4/1/2013: Turns out: probability that I ancestors from Orkney is near zero!! They were from Kilmaurs, an area
just south of Glasgow. That zigZag story will enjoy a future separate post..
10/30/2011: apparently I never posted the following file I found on my harddisk: Will fix format someday..
My Orkney Saga
I left Poughkeepsie, NY on May 18, 2007. After a bit of tedious travel, I arrived at the airport in Aberdeen, Scotland at 12:15 on May 20.
I took a bus into the city and then back out to my first BB.Aberdeen is quite beautiful. Although I didn’t make it out to the Queen’s Balmoral Castle, I did enjoy the sites of downtown Aberdeen.
My Friday evening ferry to Kirkwall, Orkney left around 5pm and arrived at midnight. As it docked further out from midtown than I expected, I was fortunate that a lady offered me a ride to Eastbank House. After surprizing the landlord next morning I introduced myself to the beautiful St. Magnus Cathedral. The afternoon ferry to Sanday brought me to the North Sea island my Greatgrandfather had left about 160 years ago. By happenstance, I stayed at one (of only two) pubs on Sanday which had rooms.. BellesAire. On 4/22 I began exploring the Island with a 14 mile bike ride out to Russness where I thought Mungo was born. A big mistake, 1, he was born in Burness and 2, overweight at age 64 is no time to start biking such a distance anew… The kind landlord, John Sinclair, let me use his car for a ride out to Burness. The Cemetary was close to Ortie where Mungo lived. I took so many photos that day that I ran out of flash memory when I got to the most important site: the New Ortie ruins. I was surprized to find one cottage fixed up and occupied. Ortie is mentioned often on the internet as the ruins of an old fishing village, although my family were all farmers. Ortie is located just yards from the bay of Otters Wick. As Tuesday, is the day that the banker flys over from Mainland (actually the largest Orkney Island), I had to get some Travelers checks cashed as the Inn took no credit cards. The police fly in also when needed for an emergency… for normal police activity they come over on the ferry. That day I called Tommy Garrioch, who came to the pub after dinner with his brother. I had his monuments booklet by then.. he told me right where my GGGrandfather was buried alongside my GGGrandmother. I also visited the other two cemetaries on Sanday; Buckaskail near Kettletoft where I was staying; then Cross cemetary on the Low road. There were Muirs buryed everywhere! I had met an Ian Muir, the owner of the general store at Kettletoft. He introduced me to David Muir, harbor master– very possibly a relative. In general, people don’t know much beyond their grandfather.. As I left Sanday on the 5pm ferry, I took pictures of D. Muir helping with the ropes. As I boarded, he handed me a note for contact. Back in Kirkwall, Mainland, I returned to Eastbank house. The next few mornings were spent in the library which had great geneaological resources. The proprieter then showed me around to various sites in the afternoon. The Stones of Stenness and Ring of Brodgar are earlier than the better known Stonehenge. We went on to the famous Skar Brae, a village occupied before the Pyramids! It turns out that the Orkneys are more famous for thier archeology than for Muir genealogy… One such tour included a friends farm.. complete with Highland cattle; as well as Yesabee. With just GREAT views of the cliffs. and onto a Stromness pub for lunch. On my last day in Orkney, Malcom drove on the Churchill Barriers (built to keep submarines out of the Scape Flow). First stop was the Italian Chapel: Made by Italian POWs during WWII. Looks very real but done with paint using a quonset hut supplied by the British. We also walked around the old fishing village of Margaret’s Hope. The ferry back to Aberdeen left at 2300 for an overnight trip– 7am arrival. I slept quite comfortably on the cinema floor, as did 4 or 5 others. I missed the 7:35 bus to Edinburgh, but took the 8:35 and into another B&B on Gilmore in Toolcross by noon. I spent the P.M. at Edinburgh Castle. What a climb!! A beautiful St. Margaret’s chapel. The Castle entrance was in the midst of the 3 month construction of bleachers for the annual Tatoo. I spent the next day at the Scottish National Art Museum: Rembrandts, Titan, and on and on … and including a huge work by Church of Niagra Fall; and it was from the American Side!! As Western New York is my birthplace, I was doubly pleased. That evening I paid my 1 pound corkage fee at the Backstage Bistro in Toolcross. Nice salmon dinner– a splurge. I took pictures; thus entertaining the owner and 4 dineing women. Almost scratched Glasgow (for Newcastle instead) — but took the train (#10) at the last minute. Finally found inexpensive “Merchants Lodge” off Argyle for 2 nights at 30#/. I took the bus over the river and out to Rutherglen, the last area Mungo Muir resided in 1851 before emigrating to the US in 1854. This very old town predates Glasgow. Although the street survives, the residential address of 1851 is long gone. I had a “Happy Dinner” for #2.95 at the local McDonalds that night. And made reservation for Sat. night in Sheffield; lack of internet made the find difficult; but took it at #70/night. It turned out to be a corporate hotel .. but at least right next to bus station. Then arranged 2 nites at Alara for #25/nite… just a tram ride outside Sheffield.