Tuesday, 9 July 2019

We Love Words

We love words in the Orkney Archive, we love discovering words we haven't heard of before and we love words we have heard of but have different meanings. Today we bring you

Pawn

In a recent search for marriages in the Stromness Old Parish Register (Ref: OPR/30/3) on microfilm, we found this phrase from 1740:




"pawn money consigned in the Clerk's hand"

How intriguing, we thought [we're so easily intrigued], why is "pawn" being used in a marriage announcement?

Someone instantly sped to the bookshelves and found The Concise Scots Dictionary, 1991 and looked it up.

The definitions are: "1. pawn, a pledge [so far so normal] 2. pawn, usually in plural a sum of money deposited with the kirk session by a couple as a guarantee of their intention to marry within 40 days and of their chaste conduct in the interval, late 16th - early 19th century. [Aha!] and in the phrase lay doon the pawns: make official notification of one's intention to marry, arrange for the proclamation of banns."

In the Chambers English Dictionary the above definition is not mentioned, but it does say that pawn can also be a peacock, a gallery or covered walkway and [of course] a chess piece.

The full proclamation of marriage is here:






"Dec 4th [1739]Magnus Coupar and Margaret Newgar both in this parish were contracted and pawn money consigned in the Clerk's hand and January 1st 1740 that the said Magnus Coupar and Margaret Newgar were lawfully married and dues payed."


We love words!





Saturday, 6 July 2019

Orkney Pride

It's London Pride today and so we thought we'd see if we had any rainbow-themed archives to celebrate...




The obvious place to start was with John W. Scott's wonderful book of Orkney and Shetland weather words:


gaa: a fragment of rainbow... a small rainbow in the horizon... a spot or ray of a rainbow colour which appears near the sun, generally in dry windy weather, and which indicates some change in the weather


The word also appears in The Orkney Dictionary by Margaret Flaws and Gregor Lamb:


gaa n. sun-dog, bit of rainbow before or behind the sun.weather-gaa


'A gaa behind ye needno mind,
A gaa afore, lukk for a roar'


Ernest Walker Marwick's papers were the next port of call and they contain a paper written by George Marwick on the subjects of Rainbows, Aurora Borealis, Igasill The Tree of Life and a legendary Stronsay Wedding:


Rainbows foretold the birth of a baby boy. Orkney Archive Reference D31/4/1/2
Our last (tenuous) rainbow themed archive is an excerpt from a 1783 edition of The Morning Post, and Daily Advertiser which briefly reports the Orcadian exploits of a piratical smuggler aboard the Rainbow Cutter:


Orkney Archive reference D1/660/25 [H1]

Friday, 5 July 2019

Serena! He's Playing Doubles With Serena!

We usually try to shoe-horn an Andy Murray post in during Wimbledon and worried that it would have to be a poignant lament full of hip-based puns.




But! He's back on the doubles court, not only with Pierre-Hugues Herbert but we've just heard it confirmed he's playing mixed doubles with Serena flippin' Williams!




We warded off our hysteria the only way we know how. We looked out archives with a tenuous link to the momentous occasion:

A plan for DOUBLE cottages for married men, to be built in pairs back to back. Taken from the Lieutenant General Sir Frederick William Traill Burroughs Papers Orkney Archive Reference D19/9/11.






A DOUBLE exposure of Orcadian painter Sylvia Wishart. Orkney Archive Reference D136/47/6.

A story about a DOUBLE set of teeth belonging to John Muir, the Papdale millar. Orkney Archive reference D31/1/3/11.
'They dug up a jaw full of teeth, but all the teeth were double, none of them single. Mr Baikie of Tankerness was there when the jaw was discovered. He said 'this is remarkable; you might look around the world and not find a similar thing'. My Great Grandfather heard him, and said ''Deed Sir, you needna' look that far' Then he opened his mouth and showed Mr Baikie that he himself had complete sets of teeth, but all of them double teeth.

We shall be celebrating this tip-top sports pairing by singing these lyrics to the tune of West Side Story's Maria: Ser-e-na! He's playing doubles with Ser-e-na! and hope that, in turn, Andy and Serena will do the right thing and end every match they play together by pinching microphones from the press box and performing this classic in the middle of the court:






Thursday, 4 July 2019

Horses and Orange Cats and Rats, Oh My!

Today's Folklore Thursday theme is animal folklore. We have written about black cat folklore before and today bring you some snippets about fantastic water horses, seals, orange cats and rats (or, to superstitious sailors, ''the cowld-iron chiel'')








 

Information taken from D31/1/6/20 and D31/1/1/25

Friday, 21 June 2019

Land of the Midnight Dim...

We have a long, dark Winter in Orkney but are rewarded in abundance come Summer time. Our Northerly skies are bright from 4am until 10.30pm and the hours in between are never fully dark.


This long twilight is known as the simmer dim. The sun merely dims and never truly disappears.


The photograph of Kirkwall Harbour below was taken by Tom Kent on the 25th of June at Midnight:










The ability to garden until 10 and go for long evening walks well past tea-time makes up for the fact that, six months from now.. but no. Let us just enjoy the lovely, long nights whilst they last.




UPDATE: Apparently simmer dim is the term used in Shetland. A suggestion of grimleens has been offered, deriving from the Norwegian grimla, - to gleam, shimmer.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Orkney After the Armistice - January to June 1919

The 14th (and final) instalment of our "Orkney at War" Exhibition series is now available to see in the Archive Public Searchroom under the new title of "Orkney After the Armistice - January to June 1919.
The display shows how Orkney and Orcadians were affected during the aftermath of the war and includes information about the German High Seas Fleet interned in Scapa Flow from November 1918 to the dramatic scuttling on 21st June 1919.
Items used are newspaper reports, town council minutes, photographs, school log books, and sections of books most of which were created at the time or just after.

Here are a few items from the main exhibition:

JANUARY

Extract from Rev. Dr. T Crouther Gordon's book Early Flying in Orkney - Seaplanes in World War 1:
"In the New Year's Honour's List of 1st January 1919, the Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded by HM King George V to Captain Macro, Lieutenant Guild and myself, and Lieutenant Sanderson got the Air Force Cross."
Dr T Crouther Gordon, pilot at Houton Seaplane Station, WW1

The Orcadian 2nd January 1919 p4

ZETLAND COUNTY COUNCIL AND NAVAL PERMITS
Reminder to Naval Authorities that War is Over
At the monthly meeting of the Zetland County Council, Mr Mouat said he was very glad to see that the Orkney papers had taken up the question of permits at Orkney. He thought this Council should take the necessary steps to have these restrictions removed at once. We have borne hardships and restrictions uncomplainingly, and they were now no longer required. There was still apparently no shortage of red tape.

He had travelled in the south and he was sure that no other county in Great Britain would have put up with the restrictions which had been placed on our travelling public. Passengers who were allowed to go about on the mainland freely could not be trusted to land at Kirkwall to have a meal ashore. The same hardships were imposed on soldiers and sailors who had been fighting for their country.

Last week, a month after the signing of the Armistice, he stepped onto the pier at Kirkwall in order to despatch some telegrams when a detective whistled on him. He replied that he would land and he did so and gave his telegrams to a gentleman to send off. He asked the detective if the naval authorities did not know that the war was over, but was told that the restrictions still applied. Mr Pottinger and he had just arranged to send a wire to the Admiralty requested them to inform the naval authorities at Kirkwall that the war was over and to allow passengers from Shetland to land, when a Customs official came on board and said a telegram had just been received stating that passengers coming and going to Shetland could land at Kirkwall.


FEBRUARY

The Orcadian 13th February 1919 page 5

THE MILITARY CROSS
A supplement of the London Gazette stated on February 1st, the award of the Military Cross is announced to Second Lieutenant T. W. Hepburn, Highland Light Infantry, attached 15th Battalion, for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on September 5th 1918, at the crossing of the Somme. During the night he constructed a gangway on a broken bridge over the marshes under continuous machine-gun fire. He then crossed alone and reconnoitred the east bank of the river, the knowledge he gained resulting in the successful advance on to the ridge over the river by the company which he led. Lieutenant Hepburn is a son of Colonel Hepburn, Orkney Royal Garrison Artillery.

BAR TO MILITARY CROSS
Orcadians will be pleased to learn that Captain T N. F. Hourston, M.C. Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, son of Mr and Mrs Hourston, Beaquoy Farm, Dounby, has now been awarded a bar to his Military Cross and mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig's New Year despatch. This honour was won during the fierce battle of September 29th - October 2nd crossing the St. Quentin canal near Joncourt.

The Orcadian 20 February 1919 page 4

REGENT STREET AT SCAPA FLOW - A Floating Shop for the Fleet
With the berthing of the steam ship Borodino in the Surrey Commercial Dock on Tuesday last week, it is now possible to make known a story which is without precedent in the history of the British Navy.
In December 1914, Commodore [Cecil] Lambert, the Fourth Sea Lord, conceived the idea that the monotony of life in the Grand Fleet, stationed at Scapa Flow, might be greatly relieved by giving the officers and men opportunities for obtaining the simple luxuries of everyday life, which, naturally, could not be obtained in the remote hamlets of the Orkney Islands. An arrangement was made with the Junior Army and Navy Stores, Lower Regent Street, [London] to take out a floating store, replete with every commodity that was likely to be required.
Officers and men of the Fleet were permitted to come aboard daily between 9 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. These visits were usually productive of interesting incidents, and they were taken advantage of to an extent that the store was often overcrowded. On one occasion no fewer than 2,700 officers and men came to make purchases, and on another, when the American sailors boarded the SS Borodino in force the day's receipts amounted to £978. This turnover in the four years was at the rate of £10,000 per year.

PRINCE ALBERT'S VISITS
One of the frequent visitors was Prince Albert, and he invariably bought a shirt or collar. When he had made his purchase it was customary for him to say that the articles were for an other officer on board his ship. Prince Albert was a "snotty" with the Grand Fleet - a term which has been used in the Navy for young midshipmen since Nelson's day. Mr Allen, who was the first supervisor, stated that the prince was plain "Mr Johnson" to his companions. Occasionally when in the shopping centre the prince gave his orders in dumb show by putting his hands in his pockets and whistling. This was because the manager once laughingly said to him during a very busy time, "Now then, Johnson, no pilfering; whistle all the time till you're out of the shop, and keep your hands in your pockets till you are asked to pay. While you are whistling you can't eat anything, and you can't pinch anything with your hands in your pockets."


MARCH

The Orcadian 6th March 1919 page 4

LOCAL NEWS - SHIPPING MISHAPS
On Monday night an Admiralty Trawler when coming into Kirkwall collided with the steam fishing trawler R. H. Davidson. The latter vessel which was lying at anchor in the bay at the time, had her port quarter seriously damaged, and the cabin, which is aft, is full of water. The vessel was taken alongside Kirkwall Pier to have temporary repairs effected. A naval launch lying at the entrance to the Basin filled with water during the gale and sank. The launch was raised on Tuesday, but was found to be considerably damaged, owing to the "puffer" Borderglen, alongside which vessel it had been lying, canting over on to it taking the ground at low water.

The Orcadian 13 March 1919 page 4

DISTRICT NEWS - DEERNESS
Influenza is rife in the parish and very few households have escaped. One or other of the doctors from Kirkwall has been in the parish every day for a fortnight, and on one day the services of three medical men were required. From Sunday, 2nd to Saturday 8th inst.[of this month], eight deaths occurred. In several instances whole households have been suffering from the complaint at one time.


APRIL


At a meeting of the Stromness Town Council on the 12th April, the Town Clerk wrote:

Letters were submitted of 22nd March and 3rd inst. from the Naval Works Office, Stromness stating that Saw Mills had been vacated by the Air Force and on the subject of replacements required. The Town Clerk was instructed to write stating what was required in the way of reinstatement.
Extract from S1/5 Stromness Town Council Minutes 1910-1924



MAY


The Orcadian 8th May 1919 page 4

DISTRICT NEWS - SANDAY - DEMOBILISED SOLDIERS ENTERTAINMENT
All the demobilised soldiers were entertained by the ladies of the island on Friday night, in the Drill Hall. The entertainment, which was very enjoyable, took the form of a tea and dance. Mr Scott, in his address of welcome to the invited guests, spoke warmly of the services they had rendered during the great war, and in very touching words expressed the great debt the country owed to those who had made the supreme sacrifice. Mr Scott was then thanked for his address of welcome, and the soldiers were called on to give three cheers to the ladies of the island. This was responded to in real army fashion. Thereafter dancing was engaged in with great spirit for several hours, excellent refreshments being handed round at intervals.
Altogether it was a most enjoyable evening, and the invited guests take this opportunity of thanking their hostesses for the splendid arrangements they made, and also for their uniform kindness and generosity to the soldiers not only on this occasion, but throughout the long stress and strain. Special thanks are due to the ladies committee, consisting of:- Mrs MacPhail, Mrs Baillie, Misses Sinclair, Burgher, Wilson, Fotheringhame, Clouston, Muir, Moodie, Swanney and Skea. Splendid music was supplied by Messrs James and William Grieve, Melville, Fotheringhame and meil. The excellence of the tea was due to Miss Scott and Mrs Garrioch, and Messrs Fairbairn and Baillie did their upmost to make the entertainment an unqualified success. [Sadly the names of the demobilised soldiers were not listed in this article]


The Orcadian 15th May 1919 page 5

AMERICANS IN KIRKWALL
Most of the American minesweepers based at Kirkwall proceeded to sea last Saturday morning to commence the work of cleaning up the minefields. On Thursday night the opening concert was given in the YMCA Hut. The first portion of entertainment consisted of a performance by the band of USS Black Hawks, under bandmaster R. W. Wilson. The programme submitted highly delighted the large audience. The jazz band and a portion of the minstrel troupe enlivened the remainder of the evening with their witticisms, humorous songs and catchy music. On Sunday evening the Rev. G. W. Dalgleish, M. A. conducted a service in the YMCA Hut for the Presbyterian sailors of the American Fleet.

A further match in the baseball league has been arranged for Saturday afternoon in the Bignold Park. At the close of play, there will be four boxing bouts. Among those who will take part is Johnny Dougherty, a well-known London Professional boxer, now with the K. of C. [possibly the Knights of Columbus]

JUNE

THE GERMAN HIGH SEAS FLEET INTERNED IN SCAPA FLOW
German Fleet in Scapa Flow taken by Tom Kent Ref: TK4130

Extract from book Scapa and a Camera by C W Burrows:
"During the period of their internment, communication between the German ships and our own Fleet was restricted to a minimum, and no one from our own ships was allowed on board the interned vessels unless on duty of an urgent nature. The Germans were required to victual and store their own ships from Germany, coal and water only being supplied locally.
B98 Destroyer used on mail service between Scapa Flow and Germany
Ran aground in the Bay of Lopness, Sanday. Photo by Tom Kent Ref: TK4201
As German warships were not constructed for living aboard for long periods (the sailors being mostly accommodated in barracks when in harbour), the crews at Scapa must have had a rather unenviable time of it, though there was a certain element of poetic justice in interning them in the region where for so long our own Fleet had kept its lonely vigil. As one of their officers remarked in writing home and describing the bleakness and desolation of Scapa: "If the English have stood this for four years, they deserve to have won the war."
The German ships were patrolled by a number of drifters - a somewhat ignominious guard for the much-vaunted German Fleet.
The Germans' love of music was in evidence even at Scapa, and it was somewhat strange and at times rather pathetic to hear the unfamiliar strains of Die Wacht am Rhein and  Die Lorelei rising from the German ships, some which still retained their bands."
SCUTTLING - 21st June 1919
Stromness Public School Log Book (Infant School). Ref: CO5/93/5
"21st June: By kind permission of the Rear Admiral Commanding Orkney and Shetland, the pupils and teachers were conveyed by HMS Flying Kestrel to view the German Fleet in Scapa Flow.

Image of a tug which may be the Flying Kestrel Ref: L5128/4
They had the unique experience of seeing the Imperial German Ensigns flying at the mastheads, as their crews apparently by general agreement had made up their plans to sink them on this date. The crews were seen in small boats, pinnaces, rafts, etc.
By 4 p.m. only the Baden a light cruiser ashore on the West of Cava, and the turrets of the Hindenburg were to be seen from the School."

The turrets of the Hindenburg by C. W. Burrows Ref: L9522/3
The Orcadian 26th June 1919 page 4

STROMNESS SCHOOL CHILDREN'S THRILL
On Saturday afternoon, through the courtesy of the ACOS, the teachers and children of the Stromness School were taken through the lines of the German Fleet in the Flying Kestrel. Leaving Stromness about 10:30, they were able to see a good deal of what happened in the course of the day. The Flying Kestrel, after leaving Stromness, called at the battleships Baden, Kaiserin, Kaiser and Konig Albert, and then proceeded to visit the battle cruisers Derflinger, Hindenburg and Seidlitz. When the party reached the Seidlitz, my informant was surprised to notice that great preparations were being made to launch boats.

SIGNS OF EVACUATION
He observed that the crew were collecting large numbers of suit-cases and bags together. This was in the neighbourhood of 11 o'clock. The party went on to visit the destroyers, and there also seemed to be great preparations for a change or swapping of crews. The skipper asked the party of they would like to visit the hospital ships attached to the base. This was done... and the Flying Kestrel began to return to Stromness.

THE FIRST VESSEL SINKS
A drifter which was sailing towards the flagship shouted out that the German ships were sinking themselves. This was hailed with incredulity, but a vessel was suddenly seen to heel over beyond the north point of the island of Cava, turn bottom upwards and disappear. The journey towards home was continued, and the noticeable feature was the display of German Ensigns of the largest size on all the vessels.
German Cruiser SMS Bremse turned turtle. Ref: L6848/1

Pinnaces, small boats and rafts were seen in the water alongside the ships, filled or being filled with men. The ships began to sink deeper in the water, generally settling more quickly by the stern than by the bows. When the water reached the level of the deck at the stern,... the ship generally heeled over and turned bottom upwards. For sometime the hull remained above the surface, with steam pouring through vents in the bottom, but soon the hulls themselves disappeared.
Photo by C. W. Burrows Ref: L951/2
Men guarding sunken boat by Tom Kent Ref: TK4165

The children on board, more especially the younger of them, were greatly excited at the sight of the sinking vessels and the sight of men in the water, and in many cases were reduced to tears.
More Witnesses
G.H. Wild: 












Extract from p133 of Scapa Flow: The Story of Britain's Greatest Naval Anchorage in Two World Wars. by Malcolm Brown and Patricia Meehan. Available to see in the Orkney Room under reference 941.09 Y.

Hugh "Ti" David: "Yesterday at 9.45 the squadron with all destroyers at Scapa, put to sea for torpedo exercises - at 12.45 we received a wireless informing us that a German battleship was sinking - we turned and at full speed dashed back to Scapa - we got back at 3.30 and the sight that met our gaze as we rounded the Island of Flotta is absolutely indescribable. A good half of/



D1/1485 - Letter from Hugh David to this mother from HMS Revenge, 1919










 /of the German Fleet had already disappeared, the water was one mass of wreckage of every description, boats, carley floats, chairs, tables and human beings, and the 'Bayern' the largest German battleship, her bow reared vertically out of the water was in the act of crashing finally bottomwards, which she did a few seconds later in a cloud of smoke bursting her boilers as she went."

D1/1485 - Letter from Hugh David to this mother from HMS Revenge, 1919














A series of events will take place this weekend to commemorate the centenary of the Scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet. More information here https://www.facebook.com/scapa100/

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Great Tait

There were many exhibitions on Margaret Tait's life and work at the end of last year to celebrate her centenary. We recently received the last archives back from an exhibition at GOMA and they are being unpacked and put back in their boxes, much to the relief of Dusty. (She is the archives' doting mother. If she could make them hot toddys and beat up their bullies, she would)


One of the items is a small photograph album with some rarely-seen images of Margaret as a young women; before she qualified as a doctor, before she began Ancona films with fellow students in Italy and before she became the first Scottish woman to direct a feature film.

Margaret and her brother Maxwell in 1921/2. She would have been about 3.











Age 18 in 1936.
Margaret as a slightly older child



In N. France with a friend, aged around 20.





Portrait, no date.





Looking glam in Dundee, 1940.




Blue Black Permanent was released in 1992 and was nominated for a Scottish Bafta for Best Film.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Fairy Folklore

The wonderful Ernest Walker Marwick collected many tales, superstitions, songs, rhymes and memories over the years. He was interested in everything and saw fit to record a local woman's recollection of seeing a fairy when she was three years old:




click to enlarge



He also spoke to film-maker Margaret Tait about fairy lore she had heard:



Click to enlarge






 

...and he collected the story of Mansie Ritch of Hoy's visit to fairyland:









Click to enlarge

It is interesting that two people described their fairy folk as being eighteen inches in height and dapperly dressed...also that fairies like potatoes.



Do any readers have some fairy folk recollections?



Information taken from Orkney Archive references: D31/1/1/25, D31/2/5 and D31/3/2










Friday, 10 May 2019

Seeds of Interest Sown

Posted on behalf of Balfour Blogger #2

Volunteering in the Orkney Archive, getting hooked by an invoice for seeds

In Autumn 2018, I started to help with the cataloguing of the Balfour papers. These are a collection deposited in the Orkney Library in 1962 and are legal papers, letters, financial records and estate records and material relating to the family of Balfour of Balfour [Shapinsay] and of Trenabie [Westray], 1547-1921. There are over 100 books - including letter books, account books, pay lists and muster rolls. There are also 54 boxes of bundles of letters, notes, invoices, receipts, etc. Each box has between 11 and 20 bundles of papers.

I am working on Box 24 which contains letters to John Balfour MP received in 1825 and invoices for a variety of years. Bundle 11 of Box 24 consists of invoices and receipts for the estate of Charlton Grove near Blackheath in Kent. These include, amongst other items, statutory Poor Rate Tax, building work, invoices for journeys to London, and the rent of the estate. My favourite in this bundle is D2/24/11/3/3a which is the invoice and receipt from 'Thomas Gibbs & Co., Nursery and Seedsmen to the Honorable[sic] Board of Agriculture', Corner of Half Moon Street, Piccadilly' for the year 1824. The total bill is for £16 and 5 shillings (£16 5/-). According to data from the Office for National Statistics, that is equivalent to about £1,444 in 2017 prices.

D2/24/11/3/3a page 1
The quantity and variety of the listing is astonishing. For example:

2 quarts of Magazan beans (cost 1 shilling). I had to look up what these are. It turns out they are the 'smallest and most delicate species of the Windsor bean.

Windsor beans, long pod beans, negro beans and liver coloured beans.

Varieties of peas include early Charlton, Prussian, blue imperial, and white Prussian

Included in the list is 2 quarts of Prickly Spinage[sic] and 2 quarts of round Spinage.

Then there is scorzonera which may refer to black salsify, especially as it is immediately next to salsify in the listing.

Onions (3 kinds including Deptford).

Herbs include knotted marjoram, sweet basil, curld[sic] parsley.

Cabbage varieties include early Battersea, early York and Cornish.

Broccoli, 7 varieties in all - white, Belvedere, early Cape, late Cape, sprouting, late Portsmouth and late Danish.

Apart from vegetables, there were '25 paper flower seeds' costing 12 shillings and sixpence (12/6), 12 pounds (lbs) of fine mixed grass seeds for lawn costing £1 and 16 shillings (£1 16/-); and a variety of sundries including 9 canvas bags (5/-) and 1 large hamper (2/6). The most expensive items are yew trees, 18 in all at a cost of £4 10/-.

D2/24/11/3/3a part of page 2
This is one year's invoice from Gibb's. There are several more from this company in Bundle 11. There is a large variety among the invoices. The building work is extensive, including the roof of a dairy. I could spend months on just this bundle, but I have 13 other bundles in this box. Of course, there are another 30 boxes to be completed, luckily not all by me.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Palaeography Group

We have started a new group in the Orkney Archive. It is an informal group for folk who wish to practice their skills reading Secretary Script, Scottish handwriting from the 16th and 17th centuries. There are various online sources that are useful, particularly Scottish Handwriting.com where you can begin your studies of this fascinating script. Once you have learnt the basics the only way to become proficient is to practice.

Our group is meeting on Monday nights in the Archive Searchroom from 5.30pm - 6.30pm. Please contact Lucy Gibbon, Assistant Archivist in the first instance if you would like to book a place. Her contact details are 01856 873166 or email lucy.gibbon@orkney.gov.uk

Each week Lucy picks one piece of writing, makes copies of it and the group sit around a table and read aloud what they think the words are, working through the document word for word or letter by letter depending on the level of difficulty. The others can agree or disagree. There will be reference books nearby to look up. Each week one member of the group has been happy to type up the transcription as we decipher it.

The group is organic and will evolve depending on who joins in or the level of skill in the room. Sometimes we will struggle and sometimes we will fly through a document.

We hope that learning from each other will enhance all our skills.

The first week, we started small with this document:

 
This document is from D2 which is the Balfour of Balfour and Trenabie papers and dated 1673.
 
Our transcription is this:
 
D2/23/1
 
We the Justices of his Ma[je]sties peace gentlemen, heritores, fewares, uddallers and otheris within the contrey of orknay doe by these pr[ese]nts testifie and declaire that the provost, baillies, counsell and inhabitants of the burgh of Kirkwall and their predecessores [had/hes?] of this long tyme bygone menteined and upholdine that great and ancient fabrek called St Magnus Kirk there.
While in January 16 [space] years a pairt of the samyne was [beirned/ruined?] by a dreidfull and aciden-tall fyre from heavin and now the povertie of that place has so increassed that they ar not in abilitie nor Capacity to repaire naither that pairt that is rewined [ruined] nor uphold what is yet remaineing without the supplie and help of some Christiane charitie for that effect. In testimonie wh[e]r[e]of we have sub[scribed]t this p[rese]ntis with our hands at Kirkwall the [space] day of November 1673.
 
Edward McLaw[rren]
W[illiam] Buchanan
Geo[rge] Sinclair            J Buchanan
John Elphinstone            James Fea
                                       Arthur Buchanan
James Sinclair                Will[iam] Douglas
Michael Rendall             O[liver] Kincaid
Robert Irving                 William Young
                                       N. Moncrieff
 
The names were interesting, but most of them could be found in the book, Kirkwall in the Orkneys by B H Hossack, first published in 1900.
 
Other reference books we used were The Concise Scots Dictionary; Scottish Handwriting 1150-1650 - an introduction to the reading of documents by Grant G Simpson.
 

If you disagree with our transcription, please comment below. We are here to learn and any help is greatly appreciated.

If you would like to join in, please contact Lucy Gibbon to book a place. We are limiting the group to 8 members, but so far the most we have had is 5. So it is always worth phoning or emailing to see if a place is free the night you want to come. If you have set up a similar group, we would be interested in hearing about it too.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Scouting For Orcadians

When I was a child, a group of us met up every Friday night and pretended to be gnomes, pixies and elves. Some ladies were there and we all pretended they were owls. Together, we sang songs, covered things with glitter and learned how to iron the shirts of our future husbands.


Occasionally, we would go on overnight trips to learn important survival skills such as sticking chocolate biscuits together with marshmallows, decorating bookmarks with pressed flowers and dancing to the soundtrack of Fame (possibly specific to our troup.)


And there were woggles. Oh Brownies and Guides, you taught me so much...


Today, in 1857, Scouting co-founder Robert Baden-Powell was born. Below are some images of Orcadian brownies, guides and scouts from the Orkney Photographic Archive. Click to enlarge.




A dapper 1929 jamboree. Light neckerchiefs - Shetland and dark neckerchiefs - Orkney.

Orcadian Brownies and Guides meet up to celebrate centenary of Scouting Association co-founder Robert Baden-Powell.






Some Very Serious Stronsay Scouts.


A Girl Guide troup - no date. Fourth from the left, front row has just remembered that she left the oven on at home.

Monday, 18 February 2019

A Pharay Inventory 1694

A new post written by The Balfour Blogger:

The Balfour papers contain many documents from the 17th century, dating back well over 300 years, and largely unexplored. This is exciting territory for anyone with an interest in Orkney's history. Most are documents retained by Balfours over the centuries, to demonstrate ownership of land, but there is much more than that to be picked over.

These 17th century documents are written in archaic script, in secretary hand and thus difficult to decipher. Many are also legal documents, again making them tricky to understand. Finally they use language, whether it's old Orcadian, Scots or English with which we are no longer familiar. These are the reasons why they are unexplored - they take time and careful study to understand, but it's never time badly spent.

Box 23 of the Balfour papers is now being catalogued fully for the first time.

A brief catalogue of its contents exists but a full description is now in progress which will take many hours of work especially if lots of 17th century deciphering is needed. Secretary hand is full of unfamiliar versions of letters, flourishes, dashes, dots with meaning, and letters no longer part of our alphabet. Numbers are another worry, and of course some of the documents are in poor shape where damp and repeated folding and unfolding have left actual gaps in the paper, where information has been lost.

Several people who work or volunteer in the Orkney Archive have some training in secretary hand; Jennifer Thomson is particularly adept and it was Jennifer who deciphered the inventory, dated 22 November 1694, which this blog is about. Both Jennifer and I are indebted to Alexander Fenton's book, The Northern Isles: Orkney and Shetland, for its encyclopaedic information which has made both translation and this blog possible.


Also most useful have been The Scots Dictionary and William P. L. Thomson's Orkney Land and People and his New History of Orkney.

The inventory is a steillbow inventory made by George Balfour of Pharay to William Craigie of Gairsay of the ground and lands of the island of Pharay. A steillbow or steelbow rental was one which included all livestock, equipment and the land itself. Pharay is the modern island of Faray, lying between Westray and Eday, recently in the news, having been bought by Orkney Islands Council in November 2018. Pharay was inhabited until 1946, the population having become simply too few for life to be sustainable there any longer. It was however a fertile little island, only about 2 miles in length and in 1694 it belonged to George Balfour, who rented land out to William Craigie.

The inventory is of the horse, kyne or cattle (modern Orcadian - kye), seed and servants bolls. Bollmen or bowmen were paid in grain or oatmeal rather than cash.


1. Imprimis [first] ane horse called Burger [i.e. one horse called Burger, perhaps named after its original owner, or the man it was bought from, or the place it came from? And then more horses called] Smithie, Starniebroun, Corrigall all four comprised to tweintie [twenty] six pound Scots money. [Starniebroun translates as starry brown. I wonder if here, the broun should read brow? Starry brow makes for a lovely name.

2. Three more horses follow, being Sinclair, Barnie and Steinson, value in 24 pound Scots.

3. One black mare and a brown mare, combined value of 11 pound Scots.

Alexander Fenton says that Orkney tended not to breed horses at this time, but to buy in stallions, which were small but valued for their strength. mares were deemed much lesser creatures, emphasised here by the lack of the naming of the black and brown mares, and by the lesser monetary value.
There is a total of 7 male and 2 female horses and they would have been hard-worked, to plough and harrow, and as pack animals carrying all sorts of burdens, least of which was probably people, on the small island. Note that there are no oxen in the inventory, and oxen were often a plough animal in Orkney.

4. Four bulled kyne, two kyne unbulled and two bulled quoyocks

5. Ane young bull of thrie years
This translates as four cows which have been serviced by the bull and are therefore, hopefully, in calf (pregnant); two cows not yet been serviced by the bull and therefore not in calf; and two heifers which may be in calf. Heifers, young cows yet to have their first calf, until recently were called quoys in Orkney rather than heifers, but here they are an older terminology again, being quoyocks. And at item five, we have the bull, but he is young, so may or may not be the father of the expected calves. No value is given of the cattle, surprisingly - perhaps an error by the clerk?

6. Beer seed and servants bolls fourtie four meills which translates as being bere barley seed, saved from that year's harvest, and the bere intended for the servants in payment for their labour - in total 44 meills/meils of bere grain. With weights and measures, we hit another difficulty in understanding old documents; weights vary across time and standards change, as does the relationship of Scots currency to Sterling, or the value of a pound Sterling at one date against another date. William P. L. Thomson states that in 1806, a meil was standardised at 177lbs and 12 ounces (roughly 80kg) but also "weights had increased over the years and in earlier times had been very much less." Tricky then to know how much bere was in the Pharay barn that November (which is by the Julian Calendar, not our Georgian Calendar, so in modern terms is early rather than late November - another pitfall for the reader of early documents). Of course, bere also needs explanation outside of Orkney - it is a form of barley, Hordeum vulgare, still grown in Orkney, but rarely now elsewhere. It was a staple of the Orcadian diet until well into the 19th century, being used still today in whisky, beer, shortbread, biscuits and as the main flour in a staple which has never left the Orkney table, bere bannocks. The bear seed in this inventory would have been dried and ground to make bere-meal/flour for ubiquitous use.
7. Twenty eight meils of oats for seed No mention of oats for the servants, so perhaps the harvested oats of 1694 had all been distributed for the use of either the landowner or tenant, perhaps to sell on, or to the servants, again to be milled for various uses. From this weight of oats for seed, we might calculate the area to be sown by George Craigie, if we could establish what the meil weighed...

8. Two furnished ploughs which given the lack of any further plough-parts (see Fenton Chapter 38) in the inventory, likely means two ploughs and all their ancillary pieces. Thrie forks and ane ware pyck with two harras, being three forks and two harrows (toothed implements pulled over ploughed land to break it down to a tilth for sowing) and a ware pick which was a two-pronged fork with which harvesters of the ware/seaweed pulled the seaweed in from the sea. The first harvest/manufacture of kelp in Orkney was in 1722, therefore the Pharay pyck/pick was used to gather ware to be used as fertiliser on the land.

Next is a fold in the paper and an indecipherable item, but followed by ane kirne, ane old stoup, ane cea. A kirn is a butter churn made of wooden staves and into which a plunger is manually worked to turn the butter to milk; and old stoup was a container for liquid, and a cea or sae was a wooden tub often used to hold water, which stood frequently on a sae-bink, a stone bench.
Then there are ane malt pundlar and ane pundlar stone. Pundlars were beams upon which goods were weighed, in this case malt for ale brewing, and the pundlar stone being the weight against which the malt was weighed. Quarrels arose over the efficiency and correctness of beams and stones - were they weighing under? Or over? And in whose favour?

Following on from the pundlar, we get ten clibbers which are wooden pack-saddles onto which were attached to whatever the horse was to carry (illustrated Fenton p249). Then ten pair of maise which are triangular nets made of straw or bent grass/marram grass (Ammophilia Arenaria) into which goods are put, to carry them (particularly peats), then attached to the clibber - all of which would have been hand-made on Pharay. And twentie treaves of bent, twenty sheaves (bundles) of bent grass. Treaves is possibly another error of the clerk: Fenton and the Scots Dictionary want the word to be threaves, more recently known as sheaves.

Also part of item 8, are ane yoall with four oars. A yoall/yole is an open boat, clinker built, about 15 feet (4.5 metres) long, rowed by two men and in 1694 unlikely to have a sail. She may have come flat-packed from Norway (nothing new in flat-packing from Scandinavia) as boats often did to treeless Orkney and Shetland. She was the inter-island work-horse, used for cargo and passengers and fishing, a vital element of the islanders diet.

And finally ane scoop, worth eighteen pound, two speads, two corne forks, ane riddle, eight corne hooks and ane pynt pott, which are one scoop, two spades, two corn forks, one riddle, eight corn hooks and one pint pot. The scoop was for measuring out dry goods and probably made of wood. It may have served as an actual measure, its contents heaped or flat, giving a consistent and equal measure to each recipient. It is here that the clerk slips up again - the eighteen pound value (which should also read eighteen pound Scots) will not be for the scoop alone, but for all of the items in this eighth section of the inventory, so should follow after ane pynt pott. The corne forks were made of wood, possibly part of the harvesting process, or for barn/byre work. The riddle was used to clean up grain and made of wood and pierced animal skin. The corne hooks were sickles, the means by which the grain was cut by hand, then bound into bundles/sheaves. The pynt pott, like the scoop and the pundlar and pundlar stone, may have been an important measure, part of a landlord's equal distribution of liquids or dry goods, or his calculation of rent paid in kind.

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This short inventory, dating from November 1694, gives an insight into what life on Pharay was about. The inventory relates to a small island, the land division of which was very different from modern farm division (refer to Fenton and Thomson): it has work-horses; a small number of cattle; it grows bere and oats on land ploughed and harrowed and fertilised with seaweed; the landlord pays his workers in bere and. probably oats, making ale from malt weighed on a malt pundlar; milk from the cows is churned into butter and cheese; bent grass is gathered from the shore to make nets and baskets and ropes (probably supplemented by oat and bere straw); there is a boat to cross to Westray and Eday and further afield, rowed by two men, and to fish from, and probably to shoot seals and seabirds (flesh, skin, feathers, oil all invaluable). The doling out of consistent measures of malt and liquids and dry goods is marked by the pundlar and the scoop and the pint pot. The various tools and equipment all relate to the work of the place which is done without electricity, without carboniferous oil-based technologies, without easy imports of fertilisers and seed, with well-water only and all done on a diet of barley and oats, fish, cheese and butter and probably kale. Food, shelter, warmth, light are all derived from the island of Pharay itself - little comes in from further afield, other than clothing and footwear and both are probably infrequently renewed in an economy driven by in-kind exchange rather than cash. Of course George Balfour and William Craigie had access to silver and gold and lived well as men of trade and property, but not so their servants or tenants.

Life in the 1690s was particularly harsh and for much of Scotland serious famine was a feature of the latter half of the decade. Orkney and Shetland were already experiencing famine by 1694. The Little Ice Age had reached its coldest trough of cold and wet, and three massive volcanic eruptions in Iceland and Indonesia had made things even worse, with dust particles reducing sunlight. Perhaps the lack of oats for the servants, above, is nothing to do with prior distribution, and everything to do with shortage and poor harvest.

Also Orkney was beset by privateers at this point, sent out from France to plunder North Sea shipping and in June 1694, two French ships looted the storehouse at St Mary's village in Holm and remained on Lamb Holm island for a week, leaving with the looted store and possessions of the islanders.

These were hard and dangerous times, all a long way from our world in 2018 and marvellous that 324 years after the inventory was set down, we can share its contents and its meaning, and ponder the future of Pharay/Faray as it moves from private hands to those of Orkney islands Council, and hope that its future is bright and important to all of Orkney.

by The Balfour Blogger, 6 Dec 2018
 
Sources used:
Archive item: Inventory, 1694 from bundle D2/23/1 ;
Reference Book: The Northern Isles: Orkney and Shetland by Alexander Fenton, 1978, John Donald Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0859760197, Orkney Room reference: 301.4 YZ
Reference Book: The New History of Orkney by William P. L. Thomson, 2008 edition, Birlinn Ltd., ISBN 9781841586960; Orkney Room reference: 941 Y
Reference Book: Orkney Land and People by William P.L. Thomson, 2008, The Orcadian Ltd (Kirkwall Press). ISBN 9781902957319; Orkney Room reference: 630 Y
Website: The Scots Dictionary http://www.dsl.ac.uk
Website: Scottish Handwriting www.scottishhandwriting.com