Friday, 2 October 2015

Ernest Walker Marwick - Writer and Scholar

Our latest exhibition is all about local historian and writer, Ernest Marwick. This year would have been his 100th birthday, so the Orkney Science Festival decided to celebrate his life and works with some special events and we were asked to put on a small exhibition.

In the Orkney Archive we are very lucky to house his collection of research, stories, poems, photos, oral history, folklore and articles about Orkney life, people and culture. About 86 boxes worth! There is hardly ever an enquiry in the Archive that is not helped or answered by something that Ernest Marwick saved or collected.

To exhibit this collection we could have taken over the entire searchroom, so we decided to concentrate on some of his writing and scholarly pursuits.

He began school in Evie in May 1921 at the age of 5.

Archive Reference: CO5/50/8 Evie Public School Admission and Withdrawal Register

Wilhelmina Rosie, Headmistress of Evie Public School wrote in her report of 1925, "In the infant and junior classes the pupils are making satisfactory progress in the main subjects. Poetry and Reading were delivered in a clear and distinct voice, and Spelling was in most cases quite good...It is noted with approval that most of the pupils are at the stage of advancement which corresponds with their age."

Archive Reference: CO5/50/2 Evie Public School Logbook, 1910-1933

He left school soon after this at the age of 10 due to illness and never went back. After that he taught himself everything he needed to know.

In 1941 he moved to Kirkwall to work in Stevensons bookshop and in 1943 he married Janetta Park from Sanday.

After WW2 he compiled and edited An Anthology of Orkney Verse. 

It includes poems by David Vedder, David Balfour, Walter T Dennison, Duncan J Robertson, Ann Scott-Moncrieff, Edwin Muir, John Masefield and George Mackay Brown and Eric Linklater and Robert Rendall (see photos)

He was a collector of local history and folklore.

One such story was: "Rackwick (Hoy) Tradition - the landlord there at one time was a lady who lived in a house called Ootries, just above the boat noust at Rackwick. This lady's house had a floor of baked tiles. It was her custom to go down to the beach each morning as the men set off for the fishing, to choose the man who should do her work for that day. On one occasion a man refused and went to sea. When he came back in the evening he found his house burned to the ground."

This story was passed on through 3 generations before it reached Mr Marwick.

Archive references: D31/1/1/24 Rackwick Tradition and D31/1/2 One of Mr Marwick's History and Folklore folders.

He researched and wrote Sooan Sids for the Orkney Herald from 1954-1961.

He was friend and adviser to George Mackay Brown


Archive references: D31/30/4 Folder of correspondence between EWM and GMB; L7556/3 Ernest Marwick's photograph of George Mackay Brown

He was a poet in his own right.
Archive reference: D31/64/4 - Folder entitled Verse - typescript, manuscript of some fifty poems by E.W.M.
From the 1960s to the 1970s, he made over 800 broadcasts for the BBC, many of which are stored on reels, cassette tapes and CDs and can be listened to here in the Orkney Archive.


In 1975 he published the book The Folklore of Orkney and Shetland which was the culmination of all his research into folklore.
Archive reference: D31/9/2 - Folder containing reviews of 'The Folklore of Orkney and Shetland'
And in 1975 he was awarded the Freedom of the Burgh of Kirkwall!
Archive Reference: D31/65/6 - Casket containing certificate of Freedom of the Burgh of Kirkwall, presented to E.W.M.
The exhibition in the Archive Searchroom will continue until the end of October 2015.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Cave Where?

This photograph was taken in South Ronaldsay in the early 19th century, but we don't know where. Can you help?

Archive reference: L9397/4

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Orkney At War (Aug-Oct 1915)

Here are a few items from our fifth instalment of our Orkney At War exhibition. These archive items are taken from records during August, September and October of 1915. We continue with the diary of Margaret Tait. We find out about meat supplies in Orkney, employability of men with hernias, schoolchildren in Walls, see huts in St Margaret's Hope and much more. It is now a year since the beginning of the war.

Archive Reference: D1/525 - Journal of Margaret Tait, 1911-1918
1 August 1915

(Sunday) I am sitting down on the garden seat and the air is mild and pleasant and the flowers are blooming lovely. The berries are all ripe on the trees and quite ready for picking. Ruby Marwick is up on top of the dyke or garden wall, which divides their place from this. She is the only sign of life about the place and everything seems very quiet and still. I can see the town clock from here and it is just 6. I was up the willows for a walk this afternoon but it came on a drizzle so I didn’t stay long. This last week a liner was torpedoed off the Birsay coast by a German submarine  and the crew brought into Kirkwall. One of the crew proved to be a german (supposed to be a spy) and was kept aboard the submarine. The mail boat (St. Ola) on her way to Scrabster was ordered to turn and go back to Stromness one day last week. Anniversary services are to be held in the churches next Wednesday (4th) evening, it being a year since the war began. Rita Middleton stayed to tea tonight as there were stewed prunes. Jim is in Deerness for the week-end.
The shop will soon be finished now and will look very nice. Yesterday morning the boarding was taken down from the front. The office is finished. The little front shop will be finished this incoming week. The house is lying as bad as ever. Since the war the beef has gone up to ¼ per lb and not even fresh at that. 2 half loaves are 9d, before the war they were 6d. Sugar 4d per lb, before it was 2d. Nearly all foodstuffs have gone up in proportion and coal is now 40/- per ton. Last Saturday week (24) was the anniversary of poor Jackie’s death, so I went up and cleaned all the weeds out of the grave and placed a posy of forget-me-nots on it which I had planted specially. Then I went up and had a look at poor Mrs. Wylie’s grave.

Orkney Herald newspaper 11th August 1915


The anniversary of Britain’s entry into the war was marked throughout the county on Wednesday by services “of humble prayer to almighty God on behalf of the nation” In Kirkwall a joint intercessory service was held in the evening in St Magnus Cathedral, at which there was a large attendance. The Rev John Rutherford opened the service with prayer, and the reading and devotional exercises were conducted by Rev. Gee, Millar and Mr Wm. Barclay. An appropriate address was delivered by the Rev. John M. T Ramsay, St Andrews. A collection was taken up on behalf of the Britain to Poland Fund.

Archive Reference: CE55/4/31 - Royal Naval Reserve Letter/Memorandum book, 1910-1924 : Letter from 20th August 1915


Archive Reference: L8745/2 Royal Navy accommodation at St Margaret's Hope pier, c.1914-1918.


Archive Reference: CO5/68/1 - South Walls Public School Logbook, 1895-1922, p428.

1915, [page] 428,
2nd Aug - very few children at school as Naval Sports are being held the children are away to them, only 14 not going so gave these holiday.
6th Aug - Attendance poor, 88.5%
15th Aug - Ordinary progress
20th Aug - Received word during the week that this school would be closed for the Normal Vacation for 7 weeks commencing 10th September.
27th Aug - Mr Bruce Compulsory Officer visited school today and examined attendance which is very poor only 77%.
3rd Sep - Ordinary Routine
8th Sep - Naval Sports Half holiday given in accordance with note from School Board Clerk.
9th Septr. - Visited this School today & found the Register correctly marked to date. J.M.F. Groat, Clerk.

Archive Reference: L8214/4 - Uploading supplies at Hoxa Battery, South Ronaldsay, no exact date (c1914-1918)

Archive reference: K1/1/17 - Kirkwall Town Council Minute book, 1912-1920Item read at Kirkwall Town Council meeting on the 7th September 1915

Supplied of Meat. in view of the increased demands for meat by the British and French Armies and of the relative shortage of vessels equipped for the conveyance of meat from overseas, the Board of Trade wish to call the attention of the public to the great importance of restricting the consumption of meat with a view to economising the national supply and avoiding excessive increase of price. Board of Trade, 20th May 1915.

It was agreed on the suggestion of Bailie MacLennan to call the attention of the Local Government Board to a way in which the food supply might be supplemented, vizt., by utilizing the patrol trawlers when possible in fishing.

Orcadian newspaper 25th September 1915

Messrs LEADBETTER & PETERS Deeply regret that it will be impossible to visit Orkney this year owing to Admiralty restrictions. Although applications for permission to visit Orkney have been made both by letter and personally at the Admiralty, this permission has been refused. Messrs. Leadbetter and Peters are sincerely sorry for the inconvenience which will thus be caused to their numerous clients in Orkney and take this opportunity of returning sincere thanks for all orders received during past visits. They will take the earliest opportunity given to them to again visit Orkney as usual.


Eyesight and Spectacle Specialists


Orcadians with the Colours
Archive Reference: D1/1127 - World War 1 Scrapbook by Dr Duncan, Stromness

Seaman John Coutts, Walls



Trooper Alex. Norquoy, Firth
The Orcadian newspaper 9th October 1915
News has reached friends in South Ronaldsay that two soldiers belonging to this island were wounded recently. Lance Corpl. Wm Cumming of the Seaforths is said to have been dangerously wounded in France and Pte. John Loutitt of the Seaforths is also wounded although slightly.
Information has also been received that Pte. Robert Laird of the 8th Battalion Seaforths, a native of Burray was wounded on 25th September. His wound which is in one of his legs is not thought to be serious.
We understand that a large number of Orcadians have suffered in the recent fighting. We shall be glad if relatives will co-operate with us in making the details for our roll of honour as complete as possible.

The Orcadian 16th October 1915

On Friday 1st inst. At Buckingham palace, His majesty presented board of trade medals for gallantry  in saving life at sea in various parts of the world to a number of sailors. There were fifteen silver medallists and three bronze medallists each of whom was personally decorated by His Majesty.  Among the list we observe the name of Mr Henry Linklater, who is the eldest son of Captain H Linklater, The Holms, Stromness. The circumstances are these. “Two members of the crew of the steamship Cawdor Castle of London, Henry Linklater chief officer and B. Green seaman were given the silver medal for helping in the rescue of the crew of the schooner Lucie of Mauritius, which was in a sinking condition in the Indian Ocean, in January 1913. The Cawdor Castle launched a lifeboat which, under the command of Mr Linklater and manned by Green and five other men (who have already received their medals), proceeded to the Lucie. The boat was manoeuvred under the stern of the Lucie, and the crew of the eight men were taken off one by one by means of ropes in a heavy sea”
Archive Reference: D1/525 - Journal of Margaret Tait, 1911-1918
20 October 1915
The weather has been lovely these last few days, almost like summer and such lovely moonlight evenings. Had some fine walks with Bunty. Fancy its 2 months since I wrote last. Kirkwall Bay is still crowded with foreign ships coming and going all the time. I hear they are not to be taken in to Kirkwall any more but to be sent to Shetland, and Kirkwall is to be made a base for torpedo destroyers. There’s no sign of the war coming to an end, indeed it seems farther off than ever. Bulgaria has joined now against us.
The shop has been opened up a few weeks now but the house still looks as if a cyclone had passed through it.
Another Zeppelin raid on London last week killing about 40 and wounding over 100. Great damage to property. That’s the second Zeppelin raid within the week, the first one doing not so much damage.


Monday, 3 August 2015


We have no reason to dread Monday mornings in the Orkney Archive. You never know what is going to happen, who is going to visit and what they are going to ask. Today for example we played host to a Japanese film crew who wished to film the historical records of Magnus Eunson, (1778-1852) the founder of Highland Park whisky.

Here they are filming the baptism of Magnus from the Old Parish Registers for St. Andrews for 1778.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Double Dutch Mystery Document

We have this wonderful document* from September 1659, which we believe was written in Dutch. But we have no idea what it is about.  Can anyone help? Have we any Dutch followers who can also read 17th century documents?
We can identify two words which are repeated a lot "Looft God" which means "God Bless" , so perhaps it is a religious document, or connected in some way with St Magnus Cathedral?
September 1659 was mid-way between the resignation of Richard Cromwell, son of Oliver Cromwell,ending the Protectorate in May 1659 and the Restoration of the monarchy with Charles II in 1660.
*Archive reference: D14/8/8 part of the Walter Traill Dennison papers.
After receiving such wonderfully quick responses to the appeal above, I enclose the second page of the document here below:

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Life and Liberty in Georgia 1775

Happy 4th of July to all our American Followers!

As a special treat here is a letter describing life in Snowhill, nr Augusta Georgia in December 1775 written by indentured servant Baikia Harvey to his Godfather Thomas Baikie of Firth, Orkney.

Dear Godfather,
I am very sorry that I did not take your Advice and stay at home with you as I have found to my sad experence that I ought not to have slightig your advice. Mr Gordon was vere good to me but Mr Brown us'd me vere ill and I Runaway from him & wint to the Armey that was mar[c]hing up to the Back parts of South Carolina against a sett of people they will call Torrys in this Country and whin I came back I went to Ane Mr LeRoy Hammond Merchant in So. Carolina & he Bought my time which I am vere glad of for he & his Lady uses me vere will & give me Cloaths & I Ride with my master & loves them Both You'l Please to send me all the money you can Collect that is my Due by the first safe opportunity that I may be enabled to Buy my time & Put myself to some Tradesman to Learn his calling for a Tradsman has good Wages in this Country I beg that none of my Relations may come to this Country Except they are able to pay thir passage thir Selves and then they may come as soon as they may like this is a good poormans Country when a man once getts into away of Liveing but our Country people knows Nothing when they come hear the Americans are Smart Industours hardypeople & fears Nothing our people is only Like the New Negros that comes out of the ships at first whin they come amongst them I am just Returnd from the Back parts When I seed Eight Thousand men in Arms all with Riffel & Barrill
Guns which they can hitt the Bigness of a Dollar Betwixt Two & Three hundred yards Distance the Little Boys not Bigger than my self has all thir Guns & marshes with thir Fathers & all their Cry is Liberty or Death Dear Godfather tell all my Country people not to come hear for the Americans will kill them Like Deer in the Woods & they will never see them they can lie on their Backs & Load & fire & every time they Drawsight at any thing they are sure to kill or Criple & they Run in the Woods Like Horses I seed the Liberty Boys take Between Two & Three hundred Torrys & one Libertyman would take & Drive four or five before him just as the shepherds do the sheep in our Country & they have taken all thir Arms from them and put the Headmen in Gaile so that they will niver be able to make head against them any more - Pray Remember me to my Dear friend Mr James Riddoch Mrs Gordon Madam Allin Madam Young My Uncle & Aunt & all their Femily & in perticular Mr John Gordon -

I am Dear Godfather                                                                                                                                        Your most Obident and Hum'l Godsone

Baikia Harvey

Snowhill Near Augusta in Georgia
Decem'r 30th 1775

P.S. Please to write me the first Opportunity to the Care of Mr. John Houston in Savannah Georgia Province & C-

Orkney Archive Reference: D3/385 Watt of Breckness and Skaill Collection: Letter 30-12-1775

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Holiday Nightmares in the 17th Century part 2

Watch out for those whirlinge tides!

This isn't as bad as Thomas Kirk's experience, but it is an interesting early description of Orkney and its dangerous seas.

Richard James, 1620, Account of Poland, the Orkney and Shetland Islands, Scotland, Greenland, Etc - Transcript by Evan MacGillivray, Orkney Miscellany, 1953

"Orkneney are manie Ilands on ye [blank] of Scotland. ye biggest of which is not in length 16 mile in which the chief Towne is calld Kircwawe; these islands are plaine for the most part whereas Schetland is highe and mounteinous. they have store of cattle and of sheepe baringe good wool. they have plovers and partridge and hares but no wood."   

TK1503 North Ronaldsay sheep on the shore. Date unknown.

Sadly we have no photos of plovers, partridge or hares. TK1530 Geese. Date unknown.

"The chiefe fisshinge place is the island of North ronnelsea. on ye other side is South-ronnelsea, betwixt which and Catenesse on the maine of Scotland runs a sea of 12 mile calld Penthland Frith, dangerous with manie whirlinge tides and currents which will sucke in sheepes and botes in the passadge"

TK1548 Fishing boats in Hoy Sound, 1902
Photos by Tom Kent, 1863-1936
Description of Shetland, Orkney and the Highlands of Scotland  Edited, with introduction and notes, by Evan MacGillivray, Orkney Miscellany, Volume 1, 1953, p48-56. , Our reference: 941 Y Orkney Room

Monday, 15 June 2015

Everyday I write the book

Last week we had a visit from Tricia Marwick, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, and it was a real pleasure to show her around the archive. One of the documents that we showed her is a particularly treasure, D101 - The Wallace Manuscript, and looking at it again reminded me that it is not only a valuable historical record but is also a very lovely object.

The manuscript, written in 1684 and titled 'Ane account of the ancient & present state of Orkney', is probably the oldest written description of Orkney. It was written by the Rev. James Wallace, minister of St. Magnus Cathedral, and contains lots of information about the island, their plants, animals and much more besides. In many places he has illustrated his descriptions. Here's an example of his writing, about a particular fish caught in Sanday:

"Tuo years agoe, in winter, there wes taken a Strainge but beautifull fish in Sanda (where severalls of them had been gotten before) called be them Salmon Stour. Itt wes about ane elne in Length, deep breasted & narrow att the taile.... The flesh of the half next to the head wes Like Beef, & the other half next the taile, wes Like Salmond. The picture of which, as neer as I could draw itt, is heer sett doun."

The 'Salmon Stour', drawn by Rev. J. Wallace

He also wrote about St. Magnus Cathedral, described by him as "as beautifull statlie a structure as is in the Kingdom...And the steiple elevated to a great hight (standing on four statlie pillars) in which is a sett of as excellent & sweetlie chimed Bells as is in anie Cathedrall in the Kingdom".

St. Magnus Cathedral, drawn by Rev. J. Wallace
We are delighted to have this document in our collection and we have to thank Highland Distillers, who purchased the manuscript at auction and presented it to the archive in 1998.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Remember the days of the old schoolyard

As we get older we all tend to think that everybody in positions of authority, whether its police officers, doctors or teachers, are getting younger. Well, a new acquisition we received this week takes this to a whole new level!

The acquisition includes a photograph, a letter and an autobiographical account of William Clouston's childhood and young adulthood in Orkney. William wrote about his childhood home at Houton in the parish of Orphir, where he was born in 1854, part of a large extended family of Cloustons living in the area.

William started school at five years of age. In those days schools consisted of one room where children of all ages were taught together. His first teacher was William Tait, an uncle, and he was followed by a succession of different teachers over the years until William turned fourteen.

TK3439 - Houton, Orphir
Being the youngest of three brothers William had to attend school more than most of the boys. Older boys would have had to stay at home in the summer to help with farm work but William attended school both in the winter and summer. The result of this was that, aged fourteen, he was the top pupil at the Petertown school. At that time the teacher was William's cousin but he suddenly decided to leave for Newcastle and the school was left without a teacher for the summer term. So a group of local men met to discuss the problem, and decided to make fourteen year old William the teacher!

It must have seemed very strange to be playing with your school friends one day and to be addressed as 'master' by them on the next! William wrote that he managed the teaching part of his first day without too much trouble but when he went out at break time to join in the games he felt a little self-conscious!

William later worked in Stromness in a Drapers shop for some years before moving to Glasgow in 1874. After that he travelled to Michigan, USA, to join one of his brothers working in the lumber industry.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Bad, Bad Boy

Orkney, like everywhere else I'm sure, has it's share of bad guys and this week, while cataloguing the Halcro Johnston collection (D15), I came across some interesting letters that provide more evidence about one of our baddest guys, General Sir Frederick William Traill Burroughs, described as 'the worst of the 19th century lairds in Orkney'.

The General didn't start out too badly. He was educated in Switzerland before being commissioned into the Sutherland Highlanders, fighting in the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny and the North West frontier. He was even recommended for the Victoria Cross for his part in the relief of Lucknow but wasn't awarded it.

General Burroughs and wife

His Orkney infamy began when he inherited the Estate of Rousay and Wyre from his 'uncle' George William Traill. He had a reputation as a strict disciplinarian in the Army and evidently carried that on into civilian life. During Traill's management of the estate his factor began to clear tenants off the land to make room for sheep and General Burroughs carried on this cruel practice after he inherited it. .

Resentment grew among the tenants and came to a head when the Napier Commission came to Orkney in 1883 as part of a public inquiry into the condition of crofters and cottars in the Highlands and Islands. Burroughs appeared before the Commissioners and explained what a benevolent laird he was and how he'd spent loads of money improving the estate. Unfortunately for him the evidence didn't back this up so, in an attempt to silence his critics, he announced that any tenants that spoke against him would be evicted. And that's what he did.

James Leonard was a tenant and gave evidence at the Napier Commission hearing in Kirkwall. For this he and his family were thrown out of their home.

So this brings us back around to the letters in the Halcro Johnston collection. The letters are a record of the activities of the Rousay and Egilsay School Board from March to September 1885. At the start of that time General Burroughs was Chair and James Johnston, factor of the Baikie Estate which included Egilsay, had just been elected as a member. Another member, receiving the highest number of votes, was James Leonard. This was never going to go well! No sooner had the Board got going the General was up to his old tricks of hurling threats around, this time aimed at the other members of the Board. Their "crime" had been to permit James Leonard use of the school building to deliver lectures on temperance, to which Burroughs objected because of "the terms in which Mr. Leonard referred to me before the Crofters Commission and since". He finished by threatening to apply for an interdict to make the board members liable for any expenses. In a letter written the next day by the local Free Church minister it was pointed out that the lectures would not and could not happen anyway because James Leonard, who was employed as a temperance lecturer, had left the island, writing "I cannot understand how they fail to be aware of it".

General Burroughs days as Chair of the School Board were numbered however. By June he had resigned in protest at the dismissal of the Clerk to the Board George Meikle McCrie. McCrie was also Inspector of the Poor and was considered by the crofters to have aided and abetted the General's policy of providing as little relief as possible to the poor.

If anyone would like to learn more about the saga of General Burroughs and the crofters of Rousay I'd recommend The little General and the Rousay crofters by William PL Thomson. You really could make a great Sunday night television drama out of the story. Poldark doesn't compare!

Friday, 8 May 2015

VE Day Celebrations in Orkney and the UK

Notice from The Scotsman newspaper, dated 8th May 1945 (OA Ref: D23/30/7)
Photographs from The Scotsman newspaper, dated 9th May 1945 (OA Ref: D23/30/7)
On the island of Eday: "The day was observed by many as a holiday. Flags were flown. On both afternoons, 8th & 9th, it poured incessantly with rain and, except where necessary, most people kept indoors. A service of thanksgiving was held in the Church of Scotland at 6pm on the evening of the 8th. Many people were kept from attending by the inclemency of the weather." (Orkney Herald, 15th May 1945)
In Kirkwall: "The VE Day thanksgiving service, in which the three Church of Scotland congregations in the town and the Congregational Church united, planned to be held in St Magnus Cathedral was changed at the last minute to the Paterson Church owing to the breakdown of the cathedral organ. Upwards of a thousand people attended the service" (Orkney Herald, 15th May 1945)

Photograph of Edinburgh from The Scotsman newspaper, dated 9th May 1945 (OA Ref: D23/30/7)
"Stromness was a town of flags and down-pouring rain on the official VE Day, the eighth of May, and the combination was not at all harmonious. What promised to be a day of delirious joy and excitement went off like a damp squib. True, there was the excitement of the Prime Minister's radio speech in the afternoon, and the ringing of the church bells expressed the deep thankfulness in all our hearts. In the evening the heavy rain took off and allowed the people to go to the united service in the North Church, but even then a shroud of dampness hung over Stromness and there was no sunshine or fragment of blue sky to gladden this first day in the new era of peace. In spite of atrocious weather there were many celebrations in the evening. At most of the military camps, and in the Town Hall, dancing and merry-making went on all night, and NAAFI beer flowed in profusion. On the following day the weather was almost similar, except in the evening which was fine and sunny. The flags still flew and the beer still flowed and the rain continued to fall" (Orkney Herald, 15th May 1945)

The last few days of the war from an unknown newspaper. (OA Ref: D23/30/7)
Longhope: "On Tuesday of last week flags were flying all around the district, and at 3pm the vessels in the bay all began blowing their whistles and hoisting their bunting, which made a pretty sight. The flags were kept up all day on Wednesday, two days holiday being observed by all workpeople. A service was held on Tuesday evening in the Parish Church." (Orkney Herald, 15th May 1945)

Last All Clear: "Mr Churchill's broadcast on VE Day was brief - disappointingly short for those who had waited for it. The finish of the Premier's broadcast was heralded by the sounding of ship's whistles at Kirkwall Harbour and the prolonged 'All Clear' shrilling of one of the privately operated Burgh air raid sirens" (Orcadian, May 1945)


Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Orkney At War (May-July 1915)

Here are a few items from our fourth instalment of our Orkney At War exhibition. These archive items are taken from records during May, June and July of 1915. We continue with the diaries of James Marwick and Margaret Tait and find out about problems with meat inspection in Kirkwall, the water supply in Stromness, submarine attacks off Caithness, an escaped prisoner of war, enrolment of boys on trawlers, eggs for soldiers and see a few of the men of Orkney serving in and sadly dying in the war.

From the Diary of Margaret Tait, sister to James Tait, cabinet maker, Kirkwall (Archive Ref. D1/525)
7 May 1915  Monday 3rd was feeing market day and although the day was very fine very few people were in town. The farmers are late in getting in their crop so that stopped the people from coming to town. On Monday morning a german submarine was supposed to be in Kirkwall Bay and 6 British Destroyers were racing up and down and out and in among the other ships in the Bay at full speed. The weather has taken a turn for the better and now it is quite warm and summer like. Had a walk up past the back of the hospital and saw my old home. The fields were looking fine and all covered with daisies and the sun was shining brightly. These last few days we’ve been very busy preparing our things for the sale today. We will just have 3 weeks in this house now. Everything is turned upside down even now.

Orcadians serving in the war, kept in a scrapbook by Dr. Duncan, Stromness. (Archive Ref. D1/1127)

From the Diary of James Marwick, Lieut/Capt. O.R.G.A (T) (Archive Ref. D1/1118) Friday, 7-5-15  Very fine and warm. / Officer of day. Barton & Harris here. Marked store near Mess as a "bench" mark for levelling purposes. Denison & I put a rope around it. / Football match, Territorials v. Marines. The former won 2-0. On watch tonight I got word of the torpedoing of the S.S. "Lustitania" off Irish coast. She was struck by 2 torpedoes & sank in 20". There was a terrible loss of life among passengers. Bore stopped. It is now fully 25 feet down.

Orcadians serving in the war, kept in a scrapbook by Dr. Duncan, Stromness. (Archive Ref. D1/1127)

From the Diary of Margaret Tait, sister to James Tait, cabinet maker, Kirkwall.(Archive Ref. D1/525)
8 May 1915  Last evening I went out to buy lard and met Rita Middleton. We both went up to the Temperance Hall to see how the sale was going. There I met Mrs. Middleton, squeezed into a seat beside her and remained there for the rest of the evening. I did not get my lard but enjoyed the sale immensely. When I got home at 9.30 everyone was out, the house in darkness and the fire out. The Lusitania was sunk yesterday, 19 hundred passengers on board, 500 of whom are supposed to have been saved. No particulars to hand yet except that she was torpedoed by a german submarine in the Atlantic. How dreadful to thing of so many innocent lives lost quite needlessly. I hope the Germans will get their just deserts. What a crowd of sailors and provision men are ashore today.

Orcadians serving in the war, kept in a scrapbook by Dr. Duncan, Stromness. (Archive Ref. D1/1127)

From the Diary of James Marwick, Lieut/Capt. O.R.G.A. (T) (Archive Ref. D1/1118)

Saturday, 8-5-15  Fine - bought ½ cwt Sugar at 2½lb & and sent it home, also some dirty clothes, by Harvey the well borer who left today. He finished the bore head and built a few stones around it finishing it off with a big flat stone ready for the pump. / I got a decanter & glass from Nobby Clark. / Man lost off a trawler near Switha island. He was picked up but died later.

Orcadians killed in the war, kept in a scrapbook by Dr. Duncan, Stromness. (Archive Ref. D1/1127)

From the Diary of James Marwick, Lieut/Capt. O.R.G.A. (T)  (Archive Ref. D1/1118) Friday, 14-5-15 Snow showers. / Things are very dull and lifeless her which combined with a want of friendliness among officers make life very dreary. I wish I could get a shift from here. It is over 4 months since I came here. / Goliath sunk in Dardanelles.

Stromness Town Council, 19th May 1915   (Archive Ref. S1/5, page 152)
Water Supply. An application from the Admiralty to connect with the watermain at the Mineral Well for a pipe running to the vicinity of the Braehead.

From the Diary of Margaret Tait, sister to James Tait, cabinet maker, Kirkwall (Archive Ref. D1/525)  Tuesday 25 May 1915 Weather raw and misty. Everything is turned upside down and the house is strewed with packing boxes. Mrs. Wallis has left for good. I wish we were across the street too. Italy has now declared war with Austria. Got a headache.
From the Diary of James Marwick, Lieut/Capt O.R.G.A. (T) (Archive Ref. D1/1118) Wed. , 26-5-15 N. wind – dull and overcast. / was a walk round S. Head and picked Mayflowers also roots. Read a book called “Wrack” which is cleverly written but of questionable quality otherwise. / When round the Head I met a young marine with two hawk’s eggs (kestrel). H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth came in today.

Royal Naval Reserve Letter (Archive Ref. CE55/4/31, page 110) Enrolment of boys in the trawlers section

From the Diary of James Marwick, Lieut/Capt O.R.G.A. (T) (Archive Ref. D1/1118)  Tuesday, 1st June  Fine day. –was fishing off rocks and altogether caught 43 cuithes/ letters from home. M. coming on Saturday if weather suitable/ Sent home my bank book. Ian Barclay here and he took my letter down. I got a drenching down by a wave[This is the last entry we have for James Marwick's diary. He was posted overseas not long after this date.]
From the Orcadian 19th June 1915
Dear Sir - I am pleased to say that the appeal made to the good people of Orkney has met with a magnificent response. Mrs Brownlee, president of the ladies' Guild U.F. Church, Stronsay, indicates that three boxes, containing in all 300 dozen eggs, have been despatched and Mr William Muir, merchant, Sanday, Orkney has also been sent a box, collected from a few customers in his district. Mrs Irvine U.F. Manse, South Ronaldsay, has also done magnificent work in securing and forwarding eggs for the wounded here. Unfortunately our wounded are increasing while our supplies in the south have been falling off so that the very large donations that have come from northern isles keeps us in a fairly good supply. We cannot get too many eggs for the wounded and I hope the liberality of the Orcadians will still be made manifest by further contributions as they can conveniently spare the eggs. I take this opportunity of thanking all the contributors who co-operated in making the collections such a success. Thank you for your kind courtesy in allowing me the use of your columns, I am yours faithfully, John Dobbie, manager, No. 6 National depot, 24 Elbe Street, Leith
Kirkwall Town Council, 30th June 1915 (Archive Ref. K1/1/17) Request by the HM Navy for a stricter inspection of Naval Meat Contracts and for the meat to be stamped for easier identification.

From the Diary of Margaret Tait, sister to James Tait, cabinet maker, Kirkwall  (Archive Ref. D1/525)  5 July 1915 What a time we’ve had this last month. The masons are in every room but 2 bedrooms and these 2 are filled up with the furniture and things out of the other rooms that we only have room to stand up and dress or undress. Lime, plaster, stones and old wood are lying about and the whole place looks as if a cyclone had passed through. I’ve spent a lot of time down in the garden which is flooded with sunshine. The weather has been perfect up till a day or two ago, since when it’s rained all the time. Was at a social last Friday night in the St. Magnus Church Hall. The Queen Elizabeth (Dreadnought) has been lying at Scapa lately. Saw one of her officers in the shop on Saturday. The Archbishop of York has been visiting the Territorials at Flotta last week.

From the Diary of Margaret Tait, sister to James Tait, cabinet maker, Kirkwall (Archive Ref. D1/525)  11 July 1915  King George paid a visit to Stanger Head Battery on Friday and I understand has left again for the south. The Flotta people have been highly honoured. He didn’t come to Kirkwall. Such wet, murky weather we’ve had lately, with no signs of drying up.
Royal Naval Reserve Memo, 12th July 1915. ( Archive Ref. CE55/4/31, p116) Notice of an escaped Prisoner of War

From the Diary of Margaret Tait, sister to James Tait, cabinet maker, Kirkwall (Archive Ref. D1/525)  18 July 1915  (Sunday) Last Wednesday the shop was moved across from No.6 to this place which is not nearly ready nor will be for some time. However they have done a lot and improved it greatly. During these war times the motor cars etc. have all got patriotic flags stuck up in front, some have only the Union Jack, others have France, Russia and Belgium also. Saturday was French Flag Day, the school children were selling flags in the street for a penny each, the money collected being sent to help the French nation in their present crisis. Tartan seems to be all the vogue at present, in all the drapers windows you see little tartan bows or ties, vanity bags etc. of all the different clans. Thursday was St. Swithins Day and a lovely day throughout.
Stromness Town Council minute, 22nd July 1915 (Archive Ref. S1/5, page 159-160) Water Supply  An Application to use water for non-domestic use was refused by the local council on this day, while the present demand for water was made by the navy.

This is just a small selection of the items shown in our display for May, June, July 1915. Please do come in, if you can, to view the rest.