Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Monday, 21 December 2009
A lucky group of people will be spending sunset (which will occur at 3.15pm according to The Orcadian website) in Maeshowe, Stenness.
This Neolithic tomb, consisting of entrance passage and mound-like burial chamber, is thought to date back to around 3000BC. On the shortest days of the year, the final rays of the setting sun spread down the entrance passage and project a golden door shape onto the back wall of the chamber. The event can be seen on this live web-feed: http://www.maeshowe.co.uk/.
Pictured is the illustration accompanying our signed copy of George Mackay Brown's beautiful poem Maeshowe Winter. The page is decorated with silver glitter and the words lighten up this short dark little day.
'Children sing under a street lamp, their voices like leaves of light.'
Friday, 18 December 2009
Yes. Tonight we shall drink, dance and be merry. Booze shall be downed, congas will be led and morals shall be cast loosely aside as we spill wine, straddle photocopiers and make inappropriate passes at each other. Our office party will make Sodom and Gomorrah look like an episode of Sesame Street.
Photographs of the debauchery* will be posted on Monday.
*Which, of course, will actually be photos of a perfectly pleasant, civilised and tastefully lit soiree ending no later than 7pm. Don't worry tax payers!
Pictured is a letter written on the 18th of December 1708 to Robert Douglas, Admiral Depute of Orkney.
A ship had been wrecked at Deersound and the crew were stranded. This letter was written by the skipper of the ship, John Maw, who required free passes for his men so that 'the poor men may go home in safety without any Molestation.'
Despite being 300 years old, the letter is in good condition and is clear and easy to read. It is part of the Joseph Storer Clouston collection of papers.
Orkney Archive reference: D23/7/15
Thursday, 17 December 2009
The snow also seems set to continue up until Christmas. This is lovely for folk staying put but not so great for those hoping to fly/sail/drive South next week.
It's a great excuse for another delightful snowy pic from the photographic archive at any rate. This week it is a Tom Kent image of Willow Road, Kirkwall.
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Click on the images below and swoon in politically-correct outrage...
Saturday, 12 December 2009
I am currently wading through a family tree where nearly every woman is named Catherine and all the men seem to be called Peter or James. One Peter, the son of Peter and Catherine, has married a girl who is not only named Catherine, but has the same maiden name as his mother! His brother married a Catherine too. Then called his daughter Catherine. And his sons Peter and James.
Drawing diagrams helps but a few infedelities and their illegitimate results are making things very complicated indeed.
They keep swapping houses too!
Friday, 11 December 2009
The Ba' ('ball' pronounced in Orcadian), is a form of hand-ball played throughout the streets of Kirkwall every Christmas and New Year's Day.
The inhabitants of Kirkwall are divided into 'Uppies' and 'Doonies' ('Up-the-gates' and 'Down-the Gates'), teams which are determined by birth or their first entry to Kirkwall. As most children in Orkney are now born in Balfour hospital in Uppie territory (or in Aberdeen meaning a re-entry to Kirkwall from the airport via Palace Road ), Doonie fathers have been known to drive their new-born babes home in a widely circuitous route to ensure their allegiance.
The general idea is for the teams to get the ba' to their own 'goals'. These are designated places in the town. The Uppies are aiming for a wall situated at the meeting of Junction Road, Main Street and New Scapa Road and the Doonies want to immerse the ba' in water along the Harbour front. The players can use pretty much any means necessary and the game is typically long and rough. Open play is unusual and the ba' moves along the streets in the heart of a writhing, sweaty scrum for most of the day. It is not uncommon to see steam rising from the huddle of players as their body heat meets the cold winter air.
There is a boys' ba' played in the morning and a men's ba' which kicks off at 1 0'clock. This means that there can be two games going on at the same time, making the streets of Kirkwall a hazardous place to walk.
A woman's ba' was played on Christmas day 1945 and New Year's Day 1946 and women have been known to take part over the years. The vast majority of players, however, are men and boys.
Spike cartoon, Orkney Archive reference: D1/851
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
The work of an archivist or a librarian is a fairly physical one. One may think that the signing of a deposit form or the stamping of a book is as manual as it gets but au contraire mes amis, it is a work out for the arms! Carrying boxes to and fro, stacking shelves, moving furniture, assembling shelving... it is my perfect gym; full of books and not a sweaty towel in sight.
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
We are all trying to forget the fact that the boxes will be moved back again in about six months time and the new shelves will be heaving with books and papers before we know it...
Monday, 7 December 2009
Archives used include a transcription of an order of clothes made by Patrick 'Black Patie' Stewart in 1603, clothing accounts for the North Lowland Fencibles as administered by Colonel Balfour from 1797 - 1807 and a small notebook of knitting patterns written by a young girl from Brims, Longhope in the 1800s.
Friday, 4 December 2009
Thursday, 3 December 2009
Wowsers! It's Christmas decoration time and, as you can see, we've gone all out. Unfortunately, our digital camera does not take videos so you cannot witness the wonder of our ever-changing fibre optic tree, nor our 8-setting twinkling fairy lights which now festoon the Orkney Room journals.
Do you find this out-of-focus image of a betinselled George Mackay Brown with rom-lit Island Doctor an offensive travesty upon travesties or an eclectic post-modern delight? Are you boredly indifferent? Simply record your view in our newly glitzy comments book (see below.) Or alternatively, leave an outraged/fawning comment on the blog. We have had two puzzled reactions already.
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
It is so cold today that heaters are ablaze and members of staff are swaddled in scarves. At least we are safe and can move about freely unlike the residents of 1939 Kirkwall.
And it is time to put up the Christmas decorations...
Friday, 27 November 2009
However, the second half of the nineteenth century and early years of the twentieth century saw great efforts in Orkney, and indeed the rest of Britain, to stamp out the 'demon drink'.
Good Templar associations conceived along Masonic lines complete with rituals, costumes and passwords sprung up all over the county and Temperance hotels were situated throughout Kirkwall and Stromness. The Albert Hotel was a temperance venue and nearly every Parish had at least one Good Templar Lodge including the Emblem of Love Lodge in Holm, the Star of the East Lodge in Deerness; the Maeshowe Lodge in Stenness and the Noltland Lodge of Westray.
The stated object of the Temperance league was "the entire abolition of the drinking system" and much of the dedicated literature quotes alcohol related death and crime statistics in much the same manner as newspapers and websites do today. Indeed, Royal Commission reports were ordered on the situation and articles bemoaning the damage being done to the nations health, mental acuity and economy by 'the greatest evil' appeared in the local and national press with great frequency.
In 1920, the first Local Veto Polls took place. The results ensured that Stromness and Holm became 'dry' parishes, with no alcohol license at all, and Kirkwall's license was 'Limited.' Reactions to this were mixed. The Orkney Herald carried a regretful obituary for 'Mr Johnnie Walker' claiming that 'his demise has left a vacant place in the hearts (and the throats) of a host of his admirers and friends, both open and secret...' Some felt that other parishes deserved to go dry as a 55% share of the vote was required to carry a no license decision, meaning that some areas where the majority had voted to be dry remained licensed.
It must be noted that there was a great reduction of crime reported by the police post Veto Polls and various statistics to this effect were brandished by the No License campaigners whenever a reversal was threatened.
Stromness was officially dry until 1947 whereas Holm did not reverse their decision until 1975.
Information taken from: Orkney Herald, 5/01/1921, 1/06/1921, 29/11/1922, 14/11/1923.
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Friday, 20 November 2009
The wedding of Elizabeth and Philip took place on the 20th November 1947 when post-war rationing was still in effect. The then Princess had to use clothing coupons to buy the material for her dress just like the book below which belonged to a family living in Clay Loan in 1947. (Orkney Archive reference D1/979/1)
CORRECTION: It has been pointed out to me by a reader that the top photograph can, of course, not date from 1960 as the Council Offices did not move to the old Kirkwall Grammar School site until the late 1970s. They were officially opened by the Queen on 12th of August 1978, her second visit to Orkney, during which she attended the 93rd County Show. I also said School Hill instead of School Place, sorry!
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
We get told that quite a lot and being sensitive, hoarding souls, it never fails to make our blood run cold. Sometimes, upon receiving a potential archive, we listen as the depositor cheerfully describes the letters, photographs, scrapbooks and documents that they destroyed before thinking of the archive. A few weeks ago, a lady told me about the bonfire of photographs and legal papers that she made when clearing a relative's house. Oh the humanity...
We are always interested in your family papers and documents as they can contain so many clues to the past. If ever in doubt as to what to do with interesting old documents that no longer seem relevant, always think of us please!
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Saturday, 14 November 2009
This talk or 'virtual tour' has been given to various groups over the years with a tweak here and there to suit the specific interests of Lunch clubs, school groups and MA students. We are always happy to give tours to small groups or indeed talks to slightly larger audiences.
Friday, 13 November 2009
Orkney does not have many proper ghost stories, perhaps tough Orcadians don't scare easily.
Most of the folklore revolves around the sea. Sea monsters, selkies and phantom ships all make frequent appearances in our files of wonderful tales. This makes sense as many people relied on the sea for at least part of their living and the flat landscape sometimes feels dwarfed by the sea and skies, especially when it's stormy.
One creepy tale that keeps popping up in various forms is that of 'The Book of The Black Arts.' The basic story goes that there once existed a book full of charms and spells imbued with the requisite power to put said charms and spells into action. The book was said to be made up of black pages printed with white ink.
All of this was great except for one terrifying fact. If anyone died whilst still in posession of the book, he and it would be instantly claimed by its author, the Devil himself. The book was not easy to get rid of.
According to Ernest Walker Marwick's 'The Folklore of Orkney and Shetland', a man in Sandwick tried to get rid of the book by taking it far out to sea and throwing it over the side of his boat in a sack weighted with rocks. When he got home, the book was waiting for him on the kitchen table. Aaaaaaggggghhhh!!!!!
A girl in Sanday who had been tricked into accepting the evil book by a local witch flung it over Grunavi head but it was home in her bedroom before she was. Aaaaaggggghhhhh!!!
The story nearly always ends with a minister being appealed to and accepting charge of the terrible tome. The Rev. Charles Clouston is said to have buried the Sandwick copy in the manse garden and the Rev. Matthew Armour dealt with the Sanday copy.
The title page of the Book of the Black Arts is said to have read:
Thursday, 12 November 2009
For years, small efforts had been made by members of the public to prevent the deterioration of the objects and papers still left in the vacant rooms and we have a very small collection of official (blank) forms and jotters as well as an annotated OS map in the archive. Empty buildings do not take long to destroy themselves, however.
But does something still have to be physically present to serve as a reminder of the past?
Before demolition began, the entire building was laser scanned by Historic Scotland so that a 3-dimensional model can be made, even when the original no longer exists. The Royal Commission for Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (or RCAHMS) hold plans, and photographs of exteriors, interiors, building details and aerial views:
Surely it is the information that counts, especially when any atmosphere of a bustling communications hub must have disappeared as soon as the damp infiltrated and mould, moss and mice took up residence?
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
'Ingenuity Versus the Law'
'Of Kirks and Manses'
'The Broch of Deerness'
'Of Coracles, Soos and Curraghs'
' A Few Old Memories, Recounted in Winter Evenings 60 or 70 years ago. Some a Bit Newer'
We were also treated to a bit of his life story; war years in Cairo, life as an Orkney tradesman and the courting of his wife!
Like many today, he was in town to mark Remembrance Sunday at the Cathedral and had lain a wreath.
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
It is a selection of letters, newspaper articles and documents that relate to the many Orcadians who left these Isles in search of a better life. Below is an extract from Orkney Archive reference D31/21/1/9, a letter from James Flett to his brother in Orkney from Fort Norman, Canada and dated 20th February 1880:
Monday, 9 November 2009
Friday, 6 November 2009
"Through many centuries, Orkney's churches have been the theatre in which the great dramas of Orkney's history have been played out.
From hermitages on wind-blasted holms to dour nineteenth-century preaching barns; from a splendid cathedral founded by a Norse earl to a Nissen hut painted by Italian prisoners during the Second World War; from city kirks built for huge and earnest Presbyterian congregations to a diminutive Roman Catholic chapel converted from a byre, Orkney's churches are diverse in scale, age, style and history, but all play their part in a story that is as beautiful and stormy as the islands themselves.
Jocelyn Rendall tells the fascinating story of an island's people through the records of these churches. From reluctant pagans to zealous firebrands and all in between, the tales within range from the hilarious to the heartbreaking and give a vibrant, enlightening and important perspective to Orkney's rich history. "
With evocative illustrations by Crispin Worthington.Price: £11.99
Thursday, 5 November 2009
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
Our correspondent saw a brief description in the Stromness museum alongside a photograph but I can find no reference at all in the Orkney Room or Archive.
Any more info out there?
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Taken from Margaret Tait's notebook reference D97/6/4
Monday, 2 November 2009
Pictured above is what japers of yore did on the 31st of October.
The image by Tom Kent is part of the Orkney Photographic Archive.
Friday, 30 October 2009
The Orkney Room is a home for any book with an Orkney connection. As you can see from the book on the left, we really mean any book. Behold below some sample text from Island Doctor set on the fictional Orkney island of Norsay:
'Let me get this straight,' she said at last, 'I thought I heard you say you'd like us to meet in London-'
'You're not deaf surely?' he interrupted. 'Of course I said it but it was only to satisfy your feminine curiosity. I've withdrawn it now.'
I wonder how the story ends...?
Thursday, 29 October 2009
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
This print can be found in the National Portrait Gallery, the British Library, Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. and has turned up at auction recently. The NPG dates it 1662, so the King mentioned is probably Charles II, and the artist is unknown. The script at the bottom reads:
'aana macallame borne in the orknes of scotland in the year of our lord 1615 being presented to the kings majestties sight octobr 1662 - though my portraiture seemes to bee a man;my sex denyes me so ; nature hath still variety; to make the world her wisdome know'
We were contacted a while ago by an owner of a copy for further information on this Orkney bearded woman but all that we had was an earlier request for information on Anna published in the Old-Lore Miscellany journal in 1929!
I wonder what kind of upbringing Anna had in Orkney. Was she a daughter of a tenant farmer whose differences made her special enough to be presented at court; or was she protected from ridicule by an aristocratic birth? Macallum is certainly not a very Orcadian name and would have been more common in the Central West belt of Scotland.I can find no record of her birth, nor any reference to her. The trail is cold.
Monday, 26 October 2009
Because we control the temperature and humidity of the strongrooms quite carefully, even the Search room can be very arid and airless during the Summer months. The soil in the plants is dust dry every morning and there are always people walking past the window eating delicious looking ice-creams. The Summer enquiries can be fairly repetitive as well as they are mainly family history orientated.
This room seems cosy in the Winter-time, however, and only the die-hard archive fans with particular passions seem to make an appearance. The terrible weather also makes you thrilled to walk through the door of a morning...
Saturday, 17 October 2009
Yes, Orkney Archive is open 9am until 5pm on a Saturday and we do a late night opening until 7pm on a Thursday. Aren't we good?
Friday, 16 October 2009
The 'Island Times' was a newspaper made by the 296 Bty of the 66th (Leeds Rifles) A. A. Regt. R.A. for servicemen on Orkney.
It was launched just before the more professional 'Orkney Blast' which was edited by Eric Linklater and printed on an actual printing press.
The 'Island Times' has a more charming, homemade feel to it with hand lettered headlines and cut-and-paste typewritten articles.
Section headings include: 'Items from the Stations', 'Sport', 'Weddings', 'Gossip', 'Footlights' and 'About Birds.'
We have received two copies of the first issue, dated 24th December 1940, and a copy of the second issue, dated January 1941. We also hold copies of the 'Orkney Blast' on microfilm from January 1941 - November 1944.
Thursday, 15 October 2009
The 70th Anniversary of the Royal Oak disaster has brought many visitors to Orkney this week. We ended up organising a makeshift cinema in a meeting room so that we could show our commemorative videos to relatives of those who went down with their ship in 1939. The photographic archive has also received several orders for prints of our Royal Oak pictures.
We also seem to have a lot of visitors who are interested in other topics. All of the tables in the searchroom are occupied and each has it's own precarious tower of books and documents. Every researcher seems to have a laptop nowadays so the room is filled with the gentle click-clack of typing from both researchers and staff. The subjects being investigated today include:
Children's Reading Habits in Orkney 1930s - 1970s
Orkney folk songs
Sir William Honeyman, Lord Armadale
West Mainland Young Farmers' Society
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
The Royal Oak was torpedoed at 1.30am by a German submarine. U-47 was captained by Gunther Prien who went on to be awarded the Knight's Cross, Germany's highest honour.
When Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, heard the news he said 'Poor fellows, poor fellows, trapped in those black depths.'
Friday, 9 October 2009
We do enjoy the hilarious adverts that can often be found in old copies of newspapers. Look at this delight from a June 1940 edition of The Orcadian.
She is so cross! And her friend is like 'o-kaaaaay...'
Thursday, 8 October 2009
Today is 'Gardener's Time' day in the library. There will be a plant sale downstairs and a local horticultural expert will be answering plant posers from 2.30pm - 4.00pm in the Marwick room.
Check out the front cover of this week's Orkney Today to see the Archive exhibition 'Television and Radio in Orkney' (plus a member of staff).
Monday, 5 October 2009
Friday, 2 October 2009
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
We will we be providing teas, coffees and delicious homebakes for a donation in the foyer that afternoon. And not only that; lucky visitors will have the treat of seeing library and archive staff modelling denim trews all day long. Irresistible, I know.
Friday, 25 September 2009
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Monday, 21 September 2009
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
It's fine though, Alasdair Darling says that we're not going to fall "into a kind of dark age where the lights go off and nothing happens." How comforting.
It's been a busy morning already. Family history enquiries, some old newspaper print offs, Sheriff Court processes to find and helping college students in the Orkney Room.
Saturday, 12 September 2009
It is true that our 'Winter Regular' customers have been reappearing and we're no longer flinging open every single window first thing, so Summer is most definitely over...
Roll on Christmas chocolates, long chats with regulars and drying rain-soaked socks on the archive radiators. Go Winter!
Friday, 11 September 2009
It is a weighty tome with quite small writing (so you definitely get your money's worth) that has been beautifully printed by the Orcadian.
Much of the research for the book was carried out in the Orkney Archive over the last few years. We are relieved to see it published as that means less photocopying for us.
Thursday, 10 September 2009
We have several detailed plans of the proposed houses dated 1945 but not much else.
Any photographs of their construction out there?
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
We have been busy today as quite often seems to happen at the tail end of the Summer and again, it is mostly family history enquiries.
Had a brainstorming session this morning for the next Library and Archive Discovery Week (Disco week) which we hope will provide untold delights for all visitors in March.