Friday, 26 March 2010

If The Times are Doing it, So Can We

News International have today announced that they are to begin charging for the online content of The Times newspaper.

Proposed charges are £1 per day or a £2 per week subscription.

As the content of this blog is derived from exhaustive research and totally skillful journalistic techniques, quite frankly, we feel that readers have been taking advantage of us for far too long.


As of next week, the charge for reading your daily dose of archive-related news and nonsense shall be £500 pounds. Being interested in the preservation of old stuff, we shall accept doubloons, farthings, guineas and ha'pennies. But not Groats. We don't do Groats.














We feel that it's a reasonable price for what readers receive. Seriously, who else brings you pictures of 1940s Orkney drivers' licenses (which only cost 5 shillings), JLS in a Jenson cab, a 1766 drawing of oddly-proportioned gnomes working in a field AND a picture of a confused-looking dog at the same time?





Not The Times, that's for dang sure.

















Driving licence reference: D1/846

Jenson cab: Walker's crisps.

Field gnomes: D8/E/19 [G3]

Confused dog: Jad.blog.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

There is a light and it never goes out...


In 2006, Orkney appeared on the BBC series Restoration. The North Ronaldsay 'Old Beacon' lighthouse was featured alongside several other old, derelict buildings which required titivation.


A public vote relegated the Old Beacon to third place. There would be no restoration.



Orkney was awash with grief. Citizens sank to their knees in the streets; tearing their hair out, beating their breasts and shouting 'Why, British public, WHY?' The mere mention or sight of Griff Rhys Jones made grown men weep.



We all feel a bit silly now as it has just been announced that the winning building did not need all the money that was raised and that North Ronaldsay's entry shall receive £50,000 pounds. Hooray!

The image shown above is a plan of the proposed site for the lighthouse which replaced the Old Beacon when it was discovered that it ...er... didn't work.



Archive reference: D34/E/5/7

Monday, 22 March 2010

Tait Treats

This day in 1895, The Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis, put on their first screening of moving images.

Margaret Tait is arguably Orkney's most celebrated film-maker and 1992's Blue Black Permanent was her only feature length film.

We hold two albums of beautiful continuity Polaroids for the film in her archive. These stills were made for the benefit of director, cinematographer, wardrobe and make-up artists and simply record all the physical details of a scene. Some have scribbled notes along the bottom such as 'sleeve down' and 'Andrew. scene 137'.

They may just be practical, visual prompts but they are lovely objects in their own right.

How did she manage to make something as every day as a table set for tea or a pair of sandals on the beach look so pleasing and evocative?
























Orkney Archive Reference D97/13

Friday, 19 March 2010

My oh my, It's a windy windy day!*



The wind has been howling through the cracks in our building all day and making its usual scary ghost noises. Stationary cars are wobbling like blancmanges and the Highway Maintenance vans are out in force, shovelling errant driveway gravel back in its place. One can achieve a temporary face lift by walking directly into the wind.




Ferries have been cancelled, forcing some of our customers to put off a visit, but spare a thought for poor James Leask writing to his cousin, Henry of Boardhouse, in 1832 (see above). He was windbound in Stromness for 19 DAYS.
Letter reference D1/182/1/25


*Everyone remembers Bob singing 'Windy Day' on Sesame Street surely?


Thursday, 18 March 2010

A Little Afternoon Lift

It is a funny, grumpy kind of day with few customers, lots of quite dull correspondence to complete and rather lovely weather outside that we cannot enjoy. There is only one cure:




No Orkney connection you say? Nonsense! It is a song from the 70s and stuff happened in Orkney during the 1970s, the 1870s, the 1770s etc, the list goes on...

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Darling Buds


It was tough to decide what to commemorate today. Should it be St Patrick's day? The birthday of the incomparable Clare Grogan? The feast day of St Gertrude of Nevelles?


All the customers and staff have been talking about Spring today; how it is FINALLY here after a particularly cold winter and how lovely it is to see snowdrops, crocuses and the leaves of tulips and daffodils popping up all over Orkney.


F. Marian McNeill's Green Dumplings recipe is to be made only at this time of year. Make dumplings following your usual recipe, then add a touch of spring:


"Pick the green buds of hawthorn, the succulent tips of nettles, grass, and other green things - remember that in this condition nothing is poisonous. Include dandelions, leaves, daisy stems, shoots of young corn, and turnip tops, or anything that tastes sweet and harmless. Wash and chop finely and work into the dough until it is green through and through. Form into balls - small ones (one inch across) for soups, and larger for stews and meats. They go with almost anything, and play the part of a salad in wholsomeness."


I hasten to add a disclaimer to the 'nothing is poisonous' bit and the idea of dumplings being a substitute for salad is clearly absurd but this recipe is very appealing otherwise.


Recipe from 'Recipes From Scotland' by F. Marian McNeill

Saturday, 13 March 2010


The exquisite rendering that is at the top of this post is an artist's impression of the wonderful cake that was the centrepiece of our table last night. We initially all thought that the congratulatory cake was iced to look like a giant doughnut. Imagine the gasps of wonder, therefore, when we cut into it and realised that it actually was a giant doughnut. Life does not get much better than this, I think you will agree.

There has been a little too much discussion of food of late, but there is no food and drink allowed in an archive so we do get peckish.

The main job for today is scanning Mary Chute's letters to Frances Ligonier Balfour (See this post) to send to a customer. The letters date from the early 1800s and have no envelope, they are just folded upon themselves, sealed with wax and stamped with a postmark. The writing is scratchy and quite hard to read but becomes quite big and exaggerated when Mary is feeling emotional: "I in one kingdom, you in another - the child in a third!"

Friday, 12 March 2010

The Munch Bunch Booze Again

We are partying again at the Orkney Library and Archive. Other members of staff have been setting up and it has just been whispered to me that both the magical cheese scones and a CAKE have been delivered.

And, although this will be a very sedate and sophisticated affair, I think that it is only pertinent to mention that all the leftover wine from our 'Gone With the Wine' promotion simply must be finished tonight as it has been open for a couple of days.

This isn't just wanton eating and drinking though. It's a celebration of Discovery Week. So it's work.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

And the winners are...


Discovery Week is officially over. The balloons are down, the banner will soon follow suit and there is no baking or cooking going on anywhere in the building. We are a little morose. Prizes have been won, however, so let's look at the winners:


The winner of the Photo quiz and recipient of a year's worth of free DVD and CD loans is: Steven Smith!!!


The winner of the Archive World Traill (Traveller level) and recipient of 'The Seventy Great Journeys in History' and a year's worth of free DVD and CD loans is: Fran Flett Hollinrake!!!


And the joint winners of the Archive World Traill (Explorer level) and therefore winning a book each are: Chloe Barclay!!! and Kirsty Melrose!!!


Well done everyone and thank you for taking part. Chloe and Kirsty are pictured above with Michael Forsyth, who won the library cooks quiz, Chloe Rosie, the winner of the library scavenger hunt and our manager, Gary.



Other great news is that the wonderful soup for Haiti event raised over £360 pounds and the Coffee morning raised £125 for the same cause. Hooray!!!


Everyone agrees that Janice and Sandra did a fantastic job yesterday and thanks is due to our lovely volunteers for helping out at both events.

Behold the Archive Wall of Shame

















Tiger Woods, John Terry, Vernon Kaye, Ashley Cole and MARK 'babe' OWEN (UNBELIEVABLE!!).... We at Orkney Library and Archive are officially APPALLED (although Vernon is looking increasingly better as time goes on, still appalled though.)

As you all know, this blog does not demean itself by referring to 'pop' culture and tabloid trash but it just so happens that, a few enquiries ago, a customer helped to uncover the final mysteries behind a 1799 Orcadian affair. Colonel Thomas Balfour was known to have had a child with a married Irish woman whose illegitimate daughter was supported for years by Thomas' widow Frances Ligonier. This woman had always been known as 'Mrs Jackson', a pseudonym, and she gave her daughter the surname 'Clifford' which related to no-one in either family.

Our customer, however, was investigating Irish divorce law and had been concentrating on one of the first divorces to go through the courts. He provided the missing link of the Irish woman's real name.

We hold the letters that flew between the pregnant and distressed mistress and Colonel Balfour's WIFE (as he was on his deathbed.) It is like reading a novel or watching a totally brilliant soap.

Mary Chute (for that was her name) was very dramatic: "I think it very probable Madam I cannot live - worn by grief- I will not have strength to struggle through bodily torments I must endure." and "What can be charitable done for me but firing (a) pistol at my head"


Frances was a little cooler :"Tho' I certainly owe you my thanks for resisting Mr B's offer to desert me, and fly to any corner of the world with you, I hope you had a still better motive than your regard for me, viz reluctance to destroy the character of a man till then irreproachable."

Mary also attempted to communicate to Colonel Balfour through Frances using a code, which is both awesome and audacious.


You see? Even if all you like reading is Heat and Closer, there is something to interest everyone at Orkney Archive.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Mmmm, what are THESE delights???


The Archive department is just down the corridor from the Macgillivray room where our 'Broth and Breid' lunch is taking place. The delicious smells are making it very hard to concentrate on work.


Above you can see the array of fancy treats that are on offer along with the four soups and breads. Serving started at 12 and will continue for the next 2 hours. Hurry!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Fiddledy-diddledy do

Last night's broadcast of the Bruck Show from the library foyer was a great success with music from Hadhirgaan, Song Shop Trio and fiddler for both the Chair and Saltfishforty, Douglas Montgomery.

Some library staff members also did some interviews, baring their souls and revealing what really makes them tick. It was emotional.








...and there will be wine...

'Gone With the Wine' - a world tour in booze and books, shall take place tonight from 5pm - 7pm. It is what it sounds like, there will be books and there will be wine, two of the best things in the world I'm sure most people would agree (closely followed by sandwiches and tea.)

This event provides the perfect opportunity to be 'a drunk in a library' without the usual unflattering accouterments of poor personal hygiene, skip chic and carrier bags full of loose crisps and biscuits.

There is a scone...


There is a scone. A cheese scone to be exact. It appears at the library at irregular intervals but its approach is often suspected and the entire body of staff seem to know that a batch is here five seconds after they enter the building. I have never known one to be consumed cold.


These wonderful, buttery, crumbly and RIDICULOUSLY DELICIOUS scones are the tasty produce of the mother of a member of staff. We love them and they fill our hearts with joy.


Tommorrow, their recipe shall be revealed to the public as part of our 'Broth and Breid' day in the MacGillivray room. You're welcome Orkney. Staff shall prepare four different soups along with bread and crostini to raise money for the Haiti Earthquake Fund.


At the top of this post you can see the collection of tried and tested recipes that have been contributed by staff members and will be free to take away tommorrow. Recipes include a fail-safe chocolate cake, Honey and Soy salmon and Chocolate wedges which all sound delicious. BUT THE SCONE ONE IS THE BEST ONE; DON'T FORGET THE SCONE ONE. (It's the pink one on the right. Mmmmmmmmmm)

Monday, 8 March 2010

Stoopid budget cuts, booooooooooooo!!!

A bit of a worrying article from Guardian today on the future of British libraries. I know that we'll soon be able to carry every bit of information in the world around in a gizmo the size of a stamp in our pockets, and that's ace; but you can't use the internet or an i-pod as a safe haven from bustling shops, to get human contact if you live alone or as a quiet place to study when you're a teenager from a large, noisy family.

It's the building that's important, not just the stuff inside.

Mmmmmm, what delights are these?

Above you can see the wonderful selection of home bakes that is currently available in the MacGillivray Room and below you can see our beautiful new reference room being opened by Liam McArthur.




Bun Fun


It is day 4 of Discovery Week and there is a full day of activities planned. At 10.30am, Liam McArthur MSP shall open the brand new reference room which was fitted out with money we got for being totally brilliant. (Honestly) and then there will be a coffee morning straight afterwards in the MacGillivray room.

The staff have been slaving all weekend to prepare a selection of delicious, incomparable home bakes and will be serving them from a little hatch off the main room.

Tonight the Bruck Show, shall be broadcast *LIVE* from the foyer of the library with the help of a special Library staff guest presenter. We expect scenes similar to this.

The library book sale is still on as are the various competitions, the Archive World Traill and our i-pod shuffle prize draw.

Friday, 5 March 2010

You only get one sale, so make it count... You might never get this moment again.



It is the second day of Discovery week today and the library book sale has begun in the Marwick room.


Eager faces were pressed against the glass first thing this morning and, unfortunately, one staff member was crushed by the rabid tidalwave of book-fanciers who surged through the foyer like a tsunami.


The Marwick room is currently a writhing sea of books and book-lovers. Come join us if you enjoy books, photos (photographic prints from the archive are also for sale.) or crowd surfing. It's like a JLS concert down there... Right guys?




Thursday, 4 March 2010

Judgement Day

The Fereday projects have arrived here a little earlier than usual as one of our staff members is acting as a judge this year. Her judgement shall be thorough, fair, considered, whimsical, knowledgeable, punctilious, logical and free from guile. Locked in a room without daylight, distraction or sustenance for as long as it takes (her choice), she will not emerge until justice has been done.

Our initial impression is that a lot of hard work has gone into a great variety of topics. Some of the students obviously have some fancy computer knowledge as this year's entries are noticeably snazzy.

Yaabba dabbba doooooooooooooooooooooo!



The above phrase and the above photo (which has already been posted, but is possibly the greatest photo of all time) are the only way to truly express the beginning of the Orkney Library and Archive DISCOVERY WEEK.


We have books, sweets, library merchandise, free dvd and cd lends for a year and an i-pod shuffle as prizes for the various quizzes, trails and scavenger hunts that will be taking place and, at the very least, you will get a cup of tea or coffee as they are complimentary all week. Free tea, what's better than that?
Lionel leaping for joy beside a pole, that's what.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

It's the Final Countdown! Doo roo doo doo, Doo roo doo doo doo.


There are only hours left until the first day of the rest of your life i.e. the first day of Orkney Library & Archive's Discovery Week 2010. Tomorrow is also World Book Day so those few non-Orcadians who read this blog (thanks guys) can celebrate by reading or dressing up as a book.


Downstairs in the library, sale books are being humphed, displays titivated and home-bake recipes pondered. But what is happening in the archives?

Lions... aeroplanes... skyscrapers... huskies & igloos... revolution... petitions...war....ritual charcoal and nudity related humiliation at the hands of South Sea islanders.... Our Archive Discovery World Traill has all these great things and more.


There are two levels to the Traill; Explorer and Traveller. The winner of the Traveller's prize draw will win this brilliant book. The triumphant Explorer will take home not only this awesome tome, but a book of Great Explorer themed pop up board games that is so amazing, we will not post an image of it for fear that it will BLOW YOUR MINDS.

Discovery week starts tomorrow with the Traill, Book amnesty, photo quizzes, children's stories and craft with Britt Harcus at 4.00pm and Tom Muir's storytelling from 5.30 - 6.30pm in the MacGillivray Room on the first floor.


Our manager shall be hanging the Discovery Week banners outside this afternoon in a death-defying, fathers for justice-style crawl along the front of the building. Come along to laugh/cheer/boo, whatever comes naturally.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Orkney at the Oscars



Today in 1953, the Oscars were broadcast on television for the first time. 11 years earlier, the best actress award had been won by Greer Garson for the film Mrs Miniver. Garson had also played Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice in 1940.



Although she is probably best known for giving the longest Oscars acceptance speech EVER (some stories say an hour, although it was apparently only 5 minutes), with a name like Garson, she obviously has some interest for Orkney family historians.



Early biographies had suggested an Irish heritage but Greer Garson was born in London to George Garson, a commercial clerk whose father, Peter Garson, had been born and brought up in Kirkness, Sandwick. Peter married Jean Firth of Kirkwall and St. Ola parish in 1860 and the couple had two children in Orkney before moving to London and having George.


If you look at the distribution of the Garson name in Britain, then this Orcadian link is not terribly astonishing.


Born Eileen, Greer was Garson's mother's maiden name. If you are bored today, Orkney Library and Archive invite you to work out your own 40s film-star names. Don't write in, it's just for fun...


Information taken from the Sib Folk News #10, June 1999.







Monday, 1 March 2010

Where is the love, Part 2

We have just had a fire drill. In the snow. With no jackets on.

This is not the most inopportune fire drill that I have attended,however, as one interrupted a Higher EXAM in school and another took place at a showing of Lord of the Rings in a cinema that seated over 300 people.

It all went very smoothly though, so customers can relax in the knowledge that Orkney Library and Archive will not let them burn to a crisp whilst they select books, read emails, research family history and bounce babies.