Wednesday 30 September 2009

Jeans for Genes

This Friday (2nd October) is jeans for genes day. This is a fund raising day to benefit pioneering research and vital support services for children affected by some of the most serious genetic disorders:

We will we be providing teas, coffees and delicious homebakes for a donation in the foyer that afternoon. And not only that; lucky visitors will have the treat of seeing library and archive staff modelling denim trews all day long. Irresistible, I know.

Friday 25 September 2009

Blue Black Permanent

We have been asked a couple of questions about our copy of Margaret Tait's feature length film 'Blue Black Permanent.' The copy that we hold is on DVD and is for reference purposes only.

Visitors can request to watch it in the library on a laptop or, if we get a bit of notice, on a nice big telly.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Calling all Fereday prize-winners!

Did you complete a Fereday project whilst at school? Did you win a prize for your efforts? If so, a copy has probably been lodged here at the Orkney Archive.

The projects are a great resource for study and we are frequently asked to make copies of them for private research. We can only do so however if we have the author's permission. It is getting increasingly difficult to track down the writers of older projects.

Pictured above is a copyright permission form which can be downloaded, printed out and completed. This form gives us permission to photocopy your project for interested customers. Simply hand it in or post to: the Orkney Archive, 44 Junction Road, Kirkwall, KW15 1AG.

Monday 21 September 2009

Wartime Donation

We received a new donation this week from the son of an R. A. F. mechanic, Sidney Hall, who was stationed in Orkney during World War 1.

The collection of papers includes over 30 photographs of military life in Orkney, discharge papers, and a (pictured) programme of a concert held at Balfour Hospital with joke adverts inside and neatly censored mentions of Kirkwall on the front and back pages.

Sidney became friends with the Work family of Heathfield, and later Craigiefield house. He helped teach two of the sons violin and one photograph shows both Sidney and Magnus Work, fiddles in hand at a musical gathering. There are already several collections of papers and memorabilia relating to the Work family already in the archives.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Public Sector is ace.

So apparently the government are cutting spending on the public sector.

It's fine though, Alasdair Darling says that we're not going to fall "into a kind of dark age where the lights go off and nothing happens." How comforting.

It's been a busy morning already. Family history enquiries, some old newspaper print offs, Sheriff Court processes to find and helping college students in the Orkney Room.

Saturday 12 September 2009

Winter Looms

We were informed this morning that the copiously laden Rowan tree outside the archive window is sign of a 'cold, long, dark, winter ahead.' Boo.

It is true that our 'Winter Regular' customers have been reappearing and we're no longer flinging open every single window first thing, so Summer is most definitely over...

Roll on Christmas chocolates, long chats with regulars and drying rain-soaked socks on the archive radiators. Go Winter!

Friday 11 September 2009

Breckness Estate

Last night the Orkney Family History Society hosted a talk by James Irvine to promote his new book on the history of the Breckness Estate.

It is a weighty tome with quite small writing (so you definitely get your money's worth) that has been beautifully printed by the Orcadian.

Much of the research for the book was carried out in the Orkney Archive over the last few years. We are relieved to see it published as that means less photocopying for us.

Thursday 10 September 2009

Swedish Houses

We received an enquiry recently about the Swedish houses in Broadsands, Laverock and Manse Roads, Kirkwall.

We have several detailed plans of the proposed houses dated 1945 but not much else.

Any photographs of their construction out there?

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Weird Weather

This morning it was hideous; cold and rainy and threatening to blow a gale. This afternoon it is uncomfortably warm and sunny. Good old Orkney weather.

We have been busy today as quite often seems to happen at the tail end of the Summer and again, it is mostly family history enquiries.

Had a brainstorming session this morning for the next Library and Archive Discovery Week (Disco week) which we hope will provide untold delights for all visitors in March.

Friday 4 September 2009

Famous Orcadian Women

There is a new exhibition in the Archive Searchroom (first floor) which celebrates various Orkney-related entries in the Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women.

Included are: Margaret Tait, Margaret Gardiner, Bessie Grieve (pictured), Ann Scott Moncrieff, Isobel Gunn and more...
We have looked out various letters, documents and newspaper articles relating to each woman from the Orkney Archive Collection. If you are in the library, come upstairs and have a look!

Thursday 3 September 2009

28th August 2009 - Mensa visit

Today we set up a tour and display of the archive for a group of Mensa members. It is quite intimidating when you know that you're definitely the thickest person in the room.

26th August 2009 - Ministerial visit

We had a visit from Finance Minister John Swinney today. He has a family connection to Orkney and our head archivist traced his family tree back through Stromness and Birsay.

7th August 2009 - Justifiably empty

Yet another brilliantly sunny day and therefore we don’t have many customers. Quite right too.

5th August 2009 - Undercover archivists

We had two customers in today who may have been library or archive workers from South in disguise! They spent a long time carefully looking over the facilities and investigating the building, pronouncing it ‘excellent’ and ‘a lovely building.’

We do have a lot of space in this building. Many other archives barely have room for two people to squeeze past each other let alone sit in a big group around two tables nattering about family history like we often have in here.

29th July 2009 - Shore Rights

A customer asked me to find out what the kelp and fishing rights situation is in Orkney. Do homeowners near the shore actually own the shore and all its fruits or can local residents help themselves to tangles and trout?

The answer does not seem to be clear cut. Udal law i.e. Norse Law which I suppose is now Common Law dictates that the shore (down to the low-water mark) and that which is produced there belong to the landowners.

There is, however, a tradition in Orkney where local residents each have a bit of beach that they can comb and harvest from as they see fit. In Westray, some of these specific bits of beach even have their own names. Was this gathering at the discretion of the major landowner, however? Is it still legal to gather and fish from the shoreline next to a house owned by someone else?

27th July 2009 - Reviews

There have been some good reviews for Kirsten Mackenzie’s ‘The Chapel at the Edge of the World’:

18th July 2009 - The Chapel at the Edge of the World

Today we had author Kirsten McKenzie reading from her novel ‘The Chapel at the Edge of the World.’ The book is Kirsten’s debut novel and is a fictional tale based around the real-life building of the Italian Chapel on Lambsholm by prisoners of war during World War two.

The reading took place in the Orkney Room so there was a quite intimate and cosy atmosphere. Kirsten answered questions about the novel after her reading.

Much of the factual research for the book was done over a year ago using material from the Orkney Archive. Kirsten visited us twice and we sent photocopies from the Ernest Walker Marwick collection. We assumed that she was researching for a university paper or factual book and had no idea that she was an author of fiction.

29th June 2009 - Povertee day

Last Friday was a fund-raising day in the library. Members of staff made donations for wearing T-shirts to work and sold home bakes in the foyer to raise money for action aid Povertee day.

It was a great day; sunny and warm to make us very glad to not be in our usual work wear and lots of delightful cakes everywhere. Splendid.

Today we were told that the grand total raised was £167 which is brilliant. There was also plenty of cake left over for our tea-breaks this morning which is the main thing.

One of my enquiries today is about telephone numbers. The customer wishes to know what Orkney telephone numbers looked like in 1940.

19th June 2009 - Inspection

We have had a busy week preparing for an internal inspection of the library service that we provide. The archive was assessed in its capacity as a local history section of the library and was rated very highly.

The Orkney Library and Archive did well in all areas and the staff are all delighted that so much work and preparation was recognized and rewarded.

17th June 2009 - Blue Black Permanent

Today we received a long awaited copy of Margaret Tait’s only full-length film, Blue Black Permanent from BFI.

Margaret Tait was an Orcadian film-maker who originally trained as a doctor but began to write, direct and shoot self-funded short films during the 1950s when she studied film-making in Rome. Films, along with writing poetry and short stories, soon became Margaret’s main focus and, although never achieving huge recognition in her lifetime she was very well-respected as an artist by her peers.

Blue Black Permanent was first written in the early 1970s but was not actually filmed until 20 years later when Margaret was in her early 70s. As the production received funding from (amongst others) Channel 4 and Grampian Television, the film was shown on television several times soon after its release and is therefore the best known of Margaret Tait’s films.

The archive holds a semi-catalogued collection of Margaret Tait’s papers and a few of her short films. The collection includes several scripts, copious amounts of production material and files full of correspondence relating to the film. This acquisition of her most famous and ambitious work will augment an already fascinating set of records.

12th June 2009 - Another acquisition...

Another brilliant donation today! A local family historian who used the archive on many occasions has left us her notes, charts and family trees. This information will be catalogued and become part of the large collection of personal papers that we hold in the archive.
These papers will surely contain the pieces for many genealogical puzzles and will almost certainly be well used

5th June 2009 - New Acquisition

Yesterday, the archives received a most exciting donation: 4 travel diaries written by Dr. Thomas Stewart Traill of Tirlot in 1814. These surprisingly intact, leather bound and marbled volumes cover Traill’s travels through France, Spain, Belgium, Austria and Africa towards the end of the Napoleonic wars.

The diaries are clear and legible and will make very interesting reading. In them, Traill discusses and draws little sketches of all the places that he visited, remarking on the weather, architecture and geology. One book contains a floor plan of the Alhambra which Traill visited.

29th May 2009 - Summer Visitors

It has been beautiful sunshine nearly every day this week and yet the search room is the busiest that it has been in months! Our visitors are certainly very dedicated to their research.

Many have travelled a very long way to consult our records and the majority of enquiries, like most in the summer months, are genealogical in nature.

19th May 2009 - Fereday Prize Winner

We have now received the last of 2009’s Fereday award prize-winning essays; ‘Lord Kitchener’ by Adam Johnston. Adam’s project is an in – depth and humorous study of Kitchener’s life and makes excellent use of both primary and secondary sources. The most interesting section contains the testimonies of relatives of Orkney residents who took in survivors from the sunken HMS Hampshire and evidence of their continued friendships with the young men who they fed, warmed and clothed that night in 1916.

15th May 2009 - Mixter-Maxter

Today we were visited by a group of secondary school pupils who are researching an old Kirkwall building as preparation for some site-specific performances for the St. Magnus Festival.

They searched through photographs, valuation rolls, plans and old accounts for the business that once occupied the premises.

8th May 2009 - Busyness

A busy day. We were visited this morning by a group of Naval Historians who were treated to a tour of the archives and a viewing of the film ‘Echoes’ by Another Orkney Production.

6th May 2009 - Orkney Headhunter

Today I was looking out former enquiries on John Renton for a Museum of Scotland employee.

John Renton was a 21 year old Stromnessian when he was stranded in the South Seas in 1868. His boat washed ashore on Malaita, one of the Solomon Islands which was inhabited by a tribe of head hunters. The islanders made John very welcome, teaching him how to live in their environment and learning skills from him such as net-making.

Eight years later John returned to Stromness. He brought with him a spear and a necklace of 59 human teeth. It is thought that he became a head hunter himself whilst an islander, attacking members of rival tribes and collecting trophies from his victims.

29th April 2009 - Emigration

We have had a Phd student in this week investigating the movement of people between Orkney and Otago, New Zealand. We have been kept busy producing family histories, memoirs and letters from the 19th century as well as tickets for passage and newspaper adverts enticing people to the New World.

24th April 2009 - Mess mess mess

We’ve had a lot of visitors today, both local and transient. I’ve been in and out of the crammed corner of our end store room three times already, extracting enormous rolled-up estate plans and we’ve had to clear the archive trolley twice.

The search room is strewn with maps, photos, shipping registers, plans and random pieces of paper. It is the same debris that always results from a few busy customers who are getting really stuck into their research…

22nd April 2009 Sun sun sun sun sun sun !

Not many customers this morning as the weather is so glorious. To celebrate this sunny day, we are selecting summery books from the collection in the Orkney Room and putting them on display. Choices include Margaret Tait’s ‘The Grassy Stories’ and ‘The Sun’s Net’, a collection of stories by George Mackay Brown.

The Orkney Room contains books about Orkney, written in Orkney and/or written by Orcadians; both fiction and non-fiction. It also includes books on Shetland, the Faroes and Iceland. So really, it is a sort of Northern Isles room with a bit of Caithness and Canada thrown in.

My one enquiry today has been from a member of staff wondering what the names of the main roads in Burray village are. We got out some Council road plans but none were labelled. They must surely have official names? We found a reference to Blinkbonny road in a document but that was all.

I may have to refer to the County Road Committee minutes…

20th April 2009 Fereday Prize Projects

Today we received, as always, the top Fereday Prize projects to catalogue as part of the Archive. The Fereday Prize was devised by headmaster W.P.L. Thomson who was inspired by Dr Ray Fereday, former Principal Teacher of History at Kirkwall Grammar School. Its purpose is to encourage pupils in 2nd year history pupils to go out into their communities and conduct their own research. The prize is organised by the Orkney Heritage Society in collaboration with the teachers of Kirkwall Grammar School and Stromness Academy.

The best projects investigate under-documented local topics using both archival records and field research.

Over the years we have received projects on Harray Stores, Rendall Football Club, Children’s games and pastimes in 20th century Orkney, the Papa Stronsay Monks and the History of Robertson’s Orkney Fudge. Fascinating pieces of Orkney’s history all; nonetheless, they are not the type of subject to be tackled by any serious scholarly tome. This is especially true of the many projects that chart the history of a pupil’s house or are studies of a grandparent or other relative’s life.

Therefore, the Fereday projects form a very important part of the archive and are often brought out for interested visitors to read.

We have not received the top project yet, (Adam Johnston’s study of Lord Kitchener) but we do have the joint winners of second place, Shannon Arcus’s look at the history of the West End Hotel and “Ga’an to school in Birsay, Harray and Sandwick” by Andrea Wishart. Both projects make excellent use of archives, original interviews and photographs and are great sources of information.

Also received were ten highly commended projects:
Erin Davidson’s ‘80 years of Isbister Bros, Quoyloo.’
David Hourie’s ‘The Rev. Charles Clouston.’
Thorfinn Johnson’s ‘The Royal Oak: A Survivor’s Story.’
Abbie Lyall’s ‘The Stronsay Herring Fishing.’
Lauren Nicolson’s ‘Harray: the Heart of the West Mainland in the years gone by.’
Kieran Rendall’s ‘The Barony Mill.’
Colin Sinclair’s ‘Sandwick Young Farmer’s Club 1937 – 2009.’
Christie Ward’s ‘Tom Ward 1907-1986.’
Jake Watson’s ‘Lyness in WWII.’
Danielle Wick’s ‘Stromness Shopping Week.’

17th April 2009 - Summer Starting?

The liners are soon to begin their summer visits to Kirkwall Harbour and the formerly Arctic breeze has felt almost balmy. Consequently, our visitors have suddenly had a more international flavour.

There were two Australian gentlemen in today trying to find the location of an ancestral home in Birsay. I directed them to the Valuation Rolls and an old O. S. map.

They were happy to find that the building was still standing and, photocopies in hand, they set off for a visit.

15th April 2009 - Mystery photographer.

We had an interesting enquiry today which I was unable to satisfy. Our visitor’s father used to work in the Kirkwall Gasworks and indeed worked there until its closure.

On the final day of operations, a photographer took several photographs which our visitor’s father then received copies of. These photographic prints were loaned out to various interested parties and eventually, all were lost.

It was thought that Dougie Shearer had been the photographer in question, but I could not find any photos in our Phoenix photography collection that seemed to fit.

Who could this photographer have been?