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 sun.weather-gaa

'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