Prints from the Archives

A bit ago there was a tweet from Orkney Library and Archives saying some spare prints from the Archives would be on sale that afternoon.  As I was looking after Nigel at the time, and as he loves bus rides, I decided we would go in to town to have a look.

I came away with 6 prints.  Some I bought as they will be useful for the book I am doing on Orkney knitwear; some were of more general interest and some I just liked!

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This one caught my eye at once.  The background shows the fishing fleet in Stromness harbour in the heyday of the herring industry.  See the rows and rows of masts from the drifters?  But it is the foreground which makes it a picture.

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Unfortunately Lovick’s Law comes in to play yet again.  The two blokes on the right are wearing cloth waistcoats, and the one on the left has a plain gansey….

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This next one is just interesting.  This must be one of the earlier diving suits, and from the size of the men’s caps the photo was taken just after WW1.  My guess is that the diving operation could have had something to do with the aftermath of the sinking of the German Fleet in Scapa Flow in 1919.

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Ganseys here are also plain, but the one worn by the right hand of the three fishermen is almost certainly handspun.

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One more sea one.  This is again Stromness Harbour, looking across to the hills of Hoy.  The steam boat tied up at the pier is called the Hoy Head, the name of the ferry to Hoy and Flotta for over a century.

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Coming on to the land, above is a photo of women and a boy hoeing, while three young children play nearby.  Taking photos of groups of people hoeing seemed to be a common activity as there are lots of pictures of this communal activity!  Here is a close up of the workers.  You can see that the woman on the right is wearing a knitted ‘cape’, shaped (not just a triangle) and with a patterned border.  I can’t quite work out what the pattern is, but it could involve cables.

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And here are the children – two boys and a girl almost hidden.  One boy wears a sailor suit jacket and the other a coat, both of which are probably knitted.  Patterns for these sorts of garments were easily found in the books of the time, or copied from what their mothers or grandmothers saw in the street.

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This next one tells a story.  From the body language of the folk in the background, the photographer was a stranger.  These folk are not posed, but have left off their talking when someone noticed the photographer.  I can see their point – not everyone wants there washing on film!

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Finally, a print I couldn’t leave behind.  At first glance it appears to be just a woman carrying a book, but closer inspection reveals that the title of the magazines in her arms is Votes for Women.  And see that three coloured badge on her shirt front?  That will have been green, white and purple.  She is an Orkney suffragette.

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16 thoughts on “Prints from the Archives

  1. It would be interesting to see photos from the same locations side by side with these you purchased. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Fascinating and you may be right about the cabled edge. One of my great aunts had a shawl rather like that. It had belonged to her mother (my paternal great-grandmother) and, if I remember correctly, it had a gansey pattern and a cabled border. I have no idea what happened to it – probably thrown out because it was old even when I was small. I do remember that the wool was rough so it was probably a Shetland type yarn.

    1. When I was doing stuff for Tell Them of Us, and Centenary Stitches, I remember seeing patterns for this sort of shawl/cape with a cabled edge. The edge was done first and then stitches were picked up from the row ends and the main part knitted on. In the original print you can clearly see rows of heavy decreasing near the shoulders and upwards.

      1. that would make sense because there wouldn’t be a long cast on edge and it would be more elastic – rather like the edging on a lace shawl knitted inwards

  3. Thanks for the fascinating glimpse into history! But ACK! “Catdownunder” thinks that Shetland is a rough wool? The finest of the British breeds?!?

  4. Would it be possible to identify the woman on the last photo?
    I am very much interested in the history of the Suffragettes and we can’t honor them enough… (sorry for bad english)

    I remember that the Shetland Museum shows photos and asking who knows the persons on the photos… maybe that is possible with this portrait as well?

    Thanks for the photos! Enjoy your day!

    Connie

    1. I don’t know. They mat have that information or may not. It is on my list of things to ask David next time I go in. The fact that they had a spare print suggests that someone had ordered a copy, which again suggests that either her name is known or that someone is looking at the Suffragette movement up here.

  5. Liz- these are great. How I wish I could have participated in the sale. Lucky you! At the Antiquarian Book Fair last year there was a Bainbridge based couple selling old photos – I found an early one by Charles Reid showing a shepherd and his sheep somewhere in Scotland. Nothing else even remotely related to textiles. I hope they are at the Book Fair this year.

  6. Wonderful pictures. The third harbor picture, with the narrow profile of the sail at the left, is a simply beautiful composition. And how I would love to have the picture of the suffrage campaigner – again, wonderful is the word.

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