The following eulogy was written by Ed Firth, Nedyar, and read out by him to those attending Edwin’s interment at the Brinian kirkyard on the afternoon of April 21st 2018.
James Edwin Flaws was the son of Mansie Flaws of Heldie [Helziegetha] and Mollie of Horn [Hawn], and he was born at Horn in Wyre in 1936.
He was aged 14 when he left the Wyre school to work home at Heldie. Mollie didn’t want him called up so, at 16 he was put to Trumland Farm, with Bobbie Johnston, Archer Clouston, and Dave Craigie on special exemption as a farm servant.
He soon got fed up with that and volunteered for the Royal Artillery. After Rhyll and Oswestry he was sent to the Middle East. There he was on active service at Tripoli, Malta, and elsewhere. After he was demobbed at the Isle of Wight he came home to Wyre. He kept up with his comrades and he and Itha often went to reunions in Blackpool.
However, his uncle Neil, a blacksmith with Glossops of Hipperholme, invited him and Freddie Craigie of the Bu to work on the M62, amongst other projects, driving a road planing machine, amongst other heavy machinery. He enjoyed this work, but eventually he came home to Heldie to help his father run the post to the three isles.
He started courting Itha, who I mind was working at the Kirkwall Hotel; Johnnie Johnston and me spent many an hour about the toon waiting for Edwin to appear so we could run him back to Wyre in the old Alert! This courtship was not approved of, so Edwin eventually took matters into his own hands and he and Itha eloped; he picked her up off the shore of Evie, and they married in Wyre. There they stayed at Tongaday, where Fiona was born.
He was asked to Rousay for his blasting skills (He always liked a bang!), for a fortnight, but stayed for a year at Witchwood, where Callum was born. They went home to Wyre to work with Mansie, who was now running the daily ferry.
Edwin and Itha stayed at a caravan which they later developed into Caravelle. Their boy Stewart was born in 1967 but died in 1969. Angus appeared in 1971, and their family was complete.
Edwin, Ian and Jim Johnston had always played at Wyre dances; Freddie Craigie o’ Cavit joined them and they were eventually known as the Wyre Band, playing all over Orkney at weddings, harvest homes, Burns suppers and of course, folk festivals. We even ventured down to Argyll one year! Poor Freddie died in a car crash, but the band was enlarged by other casual players like Johnny Johnston, Nigel Firth, Jim o’ Westness, Sinclair Taylor, Malcolm Nicol and myself. Edwin’s style of playing had a terrific lift to it, which was great to dance to.
Freeland Barbour was in Wyre at a folk festival concert and afterwards climbed the castle there and was so taken with the dawn that he felt a tune coming over him which he named, of course, “Edwin Flaws of Wyre!”
Incidentally, the Wyre Band was playing in Auchtermuchty the next year, when, walking along the street a complete stranger came up to Ian, Edwin’s brother and said “You must be Edwin’s brother-give this to him.” Inside was a tape and the manuscript for the Freeland Barbour tune - it was the first we knew of it! - The great Jimmy Shand himself sought Edwin out to speak to him, which, according to Itha, made his day.
Edwin and Mansie developed transport to Tingwall. Using Sidney Bichan’s barge and later Ronald Leith’s landing craft, they shipped many kye and lambs to Tingwall. I remember well gathering 40 or so fostered calves, the farm’s total output for the year on the shore below the steamer store and caa’ing them with great difficulty onto the barge, with maybe 18” freeboard, and holding my breath for 50 minutes until we lowsed them out on the beach at Tingwall, where they were met by long suffering Messrs. Marshall, Spence and Harvey!
He worked for the Water department from ’94 to 05’, worked for Orkney Ferries from ’86 to ’96, started up Flaws Engineering in ’89, and was instrumental in the restarting of the regatta in the mid seventies. He would have loved to see a marina here. He even reopened the county quarry when the OIC ordained that it was unsustainable! Edwin was also a member of the fire brigade when it was first set up in Rousay.
Talking about blasting – we needed stone chips for the road, so I went along to Edwin’s hoose one time to get gelignite and fuse with him; the cupboard was damp and the gelly was nice and sweaty. We took this to the County quarry and set our charges, with plenty of semtex, but precious little fuse. He was always generous with his Cordtex and explosive, but very miserly with his fuse cord! Edwin went one way down the road, I went the other to stop the cars; the blast went off long before it was supposed to, and we got showered with shrapnel, fortunately living to tell the tale! That kept us crushing for weeks!
[Click > here < to watch and listen to a YouTube video of Rousay musicians Ellen and James Grieve playing 'Edwin Flaws of Wyre'. Filmed at the St Magnus Festival, Kirkwall, in July 2016, they also play a well-known Jim o' Deithe tune - 'Maggie Watson's Farewell to Blackhammer.']
But the main thing he’ll be remembered for besides his music, is the Restaurant. He and Itha bought Pier Cottage in ’87, and spent all their effort into making it into a restaurant; soon it became one of the best in Orkney. Since then we have had lots of legendary occasions there; Music, regattas, Burns suppers, RNLI presentations, stag doos, treasure hunts, curry nights and of course it catered for umpteen visitors. It’s been the heart of the island. But, 10 years ago he took a stroke, which curtailed his many enterprises, although he still kept going, working at the restaurant.
One story that sums him up, is of the big snow in ‘78 when the hydro went off for several weeks. Edwin actually managed to pull a startomatic generator on a trailer through the snow to freeze folks freezers! We were most grateful but he wouldn’t, as you’d expect, take anything for saving our bacon!
He will be sorely missed by Itha, Fiona, Callum, and Angus and their partners, his grandchildren, and numerous great-grandchildren - he was the quietly beating heart of the family!
Thanks for all our super memories. Goodbye, Edwin.
Below I have included photos of Edwin so family members can download them if they so wish.
Click on the individual picture to enlarge it, then right click on it, and use the 'save' option.