Friday 20 December 2013

Time Travelling Fridays 3

We meet again for our final advent Time Travelling Friday. Today's voyager through space and time is the recently crowned BBC sports personality of the year, our fave, Andy Murray.

Although we have always been great fans of Andy's slight dourness and unwillingness to pander to the press, many have criticised poor Muzza for his supposed 'moodiness'.

Well, we can exclusively reveal that Andy's world-weariness is due to a twenty year stint spent as a grocer in late 1800s Stromness. He's just really, really tired and sick of his penny sweets getting pinched.

Peace's Almanac 1881 Trade Directory for Stromness.

Next up, Donald Sutherland, who was accused of using his actor looks and lovely voice to 'unfairly seduce' a certain Magnus Flett of Harray into the Lord Seaforth's regiment. Conspiring to 'carry him out of the country contrary to his inclination and without giving him an opportunity for a fair trial.'

Oh Donald!

Orkney Archive reference SC11/5/1778/46

Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Goat Mania !!!!!

At long last, a magazine all about goats. The years of cataloguing have been worth it.

You think that the cover is the very pinnacle of delight and then you turn to page 11 to read the article entitled 'Goat Mania'.

" Goat mania is something that grows on you unawares, but once you have it, it never leaves you..."

This is followed by an article entitled 'A Sure Sign of Insanity':

" The first clue to your impending imbalance is to THINK you might like to keep a goat... it will butt you, stand on you, just for the fun it'll kick you, belch in your face... only a female could cause so much trouble and still be loved, cherished and pampered. Well I'll be getting my own back, she's soon to go to the Billy!!"

The publication is basically a series of exhortations for people to NOT own goats which is unusually frank for an enthusiasts' journal.

One edition has a description of goat birth which is not for the faint-hearted nor for those attempting to have their afternoon tea break...

Saturday 14 December 2013

Time Travelling Fridays 2 (except on Saturday, as we wuz ill.)

Prepare to be amazed once more, as we unveil more time-travelling celebrities as your special advent treat:

Orkney Archive Sc11/5/1831/134
You may have assumed that Patrick Stewart won the role of Jean Luc-Picard because of his actorly skills but it was actually his experience of travelling through time and space to 1830s Orkney where he worked as a painter.

At one point, Patrick was taken to court over an unpaid bill of £19, 14 shillings and 5 pence. But his lawyer said that the charge was 'libellous' and actually due to a clerk writing a bill down twice by mistake. The firm later folded.

Orkney Archive reference SC11/5/1831/134

We also have completely water-tight and not at all nonsensical proof that John Snow also had a bash at the time-travel malarky and ended up being John Balfour's attorney, receiving bossy letters about bonds, notes of hand and various connected instructions.

Orkney Archive Reference D2/6/5

Friday 6 December 2013

Time Travelling Fridays

"So how will you treat us this December Orkney Archive?", we hear you cry.

"In previous years you have thrilled us with pictures of your Christmas decorations and Stromness have a proper quiz and everything. There is going to be something. Right?"

But of course, dear hearts, never fear. Faithful readers shall remember our amazing photographic evidence of Cheryl Cole's amazing, yet puzzling, trip back in time to Prince Charles' visit to the Orkney Fudge factory.

Friends, that is but the tip of the incredible iceberg which is going to blow your Christmassy minds. Please welcome... Orkney Archive's Time-Travelling Fridays.

Turns out that many of our celebrity friends have decided to pay a visit to Orkney's days of yore and we shall be bringing you the proof as an advent treat. You're totally welcome.

First up, you may think that Elizabeth Taylor was married but 8 times to merely 7 husbands, but no! She travelled back in time to fin-de-siecle Orkney, hooked up to a local lad and promptly sued him for alimony.She probably scarpered back to the late-twentieth century when she realised she was only getting £6 a year.

Orkney Archive Reference SC11/5/1910/18
Next: Frank Skinner! Not only did Frank decide to take a holiday in 1947, he also took the time to remodel the Royal Hotel in Kirkwall and, I'm sure you'll agree, did a lovely job. Cheers Frank!

Orkney Archive Reference K1/26/9

Next week, correspondence from our favourite dapper news reader and mischief from a certain space-travelling Captain. Tune in for Orkney Archives Time Travelling Fridaaaaaays!!!

Wednesday 4 December 2013

On This Day In Orkney, In 1947...

Stanley Cursitor received a letter:

Stanley Cursiter was born in Kirkwall in 1887 and died in Stromness in 1976. He was educated at Kirkwall Grammar School and Edinburgh College of Art.

He served in the First World War with the Scottish Rifles and the Fourth Field Survey Battalion where he helped to revolutionise the preparation and printing of field maps. He was awarded a military O.B.E.(see above) and was twice mentioned in dispatches.

He quickly became known as a painter of landscapes, particularly of his native Orkney. Stanley Cursiter was Keeper of the National Galleries of Scotland and later Director from 1930 - 1948. In the latter year he was appointed Her Majesty's Painter and Limner in Scotland.

On his retiral from the Galleries, he made his home in Orkney, but soon found himself engaged in a new career of portrait painting and during the next fifteen years he painted many notable people.
Among important professional tasks which he performed was the painting of the picture showing H.M. Queen receiving the Honours of Scotland in St. Giles Cathedral. This picture now hangs in Holyrood House.

He served on a number of national bodies concerned with the fine arts. He was the first secretary of the Royal Fine Arts Commission in Scotland and for some time Secretary of the Royal Scottish Academy. He was President of the Society of Scottish Artists and President of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour. He was also a member of the Council of the Royal Society in Edinburgh.

As a painter, he is represented in several permanent and many private collections. He published in 1946, under the title "Peploe", a biographical study of his friend and contemporary S.J. Peploe, and in 1948, a book on Scottish Art.

His writings, ranging from observations on the arts to stories of Orkney life appeared in various newspapers and magazines.

For his many services to Kirkwall he was given the Freedom of the City and Royal Burgh; he was a deputy Lieutenant of Orkney. He designed the gold chain of office worn by the Provosts in the latter years of Kirkwall Town Council. (The chain is presently on show in Orkney Islands Council Offices).

St. Magnus Cathedral was always a source of inspiration to him and was the subject of many of his paintings. He gave advice which resulted in the saving of the building from structural collapse and made many appeals on its behalf. He suggested the setting up of St. Rognvald's Chapel and designed the furnishings.

Description prepared by Alan Borthwick, Scottish Archive Network project

OBE letter Orkney Archive Reference D26/6/1 and photographs from the Orkney Photographic Archive.

Friday 29 November 2013

Jeez, Louise!

Today is the birth date of Louisa May Alcott and C. S. Lewis, both authors of much-loved children's classics.

It is appropriate, therefore, that the 29th of November shall evermore be synonymous with the departure of our much-loved assistant librarian (and Children's librarian) Louise. Sob! This is a very sad day for us and not just because Louise is the source of our beloved cheese scones. Double sob.

To mark this day, we shall, once again, post images from the wonderful Minervian Library which always reminds me of the March girls' Pickwick Portfolio.

Here we have the Annals of the Minervian Library which begins 'The library was instituted in 1866 for the personal amusement and occupation of the Misses J. M. B. Bremner and M. C. Cowan, LDML (Library Damsels of the Minervian Library)'.

...and this is one of the girls' illustrations...

Right, we shall now spend the rest of the afternoon weeping and changing the lyrics to 'Louie Louie' by our good friends the Maytals (sorry customers):

'Louise, Louise, Oh No! You Gotta Go! Aye-yi-yi-yi!'

References: D98/2/4/5 and D98/2/1/10

Thursday 21 November 2013

A Gentle and Loving Reminder.

Archivist: Put that pen down at once!

Customer: Ceci n'est pas un stylo.

Archivist: We do not allow pens in the archive.

Customer: Ceci n'est pas un stylo.

Archivist: You could get ink on the archives you see...

Customer: Ceci n'est pas un stylo.

Archivist: I'm not a jobsworth or anything, it just, it's so difficult to remove! Do you want to damage a priceless document?

Customer: Ceci n'est pas un stylo.

Archivist: I'm getting quite cross now.

It is the anniversary of Rene Magritte's birth. Don't use pens in our archive or you'll mak me greet. (Me greet, Magritte! Get it? Hahahahahahahah. Don't hate us...)

Saturday 16 November 2013

Stoopid Wind

Those good old Orkney gales are starting up again and, once more, we battle to work through solid wind walls, weep in front of mirrors whilst trying to comb the tangles from our hair and muse anew about running the house from a windmill.

We're a topical bunch and so a keyword search of 'wind' was duly deployed in preparation for today's blog post. Our attention was drawn to a number of mentions of 'protests against wind and weather'.

What would these protests entail? A sit-in against snow? Placards saying 'Go Home Arctic Chill!'? Reference D7/9/10 was selected as it was apparently a book full of the things.

We expected to find a book containing entries such as "Damn you wind!" Or, "Dear driving hail, you suck..." Instead this book is full of the captains of freight ships recording with a notary public any damage done to ship and cargo by forces outwith their control.

Log books were proffered to prove that they had been assailed by storms and heavy seas and fellow crewmen offered as witnesses. Some of the stories are terrifying, with skippers detailing how their ships were torn apart, piece by painstakingly recounted piece by ferocious winds and how they were forced to cut down masts to save themselves from being blown further out to sea.

The main point of these protests were to ensure that 'damage should fall on and be bourne by the Merchants or freighter interested or underwriters or whoever else it shall or may concern.' (As said by Ole Pederson, master of the barque "Emerald" which had been sailing from New York to Gottenburg but got stranded on the rocks of the Holm of Aikerness off Westray, Orkney).

Basically, the Captains are saying 'It's not my fauuuuult! Don't blame me. It was that damn wind! Stoopid wind...'

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Robert Louis Stevenson Day!

Today is the 163rd anniversary of Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, A Child's Garden or Verse and, our favourite short story title ever; Thrawn Janet.

RLS is mainly associated with his childhood home, Edinburgh, but he did visit Orkney and Shetland as a nineteen year old with his father, Thomas Stevenson, a lighthouse engineer. Thomas' father, Robert, and his brothers, Alan and David, all built lighthouses and this was supposed to be his son's career until Robert Louis announced that he was going to be a writer.

RLS wrote letters to his mother during the 1869 inspection trips of the family's lights. He was not too taken with Stromness declaring it to be 'a cluster of gray houses in the upper end of a bight - not very inviting.' (bight, or bicht, is a loop)

Hoy High lighthouse, one of the lights being inspected on the 1869 trip.
He was more taken with Kirkwall, however, describing his first view as 'striking'and describing the 'glory' of the cathedral in some detail. 'I know nothing so suggestive of legend, so full of superstition, so stimulating to a wierd imagination, as the nooks and corners and by-ways of such a church as St Magnus, in Kirkwall.

St Magnus Cathedral, Pre-Restoration by Tom Kent

Cathedral Interior by Tom Kent

Another writer who kept a journal during a Stevenson lighthouse inspection was Sir Walter Scott whose visit to Orkney and Shetland inspired his novel The Pirate.

For more on the 'Lighhouse Stevensons' read Bella Bathhurst's book of the same name.

And for more on RLS himself see here.

Friday 8 November 2013

Bod Almighty!

Today, in 1602, our esteemed forebear The Bodleian Library opened its doors to the public. Effectively the national library for England until the opening of the British Library, the Bod holds many valuable and thrilling manuscripts including a Gutenberg bible, Shakespeare's first folio and Richard James' A Description of Poland, Shetland and Orkney which is the first recorded description of Orkney in English.

The language (and spelling) are fantastic. Orkney is described as being 'manie Ilands' with a capital 'Kircwawe' and the Pentland Firth, or 'Penthland Frith' is 'dangerous with manie whirlinge tides and currents which will sucke in sheepes and botes in the passadge.'

The Orkney Archive hold a photocopy which has the reference D68/7/5 and is available to view as well as Evan MacGillivray's 1953 introduction and transcription which appeared in the first Orkney Miscellany.

Today we shall celebrate our Oxford cousin by trashing the Orkney Room with a raucous Bullingdon club-style feast whilst dressed up as Sebastian Flyte and/or Inspector Morse

We have also been serenading each other with this fab Minnie Ripperton (for she was born today in 1947) hit over and over again and, instead of gratitude, we have received only surly looks, complaints to the managers and downright grumpiness from the readers.

Monday 4 November 2013

Good Ship Gudrun

Ever wondered why our ancestors moved from place to place in the 19th century. Here's a clue:

In just one 6 month period in 1894, the good ship Gudrun sailed from Kirkwall to South Shields to Orphir to Bridgeness Harbour in Bo'ness, back to Westray, then Bridgeness again then Finstown and finishing up in Grangemouth Dock. In any of those places crew could have been taken on or discharged.

This is all the information we have of this ship. If anyone knows more about it, please post a comment.

Archive Reference: D8/4/8 Official log and account of voyages and crew of the vessel "Gudrun", owned by Samuel Reid, Papdale House, Kirkwall. Master, William Hourston.

Monday 21 October 2013

The Mystery of the Bluejacket Boy...

I write this post with a monocle screwed into one eye and an ill-advised moustache drawn onto my top lip with permanent marker pen. Dusty has taken the time to struggle into a mauve twin set and felt hat and both of us wield enormous magnifying glasses.

For we are detectives! And we invite you to be detectives too! Quick, pop on a trilby and light up a cigar, as we tell you the mysterious tale of ‘The Bluejacket Boy…’

One day, not so long ago, we received an email from a lady who wished to deposit an old letter with the archive. So far, so normal, but this was no ordinary family heirloom. The letter was written in 1916, in Orkney, by a young sailor to his family in Llanelli, Wales. We do not know his name as he only ever refers to himself by the nickname ‘your bluejacket boy.’

The letter was sealed and obviously intended to be posted as it bears a stamp. But. It was found, sealed, 64 years later behind a fireplace in Bridge Street, Kirkwall. His family never received it and the family who eventually uncovered it in their home have no idea how it ended up in the chimney space.

We have a few clues. He mentions various family members and asks to be remembered to them. He also mentions sending a handkerchief with a picture of a sailor on it to ‘Ethel’ who said ‘that’s Uncle Dai’ when she opened it. Is Ethel his niece? Is the Blue Jacket Boy named Dai? He talks about his sister Hannah too.

We would like to find out exactly who this man was and if there are family members still around. We shall keep you posted as we try and track the family down and do please get in touch if you have any suggestions or thoughts. Some extracts below:

For an update on information found out by Jan 2014, click here.
Mystery Solved information here.

Saturday 19 October 2013

Quiz Answers

Answers to the bird quiz taken from the Orcadian dated 3rd April 1975. As you can see, 48 bird names were concealed within the letter. How many did you manage?

Friday 18 October 2013

A Friday Quiz

Even we could manage this one, so there is no excuse... It was found amongst some old glass negatives in the photo archive.

Answers shall be posted tomorrow. If you fancy having a go then the prize is an Encyclopedia Britannica pencil (unused).

Friday 11 October 2013

Orcadian Remedies

Man, it IS cold and we all HAVE colds. Autumn Schmautumn.

We had been feeling very sorry for ourselves as we downed cold and flu remedies and stocked up on tissues until we read this list of old Orcadian remedies from the Ernest Walker Marwick collection which is stuffed with local lore and legend.

For earache they used limpet juice! For sore eyes, try pee! Roast up some mice when your loved one develops whooping cough!

The most hilarious remedy by far is for warts. You were supposed to secretly rub your warts against the clothes of an acquaintance whose spouse had been unfaithful. This must have been so awkward:

CUCKOLDED WOMAN: "What are you doing?"

WARTY WOMAN: "Nothing."

CUCKOLDED WOMAN: "Are you rubbing your arm on me? Are those... warts?...

Saturday 5 October 2013

Clootie Dumpling Week

We have blogged before about our overwhelming love for The Great British Bake Off and it was, let's be honest, completely irrelevant to the archive. We just loved it. (We were early adopters! First Series!) But, imagine our joy when pastry week rolled round and the historical section concentrated upon the Clootie Dumpling.

The show may have gone to the isle of Mull to find out more, but the Clootie Dumpling is very well known in Orkney as these recipes taken from our Orkney Room collection will testify.


( Birsay S.W.R.I's version, 1979).


(Deerness S.W.R.I's version, no date).

( Taken from 'Favourite Recipes - Sandwick W.R.I. 1976).

(Orkney Hospitals' Recipe Book, 1984).

As you can see, the ingredients vary from Parish to Parish and kitchen to kitchen, but all end with the spiced and fruited dough being boiled in a scalded cloth or 'cloot' which has been generously coated with flour.

It made us laugh that it was deemed necessary to include four recipes from the two hospital kitchens which contributed. They obviously just could not decide which one was the best. Picture the scene:

Chef #1: "We cannat hae a recipe book withoot clootie damplin' in!".

Chefs #2,#3 and #4: "No indeed!".

Chef#1:(licking pencil) "Noo. To begin, tak 4 oonces o' margarine...".

Chefs#2, #3 and #4: "WHAAT!!!!!???????".

Friday 4 October 2013

More Moberg!

Did the Gunnie Moberg open day leave you thirsty for more? Then you are in luck. A new micro exhibition of three of Gunnie Moberg's prints plus complementary material from the archive is now on display in the library.

See here for more.

3 STONE CIRCLES. Orkney Library and Archive, Kirkwall 1-31 October 2013

Sunday 15 September 2013

Winter Is Coming...


The Orkney County Show is a wonderful thing. Taking place at the beginning of August each year, it is usually a balmy delight of farmyard animals, fairground rides, stalls brimming with local produce and, most importantly, home bakes. Yet there is always a cold shadow to be felt behind the warm joys of craft tents, crab - meat baps, 'refreshed' teenagers and wee lasses on their be-ribboned ponies..

If you listen closely enough you can hear the whispers: 'County Show... then winter!'.

"Rubbish" You think to yourself every single year as you eat your third ice-cream and decide which of the roosters looks most psychopathic. "There's at least six weeks left of Summer time. My washing's out and everything. I'm only wearing one fleece for Pete's sake!".

And yet every year the old wives are proven right. The day after County show always has a nip in the air and a distinctly autumnal smell. It is September now and the sunny show season is but a distant memory.

Winter is coming...

Bagsy we're Ned Stark.