Local News

‘Gaan Nort’  an oral history of Orkney’s North Isles

Gaan Nort, a project hosted by the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology, and led by Dr Tom Rendall, relief lecturer at UHI Orkney, has seen a team of researchers carry out interviews with almost 90 folk in the isles.

Funded by the North Isles Landscape Partnership Scheme, the project captures the memories and experiences from across the islands.

Dr Rendall, who grew up in Sanday said:

profile picture of Dr Tom Rendall with a folder open in front of him

“As a native of Sanday, I feel privileged to have completed this project in the North Isles – islands which have been part of my life since the day I was born.

“As I embarked on the fieldwork, it became clear that this would be a personal journey and not just another project. Speaking to folk from all over the North Isles and hearing their account of life and sharing their memories gave me a greater appreciation of my own life in Sanday even though I left there over thirty years ago.

“I hope that this project – the recording and transcriptions – however they are used – will provide a comprehensive corpus of knowledge of this special part of Orkney.”

Some interviews touched on integration within the islands, attitudes towards the Orkney dialect, involvement with the heritage and cultural activities or current challenges facing island communities, while others reflected on changes in farming practices, the impact of mechanisation and the way of life at the present day.

The full project report is available to download from the website https://archaeologyorkney.com/gaan-nort/.

All the interviews are available in the Orkney Library and Archive and almost all are fully transcribed, leaving a fantastic legacy and bank of material for future use.

Dr Tom Rendall is heading out to the isles over the coming weeks to tell people more about what the project has involved. 

For full details on island talks please visit the North Isles Landscape Partnership Facebook page to keep up to date.

two men on top of a horse drawn cart loading sheaves on it from a barn
Image credit Sanday Heritage Centre

Councillor Heather Woodbridge is Deputy Leader of the Council and represents the North Isles, added:

“The North Isles have a varied and unique history, and the folk that live there have many stories to tell about their experiences – their past, their ancestors, the local landscape, the industries they’ve seen.

“One unexpected outcome of the project was that many of the interviews took place in and around the time of the pandemic – resulting in an invaluable record of that period in time in our island communities, that folk will look back with interest on, especially in terms of the community pulling together and supporting each other during this time.”

Leave a Reply