Tuesday 18 December 2012

Don't Fear The Spinsterhood...

We love It's A Wonderful Life here at Orkney Library and Archive, don't get us wrong, but there is one scene in particular which irks us a little:

Yes, we are all spinsters, yes, we all wear spectacles and yes we dress like our grans but no librarian or archivist would ever, ever break into a run.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Come Back Sun! (Whatever we did or said, we're SORRY!)

The only way to describe the weather in Kirkwall today is the noise "UUUUUUUUURRRRRRGGGGHHHH!"

How wet, how cold, how windy, and dark. Not even the reappearance of our flock of waxwings outside the window can lift our soggy, water-logged hearts.

Thank goodness for Stromness library's wonderful advent calendar then which has been filling our days with cosy, Christmas cheer and reminding us of classic children's serials such as The Box Of Delights and The Children of Greene Knowe.

We therefore humbly remind you dear readers of the1988 BBC adaptation of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe which is the final member of the holy trinity of Children's Christmas shows.

We don't have anything to do with this C. S. Lewis classic in the archive but we do have the screenplay of Margaret Tait and Peter Hollander's documentary of Perugia entitled The Lion, The Griffin and The Kangaroo as well as some lovely snapshots taken by Margaret Tait when she was living in Italy.

Screenplay ref: D97/9/6, Photographs ref: D97/29/14

Thursday 13 December 2012

Get Het Up About Hetty...

If you have time, take a look at this wonderful blog by Highland Archives Service. It is called Caithness At War and tells the story of WW2 in real time, starting from August 1939 this past August and, presumably,  continuing into 1940 when the new year arrives.

The weekly articles are illustrated by newspaper clippings and several excerpts from Henrietta 'Hetty' Munro's war time diary which we also hold here at the Orkney Archive. Have a look, do! Do! Go on! Do!

Friday 7 December 2012

Dame Difference

'I'm writing a blog about Pantomimes!' said Dusty brightly as I entered the archives.

'Are you?' I said.

Dusty stared at me coldly. 'You were supposed to say "Oh no you're not, ' " she said quietly.

'Oh no you're not!' I shouted but it was too late...

Later that day Dusty couldn't find her favourite feather duster (the pink one). 'Where is? Where is it?' she kept saying whilst dramatically 'looking' for it.

I found this strange as it was very obviously protruding from the back of her chair. 'I... I think it's maybe on your seat,' I offered, disturbed by her maniacal zeal.

Dusty promptly snatched the duster, sat down and turned to her work. That was a week ago and I've not had a word since. I thought I heard a low 'hsssssss' though and once, a very quiet 'booooooooooooooooo....'

A Cast of Cinderella (ref L4062/3)

                                           Poster advertising Kirkwall Arts Club's production of Sleeping Beauty.  
 ref D44/5/15

The South Ronaldsay Dramatic Society's 1910 production of 'The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe.'

The Cast of Panto-revue 'Cinderella or Phew It's Warm.' 

Ref D1/117/1: Script for "Cinderella - a pantomime in four acts", performed by the Red Triangle Club, Y.M.C.A., .Kirkwall. Found in a darkroom in Kirkwall library and transferred to the archives.

(The lovely dame up top is taken from the cast photos of Orphir's 1999 panto Snow White.)

Friday 30 November 2012

Touché, Touché, Away!

We are not too strict in the Orkney Archive. We tolerate chatter as long as it does not drown out our own gossipping; turn deaf ears to the mobile phones of visibly embarrassed readers and we have even been known to allow people to keep their bags by their side if they dance for us a little.

But. No drinks, no pens, no unauthorised photos and no culottes. We don't like them.

Today is the birthday of the fab Mandy Patinkin who played the greatest alcoholic, sword-slashing Spaniard of all time: Inigo Montoya. In honour of this day, if patrons break any of our rules this week then they shall feel the sharp tap of steel upon one shoulder. When they turn around, they shall be greeted by the sight of a member of the archive staff wielding a glinting sword and wearing a leather jerkin and velvet pantaloons. They shall then hear these chilling words:

"My name is archivist,
You spill your juice/write on vellum/take sneaky photo/look unbecoming

Prepare to die."

If said customer has neglected to bring their sword then they shall be provided with one and then they shall fight us to the death. Or to the pain.

Friday 23 November 2012

Do You Like Boats?

TK1561 - Stromness Harbour
 We have a new item on the Archive page of the Orkney Library & Archive website. Thanks to the work of our wonderful volunteers, we can now offer you an index to the Orkney Customs & Excise Fishing Boat Registers. You can see it here

TK1563 - Stromness Fishing Fleet
 After months of indexing work, our lovely volunteers have completed this fine list. We have ordered it alphabetically according to the name of the vessel, but you can also search the whole document for other information.
TK1569 - Kirkwall Fishing Fleet
 So, if your ancestor had a boat with the number K212, which is tucked in on the left of the picture above, then you could use the index to find out that the name of the boat was Bonnie Lassie from Sanday.

And in the picture above, if you can ignore the man at the front (who looks like he has thrown the lid of that box in the water) and find 1318K, you can discover in the index that its name was Laju and it was owned and skippered by Samuel Jones in 1893 and James Walls in 1906.

The Guide to Records in the Nation Archives of Scotland webpage states that:

"Ships and fishing boats must be registered in a port of registry before they can be navigated. Local customs officers frequently maintained shipping registers and sea fishing boat registers on behalf of the Registrar-General of Seamen from 1786, and surviving registers of these ports are included among the Customs and Excise records. Though the information contained in shipping registers can vary, they usually record the names of ships, their owners and changes in ownership, the ship's master and a basic description of the vessel, including the year it was built and its size and tonnage."

We have not included the extra information in the index, but if you are curious to know more about the fishing boat, then you can visit us to see the original book or ask us to look it up for you.

Thursday 1 November 2012


The 1st of November is a sad day for Movember widows. Women and men whose special menfriends' faces are usually cloaked in a lovely, beardy foliage were confronted this morning with weak jawlines, chin spots and hitherto unsuspected moles.

The challenge of starting the month of November clean-shaven and letting only the mustachios grow freely is for a very good cause. However, as a firm believer that hair is like black fabric; slimming, stylish and a perfect hiding place for food stains, this venture does sadden me somewhat.

Lovers of the hirsute! Fans of Mr Twit! Let us celebrate the marvellous face thatch that is soon to decorate the faces of our loved ones with these fab pictures from the Orkney Photographic Archive...



Like a stern walrus...

A frothy concoction...

That is one warm top lip...

Like an upside down woodland . On a chin.

Photos of Ernest Shearer (1878-1945), James Sutherland, Fred Shearer (1874 - 1955), James Shearer, William Shearer (1877 - c.1902) and Rev. James Stuart, ordained 1868, died 1883.)

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Hello Hallowe'en!

This year's Hallowe'en archive is a letter from Margaret Robertson of Buttquoy Kirkwall to her older brother Duncan telling him about her Hallowe'en plans.

We always enjoy wee Madge's letters as she does not hold back. One unfortunate acquaintance of the family is charmingly referred to as 'an old pig' in this particular missive dating from 1875. We are also treated to the tale of the untimely death of Whity the fat, turnip - munching rabbit.

Tonight we shall be hiding in the house, eating the guisers' sweets and shaking our fists impotently as our door and windows are festooned with eggs and flour.

Orkney Archive Reference D99/3/1/16

Monday 29 October 2012

A Classic One-liner!

Here's a spooky picture for Halloween Week that's so clever I just can't believe it!

I really hope it wasn't a true likeness, as I would not like to meet this woman (?) on a dark night...

This photograph of a picture is taken from the Tom Kent Collection, reference L683/1.

Thursday 18 October 2012

Welcome Alison!

We have been very remiss of late and have failed to post quite as often as we should like. Therefore, better late than never, please let us now introduce Orkney Library and Archive's new Reader in Residence:
 Alison Miller.

The reader in residence does not,as the name would suggest, live in the library but there is a cupboard full of Bookbug Rhyme Time cushions and plenty of complimentary coffee granules kicking about so this is a possibility for the future.

Alison is the author of the 2005 novel Demo which was highly praised on its publication. She is probably prouder of her other great claim to fame, however; winner of the Archive Trail during our inaugural Discovery Week in 2007.

Alison shall be blogging here and tweeting here throughout the year and is also hoping to speak to users of the library about their experiences of reading.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

George! Mackay! Brown!

It is the anniversary of the wonderful George Mackay Brown's birth today. He would have been 91.

We used to feel a little silly as an archive because, until recently, we did not really have many documents relating to one of Orkney's best known authors. A couple of letters and a few copies of the magazine he edited whilst at Eastbank hospital and that was about it.

However, as posted here in December, we are now lucky enough to hold 21 boxes of letters, poems and stories by the great man on permanent loan. The collection holds the reference D124 and is ready to view.

Friday 5 October 2012

Orcrime 2012

Orcrime is nearly here! Orkney's first Crime festival begins on Thursday the 11th of October and details of events can be seen here.

The archive are preparing a crime display which includes a recounting of the case of Caleb Isbister. Some draft pictures can be seen below:

To find out Caleb's crime and punishment, pop in next week to see the display!

Wednesday 19 September 2012

True Story...

William and Kate were furious. No honestly, they were really, really angry.

Kate just phoned a minute ago to book some time onto the library public pcs as William and her are planning an Orkney stop-off on their way back from the South Pacific.

"Sorry Kate," we said, "but the public PCs will have no internet access on Tuesday the 25th and Wednesday the 26th of September due to essential maintenance."

"But how are Wills and I going to play Farmville when we're there???!!" Kate fumed. "Wills needs to harvest his tomatoes! This is unbelievable... we're giving Orkney back to Norway and that's that!"

"Chill out K-Mid, the Wifi will be fine.You can bring in your laptops"

"Thank goodness for that, you shall remain Scottish. For now..."

I wonder what they'll do when they realise that we've moved the reference room upstairs...

Tuesday 18 September 2012

All Aboard The Marge Barge...

Yeah, 1940s woman! If there's anything that really enrages me it is unfounded prejudice against spreads. I overheard my friend's grandmother disparaging Olivio once and I punched her in the face.

All adverts taken from 1939 editions of The Orcadian.

Saturday 15 September 2012

At Least It's Neat...

I was shocked to see the casual and seemingly extraneous use of a swastika in an ad for the Orcadian printing office, especially in 1939. "Maybe people were not too bothered by it before the Second World War started", I mused.


Those pesky type-setting machines, getting all 'creative' and embarrassing their human overlords!

Wednesday 12 September 2012

You're Just Grandy, Andy!

Look at all these thrilled Orkney tennis players who are as delighted as we are that Andy Murray has won the US Open!

" I stayed up with my mum to watch and we high-fived and big-tenned until 6 in the morning!"

"You're almost better than a cup of tea Andy!"

"We only have one tennis racket left between us... we broke the rest pretending that they were guitars!"

"We're still drunk!"

"We're Djokovic fans."

(The first three photos show members of Kirkwall tennis club, no dates, the fourth was taken on Westray on the 20th of August 1954 and the last shows the opening day for Stromness tennis club, July 1934.

Friday 7 September 2012

Great Scott

It seems appropriate, while the Paralympics are in full swing, to post about Hettie Scott, a Harray lass who achieved more than most able-bodied people despite having no hands and being unable to walk.

Hettie learned to write, paint, knit and crochet using only her feet and, more importantly, she mastered the art of drinking a cup of tea with the saucer in her left foot and the cup in her right. Hettie says in her short autobiography Brightening Her Corner, that tea was one of her favourite things, a confession which we heartily applaude here at Orkney Archive.

Hettie was particularly talented at both painting and needlework and favoured scenes of animals and flowers which often illustrated biblical texts. Hettie was uncomplaining about her limitations but was no po-faced martyr. Her book made me snigger three times.

Hettie was born in 1878 and passed away at the age of 70 in 1958.

Photograph reference L7081/4,
Brightening Her Corner reference D1/882/7/3,
Letter addressed by Hettie D31/1/1/22.

Saturday 1 September 2012

Bovril Is Liquid. Cocoa is Liquid. Both are Brown.

One cannot help but feel that the advertisers of these hot drinks have gotten a little over excited...

All adverts taken from 1909 editions of The Orcadian