very sad day for us and not just because Louise is the source of our beloved cheese scones. Double sob.

To mark this day, we shall, once again, post images from the wonderful Minervian Library which always reminds me of the March girls' Pickwick Portfolio.


Here we have the Annals of the Minervian Library which begins 'The library was instituted in 1866 for the personal amusement and occupation of the Misses J. M. B. Bremner and M. C. Cowan, LDML (Library Damsels of the Minervian Library)'.





...and this is one of the girls' illustrations...



Right, we shall now spend the rest of the afternoon weeping and changing the lyrics to 'Louie Louie' by our good friends the Maytals (sorry customers):

'Louise, Louise, Oh No! You Gotta Go! Aye-yi-yi-yi!'




References: D98/2/4/5 and D98/2/1/10

Thursday, 21 November 2013

A Gentle and Loving Reminder.



Archivist: Put that pen down at once!

Customer: Ceci n'est pas un stylo.

Archivist: We do not allow pens in the archive.

Customer: Ceci n'est pas un stylo.

Archivist: You could get ink on the archives you see...

Customer: Ceci n'est pas un stylo.

Archivist: I'm not a jobsworth or anything, it just, it's so difficult to remove! Do you want to damage a priceless document?

Customer: Ceci n'est pas un stylo.

Archivist: I'm getting quite cross now.


It is the anniversary of Rene Magritte's birth. Don't use pens in our archive or you'll mak me greet. (Me greet, Magritte! Get it? Hahahahahahahah. Don't hate us...)