The war time history of Orkney

Our second morning on Orkney and we woke up to sunshine and clearing skies.  In case you haven’t read our last post, we went to Orkney for a short break and the first full day there was very wild weather so we were very pleased to see the sun.

The bed and breakfast we stayed at was on a dairy farm and I got to have a cuddle with the farm cat who was very friendly and very gorgeous.

One of the things we had to see whilst on Orkney was the poppies at St Magnus Cathedral in Orkney. These are some of the poppies that we saw at the Tower of London during the 100 year anniversary remembrance ceremonies.  The weeping window that you can see below at the tower has been put in place at the cathedral.  This is the first of several stops for the poppies this year, and they are there for the 100 year commemoration of the battle of Jutland.

It was really nice being so close to the poppies whereas in London we had to look down on them.  St Magnus Cathedral is the UK’s most northerly cathedral and it was founded in 1137.

The cathedral is beautiful with gorgeous stone work and very lovely doors, especially the ornate hinges.

Of course there was a fantastic graveyard to wander around with some really interesting headstones.

Inside the cathedral there are some very exciting epitaphs on the walls with some great carvings on them.

Part of the epitaph on the one below read: ” ….here….lies a great glory of the female sex she is dead but her virtue is still fragrant”.

Another fabulous carving and the epitaph read: “Whether sooner or later we hasten to one place. Hither are we all bound; this is the last home of fate. Death levels all. Remember death.” In fact quite a lot of the epitaphs ended with the phrase remember death.

Slightly buck toothed skull carving.

One of the many beautiful windows.

Carving on the end of one of the choir seats.

Looking down the length of the cathedral showing the stunning ceiling and the huge stone pillars.

The poppies are at the cathedral until the middle of June and I would really recommend you going to see them if you can.  The shops near the cathedral are selling lots of poppy themed products including tea towels, jewellery, scarves, stationary, and wonderfully for me, cupcakes.

Our next stop was at the Italian Chapel which was made out of two nissen huts by Italian prisoners of war during the second world war. If you follow this LINK you’ll be able to read a really interesting piece about how they did it.

We were really lucky when we first arrived as we had the chapel to ourselves for a short while and it gave a real sense of the peace this building must have given to the Italians that were here. What’s most amazing is that all the metal work is made from scrap metal and all the decoration, including the stone work, is painted on.

This statue of St George was also made by the prisoners.

By now we were going into cake withdrawal so found the lovely Skerries Bistro right at the bottom of South Ronaldsay with a fabulous view out to the sea.

Look what we found – another lovely graveyard, right on the seafront – I was standing on the beach to take this photo.

I found another cat to bother – a very friendly and chatty black cat (don’t tell Muffin Monster that I was hugging another black cat).

Last bit of your history lesson for today.  The Italian Prisoners of War were used to build the Churchill Barriers which are causeways between islands that blocked an attack from the east of Orkney.

The strangest thing we came across during our lovely short break was a totem pole.  It was near one of the barriers and the sign below explains about it.

My beloved showing how he would feel if I hadn’t drugged him for the journey back on the ferry – it was quite an exciting trip back with the ferry going up waves and then juddering back down when it hit the dip in between – if I hadn’t had such good reflexes both our drinks would have ended up on the floor.

The perfect way to end this post, with a view over part of the island including the two symbols of spring – lambs and daffodils.

Until next time, be good, stay safe, and treat yourself to a nice big piece of cake.

Pamela & Ken

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