During the UK Lockdown from March 2020, all the staff in the Orkney Archive were separated. The Fonds and I carried on working but from our respective homes, and only came into the Archive once a week, on different days, to keep up with emails and general maintenance of the Archive Collections. The other staff members either worked from home too or were redeployed in the Community Hub answering phones and helping elderly, vulnerable and the self-isolating to adjust to Lockdown.
All the staff talked to each other on the phone and online in various ways, but it was just not the same...
The Fonds said: "Lockdown began slightly strangely for me because I was on annual leave when the announcement was made. So I returned to an empty Archive to collect some work to take home. Having been unaware that such a dramatic step as Lockdown was imminent, I had no time to prepare for home working, and had no access to work emails, files, etc. so the first few days were a huge adjustment in terms of being able to work reasonably efficiently during the following weeks of Lockdown.
Of course, working in isolation from your work colleagues has more challenges than simply being able to complete tasks. A large part of any day in the Archive, before the pandemic, was spent speaking to researchers, other members of Archive staff and other council colleagues. That all came to an abrupt stop. One result of that was I found I was spending the best part of any day seated in my "home office", not moving around and not talking to another person. That's not good for anyone, mentally or physically.
I did adjust to working from home quite well, and there were certainly some good points. Going to work in slippers, sharing my "office" with the dog and the cat, and a better view out of the window, for example. However, despite these advantages, it was a relief to return to the Archive and get back to some form of normality. I like the separation between work and home, which was lost a bit during Lockdown, so I'm hoping that I don't have to return to home working in the future."
Archiver got creative and started a new Blog called Orkney Library & Archive Like where she shared some of our personal activities during Lockdown to cheer us up. It was fun to read what other members of staff were doing. Here is a screen shot of the title page:
we mostly worked alone,
hardly seeing anyone,
As I live alone, I am used to my own company and thought I'd be fine, but I soon realised that I really missed other people and I did feel very lonely at times. I looked forward to my one day of the week when I came into the Library and Archive building and really hoped that there would be at least one other person there to see and talk to. Family and friends kept me company online in video chats, quizzes and even Countdown matches, but I missed seeing them in person and being able to hug them and play about and do daft things. During video chats, I would "take" my sister to the beach and she would in turn "take" me on walks up hills and in forests. We made do.
I gained some comfort from cataloguing old documents, which was the main work task we could do from home. It was great to spend a bit more time than usual reading through the records and absorbing interesting stories and facts. My favourite new item was an account of a family who moved from Orkney to Australia, The George Irvine Saga (1841-1925). They too had to adjust to new surroundings and ways of living. They did not have the threat of a dangerous virus hanging over them, but times were harsh and some of the adults and kids died far too young. Through the account of George, his two wives and their 18 children (!!), are some great life stories spanning 130 years.
Here is the description and some extracts::
The George Irvine Saga (1841-1925), compiled by one of his children. 48 typed pages.
Chapter headings: Adventurous Early Days 1841/1882; Second Marriage 1883/1939; Forced retirement to Melbourne; Bereavements 1925/1939; Great Changes - World War II; Appendix I - Memoirs of the Irvine Family and Early Lake Rowan Days by Mrs E M Willis; Appendix II - Reminiscences of Lake Rowan, Memoirs of George Irvine.
He was born at Garson in Sandwick and emigrated to Australia with his wife Margaret Groat from Westray, their first child was born on the boat over. They had nine children and eventually settled at Lake Rowan in Victoria on a 320 acre farm he renamed 'Garson'.
|Extract from George Irvine Saga Reference: D1/1715|
His first wife, Margaret, sadly died in 1882 when their 9th child was just 2 months old. He married again in 1883 to Sarah Montgomery. They also had nine children.
|Extract from George Irvine Saga Reference: D1/1715|
In 1902 George returned to Orkney after his brother (John) had died leaving him three farms in Sandwick (Garson, Buckan and Stokan). He also visited Westray and persuaded his first wife's nephew Tom Groat to go back to Australia with him.
Due to ill-health, George moved to Melbourne in 1908 (his elder sons still living on the farm). One daughter Effie married Sydney Burley who was in the Royal Navy during WW1 and was in Scapa Flow, Orkney at the time of the German Fleet scuttling. He was on board HMAS Australia.
After the war another Orkney resident, Dave Rendall, joined the family when they lived in Rankin Springs, he died while a POW during WW2. George Irvine's second wife, Sarah, died in 1939. They were both buried at Lake Rowan cemetery.
[The piece includes lots of family stories and births, marriages and deaths of all 18 children of George Irvine up to 1970]