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...