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.)