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2020 OHS Newsletter – Still a few copies left!

One of the benefits of membership of Orkney Heritage Society is receiving a free copy of the annual newsletter. There are still a few copies of the 2020 Newsletter left, so if you haven’t already joined OHS, you can join now and receive your copy. Only £10 per year! See our Membership Page for details.

Due to a generous donation our latest newsletter is another 100 plus page book, full of interesting articles and pictures. The editor, Elizabeth Corsie, has managed to procure contributions on a large variety of subjects, the following being a brief resume.

There are the usual Chairman’s and Treasurer’s reports, as well as the list of Fereday Prize commendations. The financial contribution given to the Society has allowed colour printing, which was particularly important to the first article, the overall 2019/20 Fereday Award Prize Winning Investigation by Sebastian Pesci on his grandfather, Jim Baikie. People of a certain generation will remember Jim as a talented musician, playing bass guitar in local bands. He could well have made it big in that industry, but it was through his love of illustrating comic books that he made his living. Sebastian’s fascinating account of his grandfather is laced with many of Jim’s drawings, reproduced in their full glorious colour.

Neil Kermode’s description of the unveiling of the plaque to Murdoch Mackenzie is followed by an account of the mapping methods used by the famous eighteenth century Orkney cartographer in Mackenzie’s own words. Among the islands Mackenzie surveyed was the small uninhabited (at least by humans) island of Eynhallow, to which the Society organises an annual trip. Sadly, due to the current Covid-19 crisis, there is no trip this year. To make up for it, Elizabeth Corsie has written a detailed description of the 2019 trip. It is very much hoped that normal service can be resumed in 2021.

The remarkable story of the attack on Holm and occupation of Lamb Holm by French troops under a Scottish Jacobite is recounted by Sheena Wenham.

The work of Orkney Vintage Club is described by Cathleen Hourie and there is an account by Clive Warboys of arguably the most popular ‘plane to serve the Northern and Western Isles, the Vickers Viscount.

The Society’s stance on the infrastructure needed to service the growing renewable sector is described and there is a warning by Johnny Grimond about the potential ruination of the Orkney landscape. Whether one agrees with his point of view or not (and it is to be doubted few will), his contribution is well worth reading.

The history behind the ceremonial appearance of Halberdiers in Kirkwall is explained by Spencer Rosie and the Society’s President, Sandy Firth, gives another of his memories of the Second World War, this time giving a fascinating account of the RAF’s High Speed Launches based in Shapinsay.

The excavations at the rapidly eroding site at the Knowe of Swandro in Rousay, which includes a Neolithic chambered tomb, a substantial Iron Age roundhouse, Pictish buildings, Viking houses and a Norse Long Hall, are described.

Interspersed among the articles are many photographs and poems, including an old favourite, Bloody Orkney, complete with an extra stanza giving a local riposte.

A review by Tom Muir of  The Henry Sinclair Casebook, a study into the life of Earl Henry Sinclair (1345-1400) by the late Vicki Hild. The Henry Sinclair book is available along with many other OHS publications via our Publications page

Some copies of the 2020 Newsletter are still available and can be obtained by joining the Scociety, annual fee being £10. See Membership page for details.

2020 Eynhallow trip cancelled

Orkney Heritage Society regret to announce that due to the current situation with COVID-19 there will be no excursion to Eynhallow in 2020.

We look forward to the next trip in 2021, most likely in July.

2019 OHS Laura Grimond Award presented to Kirkwall project

The Laura Grimond Award for Architectural Projects was established in 1999 in memory of Laura Grimond, with the aim of encouraging and promoting excellence in the built environment of Orkney, a subject dear to her heart. At a recent meeting of Orkney Heritage Society, it was decided to re-establish the Laura Grimond Award, albeit in a different format from the original competition that was held. The OHS Board of Trustees will now give out an occasional award to a building development that contributes to preserving the architectural heritage of Orkney.

The first recipient in this new format is the extension at the back of 53 Albert Street, Kirkwall, which deserves recognition on a number of levels. It is a testament to the developer’s willingness to spend the extra money to achieve a building that blends into the streetscape of Kirkwall’s historic core, utilising some traditional architectural features such as crow’s steps.

From left to right: Sandy Firth (OHS President), John Hamilton & Raymie Rendall (both R.S.Rendall Ltd), Spencer Rosie (OHS Chair). A third certificate was awarded to the developer, Ian Gorn.

Particularly impressive is the large stone wall built to mask the utilitarian flat roof extension. Laura’s son, Johnny Grimond, commented, “even utilitarian buildings can be made to sit comfortably in historic surroundings. The work is of a high standard. The use of stone is appropriate to the situation and the ‘dry stone’ coping adds an Orcadian touch. All in all, it draws the eye in all the right ways and none of the bad ones”.

The planning authority of Orkney Islands Council deserves a mention for working with the developer and encouraging the use of some of the architectural details.

Not least requiring recognition is the very high standard of work provided by the contractor, R. S. Rendall Ltd, particularly the superb craftsmanship shown by their stonemason, John Hamilton, on the stone walls. Three framed certificates were presented, one to the contractor, Raymie Rendall, one to the developer, Ian Gorn,  and one to John Hamilton, stonemason.

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