Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Hail Lot o' Love.

Once again, the inhabitants of Kirkwall realised the futility of owning a hairbrush in this county. This morning the streets were filled with scurrying, behooded figures desperately trying to shield their heads from the wind and lashing rain. Aaah, how the gods laugh at those who seek to make hair-dos.

We were also treated to that special Orkney treat of horizontal hail which flies into the eyes, scratching corneas and ruining eye make-up. This onslaught makes it necessary to walk almost double, both hands clutching desperately to the rim of one's hood.

Many people will have got several eyefuls of hail, however, as they peered up towards the enormous rainbow which seemed to arch over the entire town centre. This beautiful vision almost made the rest of the atmospheric assaults worthwhile. Well played weather, well played.

Rainbows used to be taken as strong portents in Orkney. Whenever one appeared, it was a sign of things to take place soon or within a month at the very least.

If the a rainbow was seen to end at the chimney of a particular house, then a boy-child was to be born there within the month. Double rainbows meant twin boys. The rainbow was a bridge, you see, and the boy babies were sent scooting down it by the 'kerry' or 'keery', nymphs who lived in the branches of the 'the muckle tree' of life. No word on how the girl babies got in the house, they were probably just shoved through the cat-flap or something.

Rainbows also foretold marriages. As George Marwick wrote in his talk on legends for the Mutual Improvement Association on the 11th of March 1903, " Sometimes when there is a heavy dew lying on the ground, or when the ground or grass has been soaked with a heavy fall of rain, and the sun shines on an incline there will very often appear a rainbow on the ground whose ends join on to the earth ends of the rainbow in the sky. Any house that was within the rainbow on the ground was sure to be the locus of a marriage in a month's time."

So there you go.

And now for some exciting news: Stewart, our library tweeter has been shortlisted in three of the categories at the Golden Twits awards. There's famous people shortlisted and everything! Voting has resumed, so if you are on Twitter and enjoy the Orkney Library and Archive tweets, please vote and make all of our social network-related dreams come true.The staff are all dusting off their spats and fur stoles and practising  poses for the paps as I type.

Thank you to all who have already voted. Your love has moved us deeply and irrevocably.

Rainbow rumours from the Ernest Walker Marwick Collection: Reference D31/4/1/2

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