A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm, the animated story of the Orcadian Woman’s Suffrage Society, is now all but complete. It will be available soon.
The story, which is largely forgotten and previously untold, was researched and written by Fiona Grahame of The Orkney News. Narration was provided by Kim Foden, with a moving musical score by James Watson.
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.
The artist Stanley Cursiter was associated with the Orcadian Woman’s Suffrage Society. He designed their banner (of which sadly only a written description survives), and married Phyllis Hourston, a member of the society.
This artistic connection served as an inspiration for the animation. The intention was to make a moving painting. As such, all the art was hand painted in gouache on watercolour paper. It was then photographed, digitally collaged, and animated on a computer.
This animation project has been a joy to work on. Thanks especially to The Scottish Government Centenary Fund, without whom it would not have been possible.
In December, production artwork for an upcoming animation will be on display at the Northlight Gallery in Stromness. This work was created for a short film from The Orkney News called A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm. Researched and written by Fiona Grahame, it tells the largely forgotten story of the Orcadian Woman’s Suffrage Society. The project received funding from the Scottish Government’s Centenary Fund celebrating 100 years of women having the vote.
The Orcadian Woman’s Suffrage Society was a peaceful, non-party political organisation, open to both men and women. The title of the animation, A Gude Cause Maks A StrongErm, comes from one of the banner slogans which the Suffragists used on marches.
This exhibition is taking place in association with St. Andrew’s Fair Saturday. Fair Saturday falls on the last Saturday of November (following the consumerist Black Friday). A wide variety of events in support of positive social change are taking place across the globe. The events calendar can be viewed on the Fair Saturday website (link).
The quote, “What you don’t have, you don’t miss,” comes from an interview with Edwin Harrold’s former neighbour Ruby Spence, as outlined here.
Edwin Harrold was by all accounts quite a character. He lived a simple life at Bankburn Cottage off Bigswell Road, Stenness, in the West Mainland of Orkney. There he re-routed the Russadale Burn to power a small hydro-electric system to cover his modest electrical needs.
The area around Edwin’s house was landscaped to create a small woodland escape of a kind which is uncommon in Orkney. Visitors were welcome, and the magical-sounding Happy Valley no doubt left a lasting impression on many a young Orcadian.
Happy Valley is now maintained by the Friends of Happy Valley, a charitable organisation.
For more on Edwin Harrold’s life and work, read this months iScot magazine.
Cartoon created to accompany The Orkney News article in the June 2018 edition of iScot magazine, about the Orkney connection to the Scottish Covenanters. The drawing references the dark artistic vision of William Blake. The figure of Urizen represents an aspect of God in Blake’s personal mythology.
The Covenanters were a 17th Century Scottish Presbyterian Christian sect. They were evangelical and militaristic, effectively governing Scotland for a time during the War of the Three Kingdoms. They also fought in the English Civil war, where they were defeated by the New Model Army of Oliver Cromwell.
The Covenanters did not recognise the Divine Right of monarchs to lead the Church, only Jesus. This caused them to fall foul of a succession of Kings – Charles I, Charles II, and James VII, who all tried to suppress their religious and rebellious activities.
During a period called The Killing Time, many Covenanters were executed or captured. 1200 of them were defeated at the Battle of Bothwell Brig, and 250 of these put aboard the Crown of London and sent into a life of slavery in the English colonies. They never made it. In 1679 the ship was wrecked in a storm off the coast of Deerness, in Orkney, at a headland called Scarvataing.
As the people were slaves, they were treated as cargo. The captain would be recompensed for their loss if they died, but not if they escaped. Therefore the hatches were ordered closed even as the ship foundered. One crew member did use an axe to break free some prisoners, and thanks to his efforts 47 of them survived. Most were recaptured, but some escaped and it is said their descendants still live in Orkney.
This cartoon was created for The Orkney News column in the May 2018 edition of iScot magazine. The theme is music, and the article addresses the excellent standard of musical education and live performance that can be found in Orkney.
In Orcadian folklore the ‘peerie,’ ‘trowie’, or fairy folk were said to dwell within ancient mounds and cairns. These mischievous creatures were great lovers of music. A human musician playing for them might be well rewarded, for example with a magical ‘trowie shilling’. This would always be found in the pocket when money was needed (at least until the spell was broken).
The downside of playing for the fairy folk is the effect they have on the passage of time. A year and a day (or more!) might pass in the human realm before the fiddler emerges from the trowie mound, and the fiddler would be none the wiser.
According to The Folklore of Orkney and Shetland, the father of Washington Irving, American author of Rip Van Winkle, was an Orcadian (Marwick, 2000, p.34). It seems plausible that the old folk tales of the Northern Isles influenced his writing.
iScot magazine is currently having a subscription drive. It is a truly grassroots, independent magazine, with very high production values, and a labour of love for all involved. It covers a very broad range of subjects – travel, history, fiction, politics, and many other topics related to Scotland. If you want to see independent media succeed in Scotland, consider taking out a subscription or making a donation. https://iscot.scot/subscribe/
Marwick, E., 2000. The Folklore of Orkney and Shetland. Edinburgh: Birlann Limited.
Since 2012, as a result of the ideological austerity programme being pursued by the Conservative Government at Westminster, at least 449 public libraries have closed across the UK. Scotland did not vote for this. The Scottish Government has to spend valuable time and resources trying to mitigate Tory cuts within the limits of a budget set by Westminster.
105 libraries closed in the year following Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s much-publicised surprise visit to the Orkney Library in March 2016.
Rowling’s statement is full of mischaracterisations, Better Together talking points, and dubious assertions.
She sets up a straw-man target in the fringe nationalist who judges her “insufficiently Scottish”. The pro-independence Yes campaign embraced anyone who was “Scots by choice”, regardless of where they were born. Everyone living in Scotland was permitted and encouraged to vote in the first indyref (in marked contrast to the Brexit referendum, from which EU nationals living in the UK, as well as 16-17 year olds, were excluded).
Another common fallacy, which Rowling repeats, is the conflation of Scottish independence with “Alex Salmond’s ambition.” A Yes vote would not have installed Salmond as dictator in perpetuity, but restored the sovereignty of a nation and its people. This transcends individual careers and party politics. Dislike of Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon, or anyone else, is not a valid reason to consign a country to the dustbin.
Rowling went on
“I’ve heard it said that ‘we’ve got to leave, because they’ll punish us if we don’t’, but my guess is that if we vote to stay, we will be in the heady position of the spouse who looked like walking out, but decided to give things one last go. All the major political parties are currently wooing us with offers of extra powers, keen to keep Scotland happy so that it does not hold an independence referendum every ten years and cause uncertainty and turmoil all over again. I doubt whether we will ever have been more popular, or in a better position to dictate terms, than if we vote to stay.”
Since the No vote the following things have happened:
The British Government enacted English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) legislation in the British Parliament. MPs from Scotland were already out-numbered and out-voted 10 to 1 – now they have fewer voting rights as well (as do the Welsh). Everything the British Parliament does has ramifications for Scotland.
The Scotland Bill denied numerous new powers to the Scottish Government, falling far short of the promised “extensive new powers.”
The Brexit vote threatens to drag Scotland out of the EU despite every single part of the country voting against it. According to Better Together, voting No was the only way to guarantee Scotland’s place in Europe.
Scottish brand identity is under attack, as “One Nation” British nationalism leads to Scottish produce being rebranded, thereby losing its unique signifier of quality. #keepscotlandthebrand
With the Continuity Bill, the governments of Wales and Scotland are now fighting to prevent a power grab by Westminster upon exit from the EU. The existence of the Scottish Parliament itself looks increasingly under threat, as Unionist MSPs actively work to undermine it.
If Scotland were a spouse who decided to give things one last go, it has been betrayed, humiliated, and ignored. All promises made by the supposedly equal partner have been broken. An open mind might question whether or not staying in this relationship was the right decision.
This cartoon was drawn to accompany Fiona Grahame’s The Orkney News column in iScot magazine for December 2017. The subject of the article is the problem of goose management in Orkney, but the cartoon has a different subtext. It was inspired by a recent incident of racial abuse in which an incomer to Orkney was ordered to leave the islands, along with his family. “I know where you live” is threatening in any dialect.
With a population approaching 22,000, Orkney is a still a relatively small place. The inhabitants like to think of themselves as good people and most of them are. However there does exist a xenophobic dark side which occasionally rears its ugly head. There will be few “ferry-loupers” living in Orkney that have not experienced some degree of intolerance in person, however slight.
Here is a logo and banner I designed for the upcoming Orkney News website, which is in the process of being set up to provide an alternative news outlet for Orkney. There are those who think the local media is not doing a good enough job of informing people what is going on in Orkney and Scotland, or giving enough voice to political parties other than the locally-dominant Liberal Democrats. The Orkney News is expected to launch on the 1st of February 2017 at theorkneynews.scot.
The logo is inspired by the Maeshowe dragon, which is a piece of Viking graffiti in a prehistoric chambered cairn on the Orkney mainland. It may or may not actually represent a dragon, as it is rather wolf-like despite having scales. The sword-like squiggle emerging from its back is equally indefinite, so I took some liberties and made it into a loose “N” shape. The dragon has been given two heads for reasons of symmetry. Whether or not any particular symbolism is associated with a two-headed dragon in Norse culture is unknown to me, but it can be found in such artifacts as the whalebone plaque found at Scar farm on Sanday.
The font was chosen to be modern, somewhat quirky, and easy to read on a computer screen. The logo was drawn by hand in India ink, then scanned and converted to a vector graphic using Inkscape.