Monday, 5 November 2012

Reading the Stones - Backwards

Written in stone

On a visit to Orkney Museum the other day, my eye fell on a postcard of the stone opposite. It’s a spindle whorl from Buckqoy in Birsay from the seventh or eighth centuries AD. Ian Smith from the museum was very helpful in supplying information about the ancient language carved on it. For many years scholars believed it was inscribed with an unintelligible non-Celtic Pictish.  They were perhaps reading it backwards! Once it was recognised as Old Irish Ogham, the inscription became clearer:

A blessing on the soul of L

And on the other side – May the road rise up to meet you and the wind be always at your back ...

No, not really! But fascinating to think the early settlers in Orkney were writing and reading in stone, even if we can’t always decipher it today. Interesting  too, to speculate about where they came from.

You will find a great chapter on the Picts in William P.L. Thomson's The New History of Orkney available to read in the Orkney Room beside the Archives.

Today’s Orkney Readers

The brief forms I handed out during the Orcrime Festival are still coming back to me. People were asked to comment on READING, BOOKS and LIBRARIES. Here are some of the things people said about why reading is important to them:

It opens many new worlds and allows me to leave every day life

It is a source of information, education and enjoyment far better than film, TV or ven radio

It keeps my mindactivetrying to solve mysteries in crime books and I love the language used by classic authors in their novels e.g. Jane Austen

It’s a silent escape

Well it just IS, even more so since I am trying to write. It always has been since I was passionate to read from the age of three.

I’m addicted – always have been!

It’s breathing for the brain!

The Library

The good thing now is that we no longer need things written in stone. There are books and e-books available to borrow from Orkney Library. The forms returned show an overwhelming appreciation of what libraries in Orkney offer. I’ll be quoting some of the comments in blogs to come.

Ann Cleeves on Libraries

Meantime, you can listen here to this podcast of the Reader in Residence receiving a passionate response from Ann Cleeves when I asked her about libraries and their importance. Here she is at the Orcrime Festival with Stewart Bain of Orkney Library and champion tweeter @OrkneyLibrary!

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