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Sunday 31 May 2015

A visit to Ness Battery....

Sneaking in another post in May.  Though these photos were taken at the end of April when G was visiting.  I've posted pictures of Ness Battery before, as I like to take visitors on a trip there. Tour guide Andrew Holinrake does a really informative tour, and has lots of interesting stories about the Battery and Scapa Flow during WWI and WWII.  I do recommend a visit (website with details of how to book a tour). For me the interest is in how Orkney dealt with the influx of thousands of service men and women during both conflicts.  A group of islands, mainly farming and fishing, suddenly at the forefront of the defense of Britain with the Royal Navy Fleet at safe harbour..

Although most of the ship movements were at the other end of Scapa Flow, around Hoxa Sound, Hoy sound was used to bring in army troops, ammunition and supplies.  It was actually the Royal Navy who were in charge at the battery, controlling access to the harbour.

Above is the Battery Observation Post, with fire command, signal station and searchlight directing station.

This is the small arms store and also the duty officer's shelter

And here is one of the gun emplacements (no guns now of course).

Some ammunition would be stored behind the guns.

The metal is rusting and rotting away so measures have been taken to try and conserve the site.

Defensive slits, in case of attack

A view from the gun emplacement towards the entry to Hoy Sound

The gun would have stood here.  Not that much shelter for the gunners.

Looking towards Hoy with Graemsay in the foreground. Next to Hoy Low lighthouse is another battery, with control tower and search light station.  Over on Hoy is another battery so the entrance to Scapa Flow was well covered.  All boats sailing into Stromness had to get permission to proceed, civilian and military.

You can see the observation post more clearly in this photo.

A view from the battery towards Graemsay and the Hoy Hills.

In one of the buildings is a raven's nest. Not being used this year I hasten to add!  They've moved to another part of the battery.  But the nest is huge.

And it seems they were collecting golf balls!  They'd had a go at this one - maybe thinking it was an egg to predate!

This gives a better perspective of the nest - see it IS huge!

Looking towards the accommodation huts. These wooden huts are being preserved as it is thought Ness Battery is the only remaining camp to still have the huts in place.

In the "Mess Hut" is a great mural with bucolic scenes of "country life".  It is signed by A.R. Woods, and after much research it is believed he was from Gravesend in Kent. Not far from where I lived at one time.  The scene is of thatched cottages, and a very "romantic" view of life.

You can just make out the signature in the corner.

This windmill and cottages are very similar to another picture which was taken in Gravesend.

A cosy scene through the window - actually the serving hatch for the canteen!

You can just see a black cat in the corner!

Rose cottage.....which had a different meaning in the navy. Ahem...

Children playing on swings...

And more painting.  Plus a piano to bash out a few tunes on!  There have been one or two "performances" in recent years at the Battery.

And here we are outside again, looking over to Graemsay. You can just make out Sandside through the gloom, to the right of the lighthouse.  I wonder what the Sutherland family made of all the activity during the war. They lived there right up to the mid 1950s.

Thursday 21 May 2015

A brief visit to St Magnus Cathedral

Yes, yes, I know, I've been very remiss with my blog AGAIN!  Anyway, back to last month when G visited for a  few days.  We took a quick tour round St Magnus Cathedral.  Ahem... I forgot to take a photo of the outside. Doh!  But you can take a look here at some photos of the outside.

Now, I'm not at all well up on religious iconography, so I shall be referring to the trusty free leaflet I picked up!  The Cathedral has a fascinating history and I do heartily recommend a visit, and maybe go on a tour too.

St Magnus Cathedral was founded in 1137 by the nephew of St Magnus, Earl Rognvald. At the time Orkney was still part of Norway, and indeed Orkney only became part of Scotland in the 15th Century when the Scottish King James III gave the cathedral to the people of Orkney. And there it resides.  The local council have responsibility for maintaining it on behalf of the people, and the Church of Scotland hold services here. Though any Christian denomination can use the building.

Since the foundation of the Cathedral it has, like many other cathedrals, undergone change with additions, and of course there is an ongoing need for restoration too.   The stained glass window above is a relatively new addition, installed in 1987 and contains images of Orkney including the Scottish Primrose (bottom right corner).

There are a number of gravestones lining the walls.  These were originally laid over graves in the nave but over the years the graves were exhumed and reburied in the graveyard and the stones line the walls.

As well as what appears to us rather macabre carvings like the skull and crossbones, there are also more poignant touches. In the corner of this headstone is a heart, though I'm not sure what the triangle over the heart means!

I love the patterns in the stone along the walls.

There are a number of windows around the cathedral that date from the 1920s and were designed by the Glasgow stained glass artist Oscar Paterson.

In a pillar in the Choir part of the cathedral is a casket containing human bones which are believed to be those of St Magnus who was murdered on the Orkney island of Egilsay by his cousin, Hakon, or to be precise his cousin, story has it, got his cook to actually kill him.

On a cheerier note, in the chapel that dates from the 13th century are some interesting carvings hidden among the pillars.  These include dragons, an imp, and "Green Men", no not martians or extra terrestrials! The Green Man is often seen as a symbol of rebirth and is very familiar around the UK, often as a pub name!  (Ahem, yes that's more like it!).  Anyway, here are a couple that we spotted....

And here we have the St Magnus Cathedral equivalent of "Poets Corner" (found in Westminster Abbey in London), And that's a neat link, though I say so myself, as the chap forever "resting" on this memorial is Dr John Rae who left Orkney to work for the Hudson's Bay Company, and explored the Canadian Arctic and discovered the Northwest Passage.  He is now buried in the graveyard, but has a memorial here, and *finally* is recognised more widely for his achievements and has a memorial in Westminster Abbey too.  There are also memorials here to Orkney's other famous writers, poets, and artists.

The chapel has a distinctly Norwegian feel to it and indeed it is dedicated to the cathedral's founder, St Rognvald.  The furniture and iconography were redesigned in 1965 by Orcadian artist, Stanley Cursiter. The figure on the left is Rognvald, holding the cathedral.

Not quite sure what this image symbolises...balance? Straight lines (plumb line of a builder?). No idea! Though he was Rognvald's father.

This is the cathedral's oldest gravestone and is thought to date from the 13th century.  The iconography possibly denotes a crusader or a Templar Knight.

Here is an image of St Olaf, who was from the same archdiocese (Nidaros/Trondheim) in Norway that Orkney was once part of.

This is a memorial to those who lost their lives on HMS Royal Oak, in Scapa Flow in 1939. There is a book of remembrance, and the pages are turned regularly to reveal the names. The brass bells is from the ship itself.

Around the choir are some interesting carvings too, like this eagle. There's also a pelican, not sure what that symbolises in terms of a cathedral?

And the choir itself, looking towards the Rose Window....

 Here we have the old market cross that used to stand outside on the market green.

And this is a Mort Brod - apparently it's a "wooden death notice" which commemorates a Kirkwall glazier, Robert Nicholson. It's one of the oldest of it's kind.

And another view of the Rose Window...

Looking down the cathedral nave to the Rose Window.

There are also mason's marks left by the craftsman who have worked on the building over the years and they can be spotted around the cathedral.  Here's one - a crow's foot.

I think this might be a bit of graffiti!

And on our way out, ta-da - I love a bit of "door furniture"!

Outside you can see that the soft sandstone of the building is wearing away

Maintenance on a beautiful old building is never ending.  And the latest generation of stone masons are continuing the work of the original builders.  I'm delighted to say a young Orkney lass has an apprenticeship at the cathedral.  You can hear about here here....

And here is a short film (about 15 mins) of St Magnus Cathedral and Kirkwall town centre taken by a young visitor to the isles recently. Talented lad who has produced some lovely short films of Orkney. I'll try and share some more.

So - hope you enjoyed your tour around the Cathedral and it's environs!