Orkney Sound Waves

Orkney Library & Archive’s sound archive is home to hundreds of voices on reel to reel tapes and cassettes, rich in dialect and broad in content. Find out about the homes these voices had before they made their home in the archives. Episode 1 Home: Available from 03 August on wherever you get your podcasts and on our website orkneysoundwaves.wordpress.com

Show Notes

Orkney Library & Archive’s sound archive is home to hundreds of voices on reel to reel tapes and cassettes, rich in dialect and broad in content. Creatives Mark Jenkins & Rebecca Marr (Kolekto) take a deep dive in to this archive and emerge with a different way of listening. Travelling across time, this audio ballad is a lyrical and immersive experience.

Let the Orkney Sound Waves wash over you.

Episode 1 Home: Available from 03 August on wherever you get your podcasts and on our website orkneysoundwaves.wordpress.com where you will find lots of extra content.

Production: Mark Jenkins & Rebecca Marr, Kolekto (www.kolekto.co.uk)
Source material: Orkney Library & Archive / BBC Radio Orkney
Music: James Watson
Supported through The Space and Creative Scotland as part of the Creative Digital Initiative, funded by the Scottish Government.

What is Orkney Sound Waves?

Orkney Library & Archive’s sound archive is home to hundreds of voices on reel to reel tapes and cassettes, rich in dialect and broad in content. Creatives Mark Jenkins & Rebecca Marr (Kolekto) take a deep dive in to this archive and emerge with a different way of listening. Travelling across time, this audio ballad is a lyrical and immersive experience.

Let the Orkney Sound Waves wash over you.

If you want more, visit our website www.orkneysoundwaves.wordpress.com

Produced by Kolekto (www.kolekto.co.uk)

Rebecca Marr
Welcome to Orkney Sound Waves, a sea of voices across time. Orkney Library and Archive is home to hundreds and hundreds of voices on reel-to-reel tapes and cassette.

Rebecca Marr
We wondered about the home these voices had had before they made it into the Sound Archive and after a deep dive, we have emerged with this audio ballad called Home. The door is open, pull up a chair, settle in and eavesdrop on a host of island voices. Let's tune in.

Sounds of tuning and snatches of voices… Hid wis busy, busy then…thir wis plenty tae eat…alwis a pig…fiddle music…a box bed, box beds, box beds…skeletons…thir wis notheen bit the fire…

Ralph Fotheringham, Stronsay, 07/02/1986, OSA-086
Ah, hid wis different. You see the thing is you can’t really compare it becis, I mean, folk didna ken any better. They niver… weel I can remember the first radio we hid for instance. Noo you imagine an upbringing withoot a radio, withoot TV, withoot electric light an you think ‘Whit on earth did they do in the evenings’ an tae be quite honest I don’t know whit wae did.

Kitty Tait, Stromness, Radio Orkney Programme: Looking Back, 1980’s, OSA-RO7-266
They hid long winter nights roond the fire an they used tae go efter dayset is sheu caal the evening an they’d visit wan another an tak thir knitten wae thim an sit an yarn an that wis aa the enjoyment.

Agnes Logie, Westray, Glasgow, 02/06/1987, OSA-144
Our home was always open. It was a very open door, always.

Cath Gourlay, Radio Orkney Programme: Last of the Lairds, 1987, OSA-RO7-232
And could we go in and have a look at the house itself.

Elizabeth Scarth, Radio Orkney Programme: Last of the Lairds, 1987, OSA-RO7-232
Yes, let's do that.

Cath Gourlay
Now we’re in the front hallway.

Elizabeth Scarth
That's right. When my father dug up the flagstones to put down a wooden floor, he found some skeletons buried underneath. Some historian suggested that they might have been put there for protection. Other people have suggested that it was built on the site of a graveyard which isn’t very cheerful. Anyway, he put them back and they're still there so mind how you walk.

Cath Gourlay
So under our feet, on this lovely oak floor, there’s bodies buried then.

Elizabeth Scarth
That's right. Skeletons.

Cath Gourlay
Did that not worry you when you were small.

Elizabeth Scarth
No, not at all, not a bit. As we’d put them back, they never disturbed us and we never disturbed them.

Cath Gourlay, Radio Orkney Programme: Looking Back, 1980’s, OSA-RO7-266
And what was it like for a bairn on Fara?

Kitty Tait, Stromness, Radio Orkney Programme: Looking Back, 1980’s, OSA-RO7-266
Weel, I think that ah… weel more or less kind o like whit it wid be when wae wur young.

Anne Marwick, 13 Feb 1987, OSA-113
When your mother wis hivin the bairns, did sheu hiv the bairns at home or whit happened?

Mina Tulloch, North Ronaldsay, 13 Feb 1987, OSA-113
Iverybudy hid thim at home. Thir wis always neighbours, I suppose, that wis able tae help. They wurna trained bit thir wis wan kind o wife that they caaed the howdie, if you’ve heard the name. They had an old howdie wife that wis a kind o midwife.

Maggie Spence, Dounby, 30/06/1985, OSA-034
And they hid a cradle and then when they needed a pram… later, that really wis in my time, bit I don't think before my time they had no prams, tied thim in a barrel or something tae keep them from safe, keep safety. A stand…I hid a square that they stood in tae hiv played an sit doon an played wae anything you put in tae thim. Bit a pram wis so much nicer then, my mother even had a pram, bit I think before that … a wheelburrow if you wanted… I don't think I had anything.

Annie Tulloch, North Ronaldsay, 08/12/1987, OSA-147
Weel I tell you the difference mibe wis that they hid a granny or mibe a granddad in the house, becis you see, the youngeens wurna moving away and that wis, I think, the bairns that wid stayed home wae thir grandparents.
Maggie Spence, Dounby, 30/06/1985, OSA-034
Weel then there wis the games, thir wis a game peddie budy half… peddie budy… I think I wrote hid doon bit me memory disna carry me away. Whit wis that though…Bobby had a baby, o his name was Bobby Bingo, B I N G O, his name was Bobby Bingo.

Ken Ross, Angus Findlater, Brian Leonard, Radio Orkney Programme: Oot 'n' Aboot, 1980’s, OSA-RO7-23
Right Angus. Right okay, wur here on the landing so. Yes, the door here…in you come

Angus Findlater, Ken Ross
Heavens, that’s astounding! Angus it, I mean I sort o visualise whit the room might be like you ken, bit…thir’s hooses, thirs trains and boats and planes is the saying goes, helicopters. Brian, thirs so many different designs you hiv here on your own, dae you chist, is you said afore…do you just make up some oot o your own heed like.

Brian Leonard
Yes, you can really duplicate anything that goes on in life. The workings of hydraulics, electrics, basically anything you can build engines and everything out of Lego.

Angus Findlater
This must be approaching a Guinness Book of Records job here the number o pieces and the spread o…the whole room is entirely jam packed, you know, is this one of the biggest collections going like.

Brian Leonard
The Lego people themselves were onto me and they say it's the biggest collection, but I don't like being drawn into these things.

Angus Findlater
No, there's a lot of things I haven't noticed right under me eyes here. There’s a wee monorail. Look at that there.

Ken Ross
So there is Angus, and the wee station. Dis that work is weel Brian?

Brian Leonard
Aye no problem Kenny just switch it on…unfortunately it doesn’t cross the Pentland Firth bit… still have a go.

Ken Ross
Yeah, it's just back and forth there.

Angus Findlater
Weel, that's been a most interesting wee insight into that fascinating hobby o yours. Thanks very much for taking this up tae this very special room and showing us all around here. Cheers noo.

Ken Ross
Cheerio Brian.

Anne Marwick, 05/06/1985, OSA-025
Whit wur thir hooses like?

Grace Goar, South Ronaldsay, 05/06/1985, OSA-025
Weel, the hooses wis usually whit they caaed a but, ben an a closet you ken, that type o hoose. Thir wis no high hooses in it, no upstairs.

Anne Marwick
An no big hooses on the island?

Grace Goar
No big hooses and ah…hid wis big flag roofs.

Speaker 1
And thir wis bits o laths o wood and I expect that the rafters had been ships wid, just shipwreck wid.

Tia Scott, North Ronaldsay, 08/12/1987, OSA150
They got it all…came ashore off shipwrecks I think a lot o hid anyway…the wood tae build hooses wis shipwreck a lot o hid.

Sydney Scott, North Ronaldsay, 15/03/1987, OSA125
You see that house Netherbrek there. Weel the North Ronaldsay men turned oot and the built that hoose in one day. Aye, built that hoose in a day, did the job.

Presenter, Orkney Sound: Midhouse Farm, 1970’s - 80’s, OSA-TA-RO-42
What about windows? There seem to be very few and very small windows in those days.

Ray Fereday, Orkney Sound: Midhouse Farm, 1970’s - 80’s, OSA-TA-RO-42
Glass was expensive. You would probably have one or two. Usual for a fisherman's cottage, for instance, to have some small window towards the sea, so handy. You were doing things indoors in those days that didn't require much light. You do things like making nets and what have you, telling stories in the winter with the light of the fire, but that wouldn't be much and the cruisie lamp would be an alternative to candles. In the 19th century certainly, you'd have a roof light that'd be quite, quite normal, giving a little glimmer in the gloom. Remember the story about the pane of glass from Napoleon's coach that was brought to Orkney after Waterloo, and it went into a roof light in North Ronaldsay. I think later the person went to Canada, so it's gone now.

E. Findlater, Orkney Sound: Social History 1 - Farming & Kelp, OSA-C5
I know hooses whar the cattle and people went in through the same door and the cattle turned to the right and the people turned to the left.

Anne Marwick, 17/05/1985, OSA-020
You didna hiv a byre that wis joined on did you?

James Skea, Holm, Sanday, 17/05/1985, OSA-020
The stable wis joined on tae wur dwelling house. The horse meed quite a noise in the room wae slept in. Hid wis quite a thick waal bit you herd the horse munchin thir neeps at night fur thir supper.

Ralph Fotheringham, Stronsay, 07/02/1986, OSA-086
A man that wis in the ferm o Kirbister, and he wis a desperately mean man. He had an old horse and rather than spend the price o a cartridge to shoot it and then hiv tae dig a hole tae pit hid in, he'd chist took this thing up the craig and he blindfolded hid and he chist backed hid ower the craig. Noo, this uncle Jim that I haed he worked a hervist at Kirbister and they wur aal sittin in the hoose at night and thir wis a knock cam tae the door and he wis sittin next the door so he chist geed through the lobby an opened the door. And thir wis a man in Kirbuster that wis a bit o a local vet and me uncle says ‘Oh’ he says ‘that’s somebody at the door wae a horse tae you tae luk at’, you ken kindo in the dark, you see, in the dark. And this man geed tae the door and there was nobody there, you ken, and me uncle he swore that this wis gospel truth, he says ‘I geed tae the door and thir wis a man standing wae a horse.’ And they luked next day fur feet marks and things, bit thir wis no horse there, an thir wis you ken. So this wis the, you ken, hid wis this horse that wis come back tae Kirbister that they backed ower the craig…bit mm… is I said thid wis wan o that things that, mibe hin a grain too much homebrew ur something.

The Meil brothers play ‘The Four Poster Bed’, c 1960-1975, D31-TR-1

Anne Marwick, 17/05/1985, OSA-020
Did you sleep in a box bed?

James Skea, Holm, Sanday, 17/05/1985, OSA-020
A box bed.

Mina Tulloch, North Ronaldsay, 13 Feb 1987, OSA-113
Boxy beds, box beds.

Helen Tierney, Finstown, 06/07/1985, OSA-037
Thir wis a box bed in the kitchen.

John David Moar, Vinbrake, Birsay, 1987, OSA-127
Some o thim hid three box beds, wan wis facing the kitchen an thir wis wan in the passage and the ither in faced the ben end.

Helen Tierney, Finstown, 06/07/1985, OSA-037
Weel, thir wis me granmither and granfaether an mither and faether an me brother an me first I mind, bit in me granmither’s youth hid wis hir mither and father and four girls. And then when me granmither and granfaether got married they hid nine o a family. Seven survived, an they aal lived in that.

Mina Tulloch, North Ronaldsay, 13 Feb 1987, OSA-113
Wae didn't hiv much room an hid wis two or three in the bed…hid wis fine an warm.

Helen Tierney, Finstown, 06/07/1985, OSA-037
Some lay at the head o the bed an some lay at the feet o the bed fur thir wisna room fur thim aal itherwise.

Mina Tulloch, North Ronaldsay, 13 Feb 1987, OSA-113
They always hid a shelf at the foot o the wooden bed that they kept clothes and stuff in. I used tae sleep there wance an I tumbled out and tumbled on the floor an a marked me chin.

Tia Scott, North Ronaldsay, 08/12/1987, OSA-150
I mind when we were small wae used tae, used tae be in the bedroom doon stairs, in the small closet and I mind someone sleepin up on the board at the foot o the bed.

Anne Marwick, 08/12/1987, OSA-150
Ah, wis it a box bed?

Tia Scott
A box bed, yes… the one, yes.

Anne Marwick
Whit did you caa hid?

Sidney Scott, North Ronaldsay, 08/12/1987, OSA-150
The fitboard.

Tia Scott
A fitboard wis it, I don’t mind whit they caaed hid bit I mind wan o thim sleeping up there.

Sidney Scott
They pat the peediest bairn up on the fitboard.

Anne Marwick
Wis that inside the box bed?

Tia Scott
Inside, inside like a big shelf at the foot o the bed, yes.

Sidney Scott
I niver saw that done, but hid wis done.

Anne Marwick
An do you mind hid?

Tia Scott
Yes I mind that.

Anne Marwick
Hoo many bairns wid hiv been in the box bed then, the bairn on the fitboard?

Tia Scott
The bairn in the box an me faether an mither an a nither een mibe would been all.

Kitty Tait, Stromness, Radio Orkney Programme: Looking Back, 1980’s, OSA-RO7-266
Whit I mind o the last war… hid wis very, very hectic. I forget hoo many troops wis here, bit o hid wis busy, busy then.

Cath Gourlay, Radio Orkney Programme: Looking Back, 1980’s, OSA-RO7-266
Where did aal the troops stay?

Kitty Tait
Thir wis some o thim billeted in private hooses and we chist hid a two bedroomed hoose, oot at Wellpark, a peedie bungalow an if you hid a spare room you wur, weel I think you wur forced tae tak in troops and we hid Elizabeth, a baby, and wae hid lodgers nearly aal the war time. Wae kept two at a time, sometimes wan an whit not, an wan night the siren geed an Elizabeth wis chist a baby then an I used tae grab Elizabeth an go in the bed an tak the down quilt and the pillows on top o us an lie tight an Sandy an twa three wis in the sitting room an this search light following the plane… the plane wis that near the hoose that the search light cam right in through the window… an the next I kent wis this bullets ricocheting off the roof.

Cath Gourlay
Where did the bullets come from?

Kitty Tait
Fae the German plane that the searchlights wis following.

James Skea, Holm, Sanday, 17/05/1985, OSA-020
It was cosy hooses, you ken, they wur quite warm becis they wurna very high. Hid wis quite cosy on a winter night.

Helen Tierney, Finstown, 06/07/1985, OSA-037
Becis thir wis no electricity or no gas or anything, thir wis nothing bit the fire.

Grace Goar, South Ronaldsay, 05/06/1985, OSA-025
If you hivna been used wae paets an an open hearth fire, hid takes a lot o management…

Anne Marwick, 05/06/1985, OSA-025
Ah’m sure hid dis.

Grace Goar
Yes, hid wis something that you hid tae manage an you alwis hid tongs an the bellows tae blow it up an the fire wis glowin again. If they didna do that, hid went dull.

Mary Bichan, Harray, 16/03/1989, OSA-183
Bit in the depths o winter, you see, there's a fire in each bedroom, in the depths o winter, a clod, a warm clod wid be teen oot o the fire and then peedie paets, paets built aroond hid an wae chist hid a lovely fire tae go tae bed wae. On snowy frosty nights me mither wid pit fires ben, bit of coorse that wis obviously a lot o work too.

Anne Marwick, 16/03/1989, OSA-183
An then you wid hiv hin hot water bottles an things too?

Mary Bichan
Oh, yes hot water bottles, chist rubber wans. Oh wae hid stone pigs too and of course the kitchen wis chist your sitteen room is weel, you see, you didna hiv that extra room tae heat up.

James Skea, Holm, Sanday, 16/05/1985, OSA-019
Thir wis quite good substantial food. Thir wisna mibe chist much luxuries, bit thir wis plenty tae eat.

Maggie Spence, Dounby, 29/06/1985, OSA-33
When you wur packin the oatmeal you didna pit too much in at the time. You pit a pair o clean socks on. Some folk did hid in thir bare feet. Hope they washed thim afore they geed in hid. Weel that wis just an evenings job for somebody. That wis the best way tae pack hid. Weel, you hid that fur the winter time. You didna need tae go tae the shop the whole time. That wis your oat bannocks, your porridge and the bere meal wis the same. Usually went fur the bere bannock. That wi chist wur main food.

Anne Marwick, 06/03/1985, OSA-006
So wis hid your job tae mak sooans then Sarah ur wis hid your mum…

Sarah Gaddie, Holm, 06/03/1985, OSA-006
Oh hid wis me mither that did aal that sort o things, made the puddings an everything. I used tae help hir. When sheu’d hin a, whit that caaled a faa, that wis the inside o an animal… fur tae mak puddens an things.

Maggie Spence, Dounby, 29/06/1985, OSA-33
We were very lucky fur we hid a water mill. A trough, a wooden trough at the wind an so you sat in this trough an lit, cleaned the puddings.

Sarah Gaddie, Holm, 06/03/1985, OSA-006
When granny wis makin the pudding I widna leave thim alone. I hid tae keep gitting a howld o thim an workin wae thim tae… sheu gaed me a bit an sheu said ‘Weel chist tak that an play away hid’. Me mither says bae the time night cam hid wis is herd is a bit o wid.

Maggie Spence, Dounby, 30/06/1985, OSA-34
Weel, sheu hid a whole big peel o milk, warmed that up. I forget whit sheu warmed hid up at, must hiv been something electric, I think. My can I remember … I a hundred an …Ah’ll no say … I don't know, bit I made cheese many a time, and then it was the rennet put in, a few drops of rennet put in and stirred carefully and that hid tae set, set a little. I forget hoo long hid takes tae set and it's a good big flub. So sheu took a knife and sheu cut hid this way and that, right tae the buddum. Right o an then she took hid the other way. That wis diced chubes. Hid wis chubes tae the buddum so hid wis left like that and you could see the whey cumin oot far among the cheese … So than sheu took a solfa and sheu got to the middle of the thing and she cut it here, sheu cut there, cut a little below the surface, cut it here and there and sheu went a bit deeper… better tae leave it a little again. Then sheu gets hir hand in hid and….and chist charefully kind o crushes the long, the long things wid comed up like this, sheu wid cut them wae the thumb. And that wis another process.

Anne Marwick, 30/06/1985, OSA-34
And this wis aal tae get the whey oot?

Maggie Spence
Whey oot o the cheese.

Helen Tierney, Finstown, 06/07/1985, OSA-037
Me mither used tae wash the flagstones wae the whey an that made thim dark, made thim bonny an blue, so they thowt anywae.

Ernest Marwick, D31-TR-52
Miss F Marian McNeill talks about hir Orkney childhood.

Florence Marian McNeil, D31-TR-52
Oh well, it meant a great deal to us. We used to go in and out of all the cottages. We were always made welcome. There's so much hospitality and we used to love the island fare, the bere bannocks and the, and the Orkney cheese. And I remember one little girl used to bring along a kind of oatmeal gingerbread, which she called broonie and I was so intrigued with this. I said to her one day, ‘What's in it?’. I was about perhaps five or six at the time. So I collected my very first recipe.

Ernest Marwick
Oh, yes. And that was a genesis of the Scots kitchen perhaps?

Florence Marian McNeil
It was.

Ernest Marwick
Well, in one delightful essay of yours I've read, you mentioned a lady called Beenie who used to serve at the Manse. Have you any memories of her?

Florence Marian McNeil
Oh, indeed I have. We had a house full of visitors and Beenie was about to churn in the kitchen when an old woman, a reputed witch passed by, looked in through the window and the butter just didn't come that day. Beenie came through in a great state and she said, ‘You know, the butter’s been bewitched. It won't come the churn’s been bewitched.’ and we laughed. And however next week she churned again and a third week and there wasn't a sign of butter. So Beenie went off to consult an old woman, who was what I consider a white witch who knew all sorts of old lore. I wish I had known as much as I do now, I could have collected so much, I’m afraid it's gone forever. And she came back in triumph. She'd got a counter charm. So the next churning day we all went through and we all collected round the churn and Beenie began to churn and in no time the butter came thick and fast… and then she disclosed the secret. She'd been told to put a piece of silver in the churn.

Ernest Marwick
I see, these were terrible goings on at the Manse. Did the minister know about that?

Florence Marian McNeil
Oh, I think my father was a little bit of a pagan beneath his Presbyterian veneer… he enjoyed it.

Bella Cromarty, North Ronaldsay, 01/09/1987, OSA-137
Do you know, I must have been quite an age before I ever saw a sausage… And it was at one of the Newlands that wis staying on the island going round with their packs, wan o the tinklers, as we call them and he couldn’t get in anywhere so eventually they gave him wan of the out houses here and he cam in with a pan o sausages for mother tae fry up fur her an our eyes nearly popped out of our heads ...

Anne Marwick, 01/09/1987, OSA-137
She'd never seen them before?

Bella Cromarty
We'd never seen sausages. We never had stuff like that, you know, we just, everything seemed to be home produced, which I think was very good for us.

Maggie Harcus, Papa Westray, 08/06/1989, OSA-193
In the awlder days too, wae alwis hid a pig. Alwis a pig, couldna do without a pig.

Maggie Spence, Dounby, 29/06/1985, OSA-33
We hid a pig every year, too. And when wae went tae the porky dinner, you hid tae cut off your slices or take it doon an git hid done or mibe, chist depend on circumstances, bit hid wis really good.

Anne Marwick, 29/06/1985, OSA-33
And that pig, the wan pig that you hid lested you a whole year really, did hid?

Maggie Spence
More or less.

Annie Tulloch, North Ronaldsay, 08/12/1987, OSA-147
Ah weel, the meat, I suppose every neighbour got a bit you see, and then when a nither neighbour had a pig done they wid come back wae a piece an than you wur hivin a fresh piece nearly every month, you know, bit of coorse hid wis aal salted down and then you hid it cured. Hid wis done in the houses. I can mind my faether curing thim. They used tae hang it up, then pit a cloth over it and hang it up, you know, once they, well they dripped it first and then when it wis sorto dry it could hang up and it would dry up in the roof. Then this wis turned so often, and there wis cinnamon put in it and cloves and aal and hid chist, hid made it awful good.

Anne Marwick, 08/12/1987, OSA-147
Sounds lovely

Annie Tulloch
Mmh, it really wis and I mean, I can remember us coming home from the school and you would always know mother wis frying bacon becis wae this cinnamon and aal you chist…oh the smell hid wis lovely and no a days, I mean, thir’s no taste wae bacon at aal.

Dr. James S. Firth, Radio Orkney Programme: Finstown Comments: Used in Looking Back & Sooan Sids, OSA-RO7
Willie lived at Cuppin… and once when I was home, I went up to Cuppin and Willie came out and ‘My mercy buey, Ah’m gled tae see thee. Come on in, come on in’. Willie lived and had his bed and everything just in the one room. ‘Go and sit by the fire and warm thee seel’. Willie had a great peat fire blazing on the hearth. It was lovely and warm, and I sat in his Orkney chair and there was an enormous mound of peat ash and then the mound began to rise and fall and up through the centre of the mound appeared the red back of a huge pig. Willie kept his pig in the room with him and the pig liked to sleep in the peat ash. And as soon as he got out of the mound, he shook himself so as to get rid of the ash and then he trotted through to the byre to do his business because Willie had him house trained. He was perfectly clean. I wish I could have had a camera there. You should have seen Willie and me at the table and the pig also sitting on his backside at the table. And we had our boiled eggs and bere bannock and butter. Willie handed the pig handfuls of food and the pig had his share of the tea also.

Mary Bichan, Harray, 16/03/1989, OSA-183
Weel, folk wur no so hoose conscious then, they basically kept hid clean, bit they wur no so into, you know, like keepin changin curtains an carpets an decoratin an…an things like that. It was very basic and elementary, you ken, an they wurna hivin thir whole ben rooms like tae match curtains and bedding and carpets and everything like that. They chist hid a quilt that they'd meed up o a nice bit o material an a couple o awld blankets, you ken, an new blankets on the bed an plain white pillowcases an things like that. And curtains wid chist be some bonny bit o stuff they liked, you ken, wae no thowt o interior decoration in their minds an they didna really spend a lot on their homes. They wur clean an comfortable in most cases, bit no thought o elegance or colour schemes or anything like that really. They didna really hiv the time tae fiddle aboot wae hid…you ken…they wur too busy tae go intae the niceties o hid.

Agnes Logie, Westray, Glasgow, 02/06/1987, OSA-144
Some people wouldn't put out their old stoves or anything. Oh she moved in that way. She had improvements in the house. She was good, of course, my father was keen on that, bit ah, some older folks, they just wouldn't change.

Helen Tierney, Finstown, 06/07/1985, OSA-037
Fur the toilet you went tae the byre.

Sarah Deyell, Lochend, North Ronaldsay, 08/12/1987, OSA-148
No toilets, no. Wae chist hid a bath tae wash in or a tub mibe, chist depended hoo lucky you wur. All the blankets wis washed in summer and they wur washed outside.

Anne Marwick, 17/05/1985, OSA-020
Did you hiv tae cerry water fae a well?

James Skea, Holm, Sanday, 17/05/1985, OSA-020
Yes, wae cerried water fae a well, quite…quite a distance, nearly been 300 yards, I think anywae.

Maggie Harcus, Papa Westray, 08/06/1989, OSA-193
See wae didna want tae waste water than, no, we didna want tae waste water. When you geed tae wash your hands, you chist pat a peedie grain in a basin and hid wisna poored awae. You'd mibe wash your hands two or three times in hid, wurna turn on a tap. That's anither thing that’s such a differ noo. The washeen wis aal dun, weel aal dun bae hand an steeped an scrubbed an aal dun bae hand. Hid wis aal outside. No washers, no spin dryers than a days. This is the wan thing, for some ill say that moneys no so aesy meed, bit hid’s no true. It's chist that everyone wants tae hiv aal those things right awae. An the young family, you see, they want tae hiv a tumble dryer or thir washers that dis everything, hiv everything electric. Bit is, I mean, we didna hiv that. Wae didna hiv a thought aboot that.

Mima Tulloch, North Ronaldsay, 14/03/1987, OSA-122
One or the two lasses that wis there workin, they clubbed taegither an they put hame a radio an TV tae me faether at the hoose and hid wis chist like every other thing, when wan hoose gets hid, another hoose gets hid…aye.

Helen Tierney, Finstown, 06/07/1985, OSA-037
An I mind the first time sheu ever heard the wireless, sheu spoke aboot this thing that spoke in the corner an she wis listening wan day an then something wis announced that surprised hir and sheu says ‘Whit wis that you said?’. An hid took thim a while tae understood that it wis chist a recording becis they’d never heard o such a thing.

Mary Bichan, Harray, 16/03/1989, OSA-183
Weel, you see, we wur unlucky. We were in a black hole doon here. We didn't get electricity until 1963, an the first thing I hid wis an electric polisher. Ah’ll tell you, me friend said that show the age I wis at…I wid be hivin a record player or something. I said ‘Not I, I'm having an electric polisher’ an me mother says ‘I'm hiving an electric kettle’ becus hid saved hir hivin, you know, or us hivin tae steer up the fire an get the kettle boilin, you see, fur breakfast. You could boil hid up in the electric kettle. So that wis wur firs two purchases. Oh an an iron wis the other thing we had. I kent thir wis three things, thir wis the kettle and the polisher and the iron wis the ither thing fur of course fur you must hiv a good fire on, you ken, fur hid wis awful in the summertime tae hiv tae get the Rayburn lashed up an excited tae heat up your iron, you see. So that wis the three first things wae hid.

Maggie Harcus, Papa Westray, 08/06/1989, OSA-193
If wae git a power cut noo wur chist lost. Afore that, I mean, you wir never thinkin aboot hid, hid your lamp an everything. You’ll go in a room an look fur sometheen an, Ahch, forgit thirs no light there. You ken, you chist tak everything so fur granted noo.

Anne Marwick, 14/03/1987, OSA-122
Whit ither things did you do in the evening then before the TV and the radio.

Mima Tulloch, North Ronaldsay, 14/03/1987, OSA-122
Well, wae played the cerds and we had a melodeon. Afore me mither died, sheu bought a melody fur is an most o is could play the melodeon a little bit, and that wis more or less… and wae played the cards and if you wur old enough you hid tae tak the stocking knitting in your hands an that. You hid tae do something in your hands too…aye.

Ralph Fotheringham, Stronsay, 07/02/1986, OSA-086
I mean, chist thinking back aboot hid, I duno know whit we did in the evening, bit I suppose whur evenings were just is full is they err, mibe fuller than they err noo in fact and, I mean, hoo, hoo can you sort o categorise happiness, you really can't becis, I mean, you didn't ken whit hid wis like tae live is wur livin noo…Oh, thir wis fer more, thir wis fer more socialising, definitely and, I mean, thir wis very, very few hooses that you wid geen intae that there wisna a fiddle hanging on the waal sort o thing. And if you want somebudy wid play a tune, you know, and musical evenings or something, thir wis fer, fer more o that than wit is noo. Bit then again, it wis pert o thir socialising and, and you geed tae somebudys hoose an you take your accordion, your fiddle an you aal sat around an hid a bit o tune an pert o hid, that wis chist pert o hid.

Mima Tulloch, North Ronaldsay, 14/03/1987, OSA-122
Sure, wae hid a fair good time. When you look back on hid, hid wis, hid seemed a fair good time.

Rebecca Marr
Thanks for calling by. We hope you enjoyed this episode of Orkney Sound Waves. And thank you to Orkney Library and Archive and BBC Radio Orkney and The Space. If you want more, visit our website for a list of contributors, a transcription, images and links to other Orkney audio productions at orkneysoundwaves.wordpress.com. This episode is supported by The Space through Creative Scotland as part of the Creative Digital Initiative funded by the Scottish Government.


bannock - a flat bread, made of flour, oatmeal or beremeal
bere - an ancient type of barley, still grown in Orkney
buddum – bottom
cruisie lamp – small, open iron lamp with a rush wick
faa - the internal organs of a slaughtered animal
fit board - foot board, the shelf at the bottom of a box bed
flag roof - roof made of large flagstones
homebrew - home brewed ale
horse - in Orcadian dialect horse is both singular and plural
howdie – a midwife
neeps - turnips
sooans – slightly fermented oat flour. The inner husks of oats were soaked for a few days, strained and the resulting paste used to make sooan scones.
stone pig – a ceramic hot water bottle