Friday 29 October 2010

Stop It Right NOW, 'The Autumnwatches...'

Northern viewers of the very wonderful Autumnwatch may have been puzzled by a low-level rumbling which seems to occur intermittently throughout the program. It seems to be occurring directly before and after Gordon Buchanan's reports from the Orcadian island of Stronsay where he has been filming and swimming with seals and their pups.

That sound, non-Orkney dwellers, is the sound of many teeth being ground in mortified frustration each time Kate and Chris refer to Orkney as 'the Orkneys'. It is just Orkney. Not 'The Orkneys'. Just Orkney.

 I don't know why everyone up here is reduced to such violent, spit-flecking conniptions whenever this moniker is applied to our home, but we are. And it has to stop. No amount of cosy shots of Chris and Kate slowly falling in love over their mugs of tea in front of a bright, crackling fire can make up for this persistent trauma.

If all of this seal watching has wetted your seal-appetites, then pop into the Orkney Archive. We have natural history tomes on the grey seal in the Orkney Room, selkie folklore books and a poem or two on the mythical sea-people who shed their seal skins when they came ashore.

There is also a vast amount of information on the 1978 protests against the seal culls in Orkney. In the late 1970s, the fishing industry was blaming annual losses of £12 million on the fish munching creatures and there were great concerns about the growth of population.

The archive holds letters, papers, reports and much correspondence between then Orkney and Shetland MP Jo Grimond, members of the Orkney Field Club and various government officials. In 1978, a massive campaign of protests, press and 14,000 letters to Downing Street led to a reduction in the number of grey seals to be culled.

We also have a compilation audio tape containing a talk on grey seals by Dr Paul Heppleston, 2 sea-people legends, the reminiscences of a local man who saw two sea-monsters, Angus Findlater singing 'The Grey Selkie of Sule Skerry', Walter Traill Dennison's story 'The Selkie That Didna Forget' and Selkie based tunes played by Allie Windwick and Ronnie Aim.

The Selkie: A Legend of Orkney by Anonymous.( Reference: D31/1/3/9)

Orkney Field Club reference: D41
Compilation tape reference: OSA C14

Thursday 28 October 2010

So Long...

Today we bid a sad farewell to the Orkney Today newspaper. Financial circumstances originally indicated a closure in December, but this has been brought forward and the final edition is now published.

In 2003, Orkney Today filled the gap left  by the 1960 closure of the Orkney Herald and has been a popular read ever since. The original remit from founder Ken Amer was for a paper that took a positive look at Orkney and published 'light and punchy' articles. Ken's photographic background also ensured that the paper has always been packed with full-colour images.

First edition of The Orkney Today

The picture on this first front cover of the paper is hard to make out but that is a good thing. It is a photo of Ken Amer holding a copy of the paper which shows a picture of Ken Amer holding a copy of the paper, which shows a picture of Ken Amer holding a copy of the paper, which shows a picture of Ken Amer holding a copy of the paper...

Printing this terrifying vortex on the front of their first edition was a brave move and was not repeated again as several Orcadians were driven mad by it and there was some suing.

The newspaper reported on many library events and we thank the staff for all of their support over the years.

This closure shall be hard for some and if any readers feel like reminiscing over old editions whilst weeping softly, we have all of the back issues on microfilm in the archive searchroom.

The launch of the paper.

Pages taken from the  Orkney Today dated 3rd of October 2003 and 10th of October 2003.

Friday 22 October 2010

Great Scott!!

Today is the birthday of Christopher Lloyd, known to many film fans as Doctor Emmet Brown of the Back to The Future Trilogy.

In tribute, I dug out this Sooan Sids column by Ernest Walker Marwick which was published by the Orkney Herald on the 26th of May 1959.

It is a short piece of fiction set in Orkney 2011. In this alternative future, towns have no names, churches have no use and the town of Kirkwall is covered by a concrete roof which doubles as a car park. Mothers leave their children to grow up in incubato-schools, the citizens of Orkney consume pills and vitamin water at an eato-refresho and the spire of St Magnus Cathedral has been removed to make way for a helicopter port.

There is also a healthy smattering of Anti-American feeling throughout with the unsympathetic, pro-progress character beginning her sentences with 'Gee' and a comparison between the replacement of old buildings with new and the gold teeth of Americans: "Quite, quite incongruous and Oh so ugly." Nice.

Mr Marwick need not have worried. Although some town-centre gardens sadly have been sacrificed for car parks, the buildings on the main streets are, for the most part, sympathetic and appropriate. His fearful predictions of 'big yellow signs' and flashing advertising hoardings have also not come to pass.

We still do not have a MacDonalds in Orkney which is, quite frankly, an amazing achievement as even tiny Tazmanian backwaters seem to have a franchise and the lack of advertising space is also to be commended. We do have a big, shiny new Tescos though which few can resist.

Damn you Tescos with your spacious aisles, cheap shoes and vast array of napkins and party hats...

Article reference D31/47/7/56 or Orkney Herald 26th May 1959.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Quick Poptastic Quiz

Which of these 80s popstrels has penned two of the tomes in our beloved Orkney Room?

Is it a) Nik Kershaw?

Is it b), Alison Moyet?

Is it c), Julian Cope?

Is it d), Clare Grogan?

Is it e), Chris Rea?

Or is it f), Sinitta?

The first person to guess shall receive an Orkney library and archive coaster and large paperclip set. Try to contain yourselves.

(Clue: It is his or her birthday today...)

Wednesday 20 October 2010

You Basic Slaaaaag!

Vintage readers of this blog shall already know how much this 1940s ad campaign freaked us out. On this day in 1953 the company took things further with the creepy Wright's Biscuits child emerging from a television screen like that girl in The Ring whilst muttering " I'm Nuts. Ginger Nuts."

It would surely be more effective if the slogan was " I'm nuts, for ginger nuts".

I can only speak for myself, but a picture of a leering child proclaiming their mental illness does not make me in the least bit peckish.


The next time I feel the need to give a person a piece of my mind, the first insult which rolls off my tongue shall be inspired by this simple advert.

Adverts taken from The Orcadian dated 20th October 1953.

Monday 18 October 2010

George Mackay Brown

Yesterday was the anniversary of George Mackay Brown's birth. He would have been 89. Orkney Archive do not hold GMB's papers*, unfortunately, as they still reside with his executors, but we do have a few relevant archives.

We hold some of his correspondence, mainly with Ernest Walker Marwick, some B.B.C. scripts which were written for programs on Orkney and several recordings of the poet either reading his own works or talking about the work of others such as Edwin Muir.

A personal favourite, is the set of Saga magazines which George Mackay Brown edited during his stay at Eastbank tuberculosis hospital. Originally an unsophisticated, hand-typed effort with cardboard covers, the third  edition was printed by the local newspapers and made available outside of the hospital. The magazines contain poems, songs, articles, journal extracts, short stories and a murder mystery by fellow patients as well as Brown himself. The magazines ran from the summer of 1953 and the summer of 1954 and there are 5 in total.

We have also found a photograph of the young poet amongst our school class photos from Stromness. Can you spot him in the third row?

Saga magazines reference: D1/296
*In 2012 we received, on permanent loan, 21 boxes of GMB's papers. For a contents list click on this link.

Monday 11 October 2010

The Aftermath...

Orkney Library and Archive was a shameful sight yesterday morning. The corridors were strewn with burst balloon skins, torn streamers and empty wine bottles, two members of staff were discovered passed out amongst the Mills and Boons and a sad pair of underpants swung slowly from a light fitting.

At least that would be the case if we were not nerdy librarian/archivists who did most of their tidying up on Saturday night. It was Alison's leaving do and the staff gathered to eat, drink and make merry. Homebakes were produced, speeches were made and gifts were presented.

It was a very pleasant, if emotional, evening. Anyone who claims they didn't feel a little moist around the eyes during Alison's speech was either crying a river inside, has a heart of cold, cold steel or is a liar.

Plenty of pictures were taken on the night but it is yet to be established whether they can ever be shown in public. Instead, this post is illustrated with two photos of a staff leaving do which took place just after the Second World War. These pictures were taken when the catering facilities at Lyness were closing so it was a leaving do for all of the staff.

It looks pretty similar to Saturday night's do except we didn't have any hats and they don't seem to have limbo dancing dogs as waiters.

Photographed by: J.W. Sinclair.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Lists of Orkney Plants by Dr. John T. Boswell-Syme

For all you nature lovers, here's an interesting addition to our Archive.

It is a booklet of three letters containing lists of Orkney Plants written by Dr. John Thomas Boswell-Syme in 1850. They include comments about the places where he has seen the plants in Orkney and elsewhere in Scotland.
Letter 1a) from Swanbister, Orkney, 25th December 1850
Letter 1b) from 84 Great King Street, Edinburgh, 21st August 1850
Letter 1c) from 84 Great King Street, Edinburgh, 24th September 1850

According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (which is available through the library website) John Thomas Irvine Boswell, (1822–1888), botanist, was born John Thomas Irvine Boswell Syme at 4 Queen Street, Edinburgh, on 1 December 1822, the son of Patrick Syme (1774-1845), a flower painter of repute, and Elizabeth, daughter of Claud Irvine Boswell of Balmuto. Both his parents were keen naturalists and gave him every encouragement to collect plants, insects, and shells.

In 1849 Syme spent a holiday with relations in Orkney, and the following winter he read a paper about his finds there to the Botanical Society of Edinburgh. He made such an impression that he was appointed honorary curator of the society's herbarium.

If you are interested in seeing more, our archive reference is D1/1088/1.

Monday 4 October 2010

Totaliser Update

The final sum from Stromness is now in and our grand, final Jeans for Genes day total is:

That is £80.17 more than last year.

Well done cake-bakers and cake-munchers both

Totaliser 2010

Our Jeans for Genes fundraising on Friday brought in £180.48, which is fantastic. It is £55.20 more than our efforts last year.

This result is particularly impressive when you take Friday's weather into account. Gales and rain did not stop our eager, cake-seeking visitors and we are very grateful to everyone who took part and gave generously.

Thank you!

Friday 1 October 2010

We Are Weeping and Eating at the Same Time.

Today is our Principal Archivist, Alison's,  last day. This is sad for us as she has been so great to work with, but the hundreds of cakes are helping with the pain.

I was talking to my good friend Elvis Costello last night and he's gutted that Alison's leaving. "She practically built that archive from scratch!", he cried, "it just won't be the same without her!"

"I know", I said, " I'd like to put some manner of tribute to her on our blog. In the past, I have altered the words to popular songs to mark certain days, but I can't think of any that are appropriate here."

Elvis was oddly quiet during the rest of our conversation, refusing all offers of crisps and merely grunting when I tried to discuss the AMAZING fight between Janine and Stacey in last night's Eastenders. I couldn't help feeling that I'd offended him somehow. Can't think how.

Anyway, I finally remembered the song 'Alison'. I can't remember who wrote it, but it fits quite well.

Oh it's so funny that you're leaving after so long, Boss
But with the early mornings and the dust,
We all understand.
And I heard you plan to make some tasty soup...
...we like cake here too...
We're not going to get too sentimental
'Cos you're not going to be far away.
And  we will phone you when we get stuck with something... we'll be talking every day

Alison, you know that we will sure miss you.
Oh Alison, Bye, Toodle-oo

You don't need to deal with customers now.
Oh will you miss the endless copying
taking up your day?
You used to run this place all by yourself,
Hope we manage when you're away.
Sometimes we wish that we could stop you from leaving
When we see the piles of stuff to do.
I think we'll just all have to pull our fingers out
and look forward to your leaving do.

Alison, you know that we will sure miss you.
Oh Alison, Bye, Toodle-oo
Bye, Toodle-oo...

Come in, Look what we have for you!