ROUSAY REMEMBERED

ERNEST & ELENORA STEEL

 

ROUSAY DIARY ~ 1952

The diary was written by Ernest Steel in 1952 and is an account of his holiday in Orkney with his wife Elenora, and within the text are some photos taken at the time. Ernest and Elenora fell in love with Orkney and in the early 1960s they bought a croft on Rousay called ‘Langstane’. They would come up regularly to their croft and would spend many months enjoying the peace and tranquillity of the islands, reading, writing, gardening, hiking, cycling and enjoying the company of their local friends. Following the diary text below there are many photos of the island and some of its inhabitants, showing Ernest's clever camera skills in the early days of Kodachrome colour film.

 

Elenora left all her papers and photos to her granddaughter,

who has transcribed the diary. ©

blank 01 - Elenora & Ernest, Rousay 1952 (Blotchnie Fiol

Elenora and Ernest on top of Blotchnie Fiold, Rousay's highest hill

ORKNEY 1952

 

Thursday, June 19th

   Risborough depart 3.48pm. The Stationmaster joined us as far as Saunderton.

   Depart King’s X 7pm. Miss Watts joined us as far as Aberdeen. She gave us a colourful account of life in Persia as a nurse. Observed an early morning misty crossing of the Forth Bridge. Arrived Aberdeen 7.15am (Friday).

 

Friday, June 20th

   At Aberdeen. Breakfast at Aberdeen Hotel. Observed chairs in lounge made by P.K. of High Wycombe. Visit Quay – and antique shop on the way – to find S.S “St Magnus”. We meet Mr Grant the Purser at the Shipping Co’s office at the quayside & take film of him and Elenora. Collect luggage and discover loss. The Shipping Co quite helpful. Await recovery of lost bag. Is it still at King’s X? (Ernest visits Torry Research Station).

   We board “St Magnus” and sail at 4.30pm. Elenora is invited to inspect engine room. We ... explore the shaft tunnel. (Triple Expansion Engines. ¾ speed at 74 r.p.m.). No hurry to get to Kirkwall due to tide. Later we are fixed up with 1st Class Berths. Ernest in cabin on starboard and Elenora with young woman of Kirkwall. Smooth North Sea crossing. Interesting party at our table for dinner.

   Later adjourn to bar 10.15pm. Chatty steward. And so to bed. We also chatted with interesting lady on deck. Watched group of N Sea trawlers at their fishing grounds. Scotland on the port side. Destroyer (?) passed us on the port side.

 

Saturday June 21st

   The silent engine awakened Ernest at 6.15am. View through porthole: a large wooden stanchion of Kirkwall Quay. At 6.30am Ernest lands on quay and enquires of the S.S. Earl Sigurd and its destination. Sails to Rousay Island, our destination, on Monday only. Breakfast on board St Magnus. Later telephone Mr Gibson, Postmaster of Rousay. Informed by him that James Craigie had left the island for Kirkwall and should now be there. (Small motor boat observed entering the harbour at that moment). We meet J Craigie and George Sutherland, co-owners of the boat. We also meet Mr Vaughan, a visitor to Kirkwall. It’s arranged that we sail with C & S at 4.30pm for Rousay. Meanwhile we explore Kirkwall (lunch at Kirkwall Hotel) and visit Bishop’s Palace. After shopping, return to Harbour and M.V “Fulmar”. Other passengers to Rousay Mrs Perry ....., leave Kirkwall 4.45pm.

   James Craigie points out places of interest, the location of other islands en voyage. Weather fine, sea smooth. Take pictures. The whisky bottle is passed round. We pass Gairsay on our starboard. Owned by two ladies (mother & daughter) from Hastings. Electricity installed from the Mainland at great cost. No telephone on the island. Elenora takes the helm.

   Arrival at Rousay (Trumland Pier). Our baggage conveyed to “Wychwood”, our abode, by tractor. Mr Cormack driving. [Wychwood was situated between Viera View and Daisy Cottage, a wooden house originally built as accommodation for the island nurse. John Cormack (1905-1975) was a blacksmith at the Brinian. In 1937 he married Alice (Girlie) Logie (1906-1985)]

   Greeted by Mrs Cormack at door. Tea awaits us. We settle in. There is a fine view of Wyre opposite our window and that Mainland – also other islands.

02 - Road to the jetty, Rousay Pier 1952

Ernest's photo of the road up from the pier - as it was in 1952

Sunday June 22nd

   A quiet day. A short morning walk. We do likewise in the afternoon but get wet in heavy shower. Later heavy rain. Lunch with the Cormacks. Elenora paints.

   Note: There is almost 24 hours daylight. No darkness to speak of!

 

Monday June 23rd

   Up at 6am. A fine morning. We observe the “Earl Sigurd” in the Sound opposite. Later “Earl Sigurd” calls at Rousay Pier. We collect bicycles but not before spending interesting two hours on board and down in engine room. Triple Expansion engine. Elenora starts up engines under supervision of engineer – an elderly gentleman (68). More tales of the sea. Cargo unloaded and loaded including cattle.

   P.M. we tour the island by road (14 miles). Road fair and is classified B9064.    Our farthest point north (59°11’N). At the top of Kierfea Hill at 400ft contour a magnificent panorama of the islands is spread out before us. Westerly wind at almost gale force confronts us, otherwise fine. Tea and sandwiches at a bleak point near the Quandales. The wind blows us home alongside Eynhallow Sound. We have our first view of Mid Howe Broch (Iron Age settlement).

 

Tuesday June 24th

   Rise about 10am! Weather fine. After lunch we cycle to Mid Howe Broch and explore ancient works. We take a field path by Westness farm, owned by the bros. and sisters Mainland. Easterly wind and rain confront us on the way home. Dinner with Mrs Cormack at 6.30pm. Evening at home.

03 - Eynhallow Sound looking West July 1952

Ernest looks out over Eynhallow Sound from the rocks below Midhowe Broch

Wednesday June 25th

   Dull and misty. AM repair to Craigie’s boat house by the pier. Arrange for afternoon sail at 1.30pm.

   At 1.30 leave Rousay Pier and set course round the island of Wyre. Perfectly smooth sea but sea mist. Pass numerous seals and their young. Keep in shore S of Wyre. Set course for Egilsay our destination. Land at Egilsay pier. This pier is built in the form of an L-shaped quay which is to be concreted over and widened by the C Council at a cost of £5000. Mr Cormack is employed on Egilsay for this work quarrying. We call at cottage for key to St Magnus Church (Ruin). The building is maintained by M.O.W. Round Tower. Pictures taken. Inspect church. Young man (Jim) scything churchyard. We approach “main road” and pass along it for ½ mile, passing the island school en route to the St Magnus Monument (Dedicated by the rector of St Magnus by London Bridge in 1937). Said to be the site St Magnus was murdered in 1116.

   Return to pier. Elenora stops at cottage close to church and meets elderly natives. She is shown the cow byre! James gives us a good account of the history of the island. The island is known for its excellent snipe shooting. After having tea on board M.V. “Fulmar” it is observed that the wind has risen and the sea slightly choppy. We sail for Rousay opposite and keep close to shore. Arrive at Rousay Pier 5.30. “Fulmar” anchored off shore. Elenora offers to row us all in dingy to the pier. A very pleasant afternoon’s voyage. Dinner at 6.30pm.

 

Thursday June 26th

   Up at about 8.30am. Not quite sure as to the sort of day it might be. After some delays we cycle to Mansemass Hill road and leave bikes on roadside. Descend hill across fields to North Howe site. Drizzle! Continual walk along cliff tops to Scabra Head and Sinians of Cutclaws. Fine cliff scenery. Photograph and sketches. Continue wanderings. Snack in drizzle. Later heavy shower. Return to bicycles across the Quandale (Quandale 1595). By this time (5.30) brilliant sunshine and magnificent view of the Orkneys.

 

Friday June 27th

   Not a good day.

   S.W. wind and rain all day with intervals when we had wind only. Not cold. Stayed at home or strolled down to pier and boat house. James Craigie painting boat. Elenora decides to paint interior of boat house. She visit’s J.C.’s mother this evening. Dinner at Mrs C’s. Mr C returns from Isle of Egilsay.

   Note: Our voyage by the M.V Fulmar cancelled owing to bad weather. Sea rough and visibility poor. We were to have gone to Kirkwall. E telephones Aberdeen 3/9d!

   Later we cycle to Woo Bank close to Point of Breck. On our return we call at the almost completed but abandoned house “Mid Garth”. The house is well built but is in decay. Marble fireplaces – overmantles in all rooms. Stain and etched glazing to doors and windows. Sole occupants a gull and dead cat. “The Star” newspaper dated July 22nd 1922. Staircase, mouldings etc. of first class workmanship.

   Home about midnight. Fine “evening” calm. The hills on the mainland can be picked out on their colours. To bed with no artificial lighting.

 

Saturday June 28th

   Up about 10am. Wind, Sea rough, High clouds. Mild. We miss J.C and his boat for Kirkwall. Warmer. We take boat for the Isle of Wyre, across the sound of the same name. We travel with family – mother, two young daughters and the two redhead boys. Boatman’s name is Flaws, a native of Wyre.

   The island has only recently been served with a telephone kiosk (visible from Wychwood). Later all eight farmsteads will be supplied with telephones.

   Communication with the mainland and Kirkwall is bad. Landing facilities non-existent. Inhabitants have to take ferry to Rousay, thence by hired car (3 miles) to Hullion. Ferry to Evie and bus to Kirkwall. The island has its own “village” hall complete with electric light.

   We visit ruined chapel (M.O.W.) after chatting with man at Hallbreck farm who was collecting debris of large chicken house destroyed by winter storm. Above ruined chapel is a mound on which stands Castle Cobbie Row or Cubbie Roo (1150 AD). We take photographs. Lovely warm, sunny afternoon.

   On our return to the “landing stage” (there are no roads on the island) we pick up Mr Flaws. He rows out to motor vessel and returns to pick Elenora and I up. Choppy crossing to Rousay.

   Elenora swims in harbour shelter. Later we cycle to Westside (near Brochs). Westness farmer exercising sheep dogs. On our return we examine Blackhammer Cairn (Stone Age burial place protected by M.O.W.). Cairn locked up. Who has the key?

   Supper. Fine evening. Ever changing cloud effects with setting sun at 10.30pm. Later we repair to pier at moment of arrival of “The Fulmar” at 11pm from Kirkwall. We enquire as to the possibility of a voyage to the Island of Sanday. J.C. consults George Sutherland. The latter gentleman is definitely against the project. Nevertheless a prolonged discussion ensues on the subject of distance, tides, winds and Stronsay Firth. J.C.’s mother and Harry Logie join in the argument, the finer points of which are lost upon us. We are advised to try and get Nicholson to take us. About midnight we escape to bed.

 

Sunday June 29th

   A fine, bright, sunny morning. Warm. After breakfast we cycle to Home Farm, park cycles in field and commence the climb to the top of Blotchnie Fiold (821 feet above S.L.). The highest point of Rousay. Not a high hill but even so not easy. Most of the way, west of Trumland House is bog and hard going until we reach the 600-700 ft. levels where there is thick heather. Higher up bogs are worse. Here considerable peat has been dug making the going worse. After an hour’s climb we reach the summit and more bog. Here we obtain a magnificent view of the Orkneys spread out before us with the mountain of Hoy to the south. We stay long enough to take photos and then make a direct descent regardless of bog. Call at Mrs Perry’s bungalow on the way down for keys to Taiverso (Neolithic burial ground (M.O.W.). We shall have to call at Trumland House for it.

   After lunch I inspect Mr Cormack’s water supply system. He has installed a Stuart-Turner Pumping Set (Petrol) in a hut on the seashore. Here he bored 23 feet below sea level for fresh water which is pumped 120 yds. up to the house cistern, 25 ft. above sea level. A pipeline serves a field down the road and later Mr Cormack intends to serve Wychwood with a water supply to the lavatory.

   Wychwood has its own rainwater supply.

   This evening we call at pier (6pm) and wait for George to turn up. We sail from Rousay Pier and follow coast as far as Westness Farm. At this point we make for Eynhallow Isle and follow its coast as far as Sheep Skerry. Here the waters of the sound are very shallow. We turn south and make for the mainland coast and follow it as far as Taing of Midgarth. The course is changed hereabouts for the coast of Wyre. Being ebb tide we steer between the Skerries and the Taing.

   Return to Rousay Pier. A pleasant evening. Light breeze.

 

Monday June 30th

   We woke up to a wind almost gale force from the west, otherwise mild. Chores and odd jobs this morning. Visit local store and chat to Mr Marwick. After lunch we decide to explore cairns. Telephone Mr Hourie (Westness 2), keeper of the ancient monuments of Rousay. Ernest calls upon Dr Carlisle (locum for Dr Innis) at the Manse for key. An austere house along road and near coast. Discover key has been returned to (Mr) Hourie. Gale still blowing.  We set out in a howling strong wind and cycle round the island via Kierfea Hill road and Saviskaill. At Wasbister we meet Mr Hourie and collect keys. We have a chat concerning prehistoric remains. Also accounts of buried treasure dug up by rabbits. We continue round of the island. On reaching S side of the island, wind dies down to some extent. We visit Blackhammer cairn and take photos. Arrive at Wychwood at 8.15pm. Supper.

   Later we call on George Sutherland. He is a bachelor, lives in his own house. (Built 1882 for blacksmith). Interesting box bed under stairs. George is 56. Wireless operator in Merchant Services (trained at Marconi House, Strand). Travelled all over the world, visited all countries except Russia & New Zealand. His wish is to be coxswain of a lifeboat for Rousay. The islanders have petitioned for one. Spoke about wreck of Icelandic Trawler (Eyrfirdinger) on the Red Holm, Sound of Faray in Feb 1952. 7 lives lost. Stromness lifeboat called out. We study Admiralty chart of the Orkneys.

15 - Elenora Steel, George Sutherland (sitting) at

Elenora with George Sutherland at Stromness

Tuesday July 1st 1952

   Heavy sea mist at 8.30am. Warmer. At 10am we sail on the “Fulmar” for Kirkwall (specially chartered for the visit). Strong current in Eynhallow and Gairsay Sounds. Choppy seas and light spray. Arrive at Kirkwall 11.30. George joins us on a bus to Stromness. Lunch with G at Stromness Hotel. We explore the town and intermingle with G visiting old friends, he points out places of interest. An excellent companion & guide. Return to Kirkwall on the 4pm bus and after some shopping, we sail for Rousay, 6pm. Ernest takes the helm most of the voyage and we return via the east side of Gairsay and Wyre. Sea dead calm. The day was very hot and almost cloudless. A very fine day!

 

Wednesday July 2nd

   Late morning rising. After a light lunch we cycle to Hullion and take ferry to mainland (Evie). We meet Mr Tom Sinclair, the ferryman, painting one of his boats. He has never left the islands nor ever seen a train. Age 45-50.

   We take bicycles over with us. Choppy crossing of Eynhallow Sound. At Evie we climb steadily to 550ft. to the Breeran where we have a magnificent view of Rousay, the Sounds and outer isles. Our descent to the Burn of Hillside is through wild peat-bog moorland. Here the peat for the island is cut, stacked, and laid in long trenches. The area covered must run into several thousands of acres.

   We continue via the rather depressing district of Dounby consisting of the old village plus shacks, bungalows and sheds (Nissen Huts). This was an R.A.F. depot during the war. We cross the main roads of the island (A986 & A967) and skirt the water’s edge of the loch of Skaill until we reach our destination (11 miles) Bay of Skaill and the prehistoric Skara Brae. It was by this part of the coast that “The Hampshire” was lost with Lord Kitchener in 1915.

   With guide (M.O.W.) we inspect the Skara Brae. Start return journey 7.15pm. Stop at Dounby. Beer & snacks. Telephone ferry & Mrs Cormack. Tom Sinclair waiting for us at Evie – busy making nets. Home at about 9.50pm. Supper at Mrs Cormack’s at about 9.50pm.

   Fine warm day right up to midnight moon.

11 Yorville

Boats above high water mark at Hullion Pier. The houses are Yorville, and between the gables and in the distance is Banks, home of Tom Sinclair and his family.

Thursday July 3rd

   A fine sunny day. (W. Wind). After yesterday’s excursion, we relax and almost do nothing. Elenora brings forward the oil colours once again. Ernest takes photos. We take an evening stroll along the top roads. Wind.

 

Friday July 4th

   Rain and gale during the early hours. The day does not promise well but we are mistaken! Morning uncertain. We have chartered the M.V. Fulmar (Capt. Craigie) for voyage to Kirkwall. We leave Rousay Pier at 2pm and have Dr Carlisle as passenger aboard. His locum duties finished upon the return of Dr Innes, he is returning home by air from Kirkwall. Floodtide across Eynhallow sound. Sea choppy but it smooths out as we enter Stronsay Firth and enter Kirkwall. We enter Kirkwall in brilliant sunshine, quite hot. Crowds on quay and much coming and going around the St Ninian. A fine modern motor vessel. Put into service 1951. Meet Mr Wickham again who has just returned from a tour of the islands. The quayside crowded mainly because troops are also embarking...........

   Elenora and I have tea in lounge of the Kirkwall Hotel, upstairs, where we have a fine view of the departure of the St. Ninian through the narrows. I take the helm on the return voyage to Rousay. Leave Kirkwall about 6.15pm. (High Water at K. 8.45pm ½ hour earlier at Rousay Pier). Today has been the Picnic on the Island. Our arrival home coincides with the arrival of other small boats from Wyre for the evening dance at “The Schools”.

   This evening proves to be one of the finest we have experienced so far. No wind, clear blue sky, sea like gloss. We stroll and take time photograph at midnight. Wyre can be seen clearly in a kind of light dusk.

 

Saturday July 5th

   E. up at 4.15!! A grand “oil-smooth” morning. Perfect. We rest after breakfast outside on “lawn” overlooking Wyre Sound.

   This P.M we sail on M.V Fulmar and are joined by Marwick on a visit to Eynhallow Isle. The Wyre Sound is quite smooth but upon approaching Eynhallow the sea is much rougher with the S wind. It is very hot. We search for a suitable anchorage between Sheep Skerry and Grory but owing to the comparatively heavy waves pounding the vessel, we abandon the idea of landing by the dingy. Sail across the Sound to Aikerness on the Mainland and find suitable anchorage. Land by dingy on rocky shore and seaweed. Climb to the Aikerness Broch (under M.O.W. supervision and preservation). Joined by Mr Marwick; we take pictures and have tea. Sail for Rousay Pier and land Mr Marwick. We go across to Wyre and land at Hallbrech Point by dingy. James accompanies us to Cobbie Roo Castle (M.O.W.). Return to Rousay. Tea.

   After tea, we stroll down to pier and later (after some indecision) cycle to the top of Kierfea Hill Road and watch sunset (10.30). Cold S wind on our return and upon arrival at Wychwood find the two Cormacks busy collecting poultry and hoeing up potatoes (1/2 acre) with mechanical hoe (two blades). Full moon. Fine. Bed at midnight or later.

 

Sunday July 6th

   Heat wave upon us? Brilliant sun. Hot with S wind. Sun at midday (1pm) 82° overhead. We cycle to Mid Howe Broch. Take pictures (interior).

   After lunch Elenora continues painting from a point on main road above Wychwood. Mr Cormack & I go to the local smithy workshop but only after the good folk “have returned from Kirk”. Meet Mrs Cormack’s brother (Logie Bros) who owns woodworking business next door to smithy. At Smithy I am shown the equipment including a fly-wheel drill and the 3ft. long tool-steel bit used for

boring the well (3 1/16” diam).

   Mr Logie shows me over the carpenters shop. Inspect Sagar saw bench belt driven by Morris engine.

   (Note: - The Iron Horse made by British Anzani Engineering Co Ltd, Hampton Hill Middlesex).

   Later tea on “lawn” facing sea. Very hot. Ears Burnt. Cool evening. We cycle to collect wild orchids indigenous to the Orkney Isles.

6 - Midhowe Broch with Elenora

Elenora, exploring the interior of Midhowe Broch

Monday July 7th

   The “Earl Sigurd” off Wyre at 8am. I meet vessel at Rousay Pier to put bicycle on board. A quiet day. Very fine. A.M. we cycle to Hullion P/O and chat with Mr Gibson on local historical matters. After lunch we decide to paint and draw. Overcast. Heavy cloud and then fog. We receive invitation to take tea with Mrs Grant at Trumland House.

   Evening we call on J.C and his mother near pier. House built 1877. Experiments with spinning wheel. German war charts. Photographs. General Sir .... Burroughs (Borris?) Captain Pett of the “E Sigurd” and the oil painting! An entertaining evening.

 

Tuesday July 8th

   Fine, warm but foggy. Later a.m. we cycle to Scockness. The disintegrating wreck (Elenora visits farm). The wreck, a hulk 50’ long lies on the beach, engine in position but portion of shaft removed. It is located in the Bay of Ham.

We visit Trumland House, meet Mrs Grant and introduced to Lady Hamilton. Stanley Cursiter’s paintings of Orkney in dining room.

   Exercises in printing Xmas cards for Mr Cormack this evening.

 

Wednesday July 9th

   Fine morning. We climb to Loch of Knitchin with J.C.’s mother where we receive instruction in the cutting of peat. Take pictures. We then climb to the Tumulus 700’+. Here we have a fine view of the isles with the aid of binoculars. Did we see the Fair Isle or was it cloud?

   To Hullion and Westness.

 

Thursday July 10th

   A lazy morning. Flotsam on seashore. Elenora to Scockness.

   At 2.15p.m. we leave Rousay Pier on M.V Fulmar for Gairsay Isle. We were to have gone to Eynhallow, but the state of the tide prevented this. We set course due E. for Egilsay and then S past Wyre. Overcast. Storm clouds to the W. We enter Stronsay Firth at mouth of Gairsay Sound with tide running at 5 knots against us. Smooth crossing with but few “white horses”. We enter narrow sound ‘tween Gairsay and Sweyn Holm keeping close in-shore on starboard where there is a deeper channel. Pass Russness Bay and the points called Hen of Gairsay and Ness of Gairsay. Here we encounter heavier seas on our port in Wide Firth. Heavier weather. James takes boat into Millburn Bay to investigate possible landing, but weather is still deteriorating so we abandon project.

   George takes helm. On leaving bay we meet rough weather. We retire to wheelhouse and take tea (James prefers beer). Plenty of spray. Pass Seal Skerry to the S and on Port. Turn N with Boray Ness on Star’d. N by W for Eynhallow Sound. Rough. Rain. The passage past The Taing of Wyre opposite Aikerness on Mainland is very tricky. Here are hidden skerries which appear at low tide only. Bearings are taken off Rousay and Mainland hills. Although sea is very “choppy”, the sandy and rock bottom is clearly visible. It is advisable to steer over sandy areas. A trawler ran on to the skerries recently and was eventually pulled off by the S.S Earl Sigurd.

   We keep to the Wyre shore. Even our own sound was rough. Mainland blotted out by mist (3 knots). Rousay Pier at 4.30pm. Rain. We enjoyed every minute of it.

   Heavy storm this evening.

12 - Gairsay, Orkney 1958

Elenora and Ernest visited Gairsay during a later visit to Orkney. The island was the winter home of the Norse chieftain Sweyn Asleifsson, one of the last great Vikings. Langskaill, in Ernest's photo above, was built on the site of Sweyn's estate in the 17th century by a wealthy merchant, Sir William Craigie, who lived there with his wife Margaret Honyman, daughter of the Bishop of Orkney.

Friday July 11th

   Westerly wind. Rain then bright sunshine. To Hullion and P.O. Ramble along seashore.

   P.M fine. To Scockness. Elenora paints old wreck. Later we visit Scockness farm.

   Rain and fine periods. Evening stormy.

 

Saturday July 12th

   Heavy clouds. W wind. Willie Marwick calls at 8.20am. To ferry. A rough passage to Evie....... Bus to Kirkwall. Shopping. Board St Magnus at noon bound for Lerwick.

 

   (Elenora and Ernest then spent the night at Lerwick on the St Magnus, and the following day at Lerwick, returning to Kirkwall on morning of 14th July.)

 

Monday July 14th

   Breakfast on board at Kirkwall. Shopping. To Finstown by bus. Thence Mr Pottinger’s car to Evie. He & I leave Elenora at the ferry and say goodbye to Tom Sinclair.

   I return to Pomona Inn at Finstown and have lunch. Meet the local tailor. Bus to Kirkwall. Tired, so I go aboard and sleep in bunk that afternoon. Tea.   We sail at 5.30pm.

 

----------------------------

 

   Notes from Elenora & Ernest’s granddaughter:

 

   Elenora remained on holiday on Rousay after Ernest returned home.

 

   In a letter to his cousin (who lived in Ohio, USA) dated September 23rd 1952, Ernest wrote:

 

   “Having been working hard and being of the opinion that a real holiday was vitally necessary to our health and welfare, living as we do in a country that is held together almost by what can only be called a ‘hand to mouth’ existence in spite of the wealth of the world around us, we decided to take a long vacation and get away into more natural surroundings. We therefore travelled overnight by train to Aberdeen on June 18-19 and from there sailed north to the little city of Kirkwall the capital of the Orkney Islands. This is a small group of isles where the people claim Norse descent dating from the early Vikings.  We rented a small wooden bungalow for a month – Elenora subsequently stayed on for five weeks and returned home by air... whilst I came back alone by sea to Edinburgh...

    To us it was the grandest holidays we have had for many years. We painted in black and white and in oils some of the most interesting and grand scenery of these Northern Isles.

    Most of the time, however, was spent upon the sea in small boats cruising around the various islands. The people are mostly crofters with three or four acres of land close to the sea. There are also comparatively large farms up to 3000 acres devoted to sheep.

    A black sheep has been specially shorn for me on one of the islands, the wool spun, cleaned and will then be made into cloth at home here locally...A tailor is then going to make me an overcoat.

    We got to know many of the inhabitants and were invited to their homes and entertained.”

Line Break b

[While Elenora was a capable artist, Ernest was a very keen amateur photographer - as you will see from his photos below. No text I'm afraid, just brief captions.....]

01 1963 Rousay from air Photo by The Orcadian Kirkwall received 17 July 1963

An aerial photo of Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre - sent to Elenora by The Orcadian newspaper in July 1963.

04 1964 - Langstane, garden in front, Stone far right1960s

Langstane, or No 5, Frotoft - with the 'lang stane' visible far right.

02 1964 John Mainland and _pup_ 1964 03 1964 John Mainland next door neighbour and farmer

John Mainland, photographed in 1964 - the Steel's neighbour, friend, and farmer; he lived 'next door' at Cott.

04a Boat Bank and Rousay in distance 04b Boat Bank reverse of card

Elenora treasured this postcard of the Otter Bank - originally built for Walter G. Grant, of Trumland House and Highland Park fame.

05 1967 Elenora Letter to The Times July 1967 06 1968 Elenora and Standing Stone 1968 at Langstane

Elenora - writing to the Editor of The Times - and posing for Ernest beside the lang stane

08 1968 Brough 1968 09 1968 Frotoft 1968 10 1968 Frotoft Orkney Nov_Dec time in the 1960s 07 1968 The first post arrives at Langstane after

Frotoft in the grip of Winter, 1968: Brough, above left; a view from the fields below Langstane above right; looking down from the Knowe of Yarso, below left; and the first postal delivery at Langstane 'after four days' isolation'!  

11 1968 Frotoft Nov_Dec 12 1968 Rousay 1968 - The new telephone cable arrives

A chilly view of the mainland from Langstane - and an interesting shot of the new GPO telephone cable coming ashore. The 'exchange' was/is housed in a small building between Cott and Brough.  

13 1969 Caroline, Helen & Ernest, beach below Langstane 1969 15 1969 Geo on west side of Eynhallow Caroline 14 1969 Eynhallow, John with oar, Ernest & boatman Tom Sinclair helping Helen

Ernest with granddaughters Caroline and Helen; Caroline posing next to the Geo of the Dyke-end on the west side of Eynhallow; Tom Sinclair helping members of the family ashore from his boat at the start of their visit to Eynhallow (picture by Elenora]  

16 1969 Pond at Trumland Farm , Rousay 1960s 17 1969 Wasbister 1960s

The duck pond at Trumland Farm, and the Wester Loch, basking in summer sunshine in 1969

Dr Helen Firth at Rousay pier James Craigie (at Rousay pier) Jeannie & a live present

Always willing to lend a helping hand at Rousay pier - James Craigie, known as  'Steebly' to his friends. Below left, is Dr Helen Firth, with Trumland farmhouse to the left, and Greenfield to the right;

below right is Jeannie o' Broch, with 'a live present'!

Mansie Flaws with post boat Post boat at Tingwall

Mansie Flaws o' Wyre preparing for sea at Rousay pier - and Elenora and friend pose for a photo having reached the jetty at Tingwall

01 1970 Elenora with orphaned lamb 1970 04 1970 Orphaned lamb 1970 John Mainland 03 Edda Mainland, John Mainland's sister, near Sinians of Cutclaws 05 Ernest Langstane centre of picture, John Mainland farm on the right 06 1970 Spring ploughing, Langstane 1970

John Mainland tending to, and Elenora making friends

with, an orphaned lamb.

 

Below is a photo of John's sister Edda,

near the Sinians of Cutclaws in 1970.

Spring ploughing below Langstane; Ernest way above Langstane, and Cott; and the lang stane, with early daffodils and Magnus the cat.

08 Neolithic Standing stone, Langstane 07 Ernest and Magnus 12 Manse Church & Cubbie Roo, Wyre beyond 13 Magnus Frotoft on Brae

Ernest and Magnus relaxing indoors at Langstane; Magnus,

alert as ever, high above Frotoft; and a view from

above Cubbie Roo, looking across to Wyre.

14 1971 Elenora St Ola at Stomness 15 1971 Elenora Leaving Scrabster March 1971 16 1971 Elenora crossing the Pentland Firth March 1971 (frozen to the marrow)

We end with Ernest and Elenora aboard the St Ola in 1971.

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