< Newer posts

Rescue of the Ben Barvas, 3 January 1964

On 3 January 1964 the Longhope Lifeboat went to the rescue of the Aberdeen trawler, Ben Barvas. The trawler had gone ashore on Little Skerry, Pentland Skerries, in heavy seas. It was  impossible for the lifeboat to go alongside so nine crewmen were rescued by surf or breeches buoy. The trawler Ben Screel rescued the other five off a liferaft. This RNLI fillm includes a dramatisation of parts of the rescue: Part 1 and Part 2.

The RNLI awarded Coxswain Dan Kirkpatrick their silver medal for this rescue, his second such award. You can get some idea of how challenging the rescue was from this aerial photo of the wreck taken in 2009 though the wreck seems to have been moved since 1964 by winter gales.

The full Board of Trade wreck report is available too.

I’m grateful to Richard Evans for sharing these links on the Orkney Past & Present Facebook group. In 1964 the lifeboat’s base was Brims, part of my one-place study area.

Posted on 3 January 2017.   Filed under Orkney   Tagged:

“I mind hid fine” – hearing granny’s stories again, some oral history

How often do you say, “How I wish I had listened more carefully to granny’s stories”? For “granny” substitute parents, grandad, great uncle, great aunt, and many others of the older generations. I certainly have a list of questions for several deceased relatives.

There are two stories where I don’t have to rely on my memory because BBC Radio Orkney, back in the 1980s, recorded my granny. She talked about a lifeboat rescue when she was six as well as the time she spotted a submarine early in WW1. My parents recorded those two short items off Radio Orkney, onto a cassette. Quite hi-tech in those days. No date on the cassette of course, but at least we have it.  You can listen to the recordings on this page.

But it’s not just the stories, it’s hearing granny’s voice again too. As the recording was for the radio, she spoke “proper English”, some of the time.  There is clear Orkney intonation, often dialect with some typical expressions. The shipwreck took place on “a right coorsh night” (a very stormy night) in 1898. Over eighty years later, she could still say “I mind hid fine”.

I’m very grateful to Radio Orkney for recording granny and preserving that bit of my past. But it’s not only my past, for her memories and the way she spoke illuminate the history of her community too. That’s why I’ve made the recording available through my one-place study on North Walls and Brims. Local archives, including the Orkney Library and Archive, do and have done oral history work too. Scotland’s Rural Past has links to a few projects while Tobar an Dulchais/Kist o Riches has over 30,000 recordings. Check and see if there is anything that will fill out your granny’s stories.

Somme 100 – Private Victor Sclater 7th Seaforths

Private William Victor Linklater Sclater, S/12854, 6th Platoon, B Company, 7th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, died at the Somme 100 years ago today, 12 October 1916. A name and a number among many who fell that day. He has no known grave, only his name on the Thiepval Memorial. To his family, he was a much loved son and brother.


Picture of Victor Sclater, died at the Somme 100 years ago

Victor, as he was known, was born at Kebro, Orphir, Orkney, on 1 December 1894. He was the fourth son and seventh child of James S Sclater, farmer, and his wife, Jessie Linklater. James owned Kebro but also rented the farm of Groundwater, a mile or so down the valley, overlooking the Kirbister Loch. The older offspring farmed and lived there. Among the hard work, they had a lot of fun! The 1911 census shows the 16 year old Victor at Groundwater with five older siblings including my grandmother, Jessie, aged 24. She never got over the loss of her brother.


Victor was conscripted in spring 1916 (probably May) and trained at Cromarty before going to France.

Picture of Robert Miller, Barbara Sclater, Victor Sclater

Robert Miller (also Orphir), Barbara Sclater, Victor Sclater

In his letters from Cromarty he spoke of a visit home, they would see him, he said, “come swinging over Jennyval in my kilt”. (Jennyval is a hill above Kebro.) Due to disease in the camp, that visit never happened. By 12 September 1916 he was in France.

His last letter home, to his sister Barbara, was written on 1 October 1916. He noted that “the weather is still fine and warm but it is getting cold in the mornings”.  He had been on a bathing parade that day which involved a three mile walk.

“It did not look very like Sunday as we were going along the road for some of them were ploughing and a crowd of women were taking up potatoes. They were digging them up with spades and they have a steam-mill that goes from house to house threshing the crop and it was working away also.”

In this strange world, where even the quiet of Sunday had gone, perhaps the familiar sights of farm life brought something to which he could relate.

Extract from letter of 1 October 1916

From Victor’s last letter


The diary of the 7th Battalion Seaforths for 12 October 1916 makes harrowing reading. They were at  Eaucourt l’Abbaye attempting to take the Butte de Warlencourt. Things went very badly. There were hundreds of casualties in the 7th battalion alone with the trenches so full of bodies and wounded men that movement was very difficult. A family friend, who survived the war, offered to help the wounded Victor but he replied “I think I’ll just lie here for a while”. Possibly he knew he would never see home again.

Victor was one of ten Orcadians from the 7th Seaforths who died that day at the Somme 100 years ago; two others died of their wounds within days (see Orcadian casualities in the Battle of the Somme)(pdf). His name is on the war memorial in Orphir, Orkney. Gone but never forgotten by his family.

Older posts in this category...