Friday, 20 August 2010

The People Below Are Liars! They're Just Actors! Don't Believe Them! Being An Orphan Sucks!

I have a bone to pick with both Lionel Bart and whoever was responsible for Annie, the musical. I have grown up thinking that being an orphan, although necessitating a grungey 'shabby-chic' manner of dress (which is actually quite fashionable at the moment), was a bit of a laugh. All the orphans that I have seen on telly seem to have exhilarating adventures and exciting friends. They all happen to have fantastic singing voices too which will surely come in handy when trying to earn a living after leaving the orphanage.

It turns out that I have been misinformed. Most of today has been spent trawling through Parochial Board records in an effort to track two young girls from Glasgow who were forced to appeal for poor relief from Kirkwall and St Ola's officials at the end of the nineteenth century.

The girls' mother died around 1888 whereupon their step-father promptly vanished, leaving them to make their way to Orkney to stay with their older, married sister. If this was a film, then the sister would have done a bit of a ditty about how difficult it would be to keep them, the three of them would eventually execute a dance routine with the help of brooms and buckets, a rich old man would help them, everyone would have a bit of a sing and all would be well.

Unfortunately, our girls were not so lucky. Their sister had three children and a sick husband who was already receiving poor relief. The girls were destitute, but, because they had not been born in Orkney, the parochial board refused to put them on the permanent poor list. One sister became a maid when she was 14 for a family who lived in Orphir Parish and the other lived in the crowded family house in Kirkwall, caught influenza and was eventually placed in the Poorhouse after initially fighting the move.

The girls ended up moved to Portsmouth when the elder girl married. I suspect that there was no singing and dancing down there, but I do hope that they were okay.

Damn you Bart...


  1. What a sad, sad story! I hope you had lots of tea and chocolates to buck you up after that marathon - pardon the pun!

  2. It was upsetting to read, but I am doing the research on behalf of the youngest girl's great-great granddaughter, so I am hoping that her life improved after leaving Orkney.


Are you delighted by what you have just read? Are you revulsed and appalled? Do let us know, we'd love to hear from you.