Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Letters Home

Our popular exhibition 'Letters Home: Emigration Stories From the Isles' which we first staged in January to coincide with the beginning of the year of Homecoming Scotland is now up again until St Andrews day.

It is a selection of letters, newspaper articles and documents that relate to the many Orcadians who left these Isles in search of a better life. Below is an extract from Orkney Archive reference D31/21/1/9, a letter from James Flett to his brother in Orkney from Fort Norman, Canada and dated 20th February 1880:

" I wish very much to see you all once more and if god spares us a few years hence I hope I will. When I come home I wish the income of my money to support us. I don’t think of beginning any branch of business now in my old days if I can do without it. I have been a long time in this part of the world when I come home I wish to be able to support myself and family without help from any one. I find your letter very kind you say you would give me any comadatian as far as you could in the House line till I got time to look about me – very kind indeed thank you. It gives me much pleasure to hear you are prospering and getting on well in the world long may you continue that way. You say my sister is staid (?)-at many people that may when they get old they get staid if they are living well. My own old ladie is getting pretty staid – the (?) is Peter I find myself quite comfortable in this part of the world with my wife and two children – still I long to see my old countrey and my friends. "
The theme of emigration just being a temporary measure in order to make some money is quite common in the letters that were sent home to Orkney. Many correspondents talk about coming home and the people they hope to see when they do. Perhaps this explains the great enthusiasm of our many international visitors. The descendants of emigrants, however many generations later, still see Orkney as home.

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