Jeff Clark recorded a high of 26.1 in Rackwick, Hoy, last Friday and 25.6 on Saturday. That makes Friday 26 May the hottest day in May on record for Rackwick.
The Rackwick Weather Station has been recording since 1983 when Jeff sent his observations in to the Met Office. On his retirement from the job they left him the technology so the Rackwick Weather Station still exists off grid and Jeff and his wife Avril still make daily observations. The records can be viewed at Hoy Kirk heritage centre where Jeff keeps them updated.
Jeff Clark had an interest in metereology since he was a teenager working on a farm in his home county of Surrey. It was only in the 1970s when he moved with his wife Avril and their family to Rackwick, Hoy, that he had the chance came to turn a hobby into something more substantial.
While on coastguard callout the conversation turned to the weather and the district officer suggested that Rackwick would be an ideal location for a weather station. The idea lodged in Jeff’s mind and a few weeks later he wrote to the Met Office at Kirkwall Airport asking if they would be interested in weather observations from Rackwick. Shortly after a letter from the head office in Bracknell arrived saying they were interested in the proposal, subject to an inspection of the site. This was in 1983.
The inspection was done and everything was fine but there was one snag. There was no telephone line to Jeff’s house and the cost of BT bringing a new line through the valley was too high. Jeff agreed to use the call box in the hope that things would change in the not too distant future. Kirkwall Met Office would call Jeff at the telephone box at the observation times. In unforeseen circumstances a line was eventually brought to the house. A big hill fire in 1984 destroyed a lot of the existing telephone line, BT then decided to put the line underground and Jeff got a phone line.
In 1993 the Met Office installed a computer and modem to transmit observations directly to parent stations around the country – another snag! The line could only deal with spoken signals and not modem traffic. It was some time before the line could be improved.
A day consisted of eight observations, starting at 06:00, then 07:00, 08:00, 09:00, 15:00, 18:00 and 21:00 – all times G.M.T throughout the year. An observation involved observing amounts of cloud cover, types of cloud and height, reading air temperature and wet bulb temperature (the difference between the two giving humidity and water vapour levels), wind speed and direction, visibility and any present or past weather conditions. At 09:00 a National Climatological Message was sent giving the maximum and minimum temperature, rainfall and any significant weather of the past twenty-four hours.
In 2008 all manned observation stations were closed and the network became totally automatic; the human eye was redundant. However, Jeff still collects daily rainfall amounts and sends the monthly figures to Edinburgh.
Last word to Jeff: ‘During this time I was ably assisted by my wife, Avril, and we also enjoyed several visits to the Met Office College at Shinfield Berks. to attend courses to keep us up to date with developments. We also met many interesting people there including meteorologists from all round the word. As a retirement gift we were presented with a beautiful short & Mason barograph made in 1941, which I’m sure has its own interesting history’.
Photograph of Jeff and Avril take by Fionn Macarthur. Photograph of Rackwick Weather Station by Jeff Clark.