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Sunday 20 November 2011

Harvest Home

Friday night was party night on the island. It was the annual "Harvest Home", a non-religious celebration of bringing in the harvest. Many parishes throughout Orkney will hold a Harvest Home in October or November. This year there were nearly 40 folk gathered to celebrate, with visitors joining the island folk.

The evening begins with a meal of soup, cold meats, salad, new potatoes and clapshot (mashed potatoes and "neeps" (swede)) followed by trifle or jelly and ice-cream for the kids (of all ages), coffee and homebakes as well as after-dinner mints. Everyone on the island takes a part in the organising. I steer clear of "mass catering"! I leave that to those well used to cooking for large extended families! I do my bit by doing B&B (bed and breakfast) for some of the visitors, handing round drinks, and helping with setting up and clearing up.

At the end of the meal it is traditional to have a speaker who will talk about the harvest or some aspect of farming. This year we had Harvey Johnstone over from the Orkney Mainland with his lovely wife, Helen. Harvey has a wonderful Orcadian accent and is very proud of maintaining the Orkney dialect. He read us a poem, penned by himself, about past Harvest Homes in the parish of Harray where they live. He was very entertaining!

Of course no party is complete without music. We were really pleased that Fran Gray and John Budge could join us again from the neighbouring island of Hoy, both playing accordions. Ruby, who was born and brought up on Graemsay but now lives in Stromness, came along and played her fiddle. And Andrew, one of the teenagers on the island, joined in with his guitar.

And a special appearance by Irene, who lives on Graemsay (she's the retired school-teacher). She has a lovely voice and sings some lovely haunting ballads. When she sings you can hear a pin drop in the hall.

There was dancing for young and old

And singing and telling of stories

Of course there is always a raffle (to help with hall funds). There are the usual prizes of chocolates, wine, toiletries etc, and because it's harvest home - there were also baskets of vegetables and "neeps" (those swedes again!).  Irene seems to have won a bumper crop!!

The party goes on into the wee small hours.  About 2am another traditional was played out..... rolling 10p coins at a bottle of whisky. The person who gets their 10p nearest the whisky bottle wins the whisky. Hot competition for quite some time, and here are the "judges" debating the winner..... All in a good cause though - for the "Children in Need" appeal.

Fran and John stayed at my house overnight and in the morning we had a blether (chat) about the evening over tea and toast (I was grateful nobody wanted a fried breakfast!).

Fran gave me this lovely gift - two wee lavender bags which she had crocheted - out of plastic carrier bags! They are brilliant! She's hoping to sell some in a local craft shop where she already sells some of her other art work. I thought it was a fantastic idea - what a great way to re-use/recycle.


  1. Oh what fun, Sian! It sounds like a combination of the Harvest Supper I'm used to in our Welsh parishes and the old-fashioned "socials" we used to have in the village hall in Lancashire when I was a child in the 19950s - though ours used to finish by 11pm, rather than in the wee small hours. :-)

  2. So good to read this, it feels
    like a party I could have been
    part of.Stay safe.

  3. Perpetua - Yes - rather like harvest suppers. Though - er, with more alcohol, dancing and partying I think ;-)

    Pat - You would have been made most welcome!