Thursday, 19 September 2019

Harvest Home

It is harvest time in Orkney and the fields are full of beautiful, golden bundles. Gardeners are gathering up their vegetables and children will soon be piling up cans of soup and beans for their Harvest assemblies.

In celebration, we bring you an excerpt from Ernest Walker Marwick's The Lore of the Harvest which discusses the straw 'bikko' dog made from the straw in the last field. Below is an example of said 'bikko'.

We also found a J. Omond photo of some Orphir schoolgirls gathering peas, the sadly ruined harvest of 1909 (another Omond image) and a lovely harvest tea-break or 'half yoke'.

For more Orcadian harvest lore, click here.

The dreaded straw bikko - ultimate insult to a harvesting farmer.
Click to enlarge

Picking peas in Orphir.

Snow ruined the Harvest of 1909.



A well-earned break.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Wild Orkney

Today's Folklore Thursday theme is 'wild men, wild women, wild places.'

One wild place in Orkney is the island of Swona.

Swona is an island situated in the Pentland Firth, south of Orkney and to the West of South Ronaldsay. It is often confused with Stroma which is further South and therefore seen as part of Caithness.

This island has been uninhabited since 1974 when batchelor Jim Rosie left and there were only ever about 8 houses on the island. Its position in the Pentland Firth means that it is not easily accessible and therefore it is rarely visited.

People who have made the trip have returned with descriptions of houses left as if the occupants had meant to return moments later. Pictures are still on the walls and the tables are set for tea.

The only inhabitants are a herd of beef cattle which are now feral and have become a seperate species. Apparently, these cattle forage for seaweed and move around the island in one unit like a scary cow gang. As somone who is already scared of cows, I have made a mental note to never visit this island.

As for wild men and women, the amphibious, shape-shifting Finfolk were said to live in Finfolkaheem, described variously as either a vanishing island, a city at the bottom of the sea, or perhaps the island of Eynhallow.

'The sand of that country was gold dust, its palaces, built of coral and crystal and adorned with pearls and precious stones, shone like stars in the weird light of that magic land; all furniture and utensils were silver and gold; the halls were hung with gorgeous curtains, the colours of which were like the aurora borealis in most brilliant coruscations.'

Sanday man Arthur Deerness was apparently dragged down to this magical submarine land and enchanted by a mermaid named Auga. He forgot all about his family, home and fiancé Clara Peace.

Clara was distraught at his appearance and the local speywife, Marion of Grindalay determined to help her. Locking herself away for the night, Marion emerged in the morning looking spent yet cheerful.

Meanwhile, Arthur's first night in Finfolkaheem had been full of rich foods, fine wines and the bed of Auga. The only irritation had been a black cat which stole some food, spilt his wine and came between him and his mermaid bride in their matrimonial bed. The cat later appeared whilst the couple sat together and, grabbing Arthur's finger, traced a cross on Auga's brow.

The enchantment was instantly broken and Arthur found himself on the rocks at Hamaness, the exact spot he'd disappeared from, free to return to Clara's waiting arms.

Image of Swona's feral cattle taken from article Feral Cattle of Swona, Orkney Islands, by S. J. G. Hall and G. F. Moore.

Finfolkaheem story taken from Walter Traill Dennison's Orkney Folklore and Traditions and information on Fin Folk taken from The Folklore of Orkney and Shetland by Ernest W. Marwick.

Friday, 16 August 2019

A Stack in Time

Our Palaeography Group is now heading towards its 20th week. We have enjoyed finding out about life in the 17th century from all the documents we have read and transcribed. One in particular stands out in our minds as being a bit unusual. An unlucky Kirkwall resident got more than he bargained for when he tried to bend the rules involving peat stacks. Peat is used as a fuel on Orkney instead of wood.

A cart carrying peat, 1904 photographed by Tom Kent (Ref: TK1153)
It was written in 1686 and is a Supplication by Magnus Moir, a prisoner in the Tolbooth, to the Magistrates of Kirkwall asking for liberty from his confinement for stealing peats.

But from Mr Moir's explanation below you find that he didn't exactly steal peat:
"Unto the much honoured Lord provost ballies and counsell of the brugh (burgh) house of Kirkwall

The humble supplication of your poor distressed prisoner Magnus Moir indweller thair


Broad Street, Kirkwall showing a later tolbooth on the left.
That whair it hath been your ho[nour]s pleasure to incarserat me within your tolbuith (prison) of Kirkwall for my contemning (despising) your authorities in building up of peats upon my stack standing upon the... pier grounds of that pairt of the toune of Kirkwall called the brugh (burgh)  

Extract of original document D10/12/1 transcribed in the paragraph below

Where to your ho[nour]s has now the onlie good and indutable right and in which peat stack I having simplie taken out some peats out of the middle thereof and made up an emptie pleace therein for sheltering therein ane kow (cow) for a nights tyme or tuo (two) to stand until such tyme as she was killed for my necces[a]r[y] mentenance

Yet nevertheless it has pleased your ho[nour]s to look upon this as ane act of great crueltie and highist contempt against your priviledges
A stack of peat, c1900 photographed by Tom Kent (ref: TK2328)

Though before I presume to attempt any such thing either in building peats or utherwayes I demanded libertie from my Lord Dean of Guild and tuo of the present magistrates who gave me libertie for that effect:

And sieng (seeing) it hath been your pleasure not only to impose upon me ane fyne for so doeing But also to punish my person by imprisonment now be the space of tuelve dayes bygone wherethrough I have sustained seickness in my old infirme persone and loss in my household affairs.

Extract of original document D10/12/1 transcribed in the paragraph below

May it therefore please your ho[nour]s to take the hail premiss to your serious consideration and look upon my sadde conditione as a poor Christian doeth deserve and to permit me the libertie of freedome from your tolbuith dureing which space yow shall think fit to the effect I may care for and look after the sadde conditione that my starving wyff and famillie at home 

Extract of original document D10/12/1 transcribed in the paragraph below

I being most willing for my liberation to find good and suffitient cautione actit in your ho[nour]s toune court book not onlie to re-enter to persone againe when ye shall appoynt But also to be lyable in payment and satisfactione of what soumes (sums) your ho[nour]s shall think fitt to impos upon me for my presumptowows (presumptuous) contemning (despising) your auth[orties] in maner foresaid And for all uther causes and esceaps I shall be found guiltie off in tyme by gone and your ho[nour]s answer is humblie beggit and craved with your best convenience by your supplicants poor petitioner who shall ever pray.

Magnus Moir

Extract from the original document D10/12/2 transcribed in the paragraph below.

Kirkwall the seventeen day of Nov[embe]r 1686

The magistrates and counsell haveing taken [the] thereafter written supplicatione to their consideration they ordanes him to pay this day to the thesaurer (treasurer) of the brugh (burgh) tuentie pounds Scotts money."

It must have been a very large stack of peats to hollow out for a cow for a couple of nights. But then a stack built on the pier could have been made up of tax paid in kind by the tenants of Orkney to the magistrates of Kirkwall and used to fuel the fires of the residents of Kirkwall.

In the Kirkwall Town Council minutes of 19th January 1687 is the following statement:

"1T.viH Four scoir six yeirs (1686 years), qch (which) recept is daittit (dated) the twentie day of No[vembe]r last past, at the qlk tyme that sowme with the twentie pounds mo[n[ey fors[ai]d produceit be Thomas Brown qch he receaved from Mags Moir for his fine"

So Magnus Moir paid his fine 3 days later, and presumably gained his release from the Tolbooth (prison).

It is great to be able to decipher this old faded document and share it with a new audience. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Sources used:
D10/12/2 - 1686: Supplication by Magnus Moir (Collected by James Tait, cabinetmaker); Original (K1/1/3) and book (2285924) - Kirkwall Town Council minutes transcribed by Morris Pottinger. Picture of Broad Street, c 1780 from book Kirkwall in the Orkneys by B H Hossack, 1900. Photos by Tom Kent: TK1153 and TK2328

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

We Love Words

We love words in the Orkney Archive, we love discovering words we haven't heard of before and we love words we have heard of but have different meanings. Today we bring you


In a recent search for marriages in the Stromness Old Parish Register (Ref: OPR/30/3) on microfilm, we found this phrase from 1740:

"pawn money consigned in the Clerk's hand"

How intriguing, we thought [we're so easily intrigued], why is "pawn" being used in a marriage announcement?

Someone instantly sped to the bookshelves and found The Concise Scots Dictionary, 1991 and looked it up.

The definitions are: "1. pawn, a pledge [so far so normal] 2. pawn, usually in plural a sum of money deposited with the kirk session by a couple as a guarantee of their intention to marry within 40 days and of their chaste conduct in the interval, late 16th - early 19th century. [Aha!] and in the phrase lay doon the pawns: make official notification of one's intention to marry, arrange for the proclamation of banns."

In the Chambers English Dictionary the above definition is not mentioned, but it does say that pawn can also be a peacock, a gallery or covered walkway and [of course] a chess piece.

The full proclamation of marriage is here:

"Dec 4th [1739]Magnus Coupar and Margaret Newgar both in this parish were contracted and pawn money consigned in the Clerk's hand and January 1st 1740 that the said Magnus Coupar and Margaret Newgar were lawfully married and dues payed."

We love words!

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Orkney Pride

It's London Pride today and so we thought we'd see if we had any rainbow-themed archives to celebrate...

The obvious place to start was with John W. Scott's wonderful book of Orkney and Shetland weather words:

gaa: a fragment of rainbow... a small rainbow in the horizon... a spot or ray of a rainbow colour which appears near the sun, generally in dry windy weather, and which indicates some change in the weather

The word also appears in The Orkney Dictionary by Margaret Flaws and Gregor Lamb:

gaa n. sun-dog, bit of rainbow before or behind the

'A gaa behind ye needno mind,
A gaa afore, lukk for a roar'

Ernest Walker Marwick's papers were the next port of call and they contain a paper written by George Marwick on the subjects of Rainbows, Aurora Borealis, Igasill The Tree of Life and a legendary Stronsay Wedding:

Rainbows foretold the birth of a baby boy. Orkney Archive Reference D31/4/1/2
Our last (tenuous) rainbow themed archive is an excerpt from a 1783 edition of The Morning Post, and Daily Advertiser which briefly reports the Orcadian exploits of a piratical smuggler aboard the Rainbow Cutter:

Orkney Archive reference D1/660/25 [H1]

Friday, 5 July 2019

Serena! He's Playing Doubles With Serena!

We usually try to shoe-horn an Andy Murray post in during Wimbledon and worried that it would have to be a poignant lament full of hip-based puns.

But! He's back on the doubles court, not only with Pierre-Hugues Herbert but we've just heard it confirmed he's playing mixed doubles with Serena flippin' Williams!

We warded off our hysteria the only way we know how. We looked out archives with a tenuous link to the momentous occasion:

A plan for DOUBLE cottages for married men, to be built in pairs back to back. Taken from the Lieutenant General Sir Frederick William Traill Burroughs Papers Orkney Archive Reference D19/9/11.

A DOUBLE exposure of Orcadian painter Sylvia Wishart. Orkney Archive Reference D136/47/6.

A story about a DOUBLE set of teeth belonging to John Muir, the Papdale millar. Orkney Archive reference D31/1/3/11.
'They dug up a jaw full of teeth, but all the teeth were double, none of them single. Mr Baikie of Tankerness was there when the jaw was discovered. He said 'this is remarkable; you might look around the world and not find a similar thing'. My Great Grandfather heard him, and said ''Deed Sir, you needna' look that far' Then he opened his mouth and showed Mr Baikie that he himself had complete sets of teeth, but all of them double teeth.

We shall be celebrating this tip-top sports pairing by singing these lyrics to the tune of West Side Story's Maria: Ser-e-na! He's playing doubles with Ser-e-na! and hope that, in turn, Andy and Serena will do the right thing and end every match they play together by pinching microphones from the press box and performing this classic in the middle of the court:

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Horses and Orange Cats and Rats, Oh My!

Today's Folklore Thursday theme is animal folklore. We have written about black cat folklore before and today bring you some snippets about fantastic water horses, seals, orange cats and rats (or, to superstitious sailors, ''the cowld-iron chiel'')


Information taken from D31/1/6/20 and D31/1/1/25

Friday, 21 June 2019

Land of the Midnight Dim...

We have a long, dark Winter in Orkney but are rewarded in abundance come Summer time. Our Northerly skies are bright from 4am until 10.30pm and the hours in between are never fully dark.

This long twilight is known as the simmer dim. The sun merely dims and never truly disappears.

The photograph of Kirkwall Harbour below was taken by Tom Kent on the 25th of June at Midnight:

The ability to garden until 10 and go for long evening walks well past tea-time makes up for the fact that, six months from now.. but no. Let us just enjoy the lovely, long nights whilst they last.

UPDATE: Apparently simmer dim is the term used in Shetland. A suggestion of grimleens has been offered, deriving from the Norwegian grimla, - to gleam, shimmer.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Orkney After the Armistice - January to June 1919

The 14th (and final) instalment of our "Orkney at War" Exhibition series is now available to see in the Archive Public Searchroom under the new title of "Orkney After the Armistice - January to June 1919.
The display shows how Orkney and Orcadians were affected during the aftermath of the war and includes information about the German High Seas Fleet interned in Scapa Flow from November 1918 to the dramatic scuttling on 21st June 1919.
Items used are newspaper reports, town council minutes, photographs, school log books, and sections of books most of which were created at the time or just after.

Here are a few items from the main exhibition:


Extract from Rev. Dr. T Crouther Gordon's book Early Flying in Orkney - Seaplanes in World War 1:
"In the New Year's Honour's List of 1st January 1919, the Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded by HM King George V to Captain Macro, Lieutenant Guild and myself, and Lieutenant Sanderson got the Air Force Cross."
Dr T Crouther Gordon, pilot at Houton Seaplane Station, WW1

The Orcadian 2nd January 1919 p4

Reminder to Naval Authorities that War is Over
At the monthly meeting of the Zetland County Council, Mr Mouat said he was very glad to see that the Orkney papers had taken up the question of permits at Orkney. He thought this Council should take the necessary steps to have these restrictions removed at once. We have borne hardships and restrictions uncomplainingly, and they were now no longer required. There was still apparently no shortage of red tape.

He had travelled in the south and he was sure that no other county in Great Britain would have put up with the restrictions which had been placed on our travelling public. Passengers who were allowed to go about on the mainland freely could not be trusted to land at Kirkwall to have a meal ashore. The same hardships were imposed on soldiers and sailors who had been fighting for their country.

Last week, a month after the signing of the Armistice, he stepped onto the pier at Kirkwall in order to despatch some telegrams when a detective whistled on him. He replied that he would land and he did so and gave his telegrams to a gentleman to send off. He asked the detective if the naval authorities did not know that the war was over, but was told that the restrictions still applied. Mr Pottinger and he had just arranged to send a wire to the Admiralty requested them to inform the naval authorities at Kirkwall that the war was over and to allow passengers from Shetland to land, when a Customs official came on board and said a telegram had just been received stating that passengers coming and going to Shetland could land at Kirkwall.


The Orcadian 13th February 1919 page 5

A supplement of the London Gazette stated on February 1st, the award of the Military Cross is announced to Second Lieutenant T. W. Hepburn, Highland Light Infantry, attached 15th Battalion, for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on September 5th 1918, at the crossing of the Somme. During the night he constructed a gangway on a broken bridge over the marshes under continuous machine-gun fire. He then crossed alone and reconnoitred the east bank of the river, the knowledge he gained resulting in the successful advance on to the ridge over the river by the company which he led. Lieutenant Hepburn is a son of Colonel Hepburn, Orkney Royal Garrison Artillery.

Orcadians will be pleased to learn that Captain T N. F. Hourston, M.C. Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, son of Mr and Mrs Hourston, Beaquoy Farm, Dounby, has now been awarded a bar to his Military Cross and mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig's New Year despatch. This honour was won during the fierce battle of September 29th - October 2nd crossing the St. Quentin canal near Joncourt.

The Orcadian 20 February 1919 page 4

REGENT STREET AT SCAPA FLOW - A Floating Shop for the Fleet
With the berthing of the steam ship Borodino in the Surrey Commercial Dock on Tuesday last week, it is now possible to make known a story which is without precedent in the history of the British Navy.
In December 1914, Commodore [Cecil] Lambert, the Fourth Sea Lord, conceived the idea that the monotony of life in the Grand Fleet, stationed at Scapa Flow, might be greatly relieved by giving the officers and men opportunities for obtaining the simple luxuries of everyday life, which, naturally, could not be obtained in the remote hamlets of the Orkney Islands. An arrangement was made with the Junior Army and Navy Stores, Lower Regent Street, [London] to take out a floating store, replete with every commodity that was likely to be required.
Officers and men of the Fleet were permitted to come aboard daily between 9 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. These visits were usually productive of interesting incidents, and they were taken advantage of to an extent that the store was often overcrowded. On one occasion no fewer than 2,700 officers and men came to make purchases, and on another, when the American sailors boarded the SS Borodino in force the day's receipts amounted to £978. This turnover in the four years was at the rate of £10,000 per year.

One of the frequent visitors was Prince Albert, and he invariably bought a shirt or collar. When he had made his purchase it was customary for him to say that the articles were for an other officer on board his ship. Prince Albert was a "snotty" with the Grand Fleet - a term which has been used in the Navy for young midshipmen since Nelson's day. Mr Allen, who was the first supervisor, stated that the prince was plain "Mr Johnson" to his companions. Occasionally when in the shopping centre the prince gave his orders in dumb show by putting his hands in his pockets and whistling. This was because the manager once laughingly said to him during a very busy time, "Now then, Johnson, no pilfering; whistle all the time till you're out of the shop, and keep your hands in your pockets till you are asked to pay. While you are whistling you can't eat anything, and you can't pinch anything with your hands in your pockets."


The Orcadian 6th March 1919 page 4

On Monday night an Admiralty Trawler when coming into Kirkwall collided with the steam fishing trawler R. H. Davidson. The latter vessel which was lying at anchor in the bay at the time, had her port quarter seriously damaged, and the cabin, which is aft, is full of water. The vessel was taken alongside Kirkwall Pier to have temporary repairs effected. A naval launch lying at the entrance to the Basin filled with water during the gale and sank. The launch was raised on Tuesday, but was found to be considerably damaged, owing to the "puffer" Borderglen, alongside which vessel it had been lying, canting over on to it taking the ground at low water.

The Orcadian 13 March 1919 page 4

Influenza is rife in the parish and very few households have escaped. One or other of the doctors from Kirkwall has been in the parish every day for a fortnight, and on one day the services of three medical men were required. From Sunday, 2nd to Saturday 8th inst.[of this month], eight deaths occurred. In several instances whole households have been suffering from the complaint at one time.


At a meeting of the Stromness Town Council on the 12th April, the Town Clerk wrote:

Letters were submitted of 22nd March and 3rd inst. from the Naval Works Office, Stromness stating that Saw Mills had been vacated by the Air Force and on the subject of replacements required. The Town Clerk was instructed to write stating what was required in the way of reinstatement.
Extract from S1/5 Stromness Town Council Minutes 1910-1924


The Orcadian 8th May 1919 page 4

All the demobilised soldiers were entertained by the ladies of the island on Friday night, in the Drill Hall. The entertainment, which was very enjoyable, took the form of a tea and dance. Mr Scott, in his address of welcome to the invited guests, spoke warmly of the services they had rendered during the great war, and in very touching words expressed the great debt the country owed to those who had made the supreme sacrifice. Mr Scott was then thanked for his address of welcome, and the soldiers were called on to give three cheers to the ladies of the island. This was responded to in real army fashion. Thereafter dancing was engaged in with great spirit for several hours, excellent refreshments being handed round at intervals.
Altogether it was a most enjoyable evening, and the invited guests take this opportunity of thanking their hostesses for the splendid arrangements they made, and also for their uniform kindness and generosity to the soldiers not only on this occasion, but throughout the long stress and strain. Special thanks are due to the ladies committee, consisting of:- Mrs MacPhail, Mrs Baillie, Misses Sinclair, Burgher, Wilson, Fotheringhame, Clouston, Muir, Moodie, Swanney and Skea. Splendid music was supplied by Messrs James and William Grieve, Melville, Fotheringhame and meil. The excellence of the tea was due to Miss Scott and Mrs Garrioch, and Messrs Fairbairn and Baillie did their upmost to make the entertainment an unqualified success. [Sadly the names of the demobilised soldiers were not listed in this article]

The Orcadian 15th May 1919 page 5

Most of the American minesweepers based at Kirkwall proceeded to sea last Saturday morning to commence the work of cleaning up the minefields. On Thursday night the opening concert was given in the YMCA Hut. The first portion of entertainment consisted of a performance by the band of USS Black Hawks, under bandmaster R. W. Wilson. The programme submitted highly delighted the large audience. The jazz band and a portion of the minstrel troupe enlivened the remainder of the evening with their witticisms, humorous songs and catchy music. On Sunday evening the Rev. G. W. Dalgleish, M. A. conducted a service in the YMCA Hut for the Presbyterian sailors of the American Fleet.

A further match in the baseball league has been arranged for Saturday afternoon in the Bignold Park. At the close of play, there will be four boxing bouts. Among those who will take part is Johnny Dougherty, a well-known London Professional boxer, now with the K. of C. [possibly the Knights of Columbus]


German Fleet in Scapa Flow taken by Tom Kent Ref: TK4130

Extract from book Scapa and a Camera by C W Burrows:
"During the period of their internment, communication between the German ships and our own Fleet was restricted to a minimum, and no one from our own ships was allowed on board the interned vessels unless on duty of an urgent nature. The Germans were required to victual and store their own ships from Germany, coal and water only being supplied locally.
B98 Destroyer used on mail service between Scapa Flow and Germany
Ran aground in the Bay of Lopness, Sanday. Photo by Tom Kent Ref: TK4201
As German warships were not constructed for living aboard for long periods (the sailors being mostly accommodated in barracks when in harbour), the crews at Scapa must have had a rather unenviable time of it, though there was a certain element of poetic justice in interning them in the region where for so long our own Fleet had kept its lonely vigil. As one of their officers remarked in writing home and describing the bleakness and desolation of Scapa: "If the English have stood this for four years, they deserve to have won the war."
The German ships were patrolled by a number of drifters - a somewhat ignominious guard for the much-vaunted German Fleet.
The Germans' love of music was in evidence even at Scapa, and it was somewhat strange and at times rather pathetic to hear the unfamiliar strains of Die Wacht am Rhein and  Die Lorelei rising from the German ships, some which still retained their bands."
SCUTTLING - 21st June 1919
Stromness Public School Log Book (Infant School). Ref: CO5/93/5
"21st June: By kind permission of the Rear Admiral Commanding Orkney and Shetland, the pupils and teachers were conveyed by HMS Flying Kestrel to view the German Fleet in Scapa Flow.

Image of a tug which may be the Flying Kestrel Ref: L5128/4
They had the unique experience of seeing the Imperial German Ensigns flying at the mastheads, as their crews apparently by general agreement had made up their plans to sink them on this date. The crews were seen in small boats, pinnaces, rafts, etc.
By 4 p.m. only the Baden a light cruiser ashore on the West of Cava, and the turrets of the Hindenburg were to be seen from the School."

The turrets of the Hindenburg by C. W. Burrows Ref: L9522/3
The Orcadian 26th June 1919 page 4

On Saturday afternoon, through the courtesy of the ACOS, the teachers and children of the Stromness School were taken through the lines of the German Fleet in the Flying Kestrel. Leaving Stromness about 10:30, they were able to see a good deal of what happened in the course of the day. The Flying Kestrel, after leaving Stromness, called at the battleships Baden, Kaiserin, Kaiser and Konig Albert, and then proceeded to visit the battle cruisers Derflinger, Hindenburg and Seidlitz. When the party reached the Seidlitz, my informant was surprised to notice that great preparations were being made to launch boats.

He observed that the crew were collecting large numbers of suit-cases and bags together. This was in the neighbourhood of 11 o'clock. The party went on to visit the destroyers, and there also seemed to be great preparations for a change or swapping of crews. The skipper asked the party of they would like to visit the hospital ships attached to the base. This was done... and the Flying Kestrel began to return to Stromness.

A drifter which was sailing towards the flagship shouted out that the German ships were sinking themselves. This was hailed with incredulity, but a vessel was suddenly seen to heel over beyond the north point of the island of Cava, turn bottom upwards and disappear. The journey towards home was continued, and the noticeable feature was the display of German Ensigns of the largest size on all the vessels.
German Cruiser SMS Bremse turned turtle. Ref: L6848/1

Pinnaces, small boats and rafts were seen in the water alongside the ships, filled or being filled with men. The ships began to sink deeper in the water, generally settling more quickly by the stern than by the bows. When the water reached the level of the deck at the stern,... the ship generally heeled over and turned bottom upwards. For sometime the hull remained above the surface, with steam pouring through vents in the bottom, but soon the hulls themselves disappeared.
Photo by C. W. Burrows Ref: L951/2
Men guarding sunken boat by Tom Kent Ref: TK4165

The children on board, more especially the younger of them, were greatly excited at the sight of the sinking vessels and the sight of men in the water, and in many cases were reduced to tears.
More Witnesses
G.H. Wild: 

Extract from p133 of Scapa Flow: The Story of Britain's Greatest Naval Anchorage in Two World Wars. by Malcolm Brown and Patricia Meehan. Available to see in the Orkney Room under reference 941.09 Y.

Hugh "Ti" David: "Yesterday at 9.45 the squadron with all destroyers at Scapa, put to sea for torpedo exercises - at 12.45 we received a wireless informing us that a German battleship was sinking - we turned and at full speed dashed back to Scapa - we got back at 3.30 and the sight that met our gaze as we rounded the Island of Flotta is absolutely indescribable. A good half of/

D1/1485 - Letter from Hugh David to this mother from HMS Revenge, 1919

 /of the German Fleet had already disappeared, the water was one mass of wreckage of every description, boats, carley floats, chairs, tables and human beings, and the 'Bayern' the largest German battleship, her bow reared vertically out of the water was in the act of crashing finally bottomwards, which she did a few seconds later in a cloud of smoke bursting her boilers as she went."

D1/1485 - Letter from Hugh David to this mother from HMS Revenge, 1919

A series of events will take place this weekend to commemorate the centenary of the Scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet. More information here

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Great Tait

There were many exhibitions on Margaret Tait's life and work at the end of last year to celebrate her centenary. We recently received the last archives back from an exhibition at GOMA and they are being unpacked and put back in their boxes, much to the relief of Dusty. (She is the archives' doting mother. If she could make them hot toddys and beat up their bullies, she would)

One of the items is a small photograph album with some rarely-seen images of Margaret as a young women; before she qualified as a doctor, before she began Ancona films with fellow students in Italy and before she became the first Scottish woman to direct a feature film.

Margaret and her brother Maxwell in 1921/2. She would have been about 3.

Age 18 in 1936.
Margaret as a slightly older child

In N. France with a friend, aged around 20.

Portrait, no date.

Looking glam in Dundee, 1940.

Blue Black Permanent was released in 1992 and was nominated for a Scottish Bafta for Best Film.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Fairy Folklore

The wonderful Ernest Walker Marwick collected many tales, superstitions, songs, rhymes and memories over the years. He was interested in everything and saw fit to record a local woman's recollection of seeing a fairy when she was three years old:

click to enlarge

He also spoke to film-maker Margaret Tait about fairy lore she had heard:

Click to enlarge


...and he collected the story of Mansie Ritch of Hoy's visit to fairyland:

Click to enlarge

It is interesting that two people described their fairy folk as being eighteen inches in height and dapperly dressed...also that fairies like potatoes.

Do any readers have some fairy folk recollections?

Information taken from Orkney Archive references: D31/1/1/25, D31/2/5 and D31/3/2