5: Many things to many folk

Narrator: John Budge

Contributors: James Stockan / Olivia Thomson / Ingirid Morrison / Gordon Hill / Dan Lee / Tom Muir / Antonia Thomas / John Aberdein (reading Hugh Miller) / Lee Shields / Dorothy Rendall / Margaret Moar / Tommy Moar / Donnie MacKinnon / Jack Rendall / Jeff Clark / Rebecca Marr

Music: James Watson, Wooden Sole Music

Credits: The Orcadian / Orkney Library & Archive / BBC Radio Orkney

(Available 29 May)

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

In this final episode we leave Rackwick by the New Road built in 1926. In the audio Ingirid Morrison tells us of her grandfather Mr Flett of Harray, who employed the team of road builders. This photograph of the men was taken by Edwin Harrold of Happy Valley.

Back row: 1.Bob Clouston 2.not known 3.not known 4.Macleod 5.not known 6.Lawrence Clouston

Middle row: 1.Sandy Taylor 2.Harry Rorie 3. D Laughton 4.C McCara 5.T Cummings 6. E Stout 7.C Mowat 8.A Wylie 9. Pottinger

Front row: J Clouston

Not all the vehicles on the new road were motor cars but we hear in our story about breakdowns which caused The Orcadian newspaper to ask ‘What can be wrong with the Rackwick Road?’

Many people have pounded this road as part of the Hoy Half Marathon route.

The locals would have preferred the route of the new road to follow the old road through the hills but the landowner Thomas Middlemore of Melsetter’s preference prevailed and the road follows the west side of Ward Hill through Trowie Glen.

But what you ask is a Trow?

In many cases indistinguishable from the fairy folklore found throughout Northern Europe, the archetypal trow was an ugly, mischievous, little creature that resided in the ancient mounds scattered across Orkney. (Orkneyjar)

Read a fascinating eye witness account from a man stationed in Hoy during WW2 here.

In this episode storyteller Tom Muir picks up the tales of the hill-folk of Trowie Glen. You can hear more of Hoy’s folkore from Tom here.

In Orkney someone who is poorly might complain of feeling a bit trowie.

Drawing by Bryce Wilson from Orkneyology.

Another site associated with folklore is the remarkable rock-cut tomb, the Dwarfie Stone. You can read all about this enigmatic site here.

Major William Mounsey, who camped at the stone in the 19th century carved a Star of David above a back-to-front Latinised version of his name and the date AD 1850. Below this, and most curiously of all, he carved in Arabic a script which reads ‘I have sat for two nights and found patience’.

Above the Dwarfie Stone the giant birds of Hoy have made their eyrie. Hoy’s Sea Eagles, or White-tailed Eagles, returned to Hoy after an absence of 150 years. The re-introduction of these magnificent birds began in 1975. Read naturalist John Lister Kaye’s and poet Yvonne Gray’s pleasure in finding the erne returned here.

The Hoy birds were named by the pupils of North Walls Community School – Grizela, Bakko, Craggie, with two more born in 2020.

Read about the changing fortunes of the eagle from livestock killer here.

One story that is found in Scotland and elsewhere in northern Europe is that of baby-snatching eagles. You will be glad to know that the story commonly ends with the child unharmed…….

Eagles or Earns, and Gleds [buzzard] are here in plenty and have been very harmfull to the young store: Yea they have been found to seise upon young children and carry them a good way off, and there is a man yet alive who was carried away by an Eagle (while a child) to her nest, but was so speedily by the blessing of God, prevented that no harm was done to him.

From The Description of Orkney by Rev Wallace 1693

Read more of these accounts here.

Wildlife cameraman Raymond Besant meets Lee Shields in a short film about Raymond’s love for the Sea Eagles of Hoy. (from Orkney.com)

Along the road Dan tells us of the hidden prehistoric landscape by Whaness Burn revealed by a heather fire and now lost from view again. We follow the road round where it meets the Hoy road that travels the length of the island. The sea is in view again and we can look on Whaness and Quoys.

Next stop the Hoy Hall. Ingrid Budge took the atmospheric photograph of the hall after it had fallen out of use. This was once the venue for dances and special events.

Community events in the Hoy Parish are now held at Hoy Kirk Heritage Centre or the Hoy Outdoor Centre.

Latterly the hall was used for the Hoy Show poultry exhibition.

Over 60 years after the 1952 Hoy Dance held at the hall, Cathy Clark was able to name everyone apart from the people whose faces were obscured. Wow.

Hoy School as it was then, it is now the Hoy Outdoor Centre. In the audio Tommy Moar and Donnie MacKinnon recall their school days here. Below Tommy tells of another day of mischief at the school.

Our last stop is Hoy Kirk, built in 1891-92 to replace the Old Kirk, this was once the parish church. In 2003 the community bought the building from the Church of Scotland and it is now a Heritage Centre and community venue.

Here the scenery is more Highland in character than anywhere else in Orkney, and may well be termed awe-inspiring and grand. Over all towers the mighty mass of the Ward Hill of Hoy, 1,565 feet in height. It is the highest hill in Orkney, and rises so abruptly that its eastern face seems one immense scree that threatens to overwhelm the little crofts and houses nestling at its foot.

Dr Hugh Marwick Orkney, The County Book Series 1951

The pulpit boasts an unusual provenance, the panels are reputed to have come from a Spanish Armada wreck, although the carved date is later. The  date 1624 and initials H.M.S  are said to belong to the minister of the time. This date is earlier than the present kirk and will belong to the time of the Old Kirk beside the Bu.

The pulpit has been moved the back of the kirk since the community bought the Hoy Kirk. The cross above the pulpit is carved from wood which came from the wreck of HMS Vanguard.  In 1917, over 800 lives were tragically lost when HMS Vanguard suffered an internal explosion while she was anchored off Flotta. The cross was made by the late Harry Berry, local artist and Custom and Excise Officer. Harry Berry also made the grave for Betty Corrigall.

In the audio Tommy tells the story of how the Hoy Kirk was badly damaged by storms in January 1952.  Queen Mary lent a needlework she had embroidered for a tour around Scotland to raise funds to restore the kirk. Letters and newspaper clippings can be found in the archive recording this piece of Hoy Kirk Royal History.

Weddings still take place at the kirk. Cathy Clark (seen above left at her wedding at Hoy Kirk to Albert Clark with Mary Moar as bridesmaid and her brother Jack Rendall) started a folder of Hoy Kirk weddings. So if you or your ancestors married at Hoy Kirk get in touch here and we can add you to Cathy’s folder.

Hoy Heritage Centre runs a programme of exhibitions, talks and events with collaborations with West Side Cinema, St Magnus Festival and an annual event with Orkney International Science Festival.

We are always open (except for now when we are shut! but not for long we hope). Come in and make yourself a cup of tea and browse the many tales o Hoy in our archive and folders. If you can’t come in person it’s been great to see you here, we hope to see you again.

images: Hoy Heritage / Orkney Library & Archive / Robert Ionides (Hoy half-marathon) / Svolvær (White-tailed eagle) / Ingrid Budge

Thank you to our funders and supporters of this podcast series. We hope you enjoyed the Tales o Hoy.