Sunday 27 July 2014

Act of Grace

On this day 27th July in 1880 we have a curious Sheriff Court Petition for Benefit of the Act of Grace. It's the only one in the whole collection, so I thought I'd share it with you all.

I realised this is my geeky side revealing itself when I told the story to Archiver and she could not stop yawning. So please comment if you find it interesting, then I can point at her, laugh, and say "I told you so!" In a respectful colleague to colleague way, of course.

Definition Act of Grace: A privilege or concession that cannot be claimed as a right: e.g. the bonus remains a payment made as an act of grace
In Scots Law this concession mainly referred to civil debt. When a person is imprisoned for not paying their debt, they can petition the court to let them out if it can be proved they do not have the means to pay. If the debt is an aliment (a fund of maintenance), then it can be changed to installments of not less than three-pence. [Information from A Dictionary of the Law of Scotland by Robert Bell, pub.1815]

Our example is about William Gunn, a shoemaker from Orphir in the West Mainland who is in Kirkwall Jail and Jane McKay from South Faray or Fara, an island in Scapa Flow.

Doc 1. Petition on behalf of  William Gunn, from Orphir, who is in prison for not paying a debt to Jane McKay "the incarcarating creditor" who resides in South Pharay. The debt being the total sum of "seventeen pounds, sixteen shillings and ninepence" to pay for the birth and subsequent care of an illegimate male child since 17th February and "taxed expenses of process". William Gunn's petitioner states that he is "in poor circumstances and is neither able to pay the said sums nor to Aliment [maintain] himself in prison. He is therefore under the necessity of applying to the court for the benefit of the Act of Grace." John Macrae, Pursuers Agent, 27 July 1880.

Doc 2. Answers for Jane MacKay by her solicitor William Cowper, states that William Gunn has "movable property to the value of about fifteen shillings Sterling" and so he is not entitled to the benefit of the Act of Grace. Lodged 30th July 1880.

Doc 3. Certified copy of the Petition, 31st July 1880.
Doc 4. Minutes and Interlocutors: The Sheriff Substitute orders William Gunn to be brought to court to be examined by him on Friday 6th August. But on Friday 6th August, "Macrae for the pursuer respectfully craves leave to withdraw the action". This craving is granted.
Doc 5. Copy of Minutes and Interlocutors.
Doc 6. Copy of Inventory of documents.
So William Gunn did not get his Act of Grace after all. But did Jane ever get any money? Who was the illegitimate male child? There are no more documents to give these answers unfortunately.
Archive Reference: SC11/5/1880/98

Thursday 10 July 2014

Baton a hot Orkney Evening.

I'm sitting in a near empty searchroom listening to the sounds of the Queen's Commonwealth Games Baton pass by outside. Searching the catalogue for something appropriate to commemorate this occasion, I can find absolutely nothing on the subject. But that has never stopped us before... and nor will it tonight!

Here is a selection of hastily cobbled together...ahem...carefully researched items on Common, Wealth and Games.

Firstly Common or rather Commonty. Here is a copy of the beautiful lithographed plan of the commonty of Deerness from 1839. [Archive Reference: D7/2/1(F4)]

Commonty maps show common land divided among the tenants or owners of the local district or township. These plans provide names and is a good source for family or property historians.This plan is currently being shown in our Archive Searchroom exhibition, "Family History Sources in the Orkney Archive" (plug plug).

Secondly for Wealth here is a photograph of the Kirkwall Amateur Dramatic Society departing for Thurso to perform "Tons of Money" in 1938. [Archive reference: D44/4/2]

And thirdly for Games here are some extracts from an article about kids games which were imported and adapted in Orkney. The article was compiled and written by Ernest Marwick in the 1970s. [Archive Reference: D31/10/9]:

"The great majority of our games were imported from much further south. They frequently found their way to Kirkwall from the streets of London, especially the singing games. These were bought from Jewish book vendors at the Lammas Market, and were eagerly hunted for among piles of penny broadsheets containing the songs and diversions of the age. No sooner had Orkney children learned them than they began to adapt them to their own tastes."

"Before we pass on to the more modern singing games, an unnoticed survival from Norse times may be described. This is what we know in Orkney as faely fight . Boys, ranged against each other as individuals (very seldom as teams) threw handfuls of wet turf, which were hastily kicked from the ground on the toe of the boot and as hastily converted to missiles. The game was so fast, and the antagonists so excited and breathless, that direct hits were few. The Norsemen used to enjoy this game. They called it Torfleikr."

"Now to the singing games."

"See the robbers passing by, passing by, passing by:
See the robbers passing by, my fair lady.

What's the robbers done to you, done to you, done to you?
What's the robbers done to you, may fair lady?

Broke my locks and stole my gold, stole my gold, stole my gold.
Broke my locks and stole my gold, my fair lady.

We shall go and capture them, capture them, capture them
We shall go and capture them, my fair lady.

This was a tug-o-war game"

"John, John the gundyman
Washed his face in the frying-pan
Combed his hair wi' the leg o' the chair:
John, John the gundyman

The child was held on the knee, and the actions of the washing and combing were simulated while the appropriate words were being sung."

"Go round and round the village
Go round and round the village
Go round and round the village
As you have done before.

Go in and out the windows, etc.

Stand up and face your lover, etc.

Come follow me to London (or Dublin), etc.

The children stand in a circle with a space between each. The player who begins the game walks around outside the circle during the singing of the first verse. He varies this during the second verse by making his way through the spaces between the players, passing in front of the first, behind the next, and so on. Throughout the third verse he stands in front of the player he chooses. He leads her around the circle while the last verse is sung, after which he joins the players in the circle, and the game begins all over again."

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Tennis Bawl.

What a sombre looking bunch. The Kirkwall Tennis Club are very sad that Andy Murray is out of Wimbledon. The two women in the middle of the front row look like they're actually trying not to cry.

Those two on the right, on the other hand, need to show some respect. Probably Djokovic fans.

And so we sob again with the help of Barry Manilow. Oh Andy... here's to next year...