Monday, 17 November 2014

Orkney At War (Nov 14 - Jan 15)

Here are a few items from the second instalment of our Orkney At War exhibition. These items are taken from records during the second three months of the war.
Although the first item from James Marwick's Diary is from October, it shows that security is increasing rapidly. The Orcadian publishes its first letters home from soldiers and we hear about the value of men with false teeth.

D1/1118 – Diary of experiences and daily incidents during the Great War
Written by James Marwick, Lieut/Capt Orkney Royal Garrison Artillery (T)
The Orkney Royal Garrison Artillery, (T) was a Special Service Section which voluntarily agreed for special duty on certain stations. These men received a small retaining fee.
1914 Oct 13th (Thursday) Fair. /Rose 7am and had breakfast. … Reached Stromness at 11am and I marched those for Hoy B’try to Drill Hall. They were mostly from Birsay. Broke off until 2pm. The Drill Hall was used as quarters for the men and the Temperance Hall also. Those belonging to the town were quartered at home. I lived at home as did the other officers for there was no accommodation elsewhere. The huts were being put up. / Were working at outer B’try near old Jumping over dyke. There were 2/ 12pds mounted. Searchlights being erected further west. The Battery had been hastily put up by Marines most of whose work had to be pulled down….As we were making for Stromness in the drifter we had to go to H.M.S. Hannibal lying off the East Lighthouse. … No vessel allowed now to Stromness harbour without permission or written authority.



From the Orkney Herald 4 November 1914
THE ALIENS’ ACT
REMOVAL OF ALIENS FROM ORKNEY AND SHETLAND
The London Gazette last Tuesday contained a notification by the Home Secretary widely extending the list of prohibited areas under the Aliens Restriction Order.  The following whole counties are now prohibited areas:- Monmouthshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Sussex, Glamorganshire, Argyllshire, Buteshire, Caithness, Fifeshire, Haddington, Kincardineshire, Kinross, Linlithgow, Nairnshire, Orkney, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherlandshire, Zetland, Cork, Dublin, Kerry, and the Isle of Wight.  In addition the prohibited areas in essex, Kent, Lincolnshire, Northumberland, Aberdeenshire, Argyllshire, and Inverness-shire are extended, and the areas of Banffshire and Berwickshire are prohibited.  [Under the operation of the Order a number of aliens of various nationalities residing in Orkney and Shetland were last week removed to places outside the prohibited areas].
_____


From the Orcadian 14 November 1914

A SOLDIER’S LETTER
Rev. Alexander Goodfellow has received a letter from his nephew, Pte. Arnot Goodfellow, who belongs to the Black Watch.  It was written on the 19th October, bearing the postmark of Poperinghe, which is an old commercial town of Belgium, in the province of West Flanders, 4 miles from the French frontier and 8 miles west of Ypres by rail…The letter had been censored in London but nothing had been removed…Arnot writes “I have just received your parcel which came all right though it had got a lot of knocking about.  I am pleased you sent a pair of cuffs as they will be very handy, also the belt.  I was waiting patiently for some writing-paper, and I have got a good supply now – off course I give some to my chums when they want to write.  I enjoyed the remainder of the parcel.  The pencils also will come in handy…
We are beginning to wonder when the end is going to come.  It cannot come soon enough, and I hope it will not be long.  My chum Bannerman from Arbroath was killed on the 14th September, our last big battle.  We lay in the trenches for a month after the fight facing the Germans who were continually attacking parts of the line.  On several occasions when outside the firing line I heard them speaking and, by going out a certain distance, we could see them, whilst we were continually being annoyed by snipers.  The German infantry don’t seem to be up to much but they have got splendid artillery.  During the time we lay in the trenches they accounted for about 100 of our chaps, I believe, all with their artillery, except one or two who were sniped.  On the 14th September the Black Watch lost 461 – that includes killed, wounded and missing – which was the greatest number the regiment has ever lost in one day.

_____





From the Orkney Customs and Excise Collection which includes a correspondence and memorandum book for the Royal Naval Reserve, a letter explains that the age limit of seamen is to be increased and not to employ men with false teeth.













D1/1118 – Diary of experiences and daily incidents during the Great War

James Marwick describes his time in Stromness

1914 Dec 14th  (Monday)

I stopped writing my diary for a month for there was nothing unusual to put down. We altered the watches putting in a dog watch 8-11, 11-2pm making the watches a good deal easier until Monday Dec 6th, when the inner group also were manned and all detachments reduced to 4 men. Capt. Of H.M.S. Hannibal visited Battery on Sat Dec 5th. Huts were entered on Sunday 13th. They were not quite finished but an effort was made to get the men there so that all could be together. / Father sprained his ankle badly on Thursday 26th Nov. He was just walking outside coming up from the pier when he stumbled in the darkness and fell with his foot under him. He had to rest and has been in his bed up to now, 14/12/14.

Weather very rough and unsettled. Gales of wind and heavy sleety showers. Two Trawlers went ashore in Harbour one day but got off. Lifeboat called out three times to vessels, fortunately no lives lost.
Strict watch kept for submarines. Topday (Monday 14/12/14) I am on watch 2pm – 8pm. There is no accommodation for all the officers in the huts so I stay at home and am not sorry. I do a little work and keep the business together a little. Capt. D B. Peace was here for some time but was ordered to headquarters. 2nd /Lt Baldwin was sent here, so we have five officers. On 12/12/14 there was a concert for naval & men in Town Hall and it was well attended. Tea was supplied. A club has been formed and is carried on by the ladies of the town in Town Hall for men off the trawlers and warships.
Friday, Xmas Day, Dec. 25th
Frosty and clear and fine. I brought in Christmas Day in the shelter by the outer Battery. We shook hands all round and exchanged usual compliments as soon as midnight came and went. / Coming home from Battery I came down the New Road in South End and it was just like glass from top to bottom. Sitting on my “hookers” I slid half way down when off came my mitten. I was nearly at the street before I could stop. Then slowly crawling on all fours back to get my mitten I slipped on my side and rolled right across the road so slippery and it is a mercy no one saw me else I would have been put down as drunk. / Watch 2pm – 8pm.

Christmas Day was different for Margaret Tait in Kirkwall. In Dec 1914, she would be about 55 years old:
D1/525 Diary of Margaret Tait
25th Christmas Day
I rose, dressed & went to the window to have a look out on Broad Street. It seemed strange to see the shop windows without the barricades & stranger still to think there would be no Ba's played today. The war has changed everything. It is the first time in the memory of the oldest inhabitant that no Ba' has been played & it is a great miss.
James Marwick describes an incident in Stromness on Hogmanay:

Thursday, Dec 31st
Moderate / Watch 6am – 10am / Had very nasty bilious attack with headache. Was in bed all afternoon. / There was a shooting accident on the street in the evening. A boy off one of the water carrying steamers fired a revolver or pistol on the street. The bullet entered Hilda Harvey’s foot and made a very nasty wound but it did not lodge in her, for a mercy. The police took the boy to the lock-up. The incident created quite a stir in the town.
 
Margaret witnesses wartime events in Kirkwall:
 
Jan 2)
A Norwegian Steamer blown up by a mine in the North Sea. Part of crew picked up by trawler & brought to K'wll. The remainder drowned. Also shipload of Iceland ponies brought to K'wll as possible contraband of war.
 
And James Marwick gets a transfer...Thursday Jan 7th

Fine. /Watch 2am - 6am. Off at 10am. Was in town all day. Brought out some more things at night. When I came to Battery at 6pm with a parcel I found orders had been received for me to proceed to Hoxa Battery on Saturday 9th . I was rather taken by surprise but no use saying a word. Watch 6pm-10pm. Slept in huts.
By the end of January 1915 there were problems with the water supply in Stromness:

S1/5, p140. Extract of Minute from Stromness Town Council, 26th January 1915, 10.30am
 

"A letter from the Burgh Surveyor as to large quantity of water being taken by H. M. Ships was considered and after a discussion with the Burgh Surveyor who was present, the subject was allowed to lie in abeyance at present. It was however remitted to the Water Committee to consider as to puchasing of water meter to be placed at the Harbour Commissioners Pier.

The Council having considered letter from the Stromness Harbour Commissioners of date 7th inst intimating a charge of 2d per ton on all water shipped at the pier as from 1st September last, letter by the Town Clerk in reply of 9th inst, and letter from Harbour Commissioners of 12th inst. in respect that the Harbour Commissioners have not given any proper reply to the Council's letter, the Council refuse to consider the matter further in hoc statu [for the time being]."
 

Imagine an advert like this appearing today...


Taken from The Orcadian dated 17th January 1874.

Monday, 3 November 2014

By Jove, It's a Stove!


We have several folders worth of picnic photos in the photographic archive. Orcadians obviously loved a good picnic and the images range from small get togethers to vast, highly attended occasions.

Some of our photographs show very dressed up people, some show picnickers having a break in scruffy work clothes. Some show lunchers munching on a banana and boiled egg, others have tables full of plated sandwiches and cakes.

The one thing that is always done properly is tea. Even if the picnic is a casual affair with a few sandwiches out of a basket, eaten off a be-napkinned lap, there are always proper cups, and quite often an actual kettle. Above shows a typical example.

We enjoy tea at the Orkney Archives (perhaps we have mentioned?), so imagine our delight when we found these pictures of a picnic where, not only were several kettles in attendance, but an actual STOVE with a CHIMNEY.

Wonderful...





All of these photos were taken from the miscellaneous file so we do not know where they took place or who attended.

Monday, 27 October 2014

What a Witch...

 
We have blogged before about our love of palaeography and how it makes us feel like brilliant detectives or spies.
 
Usually, we are tackling old trial documents which are full of legal jargon and boring references to areas of land being contested.The above document, however, is about alleged witch Helen Isbister and all of the wicked things she was accused of doing.
 
It is quite hard going but so far we have discovered that she is accused of " be hir enchantment and dyvelrie, charming the meis (mice) in St Ola who went be hir enchantment into a park... thay wire found all deid in the heart of the park."
 
She also seems to have given a drink of milk to someone who later drowned, healed a local man of his sickness and, the sin which turns up frequently in old witch accusations, was seen with 'a black man' who was assumed to be her lover, the devil.
 
Poor Helen, she merely performed useful extermination services whilst handing out calcium-rich snacks and HEALING people. Medieval people sound hard to please.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Shock Symbol

There have been a few articles on the history of the swastika symbol and its appropriation by Nazi Germany recently including this on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29644591 and an interesting programme on Radio 4: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04lsxh5




We were shocked to find it in a copy of a local newspaper in 1939: http://orkneyarchive.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/at-least-its-neat.html

Monday, 20 October 2014

Terribly Terrific Tigers

 


We are very sorry for the lack of posting recently but various tragic I.T. occurrences have made it very difficult. Rest assured that we have been wailing over keyboards whilst rending our clothes in a bid to communicate with you.

The letter shown above caused much hilarity in the searchroom a few days ago as it is possibly the poshest letter ever written. David Balfour is being alerted to the fact that his tiger heads have been left in the capable hands of one Mr Sanderson and his correspondent draws attention to the hard won (8 days of stalking!) tiger head of a Mr David Kennedy although " I consider that yours are specimens that are not easily equalled."

Read it do. It'll make you feel like a peasant.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Orkney At War (Aug-Oct 1914) Exhibition Taster

As promised here are a few of the items we have used in our exhibition:


BRITAIN AT WAR
_____

There has been great activity in Naval and Military circles in Orkney for over a week, and whilst it is not yet advisable to go into details, it may be of interest to state that so long ago as Wednesday of last week special service sections of the Orkney Artillery were called out and sent to their appointed stations. On Sunday the remainder of the force was mobilised, and further detachments at once sent forward to certain points which are understood to be of strategic value. The remainder of the men were allowed to proceed home but had instructions to hold themselves in readiness for an immediate call. The orders to mobilise came on Monday evening and all night long the men from the out-stations were arriving at headquarters, where the Kirkwall companies had already reported for duty. The calling out of the Orkney Artillery at such an early stage in the crisis created great excitement in Orkney, especially in view of the fact that at one time it was decided to disband the corps, and it was only with great exertion on the part of those concerned that this was averted.
The Orcadian, 8 August 1914

In his diary, James Marwick, Lieutenant/Captain in the Royal Garrison Artillery (Territorial Division) wrote on Monday 3rd August:

"Mobilised at Drill Hall Stromness 3pm. I was there in full marching order ready to go"

On Wednesday 5th August he was in Rackwick:

"The  tents were pitched on flat piece of ground between Mucklehouse and Black Neave near a low wall which Mr Taylor had built. Three tents for men to live in; one cook's store tent; one Guard Tent on level space...Serg. Mackay & I lived in Test house. There were a couple of chair beds and blankets &c in it and we just took possession of these..."

Orkney Archive Reference D1/1118

A very different perspective came from Stewart Isbister who was a new recruit to the Royal Garrison Artillery (Territorial Division) in 1914. In his memoir, having been posted to Kirkwall Drill Hall from Finstown,  he wrote: "I cannot begin to tell you of the lonesomeness of those days, my first away from home and the new Army life I found so bewildering. "

Orkney Archive Reference D1/1177
 

 
In Scapa Bay construction work was ongoing as, on 13 August 1914, less than two weeks into the First World War Admiral Jellicoe requested that anti submarine patrols by seaplane be flown in defence of the fleet in Scapa Flow.  As a result a seaplane base was quickly constructed at the head of Scapa Bay.
 
 
The canvas covered hangars used were, however, no match for the winter gales which often blow in Orkney and a more sheltered site was found at Houton Bay in the parish of Orphir.
 
 
Orkney Archive Reference CO7/7/4 (plan dated c.1920)

Saturday, 9 August 2014

County Show Woe

We are pretty good to our customers really. While the rest of the county is drunk and 'tasting' cakes in Bignold park, we valiantly maintain our posts at the archive desk just in case someone gets tired of a field full of home-brew, home-bakes and waltzers.

It is County Show day again in Orkney and, whilst we would normally be crying into our documents because we're not eating a cake next to a pony, we feel slightly less short-changed today. Because it is raining. Lots.

The same thing happened in 1950:

 
 
 
Psssst, winter is coming...

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Orkney At War (Aug-Oct 1914)

We have a new exhibition! 

"Orkney at War: August - October 1914" is the first in a series of new exhibitions in the Orkney Archive to commemorate WW1. This one concentrates on the first three months and the impact war had on these islands. We show extracts from three war diaries from very different perspectives, an article on the history of the postal service, emergency town council minutes on finding extra hospital accommodation, a plan of a hastily built seaplane station at Scapa, reports from the Orcadian newspaper on the war at home and abroad, and many more archive items.

This exhibition is available to see during Archive opening hours
(http://www.orkneylibrary.org.uk/html/archiveopening.htm)



For those of you who can't visit the exhibition I'll be sharing some of the documents used over the next few months.

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 has not stopped yawning since. So please comment if you find it interesting, then I can point at her, laughing, 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...


Friday, 20 June 2014

View from inside Maeshowe, 1900.







Photo and letter taken from the Magnus Spence collection.
Orkney Archive Reference: D32/2/2

 Magnus Spence was born around 1853 in Birsay, the son of Magnus Spence, a schoolmaster and his wife Ann. He also became a schoolmaster and spent his teaching career in Stenness and latterly Deerness schools. In addition to his being a much acclaimed educationalist, he was a gifted amateur geologist, botanist, meteorologist, zoologist and antiquarian. He published many papers reflecting these wide interests but remains best known in Orkney for his 'Flora Orcadensis', published by David Spence, Kirkwall, 1914. He died in 1919.

The letter is from A.L. Lewis, Highbury Hill, London.

For more information on the 'Barnstone' which is supposed to be the subject of the snap, see here.








Saturday, 14 June 2014

WE HAVE THE ANSWER TO YOUR EVERY QUESTION. (on Orcadian local history.) (covered by a Fereday project.) (That's a smashing blouse you've got on.)



    ?
How has passenger travel across the Pentland Firth changed over the years?

Why did horses leave the land??


What was it like to live on Copinsay???


How have people in Orkney been affected by the changes in domestic fuel????


How has Highland Park changed over the years and, whilst we're on the subject, what is the story behind those elaborate gates at the Highland Park distillery???!!?


The answers to these questions and more can be found in this year's crop of Fereday Prize entries.


We have complained before about the timing of the research period but nothing will lessen our esteem for the collection itself; a fantastic historical source which we turn to time and time again.


The thirteen year old authors of these papers may not be professional historians but they are often the only written source we hold on very specific, local topics. Past years have given us projects on early swimming in Orkney, the air ambulance, shops in the Hope, Dentistry in Orkney the histories of Woolworths, Argo's bakery and the Finstown post office as well as countless investigations into  individual lives and homes in Orkney.


The work's copyright, of course, resides with the author. We can let visitors see the projects but they cannot copy them without permission. The projects have been so successful that we now send out permissions forms to the pupils as soon as they hand in their pieces. If you have done a Fereday or know someone who has done one or just want to feel involved, please print out, fill out and send out this form.




Friday, 30 May 2014

Margaret Tait in Living Colour





The delightful image above is taken from the Margaret Tait collection and is a painting of her wonderful eightsome reel figures which feature in the animated film Painted Eightsome which can be seen here.






We also found the fiddled-diddledy figure's genesis in one of her notebooks:






If you like the film then pop along to the Pier Arts Centre before the 7th of June. Their current exhibition Living Colour celebrates the animation work of several artists including Margaret Tait and a number of films shall be screened.

 Supporting material from the Orkney Archive including copies of Margaret Tait's watercolour sketches plus correspondence about her film making are also part of the exhibition.

If you are not in Orkney, or shall not make it to the exhibition, then you can take a look at one of the films being shown here:



Painting: Orkney Archive Reference D97/44/2
Notebook: Orkney Archive Reference D97/28/15