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.