Monday, 31 October 2011


With carved pumpkins and "trick or treat" ing replacing the more traditional neepie lanterns and guizing, it is interesting to look back at some of the older beliefs and traditions surrounding the ancient festival of Hallowe'en.

Both Ernest Marwick (in The Folklore of Orkney and Shetland) and John Firth (in Reminiscences of an Orkney Parish), tell how Hallowe'en was the time when it was believe one could "pierce the shades of dim futurity", with most efforts in this direction apparently made by young women wishing to catch a glimpse of the identity of their future husband.

According to both Marwick and Firth, one particularly popular practice was the process Robert Burns called "winnan three wechts o' naething". The young woman would go out to the dark barn, leaving both doors open, and go through the motions of winnowing, with nothing in the sieve but scissors and a knife.  What she expected to see was an apparition of her future partner passing the open door.

Another equally unnerving practice described by both authors was the practice of throwing a ball of worsted yarn into the kiln used for drying grain while keeping hold of the end of the yarn. The woman would then unwind the ball whilst repeating "Wha hauds i' me clew's* end?", waiting and listening for the voice of her future husband to reply.

Both titles mentioned above are available to borrow from the library's collection of Orkney books, and make fascinating reading.

If any of our readers are brave enough to try either of these two experiments we would be very interested to hear the results - confidentiality assured of course regarding the identity of your phantom partner!

(* Clew = ball)

Monday, 24 October 2011

Orkney Storytelling Festival

Thursday 27th October sees the start of the Orcadian Story Trust's 2011 Orkney Storytelling Festival. With four days of events, for all ages, featuring performers from Crete, Norway and Sweden alongside experienced local storytellers, there will be stories to delight, entertain and amuse everyone.

We have copies of the festival programme and booking form here at the library, or you can print out a booking form from the Storytelling Festival's website . Keep an eye on the Orcadian Story Trust's facebook page for more news and details of festival events.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Reading Group - change of date

Due to holidays and clashes with other events we have decided to postpone October's Reading Group meeting which should have taken place on Wednesday 26th October. This meeting will now take place on Wednesday 9th November, when we will be discussing Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

We meet from 7pm-8pm, upstairs in the exhibition room of the library and new members are always very welcome- you'll even get a free cup of tea or coffee!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Spooky Stories

With the darker nights and Halloween on the way we thought it might be a good time for a display of  spooky stories.

With real life tales of unexplained happenings, including some from Orkney and Shetland, and a selection of fictional ghost stories, we have plenty of hair-raising reads to choose from.

But don't be surprised if your bedtime reading has you needing to leave the light on to go to sleep!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Author of the month for October - Sheila Quigley

Not so many writers to choose from this month, as we come to Q in our alphabetical selection of author of the month, but our choice is  thriller writer Sheila Quigley

Sheila has lived on the Homelands Estate (at present with her son and two dogs) at Houghton-le-Spring near Sunderland for 30 years, opposite a field which became the fictional location of the council housing estate in her Seahills books.

A visit to the author's website revealed that Sheila will lead her annual murder tour 'Homicide in Houghton' on Saturday 15th October 2011. The tour begins and ends at the Houghton Library at 2pm, where, after the walk, there will be refreshments and a sneak preview of Sheila's next book Nowhere Man.

A bit far off for us to attend I fear, but we love the idea and will be pondering how we could do something similar in Stromness? Suggestions please!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

National Poetry Day

Tomorrow, Thursday 6th October, we celebrate National Poetry Day, and this year's theme is "Games".
We have put together a rather pleasing display of books and posters to mark the occasion and as usual the Scottish Poetry Library has produced a lovely set of poetry postcards to celebrate the event which we have for you to take away and enjoy - all for free!