Monday, 30 May 2016

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.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Fascinating Friday - Fetching Fencibles

Today's fascinating Friday takes us back to 1793 when Major Thomas Balfour (father of author Mary Brunton) was recruiting for the Orkney and Shetland Fencible Battalion. This list pertains to 19th July - 24th November of that year.

This list contains names of men, their age, height, colour of hair, eyes and complexion, trade, where born and date of attestation. The description of the men helped in the gruesome but necessary task of identifying them if they died in battle. But now this information is highly valuable for family history researchers who can find out what their ancestors looked like in a time long before photographs.

For example: Thomas Craigie, aged 25, was 5 feet 4 inches tall, with brown hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion. His trade was labourer. He was born in Rousay in the County of Orkney and enlisted on 19th July 1793.

And these lists do not just list men from Orkney or Shetland:

Alexander Sutherland, aged 37, was 5 feet 4 inches tall, with brown hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion. His trade was weaver. He was born in Thurso in the County of Caithness and enlisted on the 20th July 1793.


Donald McKay, aged just 14, was 5 feet 1 inch tall, with black hair, brown eyes and a fair complexion. His trade was labourer. He was born in Tongue in the County of Sutherland and enlisted on the 26th Oct.

We have found a quite few of these lists in the Balfour of Balfour & Trenabie papers and have recently been passing copies onto the wonderful volunteers of the Orkney Family History Society who have agreed to transcribe them for us. Hopefully we will be able to add this information to one or both of our websites in the future. Watch this space!

Archive Reference: D2/22/1

Friday, 8 April 2016

Fascinating Friday - The Maltese Orkney Hut

While researching for our WW1 exhibition, I recently read this interesting letter from the Orcadian Newspaper from 29th Dec 1917.

"To the Editor of the Orcadian, November 23, 1917.
DEAR SIR,- For more than eighteen months I have had the privilege of being Y.M.C.A. Leader in the large convalescence camp on this island where the Orkney Hut is situated. Before I leave Malta, I should like to write a personal word of thanks to the people of Orkney for the work they have enabled the Y.M.C.A. to do in this corner of the war area.

When I came to the camp, the Orkney Hut was in course of erection by the convalescents. Hardly had it been opened, when the number of men in the camp began to increase by leaps and bounds. The camp is in an unusually isolated position, opportunities for getting into town are few and expensive, and centres of recreation were at that time few. Such as there were, were all packed out from early morning until late at night. It is difficult to imagine, as men themselves have often said to me, what they would have done in those crowded days without the Orkney Hut.

It was at this time that we had the pleasure of welcoming the Rev. Robert Steen as a worker in the Hut. He is still remembered by a few men in the camp and many who are now scattered on different fronts carry with the memory of this genial and kindly personality, and are glad to have been his friends.

All through the long evenings of last winter, the Hut was uncomfortably full. It was often difficult to push one's way through the crowds of men who, after all the chairs and forms had been occupied, were quite content with "standing room only" provided they could enjoy the warmth and light of the Hut. They greatly valued the opportunity for a smoke, which was denied them under canvas. Our refreshment queue would often stretch right down one side of the Hut and out the far door, and would continue without break from six to nine in the evening.

Last March it was decided to add twenty-four feet to the length of the Hut, and to build a tiled verandah along one side. For the funds to carry out this enlargement the Y M C A was again indebted to Orkney. The Hut is now the largest hall in the camp, and the camp authorities have asked to be allowed to use it for all camp concerts and entertainments. During the hot summer months the cool shade of the verandah has been a real boon to the men, and the enlargement of the Hut itself has made all the difference between uncomfortable stuffiness and roomy ventilation.

While a great deal of our time has naturally been taken up in providing tea, cakes, and cigarettes for the men - not forgetting the egg and sausage suppers for which the Hut gained quite a local reputation last winter! - we have tried to bear in mind also their intellectual and spiritual needs. Last winter a small but enthusiastic men formed the "Orkney Literary Society" which met once a week to discuss all kinds of subjects from Prehistoric Monuments to the Modern Newspaper. This society has been revived this winter. On New Year's night and on Burns Night, special celebrations were arranged for the Scottish Troops, organised by one of the chaplains, who was himself a Scotsman. Classes have also been held in French, shorthand, book-keeping and arithmetic. Every night at 9 o'clock a halt is called in the evening's business and pleasure, and in a brief service of hymn and prayer we seek to turn the men's minds to those things which are unseen but Eternal.

During the last eighteen months, men from all parts of the British Isles and from hundreds of units of the British Army have passed through this camp. Almost every mail brings letters from those who have left us, expressing gratitude for the work that has been done. I would pass on their gratitude to the people of Orkney, and thank them, in the name of the men and in my own name, for their continued interest in the Orkney Hut. - Yours sincerely,
H. C. Oakley, Y M C A Headquarters, Valletta."

I showed my colleague the letter, and he in turn showed me the following archive photograph of a group of workers calling themselves the "Convalescent Men". My colleague did not know where the men were or when the photo was taken.

Perhaps they were on Malta? Perhaps they built the Orkney Hut?

A quick search on the internet gave me this website about Malta Military Hospitals where I scrolled down to Voluntary Help and found that an Orkney Hut was built at Ghain Tuffieha in Malta.

Location of Ghajn Tuffieha on Malta

Another search gave me this website about Military Hospitals in Malta where I scrolled down to the section on Convalescent Camp Ghajn Tuffieha and found photographs of the camp and more information about its size and the people that ran it. It doesn't mention the Orkney Hut in particular, but it may have been one of the "recreation rooms erected by the Church Army".

So far these are all dots which I am not sure connect up. If anyone has any more information, please do get in touch either by commenting below or by email to

References: Orcadian newspaper 29th Dec 1917, page 2; Orkney Photographic Archive negative number L9986/1; Google maps of Malta. YMCA = Young Men's Christian Association

Friday, 1 April 2016

Fascinating Friday - Vampire Dogs and Wartime Sabotage

Two articles caught my eye recently from our local newspapers, The Orcadian and The Orkney Herald which I thought you might like.

This first from 1st October 1915 from a page of WW1 news from Europe an unusual story of war sabotage:

An Old Woman's 'Comforts' for Soldiers - Paris, Wednesday. A woman of Montmartre known as Old Susan, received such numbers of letters from the front that curiosity was aroused. She pretended she was acting as godmother to a number of soldiers without families, but a discreet inquiry revealed the astounding fact that Susan was a German named Krialager, and packets of comforts she sent to the front contained cocaine, which she was supplying to devotees who, even fighting, could not wean from the drug habit. Susan was arrested.

The second from 9th May 1946, a report of a disturbing nature from Harray:

HARRAY - WILD DOG NOW A "VAMPIRE" - Harray's wild dog was still at large yesterday, according to reports from the West Mainland.
The spaniel raider has not been seen at close quarters, however, since Sunday, when he escaped from a big party of guns out seeking him.
The dog's keen sense of scent enabled him to make a get-away.
The latest report of attack upon poultry occurred early on Saturday when three fowls were the dog's victims. This occurred at a farm in the Lyde Road district.
This time, instead of carrying off the carcases and devouring them or burying them for future eating, the dog sucked the blood and left the dead birds at the scene.
With the tightening up of the guard upon fowl yards, it is feared that the dog may now turn to attacking lambs.
Meanwhile there is considerable nervousness among women who will soon be needed to help with the peat work in the hills.
References: Orkney Herald, 1st October 1915 - An Old Woman's Comforts; Orcadian 9th May 1946, p3 - Harray Wild Dog.

Friday, 25 March 2016

A Wedding Trousseau

Fearne Kinnear and William Edmonstoune Aytoun were married on Christmas Eve 1863 at St John’s, Princes St, Edinburgh. She was 27 years old: he was 50. Fearne was a niece of David and Eleanor Balfour, of Balfour Castle through her mother Mary, David's sister. Aytoun was a lawyer and poet, Sheriff of Orkney and Shetland and his first wife had died in 1859. They had had no children and neither did he and Fearne. He died in 1865, less than 2 years after his marriage to his young bride. She went on to marry Captain James Arthur Forbes, grandson of Sir William Forbes of Monymusk, with whom she had 7 children. She died aged 68, in 1904. 

Fearne's mother was a widow - her husband had been James Kinnear and he was a Writer to the Signet, a lawyer. He came from a family of bankers and the Kinnears were wealthly members of the Scottish upper middle classes, as were the Balfours.

The wealth of the Balfours and of the Kinnears is clear in the arrangements for Fearne’s wedding, described by her mother in various correspondence around December 1863. Fearne receives gold jewellery from various relatives and writes to her uncle David to say thank you for such a magnificent present of money.

But the best detail we have about Fearne’s wedding is in her mother’s letter of 18 December 1863. Mary describes her daughter’s trousseau ‘for Eleanor’s behalf’ and over 150 years later, the richness and luxury of that trousseau remain vivid.

‘The wedding dress is of the richest white watered silk, trimmed with Honiton lace…

Queen Victoria had specified English lace for her wedding dress in 1840 and its use in wedding dresses and other special robes e.g. christening gowns, continued for many years. Honiton lace was made in East Devon, by hand – bobbin made lace, of fine threads, created by women working at home, a cottage industry, with Honiton the main collection point for work from the wider geographic area. Factory-made imitation of a lesser quality became available as a result of the demand created by royal patronage but it seems unlikely that Fearne’s wedding dress of gorgeous white silk was trimmed in anything other than hand-made lace, taking up to 5 hours to make every square centimetre. 

In 1863 fashion demanded a cage crinoline, dresses draped over a spring steel framework, to create a very full skirt, up to 6 yards in circumference. The framework was amazingly light and created a fashionable shape, without the need for heavy, hot and unhygienic underclothing and padding of previous fashions. It's hard to imagine navigating the world encircled in spring steel and confined by the corset, petticoats, drawers and stockings which fashion and modesty demanded. (Light steel crinolines could lift and reveal all very easily). The width of the church aisle must have been a factor in how a Victorian bride approached the altar.

The marriage of Fearne and William took place in St John’s Episcopal Church, Princes Street, Edinburgh, with Dean Ramsay officiating. The church interior is spectacular with a strikingly lovely plaster ceiling in the nave, inspired by Henry V11’s chapel in Westminster Abbey. Between 1857 and 1861 the most beautiful array of stained glass windows of any Scottish church had been inserted where previously there had been plain glass. Fearne’s uncle Thomas Balfour, had died, aged only 28, in 1838, and he is buried in the cemetery there. The Balfours had strong ties to St John’s and the wealth of the Kirk’s ornament reflects the wealth of its mid-19th Century congregation and contrasts starkly , as does every other aspect of Fearne’s wedding, with the living conditions and expectations of thousands of Edinburgh’s poorer inhabitants.
It’s very likely that Fearne’s wedding day hairstyle was a centre parting, tied into a low chignon at the back of her neck and with loops or ringlets covering her ears. She wore turquoise earrings, necklace and brooch on her wedding day, turquoise being much favoured by Victorian girls with diamonds worn more by older women. And over it all, she wore ’a large and beautiful veil, from head to foot, of Honiton Lace.’

Fearne and William left Edinburgh and ‘set off south’ after the wedding meal, probably by train. Her travelling outfit was a blue camlet dress, embroidered with velvet, a blue camlet cloak and a white bonnet trimmed with lace and fern leaves. Camlet was a fine fabric of wool, probably mohair, and silk – luxurious, warm and beautiful.

For evening wear, she had dinner dresses of peach silk and of blue silk. She visited friends outfitted in violet silk, perhaps wearing her ordinary bonnet of mauve terry or her pale, fawn crepe dress-bonnet with roses and one white feather, with her black velvet pelisse or coat. She received visitors in a gown of corded blue silk. She had another dress of striped, pale lavender and, saving the best for last, one of white alpaca and black lace. It sounds stunning and I hope it looked like this:

She is dressed in the finest fabrics – silk, mohair, alpaca and velvet. She favours blues, mauves and lavenders which would suit fair hair and a fair complexion, or were these simply the fashionable colours of the day?
High style was easily accessible to the 1860s Victorian lady via magazines with wonderful fashion plates, such as Samuel Beeton’s The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine with which he also included paper dress patterns. Fearne Kinnear’s engagement was announced in early December 1863, and she had less than 3 weeks to prepare for her marriage. Both her level in society and the limited time for preparation make it certain that Fearne did not create any of her own outfits. She would have gone to a firm of dressmakers from whom she selected styles and fabrics and who then, quickly, created the beautiful outfits she took with her into her marriage. There is barely a page of the Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory for 1862-63 without a listing for a dressmaker, or establishments such as Blythe, Yule & Co (Misses), milliners and dressmakers, 112 George St, Edinburgh.
Her clothes would have been cared for by her servants, or those of the houses and hotels she visited. They would have been brushed and pressed, mended and looked after as befitted their quality and she would have expected them to last, but augmented by each Season’s new fashions and styles.

The Balfour Papers contain no photographs so we don’t know what Fearne looked like. She was however the grand-daughter of George Kinnear and Fearne Gardiner and her grandmother is the woman in the portrait of Mrs George Kinnear by Sir Henry Raeburn on display in the Scottish National Gallery: a striking woman in her early 30s looking wistfully out beyond us and the artist. Did Fearne look like her?

Fearne’s mother, Mary, had told her brother that she never saw a better prospect of happiness in a union. …. It is completely a love match on both sides and it is a pleasure to see two people so happy! The Balfour papers don’t reveal more (so far) about Fearne and her marriage but she set out into it, beautifully dressed.

Fearne was widowed on 4th August 1865. Prince Albert had died in 1861 and Queen Victoria mourned him deeply for another 40 years – in black. Fearne’s blues and lavenders would have given way in August 1865 to black also and she probably stayed in deep mourning for a year and a day, until 5 August 1866. She would have worn no jewellery and either a black veil or widow’s cap. Second mourning followed, for another year and again her wardrobe was black but her widow’s veil could go and some jet jewellery was permitted. In August 1867 she would have entered the third period of mourning and half mourning when greys and mauves would become her main choices. But on 10 July 1867 Fearne remarried, to Captain James Arthur Forbes. There is no detail, as yet, in the Balfour boxes about her second wedding but the conventions of the day would have made it a subdued affair, with bride and groom mindful of the memory of William Aytoun, her first husband who had died only two years previously.

One last detail: in this centenary year of the Battle of Jutland, with Britain’s national commemoration to take place in Orkney, we need to remember Fearne’s grandson, James Arthur Charles Forbes who died, aged 18 on 31 May 1916, in the Battle of Jutland.

Posted by Dusty on behalf of the Balfour Blogger.

Archive reference: D2/21/14 - excerpts from a letter dated Decr 18th, 1863 from Mary Kinnear to her brother David Balfour in Shapinsay. Image of dress taken from this website.

Friday, 12 February 2016

A Royal Wedding and its Consequences

In the Balfour papers, I recently found this curious letter - why did the Prince of Wales send £10 to a Shapinsay man in 1863?

Letter dated 13th May 1863 (Ref: D2/14/21)

On the 10th March 1863, Edward, Prince of Wales, eldest son of the widowed Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, married Princess Alexandra of Denmark at Windsor Castle. Celebrations were held across Britain, including Orkney. In Kirkwall there was a service in the Cathedral, a procession, illuminations and fireworks; in Stromness and elsewhere all over Orkney, fireworks and bonfires.
ORCADIAN 7th March 1863
On the island of Shapinsay, a 21 gun salute from Balfour Castle was to be the big event, despite the fact that David and Eleanor Balfour of Balfour Castle were in London joining in the capital's celebrations.
At noon on the day, the old howitzers at the Castle made 20 firings, but with that last 21st shot - disaster! Tom Hutchison, a crewman on David Balfour's yacht, and just 26 years old, was ramming home the charge for the final effort when the gun went off and the ramrod took away his right hand and part of his arm. His knee was also severely cut.

Tom was taken by skiff immediately to the Balfour Hospital in Kirkwall (the present West End Hotel) coming into the Mainland at Carness, then into Kirkwall. Doctors Duguid and Mitchell amputated his arm just below the elbow and 2 days later Dr Mitchell writes to David Balfour to tell him there has been an accident and Tom has had his lower arm and hand amputated - let us hope plenty chloroform, the anaesthetic of the day, was available and administered.

Letter dated 12th March 1863 (Ref: D2/14/21)
Two weeks later he is improving and it is reported he also has an eye injury. On the 6th April, Robert Easton updates David Balfour advising that Tom "is very white and shilpit-like but in tolerable spirits which rose as he began to speak of his child who is one of the darlingest bairns that ever was seen - the wound is still discharging and he is very weak"
Letter dated 6th April1863 (Ref: D2/14/21)
Over the next weeks David Balfour's correspondents ask after Tom Hutchison. The enquiries after him from the upper end of society culminate with the letter dated 13th May 1863 (see image above)from General Knollys at Marlborough House to David Balfour, enclosing a cheque for £10 from the Prince of Wales himself for Thomas Hutchison "with whose sufferings occasioned by his accident on the 10th March His Royal Highness sincerely sympathises".  That £10 equates roughly to £1000 today. Thereafter Tom Hutchison, with his one hand, fades from the Balfour papers, leaving me wondering what happened next.

We know from the Balfour correspondence that he was a seaman in David Balfour's employ, married and had a child and from census records, birth, marriage and death records it is established that Tom married Elizabeth Durham or Durran on 8th December 1859 in Shapinsay.

1861 Census

Her father is John, a farmer, her mother is Barbara Tait, all born in Dunnet, Caithness. There were various Duhams, sometimes Durrans, in Shapinsay at the time perhaps encouraged their by David Balfour's Caithness-born factor, Marcus Calder and the Tait side of the family, also from Caithness, at Quanterness Farm, outside Kirkwall.

Tom's parents were Thomas Hutchison and Mary Nicholson, both born in Shapinsay. Interestingly the witnesses to the marriage of Tom and Elizabeth were the Laird himself David Balfour of Balfour and Trenabie and his factor, Marcus Calder. Perhaps this was not an unusual courtesy in Shapinsay at the time, or there was a friendship between Laird, factor and yachtsman.

Tom and Elizabeth are in Kirkwall by the 1871 census, living in Queen Street. They have 4 children, a servant, 3 boarders and 4 lodgers ["boarders" expect accommodation and meals; "lodgers" expect accommodation only]. In 1877 they purchase the property and in the Sasines record of the purchase, Tom is described as Burgh Officer and in the 1881 census he is Kirkwall's Sheriff Officer. Their oldest son, David (named after David Balfour?) has died, but they have Thomas junior (the "darlingest bairn" of Robert Easton's letter), Barbara, Mary and John Moss Hutchison (two of Elizabeth's sisters were married to Moss men).

Tragically young Tom was killed in December 1890 in a construction accident in New York where he had emigrated. He left a widow and children, one of whom, Maggie Hutchison, came to live with her grandparents in Kirkwall. They ran a grocer's shop in Queen Street and may have continued to take in boarders and lodgers. Elizabeth died in 1903 and Tom in 1907 with his son, John, present.

Peace's Almanac 1875
The course of Tom Hutchison's life clearly changed drastically with the loss of his arm and hand on the day of the Prince of Wales' marriage on 10th March 1863. He could no longer go to sea. He and Elizabeth must have feared for their future, but the end up owning a house in Kirkwall and Tom is Kirkwall's Sheriff Officer. Was the Prince of Wales their only benefactor after the accident? It seems likely there was a loyalty between Balfour and Calder and Tom and help came his way after the horrible accident, both perhaps from Balfour and Calder and the friends of Balfour who seek news of Tom in their letters of 1863. It didn't save him from personal tragedy, losing 2 of his 3 sons, but it did keep him from the workhouse.

The Balfour papers are a rich source of information about Orkney and this story is one for the many modern Orcadians connected through many family trees to Tom and Elizabeth. To my amazement I discovered my own connection to them as I researched their story. Nobody in our family remembered the story of Tom's accident until the Balfour papers, box 21, bundle 14, revealed the events of March 1863 and intrigued me into some major research, including establishing the fact that Elizabeth was my great great grand-aunt for my grandmother's mother was her niece.

Posted on behalf of The Balfour Blogger by Dusty

References used:
D2/21/14 Letters dated 12th March 1863; 6th April 1863 and 13th May 1863.
Article from the Orcadian newspaper, 7th March 1863
TK2572 photograph of Balfour Castle by Tom Kent. c.1880-1930
1861 and1881 census transcriptions by the Orkney Family History Society.
1875 Peace's Almanac p51

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Storm Report

"One of the most violent tornadoes in Kirkwall ever remembered, which continued without intermission from sun-set (about three o'clock) the whole night."

"Many boats were also damaged, and some driven to sea"

"Several houses were partly unroofed, peat stacks and cot houses thrown down, and the weather-cock of St Magnus Cathedral blown into the steeple, although it weighed two stone of copper."

These are not quotes about yesterday's Storm Gertrude, but they are actually from an article in the Edinburgh Evening Courant dated 24th January 1803! One of three editions purchased by the Orkney Archive in 1994.

The article goes on to say:

"During this hurricane, a ship was wrecked in the island of Papa Stronsay, name unknown, Capt. Christian Faralson Leyre; crew saved, but the vessel and part of the cargo damaged.

From the 1st of January to the 11th it blew constantly strong gales of wind from the S.E. attended with rain, snow and sleet, during which the sun never made its appearance.

The ship Daedalus, from the east country for Dublin, J MALLET master, is totally wrecked in the village of Dearness; cargo greatly damaged - Four of the crew drowned, two of them mates, and brothers. One of these poor fellows got ashore, and as his brother was climbing up the rock after him, a huge wave pulled him back into the sea; the survivor swam in to his assistance, and both perished in each other's arms.

A large sloop, miserably wrecked, from its shattered appearance, without any cargo or person on board was driven on shore on the Wart Holm. Two sailors, supposed to have come in with this wreck, were found dead in this uninhabited island, owing to cold and hunger."

Wart Holm is a tiny island off the south west tip of Westray. This image is from Ordnance Survey sheet no. LXXIX, dated 1903.
More sad news:
"A brig, in the same unhappy situation, and not a single person on board, has come ashore on the island of Stronsay. 

A sloop, said to belong to Caithness, is drove ashore at Lopness, in the island of Sanday.

A foreign ship, totally unknown, has come ashore in numerous splinters on the north sands of Quayness, in the island of Sanday, without any living person on board, or any bodies to be seen. Her cargo is drifting to all quarters, but exertions are making to preserve as much as possible, by the Admiral, for the benefit of all concerned."

Archive Reference: D1/295/3

Monday, 11 January 2016

Late Night Opening

Guess what? We asked and asked and asked and FINALLY we have been allowed to stay up late.

From Thursday 28th January 2016 the Archive (and Library) will be staying open until 9 o'clock! At night! That allows for 4 hours of research time - after 5pm! Before you begin your celebratory dance, please note this is a trial change for 6 months on 1 day per month, i.e. the last Thursday of the month.

Ok, you now have permission to sharpen your pencils, pack your satchel and dance like you just don't care...

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

A Westray Winter’s Tale

Today we are very pleased to introduce The Balfour Blogger, who will share with us all the interesting and wonderful contents of the Balfour of Balfour and Trenaby Collection* (D2). In this first blog, we reveal a new mystery!

The Balfour Estate papers are amongst the jewels of the Orkney Archives, contained in 52 boxes, amounting to some 50,000 documents. When the papers came from Shapinsay into the Orkney Library in 1962, a rapid cataloguing of this huge collection was made. The speed with which the task had to be undertaken meant inevitably that much detail was left out and some years later, Archivist Alison Fraser started afresh to produce a detailed catalogue at box 1, and, between a myriad other tasks, catalogued up to Box 15, before her retirement.
I volunteered in 2008 to help with Archive tasks and was asked if I’d take on the Balfour catalogue. I agreed to the challenge and only this week, after 7 years of an hour here, an hour there, I’ve completed boxes 16 to 21 inclusive – 31 to go. In the course of the job so far, I’ve uncovered fascinating information about the Balfours, other Orcadians, life in Orkney and elsewhere, mainly across the 18th and 19th Centuries but earlier too. The Balfour papers are indeed a treasure trove and one that needs sharing, and the plan is that now and again I’ll report on what’s happening in the Balfour boxes and I’m starting with a discovery made 2 weeks ago: a Westray  story, quite new and exciting...

Marcus Calder was the factor of the Balfour Estate and on Wednesday, 2nd December 1863, 152 years ago this month, he wrote to David Balfour who was away on the Continent nursing his and his wife’s poor health from another Orkney winter.

He writes to David Balfour that David Manson, Balfour’s tenant of Ouseness, north-east of Pierowall, Westray had been given the old doors of the aisle in the Ladykirk, St Mary’s, Pierowall, where Stewart, the Laird of Brough was buried in 1858, following the doorway from which they came having been built up. The Reverend Brotchie, the minister, had made the gift to Mr. Manson and Manson made a barn door from the two old doors.

Ruin of Ladykirk, Pierowall, Westray (Ref: L6857/4) no date given
About ten days ago – so, around the 22nd of November 1863 – Manson’s wife was going about and chancing to look into the barn, what should she see sitting in the door inside the barn, but the Laird o Brough! She screamed and fainted. Her daughter (a great big woman) hearing the noise, came running out to see what was the matter. She saw the same sight and followed the mother’s example. A boy seeing his mother and sister, as he thought, dead, ran down to the shore where his father was working at the ware and told him that mother and sister were ‘’lying in the Close.’’ Of course, David hurried home and saw the Laird still sitting in the door.
Marcus Calder writes that David Manson picked up the women, presumably restoring them to their senses, calming them and his son, and immediately set off for Cocklehouse, south of Pierowall, not far from Fribo House where Mr. Brotchie lived, knowing for some reason that he’d find Brotchie at Cocklehouse. 

Using an older map for reference, we worked out that Cocklehouse was roughly where the X is on the above map.

Mr. Brotchie was much distressed and ordered David to go immediately and put the door back to the Old Kirk.

Well, David got the door in his cart and took off with it to the North Kirk. As he was coming near it he met some man who spoke to him, and who, after a minute, said ‘’The Guid preserve us, there’s the Laird o Brough sitting in your cart’’

David in a fit of desperation couped the cart and cleared himself of the presence of the Laird and the haunted doors.

All this is bad enough for the Manson family but the story doesn’t quite end there: Brotchie requires two men to sleep with him now and a third to watch in the interim!!

The tale ends with the two exclamation marks and the letter proceeds with other estate events.
Interestingly Marcus Calder clearly sees no need to explain to David Balfour why Brotchie is so shaken despite the fact that he, Brotchie, didn’t actually see the Laird. Why does Calder not need to explain anything? Would the Minister not have been more likely, given his calling, to pour scorn and disapproval on David Manson’s account?
The exclamation marks say it all – the death of the Laird took place only 5 years previously and at the time it was rumoured that Brotchie had had a hand in that death. Jocelyn Rendall, a local historian from Papa Westray, recalls a snippet from a verse which alluded to a poisoned cup and Tom Muir, Orcadian story-teller and Orkney Museums Exhibitions Officer, also recalls hearing tales that the Rev Brotchie had fallen out with Stewart of Brough and, aided by two of his kirk elders, they murdered the laird. 
So there it is: the Laird o Brough sits himself down in the barn entrance of Ouseness, 5 years after his death and sets out for the Ladykirk in David Manson’s cart, all in broad daylight on a working day in Westray in late November 1863. Marcus Calder writes to David Balfour ten days later with the tale, more in humour than anything else, as if there’s really not much to remark upon at all.

Does anyone out there know more? What is the full story of Brough’s death and Brotchie’s involvement? Is there any truth in the story of a murder? What happened to the doors? Did the Laird haunt anyone else or appear at Ouseness on other occasions? Did Brotchie ever sleep easy in his bed again? It’s a remarkable tale, with much left out of it and unusually, one apparently lost to Orkney’s storytellers. Orkney loves a good story, so why has this one been mislaid?

Written by the Balfour Blogger and posted by Dusty.

Orkney Archive Letter reference: D2/21/14
*Balfour is on the island of Shapinsay and Trenaby is on the island of Westray.