Document 826

Conversation 23: Couple talking about their Orkney roots

Author(s): N/A

Copyright holder(s): Prof Christian J Kay, SCOTS Project

Audio transcription

F606 So you actually come from //Orkney, yeah?//
M830 //Yes, yes, I was// born in Kirkwall //and//
F606 //mmhm//
M830 grew up there and then a while later I met Marjory in Aberdeen and she's been wi me for hoo long?
F829 Twenty-seven years nearly, //[laugh]//
F606 //Right [laugh]//
M830 //twen- twenty-seven years so// //so I've lost//
F829 //yeah.//
M830 me accent a lot because o her.
F606 Yeah [laugh] //[inaudible] but you go//
M830 //[laugh]//
F829 //An I've gained a lot [laugh] ehm so, so.// I was born in Aberdeen //[?]and eh[/?]//
F606 //Yeah.//
F829 I stayed there until I was seventeen, basically an then went back up to Orkney for a number of years,
F606 mmhm
F829 so
F606 So you've actually lived in Orkney //too?//
F829 //uh-huh//
F606 Yeah.
F829 lived there for a few years //before I came//
F606 //Yeah.//
M830 //Yeah.// //two or three,//
F829 //back doon.//
M830 two or three years //maybe,//
F829 //Yeah.//
M830 yeah, maybe more //[inaudible]//
F829 //Maybe more, I think.//
M830 But it's just long enough for ye tae sort of settle in an //meet folk an//
F829 //mmhm//
F606 mmhm
M830 an then we came back tae Aberdeen, so mainly in this area
F606 //mmhm//
F829 //mmhm//
M830 other than Orkney.
F829 Yeah, yeah.
F606 But you go back quite often?
M830 //No,//
F829 //No.// No.
M830 not really, ehm
F829 We, well I've been up most years
M830 Yeah.
F829 there's been some missed
M830 But I've //tended, I've been//
F829 //You've been up quite a number.//
M830 I've been a f- well it disnae feel like it.
F829 I know, but there were a few years //when we were at university you were workin through the summer.//
M830 //There's a few years, a few years when I was at uni an I was// working in the summer and doin all that //so there was a long time I didn't go up.//
F606 //mmhm//
M830 We were up last year //an there've been//
F829 //mmhm//
M830 three years before that we hadna been
F829 But that was unusual.
F606 //mmhm//
M830 //an then// so we do a week, maybe two weeks, that kinda
F829 Yeah, two, three weeks //actually, not usually a week//
M830 //Aye.// //mm//
F606 //mm//
F829 but it's, yeah Mm
M830 So you'd say more regularly than I //would say [laugh]//
F606 //[laugh]//
F829 //I would say more regularly than you// would, yeah.
F606 Yeah [laugh]
M830 Well, me memory wipes //automatically [laugh]//
F606 //Yeah [laugh]//
F829 //[laugh]// //[laugh] yeah.//
M830 //I've to fill it up wi, wi kids' reports, that's [laugh] [inaudible]//
F606 So is it a good place to grow up, or? //[laugh]//
M830 //Weel, I don't know if I grew up, I'm still [laugh] I'm still...//
F829 //[laugh]//
M830 A good, a really good place to grow up //[inaudible]//
F829 //There's lots of freedom.//
F606 //mm//
M830 //Yeah that's right, an// I was, that same story, //I was//
F829 //Go ahead.//
M830 horrified when I came tae Aberdeen to discover that people didn't have inside toilets cause I'd never seen a place in me life with an outside toilet that didn't have one inside anyway
F606 uh-huh
M830 cause a lot o the older houses they had outside but they were all modernised, everyone had, an then I came to Aberdeen and the tenements all had these toilets outside, I couldn't believe it, it just seemed so //[laugh]//
F829 //Archaic//
M830 so old-fashioned, //archaic an//
F606 //Yeah.//
M830 it was a shock, so yeah I mean, Orkney, lots o freedom an yet it also seemed to be keeping pace wi the times in a way that Aberdeen hadn't completely.
F606 //mmhm//
F829 //mmhm//
M830 But then there's poverty in the city that there isn't in the country, not the same kind of poverty, //[inaudible]//
F606 //Yeah.//
M830 an it felt different, an yeah community in Orkney and lack of it in //the city I think//
F829 //mmhm//
F606 //mmhm//
M830 //was the obvious thing.//
F829 But I mean that's what I liked when I took the bairns up when they were wee //ehm//
F606 //mmhm//
F829 they got a type o freedom they never got here, //you know,//
M830 //Oh yeah.//
F829 so I mean even now there's a huge difference.
F606 What, you can let them go out without //being frightened what would happen or//
F829 //Yes, uh-huh// because I mean at that time we were staying right in the middle of Aberdeen in a tenement, you know, with access off the road into the garden so //you never felt//
F606 //mmhm//
F829 comfortable leavin them out,
M830 Even as adults we didn't feel //comfortable, I mean you always//
F829 //No, no.//
M830 felt that your door was a, well it's like your, your home is your castle, your door was protection rather than an //access route.//
F829 //uh-huh//
F606 //Yeah [laugh]//
M830 //[inaudible]// In fact it was very odd and coming out here to the Mearns made a big //difference tae that.//
F829 //Yeah.//
M830 We suddenly felt released again in the same sort o way as we had //when we were in Orkney.//
F606 //mmhm//
F829 //Yeah// that's right.
F606 So you'd be quite happy to stay here or //[laugh] yeah.//
M830 //Bought a house in the town so yeah [laugh]//
F829 //yeah [laugh] yeah//
F606 What do you miss about Orkney then?
F829 Oh lots.
F606 uh-huh
F829 You don't know, people in Orkney, I think if you make friends there you have them forever, //an I don't think I've found//
F606 //Yeah.//
F829 that in the same way anywhere else,
M830 No.
F829 ehm because I thought although it must be twenty years really since we left,
M830 mmhm
F829 you know, you go back an it's just like you've never been away,
F606 mmhm
F829 but, I can't think o any 'buts' actually.
M830 No I'm s-
F829 I miss about Orkney though, the wide spaces, the big skies,
M830 Big skies are the //things you miss, mmhm,//
F606 //mmhm//
F829 //the beaches.//
M830 the wind every //day [laugh] [cough] [laugh] but there's//
F606 //[laugh] yeah!//
F829 //Well, maybe not [laugh] two-mile walk to the bus.//
M830 something, we were watching a video o the bairns when they were home for, they were home for six weeks //[inaudible] and it//
F829 //Yeah I took them up//
M830 was a nice video of them playin out in the garden and for me the bit that was nostalgia-inducing was the sound o the wind, //the kids were runnin about an bein happy an their hair was flyin//
F829 //[laugh]// //An it was summer, they just wee sh- dresses an//
M830 //and they were just, it was bright summer day, the wind was// blowin an nobody was carin an I thought, "That kind o balmy, //lovely windy//
F829 //Yeah.//
M830 day is something //you don't get here".//
F829 //Cause the children// also have had other summers where they spent their whole time runnin aboot in cagoules an bare feets cause it was so foggy //the whole summer.//
F606 //[laugh] yeah.//
M830 //[laugh]// //Yeah, it's a bit//
F606 //Yeah.//
M830 not foggy we get mist //a haar but we don't get fog.//
F606 //yeah [laugh]//
F829 //uh-huh, aye.//
M830 Fog's a city thing //[laugh]//
F606 //Aye.//
F829 //uh-huh// However.
F606 Are you aware of any special sort of Orkney words that you use, or, //You just said "haar", yeah.//
F829 //Well,// //I always think that's a Scottish word, "haar", aye.//
M830 //Well [inaudible] that's ju- that's just a north east word, maybe// but, but isn't it actually used by the Met office //to describe a, yeah it's, it's a, a word//
F606 //I think they do now, yeah, uh-huh//
M830 abint that mist that comes in //aff the sea at certain times o day//
F829 //Off the sea, just rolls in or//
F606 //I found//
M830 //rolls in.//
F606 people in the west coast don't know it. //I mean I knew it growing up in Edinburgh, yeah.//
M830 //Do they not? No, yeah.//
F829 //Oh not at all, yeah.//
M830 But it, I mean obviously words like "peedie" //that//
F606 //mmhm//
M830 that is the common Orkney word or //"peerie" in,//
F606 //[cough]//
M830 "peerie" in Shetland.
F606 //mmhm//
F829 //Yeah.//
M830 But I'm, I'm no aware o them but folk notice me usin things an I don't, I've an awful habit o sayin "me" instead o "my",
F606 mmhm
M830 //an some o the members of staff found that very disconcerting to begin with,//
F829 //[laugh]//
M830 "Whaur's me coffee?", when I should say, "Whaur's my coffee?",
F606 [laugh] yeah.
M830 "Me an me wife", instead o //"my wife", it's just a//
F829 //Yeah.//
M830 sorta slight, but it's just that kinda, an the way we pronounce "AN" at the end o words instead of "ING" for present participle //kinda things, like "hingan",//
F606 //uh-huh//
F829 //uh-huh//
M830 "hingan", an sorta reverse the //"i" "a" bit! [laugh].//
F606 //Yeah [laugh]//
F829 //[laugh] yeah.//
M830 but [inaudible] it's just wee bits like that that I'm aware o folk noticin.
F606 mmhm
M830 Some o the kids in class say, "Oh, you're pronounce that wrong", which is quite nice; //it means they've noticed, they know//
F606 //[inaudible]//
F829 //[inaudible]//
M830 how to spell it ken, an pronounce it correctly, that's
F606 mmhm
M830 [laugh]
F606 Do you teach any Orcadian literature or anything?
M830 //I have done.//
F829 //Well,// //George Mackay//
F606 //Yeah.//
M830 //Yeah, George Mackay//
F829 //certainly.//
F606 //Yyeah uh-huh.//
M830 //Brown and, and// that's the core one because my, my main interest would be would be poetry and eh that's obviously where people start with Orkney literature, it tends to be George Mackay Brown
F606 mm
M830 an then they move outwards into various others, but, because Dave is interested in poetry and Orkney poetry, I've been feedin him //various obscure Orkney poets [laugh],//
F606 //[laugh]//
M830 Robert Rendall //writes//
F606 //mmhm//
M830 in Orkney dialect, a lot o dialect poetry
F606 Yeah.
M830 from
F829 [inaudible] isn't it? //Is that what you're talking about, the [inaudible]?//
M830 //mm, no that's a different farm.// That's the mainland, Robert Rendall's eh Westray.
F606 //uh-huh//
F829 //och yeah.//
M830 But eh, no I'm, I don't know. When I was workin at the university a bit I, I did a course on Orkney literature specifically then //about literature//
F606 //mm//
M830 and landscape an the portrayal of the islands through history in both an that was, that was interesting, //weel for me, I don't know what the students, they, they kind- [laugh] they might o yawned a fair bit but//
F606 //[laugh]//
F829 //[laugh]// //Yeah.//
F606 //uh-huh//
M830 but no I'm, I don't know, the curriculum doesnae really support that kind o localised stuff in the way you'd want it to, you can do it in first and second year but as ye move up intae Standard Grade and Higher it //kinda expects more//
F606 //mmhm//
M830 //canon,//
F829 //Standard text.//
F606 //mm//
M830 //more of the canon, yeah.//
F829 mm
M830 And the universities would expect the kids to have the background in the canon rather than, //it's that, it's that sense of//
F606 //Yeah.//
M830 that, although all universities now have Scottish Literature departments, they seem to be developing that
F606 mmhm
M830 still there's this, it feels like a niche market for some people.
F606 uh-huh //[laugh]//
M830 //[laugh] That's an awful thing to say,// it is, but it, you know, you've got parents who come in an go, "Well why's he doin this when he could be doin //Shakespeare", they always//
F606 //Yeah, Shakespeare.//
F829 //Yeah.//
M830 wheel out Shakespeare despite the fact they hate it. //Parents hated it,//
F606 //Yeah [laugh].//
M830 the grandparents hated it, you try an offer them somethin else and they go, "Whaur's the Shakespeare?"
F606 Yeah. Yeah it's the same with speaking Scots, //isn't it, that//
M830 //That's right,// you gotta do Burns, //[laugh]//
F606 //uh-huh//
F829 //Yeah.//
M830 Well it is, it's the same as speakin Scots, you do Burns in January an then the rest o the year there's virtually no nod in the direction of the language o the place ye live in.
F606 //mmhm//
F829 //No.//
M830 It's terrible!
F606 mm
M830 We hiv, have you come across 'The Kist'? //Yeah, we use that,//
F606 //Yes, yeah.//
M830 I use that every year, and I think Dave uses it too, //an it's amazing//
F606 //mmhm//
M830 how little the kids understand oot o it, //although they speak it//
F606 //mm//
M830 if you get them tae read it //an just don't think aboot the//
F606 //Yeah.//
M830 meaning they'll speak it an they'll, they'll sort of be able to get, swim in it, //as it were, the, the language//
F606 //mmhm//
M830 becomes more natural. But if ye, ye get them just to sit an read it to themselves quietly in their heads "I don't understand!"
F829 Yeah.
F606 Yeah.
M830 It's a shame.
F606 So your own kids go back to Orkney,
F829 Yes //uh-huh, ehm//
F606 //Yeah.//
F829 we've always taken them up since they were tiny so, //keep them.//
M830 //An they're still tiny.//
F829 Well yes, but eh Caitlin finishes school this summer an she would quite like to go up and spend some time in Orkney next year, //before she goes on//
F606 //mmhm//
M830 //She does.//
F829 to do something else, so, must have had an impact //on them too surely.//
F606 //Yeah [laugh].// Aye.
F829 But eh
M830 [inaudible] it's, it's just sprung to me an O-, an Orkney word that I've used and I know that, that flummoxes folk, is 'yammals', meanin 'freends'. //It, it's eh//
F606 //mm?//
M830 "Wi, wi my yammals, I did this wi my yammals", Y.A.M.M.A.L.S. //And it's,//
F606 //mm//
M830 it seems to be something that I ken that I grew up sayin
F606 uh-huh?
M830 and it meant just that we are friends but I've never seen it //virtually anywhaur else, means 'friends', yeah,//
F606 //'Friends', yeah, uh-huh?//
M830 just in 'me, me yammals', //[laugh] I don't know [laugh] no no, it did not!//
F606 //[laugh]//
F829 //[laugh] You sure you didn't come up wi this yourself? [laugh]// //uh-huh, yeah.//
M830 //It's just, no, it's just, it's an odd word that,// that's one I used an it seems, I don't use it anymore cause folk just haven't a clue whit I was talkin aboot, //soon as I//
F606 //mmhm//
M830 came oot o Orkney. An the other one is 'skeevlo'
F829 Oh yeah, 'skeevlo'.
M830 which I fund roots o in the Norn dictionary fae Shetland, Jakobsen's Norn //Dictionary.//
F606 //mm//
M830 But it's a dog, ye know, when ye get a dog an it's been whipped, somebody's mistreated it an it does that sorta low //crawl thing an it rolls its eyes//
F606 //Oh yeah.//
F829 //A crawly kind o thing//
M830 up tae look at ye, its t- tail end's up //an it's tryin to wag its tail//
F829 //It's like really//
F606 uh-huh
M830 an that, we ca that a s-, a skeevlo, a dog that's been treated like that, or //or if a human being's one o those//
F606 //ah//
F829 //Or if you're bein crawly// //[laugh]//
M830 //one o those crawling sort of// //it, it's gone from what you'd//
F606 //Yeah, cringing.//
F829 //yeah.//
M830 put on the animal tae what we put about a cringing kinda human so a skeevlo is a, a word that I use as weel an folk haven't a clue //then.//
F829 //Yeah.//
M830 But like I say it must be an auld one cause it was Jakobsen had a version of it in a, //fae the//
F606 //mmhm//
M830 early twe-, nineteen-ten or so, //his dictionary came out,//
F606 //Yeah.//
F829 //Yeah.// //Then of course 'whaups'//
M830 //the Norn// 'whaups', aye //'whaups' meanin 'seagulls'.//
F829 //'whaups', that's what I mean.//
F606 uh-huh
M830 Aye. an 'megs' meanin 'hands'.
F606 'Megs'?
M830 'Megs' M.E.G.S., yes, uh-huh, yes, 'warm me megs be the fire', //that's just [laugh] I don't know what a that's aboot,//
F606 //[laugh]// //Yeah.//
M830 //me megs but,// it's, I did come across it in a story aboot eh, it was selkies, cause they were talkin aboot the selkie's megs, meanin its //fins or its//
F829 //Fins//
M830 flippers //so I guess it's//
F606 //mmhm//
M830 it's, it's in there somewhere but
F606 mmhm
M830 but that's, words like that must have come tae me in me early childhood fae Sooth Ronaldsay in Orkney cause I grew up in Kirkwall, //the metropolis,//
F606 //uh-huh//
F829 //[laugh]//
M830 but I did a lot o holidays in South Ronaldsay where me grandparents a grew up so //the island itsel m-//
F606 //uh-huh//
M830 would have retained more o that
F829 Aye.
M830 maybe.
F829 Well it always does //to some degree, the further you go from//
M830 //Yeah.// //Yes.//
F829 //the town.//

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Information about Document 826

Conversation 23: Couple talking about their Orkney roots


Audio audience

Adults (18+)
For gender Mixed
Audience size 2

Audio awareness & spontaneity

Speaker awareness Aware
Degree of spontaneity Spontaneous
Special circumstances surrounding speech Participants had been asked to select a topic in advance

Audio footage information

Year of recording 2005
Recording person id 606
Size (min) 13
Size (mb) 51

Audio setting

Recording venue school staff room
Geographic location of speech Laurencekirk

Audio relationship between recorder/interviewer and speakers

Not previously acquainted
Speakers knew each other Yes

Audio speaker relationships

Family members or other close relationship

Audio transcription information

Transcriber id 631
Year of transcription 2005
Year material recorded 2005
Word count 2618

Audio type

General description Part-conversation, part-interview. Discussion about Orkney.


Participant details

Participant id 606
Gender Female
Decade of birth 1940
Educational attainment University
Age left school 18
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Academic
Place of birth Edinburgh
Region of birth Midlothian
Birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Glasgow
Region of residence Glasgow
Residence CSD dialect area Gsw
Country of residence Scotland
Father's place of birth Leith
Father's region of birth Midlothian
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's place of birth Edinburgh
Mother's region of birth Midlothian
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes All
Scots No Yes No Yes Work


Participant details

Participant id 829
Gender Female
Decade of birth 1960
Educational attainment Highers/A-levels
Age left school 16
Upbringing/religious beliefs Brought up in Protestant faith, married in Catholic faith
Occupation SEN Auxiliary
Place of birth Aberdeen
Region of birth Aberdeen
Birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Laurencekirk
Region of residence Aberdeen
Residence CSD dialect area Abd
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Clerk
Father's place of birth Aberdeen
Father's region of birth Aberdeen
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Cook / catering assistant
Mother's place of birth Aberdeen
Mother's region of birth Aberdeen
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes At all times


Participant details

Participant id 830
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1950
Educational attainment University
Age left school 16
Upbringing/religious beliefs Catholicism
Occupation Teacher
Place of birth Kirkwall
Region of birth Orkney
Birthplace CSD dialect area Ork
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Laurencekirk
Region of residence Aberdeen
Residence CSD dialect area Abd
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation B.T. Manager
Father's place of birth St Mary's
Father's region of birth Orkney
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Ork
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Housewife
Mother's place of birth Edinburgh
Mother's region of birth Midlothian
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes All
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes All