Some slides from 1969
The picture quality varies depending on the type of film used. Agfa
kept the colour better than Fuji, and of course the Orkney weather can
vary tremendously between shots. Click on first, then choose
1969. This was our first year digging and quite honestly we
didn’t know what we were doing, or even precisely where we
The following comments reflect this, being extremely short on
archaeological detail! But then we assumed that people better
qualified than us were doing all the recording, photographing and
Monday 7 July Train Haslemere to York. Bus to University. Wandered
around trying to find Sid. To Joyce’s flat for final briefing.
Tuesday 8 July Taxi at 6.30 for York Station left 7.20 without Sid.
Arrived Aberdeen 2.40, walked to Jamieson’s Quay to St Ninian.
Wednesday 9 July Arrived Kirkwall in early morning fog. Found bus
stop by St Magnus and three of us went to Deerness on Mr
Laughton’s bus. The others stayed in Kirkwall for the day. Settled in
at school, arranged provisions and found site. Cold place, driftwood
Thursday 10 July Rain. Hitched to Kirkwall to buy blankets and see
sights. Fish & chips for lunch. Hitched back. Don Brothwell arrived.
Evening spent on local beaches gathering driftwood.
From postcard sent on the 10th July. No trees grow in Orkney apart
from windbreaks. The school is vast and cold but it's dry. Pouring today.
We hitched to Kirkwall saw sights and bought blankets at 30/- each. Don
Brothwell who's supposed to be supervising us hasn't turned up yet. The
actual site is right on the edge of the sea. Should be nice if the sun
Friday 11th July. Dull. Some sun, milder. First day of dig. Down to
site by 9. Weeded, and discovered walls. In the evening into Kirkwall
to inspect earth houses and to visit what came to be the inevitable
pub. Bath! On this one word hangs a long story. There was of course no
bathroom in the school. Don had brought with him a black plastic, round
water storage tank. Water for this had to be boiled in our 2 largest billy
cans on the electric cooker in the kitchen and then carried along the
passage to what was presumably the teacher’s washroom at the back of
the building which had an adult sized wash basin and toilet in it and the
distinct advantage of a locking door. I say adult sized as our usual
washing facilities were 3 child sized and height wash basins in the
cloakroom by the front door, and the toilets were of course in a block
across the playground, and needless to say, small, and shall we say, well-
Saturday 12th July. Windy and rainy. Spent a good hour battening
down polythene. Digging and cleaning, lunch on site. Out in evening
to the Deerness Young Farmers’ Variety Show in Kirkwall.
Sunday 13 July More battening down and digging. In evening walked
to broch just down road [Dingies Howe?] and back in the rain.
Monday 14 July Sunny. Early shop to make sandwiches. Digging and
clearing down. Back to site in evening to pack burials 1, 2 & 3.
Tuesday 15 July Fine and sunny. Day off. Left for Kirkwall at 8.50
(despite Don’s “late and riotous” night!) Shopped, then to Scapa Flow,
then Ring of Brodgar for lunch. On to Skara Brae and Brough of
Birsay, then Gurness Broch and back to Kirkwall for fish & chips.
Wednesday 16th July. Sunny at first, then thunder. On site as usual,
busy and heavy day. Into KW in eve with Don, Tony and Mary to
Library and pub. Joyce (Hill) and Pete arrived.
Thursday 17th July. Windy, some sun. Cool, showers. On site. In eve
drove to look at Birmingham University site at Skaill: from Neolithic
to 16th century apparently.
Friday 18th July. Can’t remember but weather was probably awful.
It’s amazing we ever went back. Hard work on site.
Saturday 19th July. Seem to have lost track of time over this weekend. I
noted some birthday celebrations, and also that Neil Armstrong landed
on the moon. The weather comments continue in the ‘probably awful’
Monday 21st July. Dull, some rain, but nice evening. Down to site
late and scraped away at my “Celtic” hole all day, walls and floors
everywhere. Learnt maxim: a stone is a stone, 2 stones are a feature,
3 stones are a wall. Tony and Alan devised “scrotcher” [a device I
believe involving a bucket , some rope and some long pieces of wood
designed to get our spoil out of the trenches onto the spoil heaps]. To
KW in evening to pub with TV in bar.
Tuesday 22nd July. Fine and sunny after fog. Up early and left at 9
for Maes Howe and then on to Stromness. Coffee and boat to Hoy –
smooth. Walked to Dwarfie Stane and back again. Choppy return. To
museum and cairns. Fish & chips and pub in KW. Reg from the Royal
Free Hospital arrived.
Wednesday 23rd July. Fine, odd shower. Proof reading Science in
Archaeology for Don. Introduction to coprolites. In eve Mr Foubister’s
boat trip to the Gloup – beautiful.
Thursday 24th July. Fine, odd shower. Proof reading in morning.
Down to site uncovering skeletons. In eve to Cuween Hill Cairn – and
THE YORKNEY FILES 1969
Friday 25th July. Fine. Working on skeletons. Back to school with Don
at midday. Don’s family arrived.
Saturday 26th July. Sunny, rain in evening. Skeleton day. In eve to
fetch a dustbin full of crabs and boiled and bashed half of them.
Sunday 27th July. Sunny and warm. More crab bashing and down to
site. Some of us swam at lunchtime. Masses of hard work, earth
shovelling and floor slab finding. Quiet eve recovering – stomach
upsets all round, presumably from the crabs!
From post card sent on about 27 July. Weather has improved, is now
brilliantly sunny. Working hard digging a trench 15' x 30'.
Monday 28th July. Nice at first, then dull and rain. Hard slogging
work on site all morning. Finished at 12 and drove to KW for lunch
Tuesday 29 July Dull at first, then sunny. Left early for Tingwall jetty,
and got boat to Rousay. Visited Norwegian dig at Skaill, Westness, and
also Midhowe broch and cairn. Long walk back to pier, then Kirkwall
for sausage, egg, patty & chips for a change!
Wednesday 30th July. Sunny and nice for most of day. On site, earth
moving, floor and “feature” finding.
Thursday 31st July. On site. Great tunnel day. Going through floor to
find it. Being cine-filmed. Drinks in Kirkwall in evening.
Friday 1st August. Orkney dull and misty. Scotland sunny and warm.
Up early and packed. Don drove us to Stromness and we boarded St
Ola. Smooth crossing in fog. Hitched by 4 lifts to Inverness, one of 150
miles direct to Youth Hostel door.
Eventually arrived home on 8th August, combination of hitching, buses
and trains, staying in campsites, youth hostels, and with friends. Spent
rest of summer fruit picking on a local Sussex farm.