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A video about Orkney

Some features about Orkney

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Orkney situated to the north east of the Scottish mainland takes an hour to reach on a modern catamaran car ferry from Gills Bay to St Margaret's Hope. The islands have a turbulent history. From being inhabited by Picts it became part of Norway before becoming under the administration of Scotland. Scotland to an Orcadian is still the place across the Firth. The viking ‘Norn’ language only finally completed died out in Orkney around 1700. Even today the accent is very different from elsewhere. I moved from Orkney to Ayrshire, Scotland, after attending university. During my working life which mostly consisted of a serious of research projects, I also lectured to classes of students. It was a fairly set routine that when I took a new class, I was guaranteed to be stopped in the first minute to explain how I had acquired my accent. Eventually I accepted that the first 15 minutes had to be a potted history of myself.

The road from St Margaret’s Hope crosses four causeways. These block various entrances that had existed into Scapa Flow, naval base in two world wars. A German submarine successfully penetrated the defences during WW II. As a result, the Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered that four of the entrances be permanently sealed. Part of the labour force were Italian prisoners of war. They left a permanent legacy on Lamb Holm, the Italian Chapel built out of two Nissen huts.

The main island is called the Mainland. It is mainly rural but has two towns, Kirkwall and Stromness. Kirkwall is the capital and has the magnificant St Magnus cathedral built by the Vikings. It also has the ruins of the Earl’s Palace and the Bishop’s Palace. It is a tourist mecca with upwards of 200 cruise ships visiting each year. It has numerous craft shop to cope. Stromness is a quiet backwater nowadays but at one time its bay was full of herring fishing boats. Here ships of the Hudson Bay Company would come in to take on water and the other half of its crew before sailing up to Canada. A little-known fact is that Canada was largely opened up by Orcadians working for the Hudson Bay Company. Canada was explored and a large part of it mapped by Dr John Rae from Stromness. He also discovered the fate of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition.

Visible history in Orkney extends back thousands of years. Stone circles date back 500 years before Stonehenge. Indeed, it is now becoming apparent the ideas for it came from Orkney. From excavations now taking place it appears that Orkney was the religious centre for the British Isles back in Stone Age times. Scara Brae a stone age village preserved by drifting sand and exposed during a storm date back further than the pyramids in Egypt. On the Island of Rousay there are tombs extending for about a mile. The area is sometimes referred to as the Egypt of the North.

Orkney has several times been classified as the best place to live in Scotland and the people there are happier. Apparently its too good for Orcadians to keep to themselves for there has been an influx of ‘Ferry Loppers’. The island of Eday in which I was born now consists of around two thirds English. Perhaps part of the reason for happiness is due to the good quality of the whisky distilled and beer brewed in Orkney.

I have put together a video contains some of my photos of my homeland. To view click the start button.

Posted by drever 14:29 Archived in Scotland Tagged islands scotland history orkney

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