BNC Text HV9

Orkney Sound Archive tape OSA/RO/C: radio broadcast. Sample containing about 2195 words speech recorded in leisure context

1 speakers recorded by respondent number C432

PS3FL Ag5 m (David, age 60+, Native of Hoy.) unspecified

1 recordings

  1. Tape 108003 recorded on 1987-07-27. LocationOrkney: Hoy () Activity: Radio broadcast Reminiscences

Undivided text

David (PS3FL) [1] The [...] question that most of today's youngsters seem to ask is What was life like in Orkney when you were my age?
[2] Well looking back on it now it seems almost a life time away but it's amazing just how well you can remember those far off days.
[3] I don't think that I shall every forget the day when sugar came off the ration and at last we could make toffee.
[4] Prior to that the only way that you could get sweets was if you had the necessary ration coupons.
[5] And to this day I shall never be able to understand why so many of my generation, by the time they were in their teens, had a mouthful of dentures because it was not due to eating sweets.
[6] And despite the wartime rationing the general health of the country by the end of World War two had never been better.
[7] However the one dark shadow on our lives in those days was the alarming growth of the number of people with tuberculosis which affected the lungs.
[8] The hospitals were crammed full of the flower of Orkney's youth and many coughed and spluttered their way to an early death.
[9] However, the arrival on the scene of wonder drugs developed in Britain and America at long last conquered this disease which for decades had struck down young and old.
[10] One of the main carriers of the disease was found to be in milk and that's why today tuberculin tested dairy provide us with our daily pinta.
[11] By the nineteen fifties Kirkwall had a new power station at the P D C and already the distribution lines were radiating out from Kirkwall to bring mains electricity to the outlying areas of the mainland.
[12] But for many parts of Orkney this new service would be years away in reaching them and so the familiar thump thump thump of that diesel statomatic generator filled the air.
[13] Hundreds of these lighting plants were bought to light homes and farmsteadings in the mainland and in the islands.
[14] Agriculture was beginning to change dramatically as well and after two hurricanes which almost wiped out the flourishing egg industry many farms built more substantial hen houses out of concrete blocks and the poultry were kept inside all the time in what was known as deep litter houses.
[15] It was also discovered that egg production could be boosted by leaving lights on in the houses all night to fool the hens into thinking that it was still daylight.
[16] The biggest breakthrough in the farm came with the arrival on the scene of a small grey tractor called a Fergie and it seemed as though almost everybody had at least one and it became the jack of all trades on the farm and implements which had previously been pulled by horses had their shafts removed and couplings were made to fit them behind the tractor.
[17] And when it wasn't working on the farm a transport on the back and a bag of straw to sit on and it became the family's personal transport.
[18] A new motor car was for many a luxury that would have to wait for another day.
[19] Because already there was great interest in a new method of growing food for the farm cattle.
[20] It eliminated the need to grow acres of turnips or grain to feed the animals during the long winter months.
[21] Apparently this new method had been tried out down south and it seemed ideal for the temperamental Orkney climate because you harvested when it was green and then you put it in a pit and packed it with a tractor and then you left it until it turned black and rotted and then you cut it up in chunks and fed it to the cattle.
[22] It was called silage and to the careful Orkney farmer it seemed all too good to be true.
[23] However a few were experimenting with this newest innovation and looking around the Orkney countryside today well there's hardly a farm that doesn't have a covered silage pit or a grain silo and today the fields are full of barley and oilseed rape and a field of turnips is something of a rare sight these days.
[24] The only horrible memory of the nineteen fifties that even today makes me wince was that teaspoonful of cod liver oil followed by the concentrated orange juice that was spooned on us before leaving for the school in the morning and off you went with your flask of tea and your sandwiches in your school bag.
[25] School meals were only to begin some four years later.
[26] At break time we would all troop down to the village shop for a bottle of Garden's lemonade of a bag of what was all the rage in those days, potato crisps.
[27] None of your exotic flavours in those days and the salt I remember came in a small piece of blue paper in the bag.
[28] By the mid-nineteen fifties many Orcadians had begun the task of modernizing their homes by building new ones a process which over the past three decades seems to have gone on with ever increasing frenzy.
[29] In those days a new house was usually constructed out of wooden hut sections of which there was a plentiful supply as most of the troops stationed here in the war lived in wooden prefabricated buildings and when they left Orkney the buildings were dismantled and then sold.
[30] And even today hut sections can still be bought and despite the fact that they're forty years old the quality of the wood in them is often better than what you can buy today.
[31] Once the new house had been built is was often blocked in with a single course of concrete blocks and curiously enough today thirty five years later the modern method of building houses is to construct them all of wood and then surround them with a single course of concrete blocks.
[32] So were we in fact years ahead of our time in house building I wonder.
[33] By the end of the nineteen fifties life in Orkney had come full circle and like everyone else we had acquired a taste for the material things in life.
[34] And then on the twenty second of December nineteen fifty eight twentieth century technology arrived with the opening of the B B C television transmitter at Nether Burton in Ham and this electronic window in the world was to influence and change our lives beyond our wildest dreams.
[35] ... It's quite a while now since I've bored you with a few observations about our friends the dumb animals who share their lives with us on the planet and the more you observe them the more convinced you become that they're anything but dumb.
[36] I recently had an interesting encounter with the honeybee and it only served to point out that regardless of size the degree of intelligence is quite extraordinary.
[37] One bright sunny morning recently I set about painting the front of the house with its yearly coat of white paint to smarten it up.
[38] And I decided to paint one part of the wall which had not been painted before.
[39] Unknown to me a honeybee had made a hive in this part of the wall and not long afterwards I became aware of an angry bee searching frantically for the entrance to its hive.
[40] The sudden change of colour on the wall had upset its sense of direction and it buzzed about angrily and eventually it came into the porch where I was sitting and it stayed there for a few minutes and then went outside [...] searching the wall again for the entrance.
[41] And after failing to find it once again it came into the porch and complained loudly and so I went outside and with a paint brush I marked the entrance to the hive with three blobs of paint of a different colour and then with a piece of cardboard I guided the tiny winged creature towards the marks on the wall and it went inside.
[42] A few minutes later it emerged and flew off and then when it returned it looked at the wall and saw the marks and went inside.
[43] Ample proof indeed that it had recognized them and it realized that it was the entrance to its home.
[44] Another day I observed the antics of a sea bird who had found a small crab in one of those rock pools on the beach below the house.
[45] And after several attempts to break the shell open by picking it up and dropping it onto the rocks, well that didn't work, so the bird picked it up and then from a about a height of twenty feet it dropped it onto the rocks below.
[46] Well it must have been a tough old crab because this didn't work either.
[47] And eventually in exasperation the bird flew a short way down the beach and picked up a small stone in its beak and then it returned and it bashed the shell repeatedly until it cracked it open and it was able to get at the contents inside.
[48] So you see human beings are not the only animals capable of using tools to get at their food.
[49] Now sheep are animals that we tend to regard as being pretty stupid and most of the time they're timid creatures who will run away at the slightest sound or sight of something strange in their midst.
[50] But at lambing time they take on a total change of character and they can sometimes become very aggressive.
[51] A mother ewe with two lambs in the field behind the house one morning demonstrated her strong maternal instincts when she successful saw off a two year old steer with a series of savage head butts.
[52] Eventually this great shambling hulk of a beast turned tailed and fled.
[53] Human beings it seems are not the only animals who go in for worshipping idols.
[54] The farm cattle have their gods too and anyone who leaves a car or a tractor and trailer parked in a field of cattle can observe that when such a vehicle appears it produces the most unusual reactions amongst the herd.
[55] And that old theory that animals can't see colours is just not true because any vehicle which is black or red in colour appears to get more attention that any other.
[56] At first it will be surrounded and sniffed and if it appears friendly then a good licking follows and if this is accepted by the stranger then it's usually used for a good old scratch.
[57] And that's why you can expect to find the car in the morning with the windows all covered in saliva and the wing mirrors all bent and the chrome strips on the doors are often [...] with tufts of cow hair.
[58] And if the stranger has pleased the local cattle they will show their gratitude by plastering the sides of the vehicle with a generous dolloping of fresh dung before they depart.
[59] A field of cattle are normally quiet docile creatures and most of the time it's fairly safe to walk through their midst and they will observe your passing with that quiet curiosity.
[60] However the one thing that you must never do is to go between a cow and her calf and I made this mistake one morning and I had to take to my heals and run.
[61] And this started a stampede amongst the rest of the herd and as I advanced down the field with them all in close pursuit I somehow managed to clear a four stranded barbed wire fence like an Olympic champion.
[62] So be warned.
[63] Like human families the animal and the bird life have a order of seniority or what they call the pecking order and usually the more dominant member of the clan is the oldest.
[64] And at Mucklehouse we have Brigadier Sydney the gander and everybody else is kept firmly in place.
[65] But like most families while father appears to be the boss more often than not it's mother who usually has the last word.
[66] This morning I observed all of them returning home in single file after their dawn patrol around the valley and as usual mother was leading the way with father in the middle keeping the unruly youngsters in hand.
[67] When they reached their favourite bathing spot in the burn below the house they began the slow decent of the steep bank.
[68] However one of the youngsters at the back in his enthusiasm to reach the water tripped and fell over the one in front and this started a chain reaction in the column and the entire orderly procession landed at the bottom in a tangle of webbed feet and flapping wings.
[69] This undignified arrival at the bathing spot started off the most dreadful family squabble and several minutes were to elapse before order was restored.
[70] The more you observe the bird and the animal life you begin to realize that they're not so dump after all and if anything they begin to look and behave more like human beings every day. [recording ends]