1: Dark enchanted isle

Narrator: John Budge

Contributors: James Stockan / Tom Muir / Donnie MacKinnon / Ingirid Morrison / Tommy Moar / Margaret Moar / Stevie Mowat / Frankie Sinclair / Dan Lee / Terry Thomson / Sheena Taylor

Music: James Watson, Wooden Sole Music

Credits: The Orcadian / Orkney Library & Archive

1 Dark enchanted isle Tales o Hoy

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Follow the journey in our interactive map showing you the places along the way.

Storyteller Tom Muir brings us the ancient tale of how the Hoy Hills Came To Be. You can hear more of Tom’s Hoy tales here. And you can visit Tom and Rhonda’s Orkneyology site here.

And if you were wondering what a caisie looks like here’s one from the Orkney Museum collection, where Tom works as Exhibition’s Officer.

The ferry man Stevie Mowat recalls the vessels through the years that have carried passengers between Stromness and Hoy. Read more about Stevie’s boats here.

These days you’ll want to contact Orkney Ferries to make a booking.

The Moanesss Pier has changed over the years from a slipway with boulders to a concrete curve that has been heightened and extended. Even now with the improved pier there are many days a year when the service cannot call at Moaness due to sea state.

The danger of the seas around Hoy is well known and wrecks sit under the surface around the coast. Blockships were purposely sunk during wartime to block the channel. In the audio Donnie recalls watching their placement from his pram.

One of the last blockships to slip from view was the Inverlane. Do you have any photographs of the Inverlane over the years? We are hoping to create a photographic record of her slow disappearance. See here.

Jimmy Moar was an authority on the shipwrecks of Hoy. You will hear him in the audio and you can catch and extended recording of a talk he gave on the subject at Hoy Heritage Centre below.

At Hoy Heritage Centre we have one of the commemorative wallets given by the shipowners of the wrecked Leicester City given to islanders who assisted the rescue. The men were given wallets and the women, mirrored compacts, engraved with gratitude.

Mary Ritch came to be known as ‘Mary o the lamp’ and ‘the Lady o the lamp’ after the Tilly lantern she held as she and her sister and brother arrived first at the scene. Mary used her own body heat to save men and never spoke of it, being so affected by the loss she had witnessed.

The disaster is remembered in Grimsby, where the boat and men hailed from. The National Fishing Heritage Centre have on display a lifebelt salvaged by Jimmy Moar. A reminder of the strong connection between Hoy and Grimsby forged that sad night.

From the collection at Stromness Museum.

The Bu, a Norse farm site rebuilt circa 1615, sits above the sands next to the Old Hoy Kirk, now a roofless ruin. Hoy islanders are buried in this beautifully situated kirkyard to this day.

In the postcard on the right you can see the Post Office uin the foreground when it was sited at the manse farm of Glebe. Sir Walter Scott visited the Manse, also known as Burra House. Scott was on a story gathering trip for his book The Pirate. Scott visited the Dwarfie Stone which he set as the home of Trollid in his novel. The minister told the writer a terrifying tale, Scott noted it in his diary:

The clergyman told us that a man was very lately alive, who, when an infant, was transported from hence by an eagle over a broad sound, arm of the sea to the bird’s nest in Hoy. Pursuit being instantly made, and the eagle’s nest being known, the infant was found there playing with the young eaglets.

Sir Walter Scott, 1814

You will meet the Sea Eagles when we travel back by the New Road in Episode 5: Many things to many folk. The next part of our story takes you up the hill by the Manse towards Orgil farm at the top.

Along the way you will pass the Old Mill site which you can see on this old postcard. A mill stone still sits in the burn. Further up the road at Burnmouth is the site of the old Post Office where Isaac Moar was Postmaster. You can find out more about the history of the Hoy Post Office here.

At Hoy Heritage Centre you can see the stamp used at all of the various Post Office sites in Hoy. Chick Chalmers photographed Isaac Moar with the stamp in view.

Next and final stop on this journey is Orgil. Tommy Moar tells us of his farming days there and we hear of the Bloomsbury group visitors Duncan Grant and John Maynard Keynes. Once owned by the Melsetter Estate, Orgil was remodelled by famed architect William Lethaby. Lethaby built the fine Arts and Crafts Melsetter House to the south of the island.

Here the children of Hoy School visit Orgil and pose in one of the cart arches. The buildings are well preserved and many of the original arches remain unaltered.

images: Hoy Heritage / Orkney Library & Archive / Orkney Museum / Chick Chalmers / Stromness Museum

On now to Episode 2: Rough road to Rackwick where we take the Old Road through the valley to Rackwick.

Available 08 May