Friday 22 December 2017

Advent Quiz Number 4.

It is the last Archive Christmas Quiz dear readers and it is a fairly easy one.

We received some archives yesterday in a recycled box. What was this box originally?

There is no prize as we close at 3pm today and are already too drunk to find the box of Orkney Library & Archive merchandise. Play for our eternal esteem only.

The Orkney Library & Archive shall not open again until Saturday the 6th of January at 9.15am.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Joyful and Peaceful New Year.

Thursday 21 December 2017

75 minutes until sunset...

Above is the view from the archive window today as it is the winter solstice and that means a day of approximately 12 seconds in this Northern hinterland. THE SUN SHALL SET AT 3.15pm TODAY!!!

Of course, our microscopic winter days are eventually replaced by epic Summer nights and today is actually lovely and clear but we do like to complain.

Poem by Margaret Tait. Orkney Archive Reference D97/45/3/4

Friday 15 December 2017

Practical Folklore #1

A charm to boil the kettle faster taken from the Ernest Walker Marwick collection. You're welcome...

Taken from the Ernest Walker Marwick papers reference D31/2/5

Thursday 14 December 2017

Advent Quiz Number 3.

We seem to be celebrating advent with random archive quizzes this year, hurrah! So, following on from our mysterious objects and our archive conundrum, please welcome the weird bike picture quiz:

Why did this bike look like this? We'll give a prize for the first, most plausible reason and a better one for the most ridiculous idea.

Picture taken from the Hourston collection. To find out more about the photographer, please click here.

Saturday 9 December 2017

The Anagram Victor

Many thanks for all of the delightfully weird anagrams you sent. Some of you cleverly used the letters in 'heart' or 'love' in your word play but we very strictly discounted those as we wished to change our banner to the winning re-shufflement which was:

Was Vic Here

A giant Orkney Archive & Library paperclip and pen shall be claimed by Andrew Marriot (@wet_kipper)
 on twitter who made us hoot with his four anagrams and reminded us of an 80s hit by Department S (See below...look at his hair! What a great coat!) Send us your details Andrew!

Honourable mention must be made to our fellow archivist at Balliol, @balliolarchives, who also sent us four anagrams with accompanying explanations.

Friday 8 December 2017

Chiving Home For Christmas...

Oh readers, we try to be festive and it makes us look like fools! What is the first thing you read when you see our snazzy, Christmas lights display below?:

Intelligent and handsome readers will, of course, read 'WE ♥ ARCHIVES' unlike the many visitors, family history society treasurers and MEMBERS OF STAFF who thought that we had taken the time to construct and hang a banner which declared 'WE ARE CHIVES' to the rest of the world.

Even making the heart bigger and redder made no difference. 'Why have you hung a banner saying that you are chives?' the people kept asking.

Honestly... why bother?

For some Friday Fun, online prestige and an Orkney Library and Archive giant paper-clip, do please send in any anagrams you can make from the banner.

Thursday 7 December 2017

The Wind Beneath Our Wings... Again.

You can't live in Orkney and then complain about bad weather. (Except we do. Constantly.) On days like these it's better just to give in to it. It's not blowing a gale, It's just Orkney 'singing':

Click to enlarge
Poem taken from a 1948 edition of The Orcadian. (16th December 1948).

Friday 1 December 2017

Mystery Object Revelation...

last night we asked you: What are these?

These little objects fell out of a letter whilst our tireless Balfour Blogger was working through a box of Balfour correspondence. We were all fairly puzzled until we discovered that they are... paint samples. Well done to JanCherryJovi on twitter who guessed this within 22 minutes.

These pieces of cardboard daubed with 'straw', 'stone' and 'dark pink' shades were sent through the post 230 years ago by David Balfour to his brother Thomas. The colours and mixing instructions can be found below:

Click to enlarge.

The letter was sent on the 30th July 1787 from Edinburgh to Orkney and closes with 'enclosed are patterns of the paints - with a note of the price':

This image is clearer if you click on it to enlarge

This entirely delightful archive is completed by a fabulous wax seal:

We heart seals.

Thursday 30 November 2017

Mystery Object Time #2

What are these?

The right answer will win you both our eternal esteem and any Celebrations we have left in the tin. (No promises made).

We shall reveal the answer tomorrow afternoon...

Tuesday 28 November 2017

J. Storer Clouston - Treasurer of Heart and Mind

This year, 2017, marks the 100th Anniversary of the publication of The Spy in Black by  J. Storer Clouston.

He did not just write this one book though, he wrote many novels in his lifetime and his style was on a par with Compton Mackenzie and P.G. Wodehouse. His plays were performed in London West End theatres and The Spy in Black was made into a film, starring Conrad Veidt.

Orkney historian, Dr Hugh Marwick described him thus:
He was primarily a teller of tales and a master of the art of narration

J. Storer Clouston

P.G. Wodehouse wrote: "I have always been a tremendous admirer of your work. I think I have everything you have ever written." 

Archive Reference: D23/37 part of letter from P G Wodehouse 6th Jan 1934

Background and birth:

Joseph Storer Clouston was born in Carlisle, Cumberland on 23rd May 1870. His father was Sir Thomas Clouston of Nisthouse, Harray, Orkney. Sir Thomas became a mental health specialist and was appointed Superintendent of Garlands, the Cumberland and Westmorland Asylum in 1863. His mother was Harriet Segur Storer who came from Connecticut in USA.

His sister Augusta Maud Clouston was born in 1872 also in Carlisle. She became Lady Wallace when she married Sir David Wallace, an Edinburgh surgeon, on 5th April 1905 in St. Giles, Edinburgh.

Early Life and Education

His father became Physician Superintendent of the Royal Edinburgh Asylum in Morningside in 1873 and moved the family to live in Tipperlinn House, Edinburgh when Storer was 3 years old.

His brother Thomas Harald Clouston was born in 1876. He later married Ada Mary Stuart and lived in a house called "Langskaill" in London and was proprietor of Gairsay.

Storer was educated at Merchiston Castle, Edinburgh and later at Magdalen College, Oxford.

Merchiston Castle School
In the 1891 census, aged 20, he was described as "student of medicine".

In 1895 he was called to the Bar and on his marriage certificate in 1903 his occupation was "Barrister at Law", although he never practised and became a writer instead.

Marriage and Home

On the 11th March 1903 at the age of 32, Storer married Winifred Bertha Clouston, aged 21, in St Andrews and St Leonards parish church in Fife. Winifred was a distant cousin whose family also originated in Orkney. Her grandfather was the Rev. Charles Clouston minister of Sandwick and Stromness and also known as a physician, botanist and meteorologist.

From 1903, Storer is recorded in the valuation rolls as the tenant of Smoogro House in Orphir. The estate was owned by his father.

The Clouston Family on the steps of Smoogro House
Adults L-R: Harriet Storer, Winifred Clouston, J. Storer Clouston, Sir Thomas Clouston
Children L-R: Harold Thomas Storer Clouston, Marjorie Traill Clouston
Archive reference: L1340/1

In 1913, Sir Thomas Clouston transferred the ownership of the house and the estate to his son.

Sasine Abridgement 1913
 The family spent their time in Edinburgh and London and their summers in Orkney.
The Clouston Family at Smoogro House, Orphir
Adults L-R: Winifred Clouston, J. Storer Clouston
Their children L-R: Erlend Richard Storer, Marjorie Traill and Harald Thomas Storer.
The dog's name was Hunda.
Archive reference: L6697/4

Joseph Storer Clouston grew up with a love of writing and history. He wrote many novels full of social commentary and light-hearted fun. Here is a small selection of his novels:

One of his first novels combined fiction with his knowledge of Norse history. It was reviewed by The Spectator in 1897:

"Mr Clouston gives in the story an abundance of the fighting, and a fair amount even of the drinking, that are generally associated with Viking stories. But he also introduces the rather uncommon elements of a feud and a spell, a hermit, a seer, and a mysterious maiden."

Here are a small selection of J. Storer Clouston's novels. We have about 38 volumes in the Orkney Room.

Published in 1920

Published in 1927

Published in 1932

Published in 1936
Storer wrote a series of novels about a 'Lunatic'. Here are some reviews for The Lunatic in Charge, published in 1926.

"Here is Mr Clouston with another riotous study in irresponsible lunacy." Sunday Express

"Furious farce, but a capital book for the sea-side at eighty-five in the shade." Observer

"It is very pleasant to have Mr Mandell-Essington at large again. He is still the charming companion that everyone seems to find him, and his adventures flit from one extravagance to another in quite the old way. " Daily Telegraph
The Spy in Black
This year marks the centenary of the first publication of The Spy in Black.
1918 edition
Title page of 1917 edition
Republished in 2007 with added extras
Made into a film in 1939 starring Conrad Veidt, who gives his opinion of the book here:
“It is with pleasure I write this message to say that I sincerely hope readers will enjoy J. Storer Clouston’s story “The Spy in Black” as much as I enjoyed working in the film which has been based on the book. Sincerely [sgd] Conrad Veidt” Archive reference: D23/30/6/5
Some reviews of the book here:
Field 12th Jan 1918

Glasgow Herald

Morning Post Review 14th Dec 1917


J. Storer Clouston wrote plays which were performed in London West End theatre, such as The Pocket Miss Hercules at the New Royalty Theatre:

Archive reference: D23/30/6/4

The Gilded Pill Handbill

Octo-Centenary Pageant

J. Storer Clouston co-wrote the pageant script with Eric Linklater which was performed by about 600 actors as part of the St. Magnus Cathedral Octo-centenary celebrations in 1937.
Octo-centenary pageant performed in Kirkwall in 1937
Archive Reference: L5285/4

Octo-centenary pageant performed by Orcadians in 1937
Archive Reference: L5286/4


J. Storer Clouston also wrote and edited Orkney history books and contributed articles to journals. He was founder member of the Orkney Antiquarian Society and collected old Orkney documents some of which are in Records of the Earldom of Orkney 1299-1614.
Orkney History books which J. Storer Clouston wrote or contributed to.
The Storer Clouston Archive Collection fills 39 boxes and is stored here in one of our strongrooms under reference D23.

Death and Remembrance

J. Storer Clouston died on Friday 23rd June 1944. He was buried in Orphir Churchyard on Monday 26th June.

In the Orcadian the following week, Dr. Hugh Marwick published an "Appreciation" for his friend.
Dr. Hugh Marwick. Archive reference: L2308/1
Here are a few quotes:

"he had identified himself so intimately with Orkney public life and affairs, and his name is so indissolubly associated with the written history of these islands that it is difficult for us to think of Orkney without...thinking of him."

"A more acute, penetrating and imaginative intelligence on work in which he was interested, it has never been my privilege to meet."

"to me, at least, his death seems not unlike the blowing out of a lamp, leaving me sitting in a dark room."

Thursday 23 November 2017

Celebrate, Good Times!

It was announced this morning that Orkney Archive has become one of a select group, those UK archives that have been awarded accreditation. In Scotland it seems to be even rarer, in fact the number is still in single figures. So we're very excited!

What this means is that you can all be sure that we're looking after the history and heritage of Orkney in the best way possible and adding new documents and collections so that they will always be available to researchers the world over.

We'll probably spend a few days patting each other on the back and smiling at nothing in particular, or maybe at our dedicated band of volunteers, but not for too long. Oh yes, we've got plans. Just one of these involves our catalogue. We've had a dream for a while now that our full archive catalogue will be available online, making it easier and more convenient for anyone to search our collections. We're not quite there yet but hopefully before too long...

Onwards and upwards!

Thursday 2 November 2017

Winter Is Here!!!

We have written before about scoffing at old-lady-winter-tales and then being proven wrong.

Well. We have a wonderful view of some Rowan trees from our archive window and a couple of weeks ago we noticed aloud how abundant their berries were this year.

'Ah, but ye ken what that means noo?' ... a wisdom filled voice from the farthermost microfilm reader declaimed... 'the mair berries there are, the longer, colder and DARKER the winter will be...!'

Reader. there was a LOT of berries on those trees. Sob.

'But it is not winter now', I thought. 'I have plenty of time to prepare for the cold Orkney winter.'


According to the folklorist Ernest Walker Marwick, Orcadians used to reckon that Winter started on the third Sunday of October, which was aptly named Winter Sunday. This was connected with Winter Saturday when all the young cattle from the hills were taken down to the byre. To find out more, come to the archive and listen to the tape of the October episode of his BBC radio programme 'Island Calander' - reference D31/BBC/4.

 And then cry a million tears over your lost Autumn. (We don't even get the cool Autumn leaves as we have no trees.....)

Monday 23 October 2017

Orkney At War (July - December 1917)

The 11th instalment of our "Orkney at War" Exhibition is now available to see upstairs on the Orkney Room corridor noticeboard.
The display shows how Orkney and Orcadians were affected by the war in their daily lives, using items from the Archive collections which were created at the time. Items such as newspaper reports, scrapbooks, council minutes, photographs, letters and diaries.

Here are a few items from the main exhibition:

L2153/1 Rousay
Territorials at the look-out hut on the Brae of Moan, Wasbister, Rousay. c.WW1. On the left is Corporal Isbister who was in charge. Back right is Marcus Wood from Aikerness, Evie.


From the Orkney Herald, 4th July 1917:

Band Performance
Band performances in Kirkwall have, since the outbreak of war, been, unfortunately, of rare  occurrence. On Saturday evening, however, the inhabitants were provided with a treat in the form of a band from one of HM's ships. Taking their stand in front of St Magnus Cathedral, a delightful two hours' orchestral concert was given, which was greatly appreciated by the great concourse of people who were present.

Letter to the Editor - The A.C.C. Concert in Kirkwall
Sir, - I notice with surprise in the last issue of your valuable journal the lengthy and somewhat favourable notice you give to the A.C.C. Concert held in the Temperance Hall.
I feel I am voicing the feelings of a large number of my fellow townsmen in raising a protest against this class of entertainment in Kirkwall. We were a quiet and pious community until invasion by men of the Fleet and Air Service was thrust upon us some time ago. We, of course, have no wish to grumble or complain of this, realising that it is unavoidable and for the good of the nation as a whole. We, however, can see no necessity for performances in our Temperance Hall which are a replica of those given nightly in the debauched music halls of London. The spectacle of an inebriated and vulgar person such as was depicted, was neither elevating or amusing, although, to be sure, the acting savoured more of the village idiot in this particular case. The sleek manner, glossy hair, and well-kept fingernails of the music hall manager, can only have a detrimental effect on our daughters, tending to make them dissatisfied with the homely lads at our doors, who are nearer and should be dearer.
[no name given]

Tragedy in Orkney Waters

From the Orkney Herald, 25 July 1917:

The Lost Vanguard
Was HMS Vanguard the victim of foul play?
The loss of this fine Dreadnought, which blew up while at anchor on the night of the 9th inst. as the result of an internal explosion, is to be the subject of a full inquiry.

According to the Admiralty statement, the Vanguard sank immediately, and unfortunately there were only three survivors on board, one of whom has since died. Twenty four officers and seventy-one men, however, were not on board at the time of the disaster, making the total number of survivors 97. The Vanguard had normally a compliment of 870, so it would appear that 770 men have perished.

L6569/2 HMS Vanguard
This is not, unfortunately, the first disaster of this kind which has occurred to the British Fleet (says Mr Archibald Hurd, the Daily Telegraph naval correspondent). On former occasions it has been suggested that possibly there had been foul play, but official assurances were given to soothe these fears.

In the meantime, however, the Stockholm revelations have been published, and we have learned of high explosives being made up to represent pieces of coal to be inserted in ship's bunkers. In the circumstances the public will await with anxiety the result of the official inquiry which will be held.

Apart from a sense of mourning the blowing up of the Vanguard will cause, the overwhelming thought for the moment will be that every precaution must be taken to prevent any further incident of this kind. The blowing up of a ship by internal combustion had become almost unknown in recent years. Since this war, however, such disasters have occurred to British, French and Italian ships, but, so far as is known, none had taken place in connection with German and Austrian Fleets.


From the Orkney Herald 8 August 1917:

The Orcadian Bed

Mrs J.W. Cursiter, formerly secretary of the Orcadian Women's Suffrage Society, has received the following letter from a wounded French soldier who has occupied the Orcadian bed at Royaumount:-

"Hospital de Royaumount, June 22, 1917 - Dear Mrs Cursiter, - I am very pleased to write to you after my stay at Royaumount in your comfortable bed, and after all the care which has been bestowed on me. I am proud to have shared in such boundless kindness, and glad that I am able to talk a little about what I saw in Britain, for I have spent several seasons there, particularly Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
And now I am going on leave to see my dear parents for the first time in five months. I would end my little letter by wishing you every happiness, and a paradise to come at the end of your life. - Your affectionate Ally, (signed) Jacob Jean Marie."

In WW1 over 18,000 charities were created to aid men at war and women and families at home in the UK. This included contributing to the upkeep of beds in hospitals.


From the Stromness Town Council Minutes:

At a Meeting held on Thursday 27th September 1917

Stromness Town Council Minutes, ref: S1/5 p222
"The Council considered the matter of the navy carrying passengers gratuitously from Longhope to Scapa and elsewhere in consequence of which the trade of the town had been considerably hampered and the usual trading steamer "Hoy Head" had been placed at a considerable disadvantage. The Magistrates with Councillor Baillie were appointed to see the Master of the "Hoy Head" and have a letter written to the Admiral on the subject."

L3487/1 - Soldiers in Westray [names unknown]
From the Kirkwall Town Council Minutes, K1/1/17 p512:
Meeting held on 17th October 1917
The following letter was read, "Paterson Manse, Kirkwall. 29th Sept 1917. Dear Mr Heddle, Will you kindly convey to the Provost, Magistrates and Councillors of the City and Royal Burgh of Kirkwall my sincere thanks for their kind message of sympathy in my great bereavement. The very beautiful Card on which their message is expressed will always be one of my most treasured possessions and will ever remind me of the years of our citizenship in Kirkwall, yours sincerely, [sgd] Agnes H. Millar"

Military Concert at the Drill Hall, St. Mary's Holm.


Extracts from the Diary of Gunner Astles, Archive ref: D1/237

Hoxa Head Battery, South Ronaldshay, Orkney Is: N[orth] B[retain]

24th December 1917
The following notes are going to be chiefly on Orkney as I find it. I have been here over two years now, during which much has happened. Phenomena is in plenty, and it may look very odd at the weather results, later. Today has been mild, but 12pm has brought a great change, and now, as I write this, snow and hail is making Xmas feel ever so much nearer and seasonable.

Christmas Day, Orkney 1917
Christmas Day! The time of the Nativity. For the 4th year of the war, this has brought many comparisons as to the 1st, which I spent in the Red sea. I have been out for the greater part of the past night, and the morning was heralded by my pal, who it might be said, was anything but polite.
Wash over; hair brushed; immaculately attired in a blue jersey - as served out per Admiralty - and my pal and I sit down to dine.
Oh! What a feast. Two or three slices of bacon; a basin of tea; about eight loaves of bread; and ever such a long sit down, complete the menu, and as we are about the last to finish, a shrill whistle calls us out to Parade...
For my job I find myself in a party to draw water, which is to "bile douffs in" tis said...
11.30am the Christmas Dinner is brought: Pork; Potatoes; Cabbage; Apple-Ring Pie; Semolina Custard, and the dinner only needs putting out. One of the boys makes the gravy, calling it "Black Jack"...
A brisk walk of forty minutes lies before me... My way continued by way of the dam across the hill, and through the picturesque village of St Margaret's Hope...
"The Steamer" had arrived a few hours earlier...[it] is really the salvation here now-a-days. For many days the few shops have been empty of any seasons stores. Fruit and all such stuff has to be brought here, and...most commodities have become from luxuries to extravagances anywhere, but here, alas! all three have been at a premium.

The 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th instalments are still displayed in various locations around the building and the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th instalments, including a special feature of the sinking of HMS Hampshire, are available to see in a folder in the Archive Searchroom. Click on "Orkney At War" in the labels to see more blog posts on this subject.