Re- Creating Orkney’s Uranium Protest Walk

In June 1977 a group of Orcadians, led by The Orkney Field Club, walked the ‘Uranium Corridor’, from Yesnaby to Stromness. This was part of a series of events which took place in the islands as opposition to the mining of Uranium got under way.

where men once quarried to make mill stones

And so it was that on Saturday 21st of August 2021, another group of Orcadians, this time led by Dan Lee and the project team of ‘Orkney Energy Landscapes’, took to the hills and re-created that same walk.

It started off a dreich day but the wind kept the midgies away and all the walkers were clothed for the Orkney weather.

Along the route the walkers spoke of their memories of the campaign to resist the mining of Uranium in Orkney and of other similar demonstrations they had participated in. Team leaders Dan Lee, of the Archaeology Institute, UHI and Richard Irvine, St Andrew’s University, were pleased to note that a member of today’s Orkney Field Club was taking part in the walk.

As the walkers crossed the landscape which is one of Orkney’s most scenic, participants were informed of the flora that grows in this unique habitat – some even gathered mushrooms for their tea that night.

The landscape, covered as it is in purple heather, hides archaeological treasures, evidence of human habitation, dating back to at least the Bronze Age. Very few people could not have been affected by thinking that where they were now traversing, people had been living and working, thousands of years ago.

It is a sobering thought that if those Orcadian protestors, who had the courage to resist the powerful lobbying of those who wanted to mine for uranium, had failed, then that landscape that we looked upon with such pleasure on Saturday, would have been polluted with radioactive dust particles.

Orkney Energy Landscapes aims to explore sites throughout Orkney linked to : peat,oil, uranium, wind and wave sources of power.It is funded by the Lottery Heritage Fund with additional support from the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) and is led by Dan Lee and Richard Irvine. The community based project involves ORCA (Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology), UHI Archaeology Institute and the Department of Anthropology, St Andrew’s University.

Fiona Grahame

Yesnaby. Screen print. Keith Laird, 1973

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