Thursday 30 September 2010

Jeans For Genes

Tomorrow it will be that special day again:  a fundraiser for Jeans For Genes, which provides care and support for children with genetic disorders.

Each year, Orkney Library and Archive staff slave over hot ovens on the last evening of September and festoon the staff room with delicious homebakes of great variety and deliciousness. These tasty treats are then grudgingly sold on to the library and archive visitors to raise money for the charity.


But wait, there's more. Not only will you have the opportunity to be served tea and cake if you visit us tommorrow, but you shall be served by staff wearing stylish, tight-fitting denim trousers which shall display the enviable figures that we keep under wraps all the rest of the year for fear of driving readers mad with lust.

Double mmmm.....

It's because 'jeans' sounds like 'genes' you see? We all pay £2 to wear our jeans and then that raises further funds.

So come along! Eat cake, drink tea, leer at library staff! It's all for a great cause...

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Just When You Thought That Bran Based Cereal Couldn't Get More Depressing.....

Hi, my name's Henry. When a leading food manufacturer asked me to appear in a nationwide newspaper advertising campaign in 1955, I was thrilled. I mean, who wouldn't be? Look at the men pictured above; they look great! Straddling pylons, pointing at us while puffing on pipes, giving cheery, masculine waves in their well-cut suits... "Sign me up!", I cried, "I can't wait to look suave! I'm going to phone my mum!"

Here is my ad:

When I first saw it, I was a little disappointed. I thought that the whole constipation thing was embarrassing and I was troubled by what seemed to me to be a sad, empty desperate void behind my eager-to-please eyes.

My mum told me that I'm being silly, however, and that I look just as smart as all those other guys. She's sent copies of the advert to all our friends and family and, when they laugh hysterically, Mum just tells me that they're jealous.

Thanks Mum!

All adverts taken from September 1955 editions of The Orcadian.

Monday 27 September 2010

Items that will never be asked for...? No.1

"Instructions on How to Hatch Lobsters Artificially in Neilson's Floating Incubators in Newfoundland" Dated 1901.

While looking for something else I found this juicy archive item that will sadly never be asked for unless we happen to get some very enthusiastic lobster researchers from Canada.

Point 14 states that: "The young lobsters should be dipped out from the incubators into a bucket of clean sea-water, a day or two after they are hatched, and be planted - that is to be carried away and liberated in the sea - in sheltered places, where there is plenty of goose-grass or sea-weed, and where pure salt water is found. In planting them they should be scattered as much as possible, and not be put in one place in a heap."

Got that?

If you are interested in seeing the whole document, the reference number is D19/7/12/4.

Friday 24 September 2010

Thursday 23 September 2010

More massive excitement...

Thank you Family History Monthly! (Although pedantry compels me to point out that we are primarily an archive blog.)

Wednesday 22 September 2010

We've been written to by Paul and Mary!!!!

The Orkney Library and Archive is divided into two factions at the moment. One group of staff members found a BBC recipe booklet in their pigeon holes this morning and thought "that'll come in handy", but the rest of us are rolling on the floor with the Great British Bake Off tie-in books clutched to our chests, whooping with joy.

Those of us who watched this almost perfectly conceived program which reunited Light Lunch duo Mel and Sue and put them in charge of a round Great Britain bake-off, LOVED it. We moaned with horror when David forgot to put egg yolks in his souffles, we squirmed when Ruth got told off for the size of her scones and we tutted crossly as Jas put Mars bars in her pastries.

Incidentally, did anyone else wonder if Mel got any spit on her face when she said "but these are amateur bakers we're judging" and Paul Hollywood leant over the table and said "Yes, but it's the BESSSTT amateur bakers."? They deliberated the final result for over three hours! It was intense!

Anyway, the book is a delight. It begins with a SIGNED letter to the reader from expert baker Paul Hollywood and Doyenne of Cookbooks Mary Berry.
This unexpected honour is followed by recipes for Mary's lemon souffle and Victoria sponge and Paul's scones and Cob Bread. The last section of the book contains common baking questions like "Why is my bread heavy and stodgy?" or "Why are my scones hard and dry?". These questions are answered.

This post may seem completely irrelevant to our work here in the building and, well, it is. However, we do have a Jeans for Genes day coming up which shall require the staff to do some home-baking in order to raise funds on the day. These wonderful books shall help...

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Wishing I Lived in 1884...

Whilst looking through 1884 papers for Australian emigration adverts, I found these delights:

Why are scientists spending cancer research money on wasteful laboratory work? They should just travel back in time to 1884 and pick up some Clarke's Blood Mixture.

Some subliminal advertising, cunningly hidden in the midst of news. Excuse me, I've got a powerful craving for some Hops Bitters....

The poshest, most thrilling column of news ever: pirates, duels and dukes!

Some useful fashion and beauty tips for lovely ladies...

Information taken from Orkney Heralds dated 9th, 23rd and 30th of January and an Orcadian dated the 19th of January 1884.

Monday 20 September 2010

'Oui....un petit, petit, petit peu...'

It has been a cultural day at Orkney Archives.

First of all, our valiant leader has returned from France bearing a load of French delicacies. After we had all struggled to open the little sealed packets which the tartlets came in, we munched contemplatively whilst making mmmmmm noises. Proud that we could remember the word for 'cherries' from French at school, we  crossed off 'gastronomic appreciation' on the fancy pass-time list in our heads.

Next, I felt smug when a customer came in to enquire about the Melsetter house papers. He was researching the visit of two members of the Bloomsbury Group, painter Duncan Grant and economist John Maynard Keynes to the house in 1908. "Ah" I said nodding my head knowledgeably, "yes, economist John Maynard Keynes...". The customer does not need to know that the sum total of my knowledge is that there was once an economist called John Maynard Keynes.

Anyway, Keynsian theory was recently re embraced by Western economies and is behind the fiscal stimulation idea that if we all just keep spending like fools then everything will come out in the wash (to summarise.) Thanks wikipedia.

Literature was crossed off when researching an enquiry on the genealogy of the Orkney Earldom. A customer was keen to find out if the poetic talents of both Rognvald Eysteinson and his son Turf Einar, were passed down to their descendants. I could not find any evidence of this until I came upon this poem by the excellently named Snaekoll Gunnason:

The Poet complains of being captured while on business in Norway

I shall never,
though I live for ever,
ask for business
in South Moer,
since enemies
took me from there
to Bergen
at the king's command.


Here is my poem in homage :

The poet complains about being aggressively sale-pitched whilst visiting the bank.

I shall never,
though I live forever,
use a credit card
for my Lovefilm,
nor do I want
to buy a mortgage,
as I have one.
Stop reading my purchase history.

That will show them, I think.

Friday 17 September 2010

Cool, Code-Like Letters

I am enjoying writing Old Norse words today.  For instance vaðill, meaning 'ford', which has an interesting letter called eth in it which is written like this: ð
You can read more about it here.

It is found in Icelandic and Faroese words and was used in Old English and some Scandanavian languages. I first came across it when helping to catalogue Gunnie Moberg prints last year. Several of the photographs are beautiful Faroese landscapes and some depict the whale hunting that still goes on up there.

There was quite a lot of blood in the whale hunting photographs so I was concentrating quite strenuously on the titles of the photographs in a bid to quell my wussy hand-sweating.

Although Orkney has been part of Scotland since 1468, there are still a lot of Old Norse words scattered across the maps and hidden in everyday language.

'Ness', found at the end of Stromness, Grimness and Lyness is derived from Old Norse, as is 'setter', the suffix of Melsetter and Grimsetter. 'Setter' is derived from setr which, according to Hugh Marwick, means dwelling place or homestead.

In Gregor Lamb's Orkney Wordbook, the derivation of 'flitting' is given as the Old Norse word flyja, to carry, and 'geo' is traced back to gjá, a chasm. (Look! I managed to type an acute accent on the a and everything.)

Information taken from Gregor Lamb's Orkney Wordbook and Hugh Marwick's Orkney Farm Names.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Archives in the Movies

We are currently feeling inspired by/ jealous of Glasgow University Archive's brill new tour video. (See Below).

It makes archiving look so cool (which, ahem, it  totally is) what with the spookily lit busts, stylish nerd spec and white glove fashion statements and people keeking down tubes at the camera.

We are going to do one too, but it may not look as slick as Glasgow's. We shall make up for the mobile phone footage, however, by injecting the proceedings with some fab musical numbers. The main emphasis shall of course be showing all the various spaces and resources of Orkney Archive, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for a melodramatic sub-plot involving long lost twin brothers, an evil baron trying to introduce paper chewing mould to the strongrooms and a song and dance finale involving strings of plastic paper clips, desk lamps and ra-ra skirts made of acid free paper.

Monday 13 September 2010

Our Socks Are Wet!

Uggghhh!!! What a wet, miserable and yet horribly airless and sweaty day it is in Kirkwall!! Uggghhhhh!!!!

Let's look at nice drawings of St Magnus Cathedral by Henry Dryden:

These lovely images can be found in the Orkney Room in a large, bound edition.

Friday 10 September 2010

Oh 1938 Ad-men, What Were You Thinking?

First of all, whoever is letting that baby hold a steaming tea cup of Oxo needs a visit from Social Services yesterday.

Secondly, Oxo with milk is not 'especially good', it is 'almost unfeasably rank.'

The End.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Wednesday 8 September 2010

A Confession...

We get a lot of visitors each year who are researching family members who were stationed in Orkney during war time. Although we hold some interesting books and documents which illustrate the general themes and feelings of the time, we do not hold service records or specific information about military or naval personnel.

The place to go for that kind of thing is the National Archives at Kew, Surrey. This page shows the sort of information that is available there.

I thought that it would be useful to point this out as quite a lot of visitors are disappointed by the lack of personal information that we hold on the many men and women who spent their wars on the islands.

We do make up for the lack of cold, hard fact with lots of pictures of jolly parties though, look:

Stanger Head, Flotta, 1st World War.

Hatston Camp, Christmas 1947

Navy Camp at Yesnaby, 1943.

UPDATE: We are working to correct this. Some years ago we started a database and gathered a group of volunteers together to compile it. They painstakingly trawled through our archive items and if they spotted any service personnel mentioned, they added the information to the database. So, we may not have troop movements or know exactly they were based in Orkney, but we may know if they won a boxing match, appeared in a photo or starred in a play. (Dusty, 2024)

Tuesday 7 September 2010


We received a new donation yesterday. Three photographs, possibly of classes from Harray School, possibly taken in the late 1950s/early 60s.

Can anyone help us out with the dates and put names to the faces? Any info at all would be greatly appreciated.

Monday 6 September 2010

Happy Bloggiversary To Us...

On the 4th of September, which fell on a Saturday this year, many historic events can be celebrated: it is the day in 1666 when the Great Fire of London wreaked its most extensive damage and, on the same day in 1884, Great Britain finally stopped it's penal transportation to New South Wales.

In 1964, the Forth Road Bridge became the longest suspension bridge in Europe and in 1981 a child was born who would grow up to teach the world that dancing about in public clad in little more than bits of glittery string was not, as previously thought, a bit odd, but actually a very good idea indeed.

It is a day of internet celebrations too. In 1998, Google was founded by two students at Stanford University and on the 4th of September 2009, this blog finally started to post in earnest. (We are conveniently forgetting the 3rd of September when we uploaded a bunch of pre-written blog posts without knowing how to back-date them.)

Hoorah! Happy birthday to us! Thank you for reading our sometimes informative, sometimes amazingly irrelevant musings this past year.

Our gifts to you, dear readers, are a)

A pretty picture from the back of A Stromness Distillery leaflet.


A drawing taken from a letter dated 1806.

and c)

Some cool seals.

Friday 3 September 2010

Orkney Explorers Are Go...

Dr John Rae, arctic explorer, and his wife.

Our new exhibition, Orkney Explorers - Journeys For Ideas and Places, is finally ready to be viewed by the public.

We had to erect an X-factor style maze of barriers in front of the library to contain all the rabid exhibition fans this morning and it was quite hard to go about our usual morning routine whilst ignoring the increasingly blue faces pressing up against the glass and soundlessly mouthing "let us in! We hear you have illustrations by Robert Rendall on view!"

The exhibition ties into a number of Orkney Science Festival Talks including Pride Without Prejudice - a look at Mary Brunton's links with Jane Austen and with revolutions in science and society and Orkney and the Royal Society, which looks at Murdoch Mackenzie, John Rae and other Orcadians.

The Mary Brunton talk takes place at Skaill House on Sunday the 5th at 5pm and the Royal Society talk is at King Street Halls on Wednesday the 8th of September at 5.15pm.

There is also an event which complements the library's very own Monday Night Murders Reading Group - Murder, Mystery and Microscopes. This includes a book signing at the Orkney Sheriff Court by Ann Cleeves followed by a talk by forensic experts at the King Street Halls. The evening starts at 7.30pm on Monday the 6th of September.

This is completely unrelated to the science festival, but visions of cheese scones are dancing through my head. Yes, THE scone has made another celebrated appearance in the tea room and it took every ounce of my self restraint not to eat two. Stupid self restraint...

Thursday 2 September 2010

The Kids Were Alright

We had a visit from a very well behaved Primary 7 class from Glaitness School on Tuesday to tie in with our recent schools exhibition. Read about it here on their excellent class blog.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Scandal and Meringues

Apologies for the lack of posts this week, we have staff on holiday and lots of customers to speak to.
We are also working tirelessly to get our Orkney Science Festival exhibition together. Its title is: Orkney Explorers - Journeys For Ideas and Places.

The exhibition ties into a number of science festival talks and events and looks at John Rae, Murdoch Mackenzie, Magnus Spence, Mary Brunton, Robert Rendall, F. Marian McNeill, T. S. Traill and William Balfour Baikie.

It is not a vast array of documents, just our usual display board and glass case combo, but there are some very interesting objects and documents included such as Robert Rendall's teenage nature notes, samples of local flora sent through the post to Magnus Spence and a letter written by the love child of Thomas Balfour.

Yup, that's scholarly endeavours, dusty old plants and delicious scandal covered in one small exhibition. Photos shall follow soon.

The main events of today were the triumph of one of our staff members in the OIC fun day raffle (well done Sydney!) and the appearance of Carol-from-Stromness's magnificent meringues in our staff room as mentioned here.

And for all of you who were wondering, they looked a little something like this:

Above is just a stock photo from the internet. I considered photographing the real meringues but couldn't as they were all gone. Thanks Carol!