At oure landing the people fled from their poore cottages, with shrikes and alarms, to warne their neighbours of enemies, but by gentle persuasions we reclamed them to their houses. It seemeth they are often frighted with Pirats, or some other enemies, that moove them to such sudden feare. Their houses are very simply builded with Pibble stone, without any chimneis, the fire being made in the middest thereof. The good man, wife, children, and other of their family eate and sleepe on the one side of the house, and the cattell on the other, very beastly and rudely in respect of civilitie. They are destitute of wood, their fire is turffes, and Cowshards.
Kirkwall, OrkneyThis bloody town’s a bloody cuss — No bloody trains, no bloody bus,And no one cares for bloody us,In bloody OrkneyThe bloody roads are bloody bad, The bloody folks are bloody mad, They’d make the brightest bloody sadIn bloody Orkney.Everything’s so bloody dear,A bloody bob for bloody beer, And is it good, - no bloody fear,In bloody Orkney. . .No bloody sport, no bloody games, No bloody fun; the bloody dames Won’t even give their bloody names,In bloody Orkney.Best bloody place is bloody bed,With bloody ice on bloody head, You might as well be bloody dead,In bloody Orkney.
The Maeshowe Dragon is a very familiar Orkney icon, which has been interpreted in various ways, but most Orcadians consider it as a motif depicting pagan beliefs being killed by a Christian sword.
The Romans placed Ultima Thule in these parts, after hardy expeditions of their truly intrepid sailors had ventured around the northern coast of Scotland. And Thule was to them a concept which meant the end of the world and the beginning of the impenetrable unknown, as we regard the black pits of deep space beyond the observable stars today.
The largest single clearance in Orkney took place in Rousay, when (in 1845) General Burrough’s uncle George William Traill, known in Indian as the “King of Kumaon” cleared 200 people from Quandal, where the remains of their runrig farming system are still clearly visible. Quandal lies just beyond one of the finest concentrations of archaeological remain in Scotland, including well-preserved neolithic chambered cairns (from 3,500 B.C.). A visit to Quandal demonstrates how the arrogance of a single Victorian laird could bring 5,000 years of continuous human settlement to an abrupt end.