Friday 24 December 2010

Toodle Pip

The Orkney Library & Archive
will be closed from
3pm on Friday 24 December 2010
We open again on
Wednesday 5 January 2011
9.15am – 7pm

Best wishes for the festive season from all the staff

Images taken from archive reference D30/2/10

Wednesday 22 December 2010


Found in archive reference D30/2/10

Click to enlarge if you dare.

Saturday 18 December 2010

We Are Closed Today

Due to weather.

We do apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause you.

Friday 17 December 2010

The Only Time Today That It Has Stopped Snowing...

One Further Update...

Stromness library is closed today and tomorrow as every single member of staff there is stranded in some way!

Again, we are sorry for any inconvenience that this may cause.

A Few Updates...

The library is open today but the staff are a little depleted due to the weather. Us town folk must admit that the thought of leaving our warm beds to trudge through the snow was difficult, but we are not only dashing, adventurous types who laugh in the face of ice and snow, we are far too dedicated to you, dear customers, and so we are here; a little creased and rosy-cheeked but eager to serve.


The Bookbug Rhyme time session has been postponed until Wednesday morning and the mobile library van shall not be in Burray and South Ronaldsay today.

Also, the library and archive shall be closed tomorrow, Saturday the 18th.

We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

From Us To You Dear Readers...

Above is the archive image which has been chosen to adorn our Library and Archive Christmas Card this year. It is taken from a school jotter filled with stories, pictures and poems which were divided into editions of a magazine called 'The Star'. The book is part of the Mary Robertson Sinclair Papers, reference D30/2/10.

The cards themselves are even fancier as Karen and Steven spent hours titivating them with glitter glue before sending them on their way.

Friday 10 December 2010

Strictly No Drilling!

The student fees vote is the biggest story this morning and looks to be a hot topic for some time to come. Below are some images relating to  probably the biggest protest to take place in Orkney.

In the late 1970s, exploratory surveys of uranium-rich land just north of Stromness were planned, to great public opposition. The Orcadian protests were much more subdued than those seen in London yesterday. Around four hundred people turned up on Broad Street for a silent protest and many children were present.

Plan of proposed drilling area from The Scotsman dated 23rd February 1977

Images taken from the Press & Journal dated 9th of February 1977


The government ministers involved tried appearing on a festive Strictly Come Dancing special to win folk over but the population were moved by neither sequins nor prowess with a flippy little cape and the plans for drilling were dropped.

Information taken from the Ernest Walker Marwick Collection reference D31/28/2

Thursday 9 December 2010

We Are Never Happy...

The snow does seem to be thawing in Kirkwall, but this has only served to reveal the treacherous layer of trampled ice that was lurking beneath the crunchy, powdery snow which was easier to walk on.

Perhaps you are all feeling a little nostalgic for the irritating, yet safer fluffy snow of earlier in the week? Perhaps not..

High Street, 1918

High Street, 1918

High Street, 1918

The West End Hotel on Main Street, undated.

Old Scapa Road, 1918

Palace Road, undated

These photos were all taken by Tom Kent and therefore the undated ones must predate 1936.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Sound familiar?

All of these snippets are taken from editions of The Orcadian dated January 1978. So far, so familiar, but things were about to get worse...

Nearly all of the West Mainland and Island schools seem to have been closed for an extended period, roads in Orphir were completely blocked and impassable, the water went off in Stromness, Evie, Rendall, Sandwick and Orphir and there were milk shortages due to farmers being without water, electricity and transport. Milk was being dumped at some farms.

Mr Alastair Whyte, manager of the Kirkwall Claymore milk factory said: " I have never known so much chaos in my time."

Worst of all, there was no telly for a significant proportion of the population! The Radio was working, however, and Radio Orkney was on air for three hours one night keeping the population up to date with developments and boosting morale with music and phone-ins.

The worst Orkney power cut story I have ever heard was recounted in the staff room one day. It must have been around about 1983 when the power cut out across most of the mainland. I know this, because this is when the fabulous guilty pleasure of a mini-series The Thorn Birds was shown. The power cut happened IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LAST EPISODE.

In these new-fangled days of iplayer, youtube and dvd box sets, this would be, at worst, a minor irritant but in the early 1980s such an event was truly desperate. Fans of the charming yet ambitious Father Ralph de Bricassart  were reduced to roaming the streets, tearing their hair out and shouting "Does anyone have power? Will Ralph ever find out that Dane is his illegitimate son?!!"

Some people still tear up when it is mentioned and it is fun to prank call Orkney numbers and whisper "her dress was ashes of roses..." until the recipient of the call dissolves into confused and helpless sobs.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Shopping In A Winter Wonderland...

We have been so caught up in the snowy madness of late that we forgot to post about our new exhibition which explores the history of Kirkwall's shopping streets. The display was inspired by the BBC program Turn Back Time and includes photographs, plans and archival documents relating to retail in Kirkwall throughout the centuries.

You can view photocopies of the original documents on the wavy wall of the library next to the computer room, but the real stuff is upstairs in the archive search room in our display cabinet.

As usual, the photographs have proved controversial, and our captions for some of the shop fronts have been roundly derided by folk who can apparently remember back to the early 1900s. Come in and have a look! Challenge our assertion that photograph L1067/1 shows the former location of Drever and Heddle's! Scoff at our dating of our interior of James Flett and son's to 1980! Roll on the ground with tears in your eyes at the idea that Kirkwall ever had a ladies' pants shop that stayed open long enough for a photograph to be taken!

This image of Sclater's menswear seems the most appropriate image from the exhibition to post. Look what a laugh they are all having. Here in the archives we prefer to complain endlessly about the snow, shaking our heads ruefully at the various official decisions which have been made and detailing exactly how we would have organised things ourselves. Much more fun.

The library is open today and staff were out first thing shovelling paths of snow up to the entrance. Do watch your step on the North side of the building though , as it is quite slippy there.

Thursday 2 December 2010

He is Calling You, Calling You... On The Saviour's Day!

Now that the library Christmas tree has arrived and Steven's fab advent calender has been unveiled (see our twitter page for each day's hand-crafted-by-staff door countdown) we have decided that it is time to festoon the normally staid archive with inappropriate glitter and twinkliness.

It does look better in real life, honest.

The flashing fairy lights may irritate Orkney Room readers and the tinsel on our computers does somewhat obscure our views of the screens but surely constant, low-level irritation is as much a Christmas tradition as Cliff Richard and Walford punch-ups?

Our decorations include candle-like lights, wreaths, poinsettias, a small yet glittery Christmas tree, fairy lights and delightful tinsel head-gear for our long-suffering Orkney Room busts.

Edwin never minds, he thinks it's just a bit of fun.

George seems indifferent but has never complained.

Stanley is unsure.

Eric is always absolutely furious. We just bung it on his head and then run away from those angry, angry eyes.

Saturday 27 November 2010

Bad bad weather!

Its looking a bit grim outside now and beginning to get icy, so since the staff do not want to spend the night in the building eating all the staffroom biscuits, we have decided to close early at 3.45pm. We are sorry for any inconvenience this will cause you.

Bad weather? Missed Scollie's Night Oot?

It's snowing here in Orkney today and we're not sure how many folk are going to brave the weather to come in. It's 10 o'clock and there's not many footprints outside yet.

If you missed going to Scollie's Night Oot at the Phoenix Cinema last night because of the bad weather, you missed a great night of old and new Orkney and Scottish films. But all is not lost because we have many old films on video and DVD here in the archive.

And they are available to view any time the archive is open.

We have a little booth set aside for you to view these wonderful old films in private.
Or a large screen Video/DVD player.

Here we can see some Orkney folk dancing at The Police Ball in 1953. So if you get fed up of Christmas shopping and need a break, why not pop in to the archive to watch an old show?

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Helllooooo Stromness!!!

The Orkney Library and Archive cyber family has grown again and we are delighted to welcome the Stromness Library Blog which can be viewed here. We also have a link to the site on our blogroll below.

Up until now, we have mentioned Stromness events wherever possible but it was felt that, with so much going on through in the Wild Wild West Mainland, that it was time for a dedicated blog.

Stromness library is host to the Stromness library reading group, many George Mackay Brown Fellowship events and the local creative writing group. It is hoped that these organisations shall perhaps provide guest posts from time to time and that some local news and/or scandalous gossip shall be given an airing.

Pop over and join the party...

Friday 19 November 2010


Our happy customers have exited the building with chocolate-smeared faces and considerably lighter purses.

Our grand charity total for today is £210, which is fantastic. Thank you to everyone who made a contribution. The serving wenches are all wrung out and are sitting in a row in the staff room, their feet in buckets and cold compresses on their foreheads.

A Closer Look At The Delights For All Who Were Undecided.

It's Homebakes Time Again...

Hey, coooo-eee, lookey lookey what we have here for you! Yet more lovely homebaking... This time the worthy cause is Children In Need, so bring your money and your fat jeans to the library foyer from 10.30am - 3.30pm.

Thursday 18 November 2010

Will and Kate Sitting In A Tree K.I.S.S.I.N.G.

Kate Middleton is to be Prince William's bride, hurrah. I for one shall be perfectly content to watch the nuptials from the comfort of the sofa, wearing the inevitable commemorative sweater and leg-warmer combo and munching from an array of cold meats  and sausages on sticks laid out upon the coffee table. Lambrini shall be quaffed and twiglets shall be crunched.

I feel no shame about this intended grossly sentimental display of carnivorous fashion blindness as I shall be paying for all of this celebratory tomfoolery out of my own pocket. As, I am certain, Kate and William shall be.

The idea that the taxpayer would be expected to shell out for a Westminister Abbey wedding complete with designer frocks and limousines as has been suggested elsewhere is obviously a ludicrous ruse to hide the happy couple's real intention.

They are of course planning a good old-fashioned Orkney knees up which traditionally eschews fancy venues and puts the emphasis on fun, family and copious amounts of booze.

The night before the wedding, Kate's mother shall pop her daughter's feet into a bath full of water, dropping a ring in under her toes to be retrieved by the bridesmaids who shall be washing the feet of the bride. Whichever girl finds the ring shall be the next to marry.

The wedding shall of course take place during the waxing of the moon as ceremonies held during the waning phase are bad luck. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays are lucky days for weddings.

On the morning of the nuptials, Kate's mum shall serve everyone a stiff glass of gin at ten o'clock in the morning and the wedding party shall be led down to the church by a piper who has attached ribbons to his instrument.

'Hansel', that is pieces of cheese and bread shall be served immediately after the party arrive back at the bride's house and a bridecake of oats and caraway seeds shall be broken over poor Kate's head. This cake contains yet another ring and a button. The girl who finds the ring shall soon be wed herself and the boy who finds the button shall be a bachelor forever.

And then the dancing.

The Bride's Cog

As the evening progresses a 'cog' full of a heady mixture of home brew, whisky, sugar and spices shall be passed around the wedding party, all of whom shall take a drink.

Kate shall then retire to her boudoir to change for bed, whereupon male members of the wedding party, having secreted themselves within and without the chamber, shall burst out and try to steal bits of her wedding finery. Kate shall have taken some beefy, older women up with her to combat this assault, however, and a fight to the death shall ensue.

The cog shall return, full of plain ale this time, two hours after everyone has gone to bed as Kate's mother visits all the party guests in their bed rooms and offers them another drink just in case they are not quite steaming enough to have passed out completely. This revelry shall continue for the next two days or until the drink runs out.

I can't wait to watch it all unfold.

Photographs from the Tom Kent collection and information from Walter Traill Dennison's Orkney Weddings and Wedding Customs.

Monday 15 November 2010

Happy Birthday Orcadian!

The featured archive for today is the supplement to the 125th anniversary edition of The Orcadian. It appeared on the 15th of November 1979.

The Orcadian newspaper was actually first published on the 14th of November 1854 by James Urqurt Anderson. The Orcadian firm was already in existence as a bookbinding and printing service.

The supplement looks over the advent of North Sea oil and its effects on the island, the demonstrations against Uranium mining and the concerns of population drift. The most depressing section, however is entitled 'cost of living'.

Here, the author complains that whereas a first class stamp had been but tuppence ha'penny when the centenary edition was published in 1954, it now cost TEN PENCE to send a letter. It is further pointed out while a bottle of whisky had been about 20 shillings, a consumer was now set back by around £5. Further more 'A good, sound stone-built two-storey house in Kirkwall with garage, greenhouse, storage space and a biggish garden could have been had for a little over £3000 in the early fifties. The price today is much more likely to be in the £40,000 bracket.' Good lord.

Thursday 11 November 2010


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Documents relating to the war service of Pte. W. C. Robertson reference D1/257

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Domestic Intelligence

Here's a few quirky articles from around Britain that we have found in The Orkney Herald from December 1861 under the headline: Domestic Intelligence. The first tells the story of a poor young lady suffering from a problem that maybe not many people would have heard of in the 1860s, see if you can guess what it is before the end of the article.

The second snippet reports to us almost like an Agatha Christie novel the horrific story of a murder of a soldier in Aldershott.

The last one has to be the best headline I have ever seen and sounds like a super gathering! Aren't you sad that you weren't able to go to the Festival of Reformed Drunkards in Leeds' Victoria Hall on Friday night?

These snippets were all found in The Orkney Herald newspaper for 3rd December 1861, page 2, columns 5 & 6.

Friday 5 November 2010

Oooh oooh ooh oooh oooh...

The obvious subject for a post today would, of course, be Guy Fawkes a.k.a. Bonfire Night. Therefore, I dutifully searched our catalogues and bookshelves for mentions of relevant traditions/folklore/reminiscences.

The only thing that I could find, however, was an audio tape made in 1976 of a BBC programme called Island Calendar, which Ernest Walker Marwick used to make. The notes for the programme say:

(Guy Fawkes) 5th of November. Total alien - not traditional.

Indeed, the next traditional celebration would be Martinmas on the 11th of November but that date is now better known for being Remembrance day. So all that I can show you is this photograph of fireworks taken during a Stromness shopping week.

I don't really know where I'm going with this... basically that there's nothing to see here... It's Friday afternoon, let's dance around with Patti Labelle with her tip-top hit 'New Attitude'.

Point to your clothes when she sings "new dress!" Point to your head when she sings "new hair!" Gesture with your index finger like a sassy lady on the Ricki Lake show when she sings "Brand new ideas as a matter of fact I've chaaaaanged for good."

Happy bonfire night!