HMS Pheasant 1917

HMS Pheasant 1917

HMS Pheasant was an Admiralty M-class Destroyer based in Orkney during WW1. Due to its strategic importance, Scapa Flow was the main base of the British Grand Fleet during both World Wars.

In the early hours of the 1st of March 1917, HMS Pheasant exploded with the loss of all hands. It had only recently been launched, on 23rd of October 1916. It is thought that the ship hit a mine.

Only one body was ever recovered, that of Midshipman Reginald Cotter, who was still alive when pulled from the water and is now buried in the Lyness Naval Cemetery on Hoy.

Drawing of HMS Pheasant, an Admiralty M-class Destroyer, with a mine
HMS Pheasant, chalk & charcoal on watercolour, 2019.

What happened to HMS Pheasant was virtually forgotten until a maritime survey conducted by Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA), the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and SULA Diving located its remains off the coast of Rora Head, Hoy.

The background of the ship’s 89 strong crew is a slice of early 20th Century society in Britain. The men were from varied cultural backgrounds. There is currently no memorial to them, and many of their relatives never found out what happened. Since writing about the subject for The Orkney News, Fiona Grahame has been contacted by some family members, and has been uncovering their often remarkable stories.

A documentary about this tragedy, to focus on the lives of the individual crewmen, is currently in pre-production by The Orkney News team. We are seeking financial backing to take this project forward – if you are in a position to help with this, please get in touch via the contact form on this site or https://theorkneynews.scot.

This project follows on from our animated telling of the Orcadian Woman’s Suffrage Society, A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm, which will shortly be showing at the Scottish Short Film Festival at the Art School in Glasgow, on Saturday 27th of July. Tickets are for the film festival are available from https://www.scottishshortfilmfestival.com/. A trailer showcasing the short films to be featured can be viewed on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNW5I7DuJcY.

black and white photograph of Rora Head, Hoy
Rora Head, Hoy.

Cataclysmic climate change?

Cataclysmic climate change? Just roll with it!

When Arnold Schwarzenegger became Governer of California in 2003, he was criticised for claiming to care about the environment whilst driving around in a Hummer (of which he owned six). This incredibly masculine status symbol gets around 10 miles to the gallon, and is the exact opposite of what anyone that actually cares about the environment should be driving.

In 2019, in Orkney, it seems that everyone now drives the equivalent of a Hummvee: 4×4 SUVs and pickup trucks such as the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Lwhatever, etc., are everywhere. These vehicles are so obnoxiously huge, they stuggle to stay on one side of the road. They are also an environmental disaster.

As engine technology has supposedly become more fuel efficient (notwithstanding vehicle manufacturers cooking the figures and illegally colluding to retard development of emissions reduction technology), the public has responded by buying larger, heavier, less efficient vehicles.

Cataclysmic climate change? Just roll with it! The all-new Toyanka Wastelander. Gas-guzzling SUV driver throws rubbish at a walker while potentially fatally close-passing a cyclist.
The all-new Toyanka Wastelander with old fashioned BS Orkney license plate. Pen & ink, 2019.

The above cartoon was drawn to accompany an article written by Fiona Grahame of The Orkney News for iScot magazine, which states that Orkney has far more cars per head than the Scottish average:

At the last count Orkney had 753 cars per 1,000 people compared to 385 in Edinburgh and a Scottish average of 533. It is not that Orcadians are richer or lazier than the folks of Edinburgh , in fact Orkney has a low wage economy but to get to work you most likely will need your own transport.

https://theorkneynews.scot/2019/03/31/pedal-power/

The unfortunate necessity of private vehicular transport does not justify the choice to drive the most environmentally destructive vehicle that money can buy.

There is also a chicken-and egg problem in that few people in Orkney can rely on public transport because public transport in Orkney is totally inadequate, but the reason it is so inadequate (and expensive) is in part because almost everyone chooses to drive everywhere!

The benefits of cycling to an individual’s health, the environment, and consequential knock-on financial benefits to the public purse (e.g. the NHS), are enormous. So enormous that Professor John Parkin of Bristol University, author of “Designing for Cycle Traffic“, stated in an interview with Carlton Reid on the Spokesman podcast that he thinks government officials often simply don’t believe the figures!

Air pollution, including that from petrol and diesel engines, is thought to be responsible for the deaths of 64,000 people per year in the UK. In addition, according to the UK Government, in the year ending June 2018, 1,700 were killed in road traffic accidents, 26,610 killed or seriously injured, and 165,100 sustained some injury.

Thanks to the volume of vehicular traffic and the aggressive, dangerous, and inconsiderate behaviour of people behind the wheel, cycling on the roads of Orkney, like most places, is a scary, life-threatening, experience.

A broken exhaust pipe seen at the side of the road in St. Ola, with a bicycle in the background.
The revolution will not be motorised.

A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm – watch online

A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm

The story of the Orcadian Woman’s Suffrage Society

A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm, the animated story of the Orcadian Woman’s Suffrage Society, as told by The Orkney News is now available to watch online on YouTube, and also via the open-source peer-to-peer PeerTube network:

Campaigning for women to have the right to vote took place from the latter half of the 19th Century up to the start of the First World War. Orcadian suffragists were part of that activism.

Researched and scripted by Fiona Grahame, the hand-painted animation by Martin Laird is stylised to make some reference to the world of 20th century art. The artist Stanley Cursiter was associated with the Orcadian Woman’s Suffrage Society, having designed its banner and married Phyllis Hourston, one of its members. The design of characters and locations was derived from period photos.

A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm poster - official selection for the Scottish Short Film Festival 2019
‘A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm’ is the story of the Orcadian Woman’s Suffrage Society. Now officially selected for the Scottish Short Film Festival 2019, XpoNorth, and other upcoming film festivals.

The narration by Orcadian Kim Foden is upbeat and enthusiastic. The original score by James Watson sets the perfect tempo for the flow of the animation.

The animation was made possible with an award from the Scottish Government’s Centenary Fund which supported projects celebrating 100 years of some women gaining the right to vote.

Fiona Grahame is the editor of The Orkney News, which is free to read online at https://theorkneynews.scot

Find James Watson on Facebook at Wooden Sole Music https://facebook.com/woodensolemusic/

Thank you to the staff at the Phoenix Cinema at the Pickaquoy Centre, who made it possible for A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm to premiere on the big screen in Kirkwall. It was shown alongside a week of films celebrating women in cinema, to coincide with International Women’s Day on the 8th of March 2019.

Still from A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm, the animated story of the Orcadian Woman's Suffrage Society, showing artist Stanley Cursiter with Phyllis Hourston
The artist Stanley Cursiter with Phyllis Hourston